What Were the Disciples Saying About Jesus Prior to Writing the Gospels?

Last weekend I had the great honor of speaking several times at Southern Evangelist Seminary’s National Apologetics Conference. The highlight of my time there (aside from hanging out with my dear friends, Frank and Stephanie Turek) was the panel discussion where I joined Gary Habermas, Ted Wright, Joseph Bergeron, and Bryant Wood to talk about the historicity and deity of Jesus. We discussed the transmission of the New Testament documents and the period of time prior to the creation of these documents. The Biblical eyewitnesses didn’t immediately write down their observations about Jesus. Following the resurrection, many years passed before the first Gospel was penned. In this “tunnel period” between the resurrection of Jesus and the authorship of the first Gospels, the eyewitnesses communicated their observations orally. What precisely were the disciples saying about Jesus prior to writing the Gospels? Were their oral statements consistent with the Gospel accounts? How can we determine what they said about Jesus? As it turns out, we have an evidential record of the earliest statements about Jesus. They’re embedded in the writings of the Apostle Paul.
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God and the Big Bang

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:3

We’re going to take you on a little journey, all the way back to the beginning of the universe. Before this beginning, nothing material existed because the universe didn’t exist. When people today—scientists, philosophers, poets, theologians, or ordinary folks— think about how it all began, they are at a disadvantage because they weren’t there. Nobody was. Which is why the all the theories about how the universe got going are just that—theories.

Scientists try to figure out how the universe began by the process of discovery and measurement. Philosophers and poets use logic and art to describe what might have happened. Theologians attempt to explain the beginning by going to Genesis, the Book of Beginnings. In the first verse in this first book of the Bible, in a statement that is both simple and elegant, this explanation for the origin of the universe is offered:

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Before Amen: Q&A with Max Lucado

In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child.

Max took some time to answer a few questions about his new book and the nature of prayer.

Q: Your new book, Before Amen, gives readers a simple way to incorporate prayer into their everyday life. But it’s more than just creating a prayer wish list for God, it’s about learning how to experience a heart connection with God.
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Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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How Christian Case Making Impacts the Convinced, the Opposed, and the Undecided

I spoke to a group of students at The Ohio State University on Monday evening at the request of their Ratio Christi chapter director, Eric Chabot. If you aren’t familiar with Eric’s work, you probably aren’t following my Twitter feed, where I feature Eric’s blog often. Prior to the event, I had dinner with Eric, Pastor Matt Rawlings (another Case Making warrior you need to follow) and the infamous Wintery Knight (a giant among Christian Case Making bloggers). We talked about the importance of Case Making and shared stories of our experiences online.

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Does God Condone Human Sacrifices?

“Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the Land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:1-2).

 

Difficulty: Does God condone human sacrifices?

 

Explanation: At the time of this event, Abraham’s pagan neighbors sacrificed their children to their gods. On the surface it appears that God used his authority over Abraham and commanded him to do something that violated God’s own standard of morality. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

 

First, it is clear in other passages of Scripture that God is opposed to human sacrifices. “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). Repeatedly he made it clear human sacrifices were forbidden (see Leviticus 20:23 and Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). It is actually clear from the text that God’s point is that he does not want child sacrifice. This is why the passage begins by saying that “God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1).
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Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus

Skepticism related to Jesus of Nazareth generally takes one of two forms: those who don’t even believe He ever existed, and those who acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but deny He is God. The case for the Deity of Christ is centered on the Resurrection, but there are many other cumulative circumstantial factors to consider. I’ve written quite a bit about the Deity of Jesus, and I’ve assembled these articles to help you make the collective case. All these resources are available as downloadable PDF files:

1. The Conception of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity:
Articles related to the Virgin Conception of Jesus

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A Brief History of Islam

Have you ever wondered how a religion gets started? Do a bunch of people get together and decide to start a church just so they can pass the collection place and launch a television ministry? Does God look down from heaven and choose someone to start a new belief system just so he can have a few more buildings with stained glass windows built in his honor? Or does some ambitious person decide to blaze a new path to God because he believes all the others are wrong?

Here’s one story—the story of Islam—that may help you understand how a religion gets going. This is the true account (short version) of the early beginnings of Islam, the world’s second biggest monotheistic religion.

The Story of Islam

Muhammad ibn Abdallah was born in A.D. 570 into a prominent family in the city of Mecca, Arabia (now Saudi Arabia). His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six. Raised by his uncle, Muhammad married a 40-year-old wealthy widow named Khadijah when he was 25. The newlyweds settled in Mecca, where Muhammad became a successful businessman.

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Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?

This world is full of suffering and pain, and God does allow it. And while we may understand to a point why God had to allow suffering, why doesn’t he end it now? Why has he allowed it to continue so long? That is a troubling question.

 

A perfect and holy God created a perfect world. He “looked over all he made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way” (Genesis 1:31 nlt). Yet not for long. Because of free will, humans had a choice of God’s way or their way. They chose their way, and sin and evil entered the world. The perfect paradise God had created was destroyed. And from that moment forward—multiplied thousands of years—hunger, disease, hatred, wars, and untold heartache have plagued the human race. It is true God has promised to redeem those who trust in his Son for salvation and to restore creation back to his original design. But why is God taking so long to correct the tragic mess humans have made of this world?
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Does a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Many people think it just doesn’t seem right that God would condemn some people to a fiery place of damnation. God is love, and eternally punishing people doesn’t quite fit with that, right? So how can a loving God send people to hell?

 

To begin, it would be helpful to understand where God is thought to be sending people. The majority of Americans believe in a place called hell. Many consider it a place of eternal punishment of “fire and brimstone”—like a fiery torture chamber. But is this what hell is—an eternal furnace of sorts where people are tortured forever? Just what is it?

 

Clarifying the  Words of Scripture

 

To understand the teaching of Scripture we must understand when words are used literally or figuratively. If we don’t, we can easily misunderstand the teaching. Jesus referred to hell as a place where there is fire, which normally produces light (Mark 9:48). At the same time he referred to it as a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13). It seems reasonable that these words are figurative. If a literal meaning were attached to them, darkness and light from fire would cancel each other out. Jesus often used metaphors in his teachings, and here we believe he was giving a word picture of the indescribable nature of hell.
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