From Reliable to Divine: The Fulfilled Prophecies of Jesus

If you’re trying to determine whether or not the New Testament is historically reliable, archaeology and ancient non-Biblical records can provide “touch point” corroboration of the Biblical text. We took a similar approach when we examined the evidence corroborating the Old Testament. But these Biblical volumes claim to be much more than a reliable record of history; they claim to be the very Word of God. In order to assess such a bold claim related to the New Testament, we must examine a distinctive feature of the Biblical narrative: prophecy. If a book accurately predicts the future (rather than simply recording the past), it moves from reliable to Divine.

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How the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers Preserved the Eyewitness Gospel Accounts

The students of the apostles played a pivotal role in preserving and promoting the eyewitness Gospel accounts. While many skeptics claim the New Testament Canon was formed during 4th Century Church Councils (such as the Council of Nicea or Laodicea), the earliest believers had already preserved the canonical gospels and letters centuries prior. In fact, the early Church leaders prior to the first council at Nicea (known as the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers), began to collect and affirm the canon of Scripture in three separate geographical areas. The first surviving list of canonical texts dates to approximately 170AD in what is now known as the “Muratorian Fragment”, a partial copy of an ancient text discovered in the Ambrosian Library in Milan in the 18th century. This document affirmed and acknowledged Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Jude, 1 John, 2 John and Revelation as reliable, apostolic Scripture. The author of the Muratorian Fragment was also careful to warn his readers about Paul’s alleged letters to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians, and a document known as the “Apocalypse of Peter” (identifying these as forgeries). Even this early in history, in regions spanning Europe and the Mediterranean, Christians already possessed and guarded the New Testament texts:

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Was the Virgin Birth Incorrectly Prophesied? Part I

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

 

Difficulty: Isn’t Matthew misquoting Isaiah 7:14, because wasn’t the child who was born actually Hezekiah, who became king of Israel?

 

Explanation: Yes, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7 and claims it was prophesied that Jesus was to be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel. And critics do point out that a full reading of chapter 7 of Isaiah seems to more likely refer to the birth of Hezekiah, who became a godly king of Israel.

 

Some accuse writers of the New Testament of twisting and taking Old Testament passages like this out of context to teach their brand of Christianity. They say writers of the Gospels and the epistles seemed to take liberties with the Old Testament text to establish a whole new religion of their own.
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The Case for the Eyewitness Status of the Gospel Authors

I’m often challenged about status of the Gospels as eyewitness accounts of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Many skeptics reject the eyewitness authority of these accounts, even though the early Church selected and embraced the canonical Gospels based primarily on the eyewitness authority of their authors. Some skeptics argue the Gospels were never even intended to be seen as eyewitness testimony, in spite of the fact the earliest students of the apostles (and first Church leaders) repeated the content of the Gospels in their own letters, affirming the eyewitness status of the Gospels. It might be helpful, therefore, to review the context in which the Gospel events were first observed, recorded and transmitted in the 1st Century:

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The Case for the Reliability of the Old Testament (Bible Insert)

We’ve been investigating the case for the reliability of the Old Testament by examining the process of transmission, the verification of archaeology and the appearance of fulfilled prophecy in the text. The ancient scribes employed a trustworthy system of checks and balances as they copied the original texts, and the accuracy of transmission process was successfully tested with the discovery of the Isaiah text in the Dead Sea Scroll collection. The ancient Jewish believers and Church Fathers also embraced the Old Testament as the Word of God. In addition, archeological discoveries have since confirmed many of the Old Testament accounts, and these archaeological evidences are rich compared to other written claims about the ancient past. Finally, the Old Testament Scriptures contain fulfilled prophecies  (including amazing prophecies about the coming Messiah), establishing the Divine nature of the texts. Based on this evidence, the following summary can be created related to the case for the reliability of the Old Testament:

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The Conflicting Genealogies of Jesus

This is the record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:…All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17).

 

Difficulty: Why does Matthew’s detailed family line from Abraham through King David to Jesus so radically differ from the Luke 3:23-38 account of Jesus’ ancestry?

 

Explanation: At first glance, we may get the impression that both accounts are tracing the family line of Jesus through his legal father, Joseph, in which case there is an obvious contradiction. It is confusing because Matthew 1:16 indicates Jacob is Joseph’s father, while Luke 3:23 says that Heli is the father of Joseph.
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If You’re A Christian Case Maker, Your Common Sense Is Sense Enough

I had the opportunity to speak to students on the campus of North Carolina State University on Monday night at the invitation of Ratio Christi directors Curtis Hrischuk and Greg Reeves. Following the presentation, I had a conversation with a student about the important role each of us plays in defending the Christian worldview. Like many Christians I talk to, this student doubted her own ability to accurately evaluate the historical, scientific or philosophical evidence related to Christianity and Theism. Is it possible to make an accurate or intelligent case for Christianity without a PhD in history, ancient languages, science or philosophy? Yes, it is: Jurors do it every day.

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Enjoy This Distinctly Christian Holiday We Call Thanksgiving

The pilgrims who came over from England in 1620 were, in many ways, ordinary men and women. Some of them were members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect of Christianity). These Separatists originally fled England and sailed to Holland to escape the religious intolerance and oppression of their homeland. In their day, the Church and the State of England were one, and independent congregations who desired to explore their own, differing relationship with the Christian God were unable to practice their faith independent of the State Church. Separatists had come to the conclusion membership in the Church of England violated Biblical teaching. They fled their homeland so they could pursue God in a way they considered to be truer to the teaching of the Bible. This group successfully escaped religious persecution from the Church of England, but eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life. They observed the lifestyles of those around them and believed they were in an ungodly land. So once again, they pushed on toward a new place where they could both worship the Biblical God of Christianity and live in a way honorable to this God.

The Mayflower held more than just the Separatist Puritans. The ship also contained other pilgrims who still remained loyal to the Church of England but came to the new world for economic reasons or because they sympathized with the Puritans in one way or another. But one thing was certain about everyone on the ship. Whether they were part of the Puritan group or simply along to assist them and make a new life for themselves, everyone shared a fervent and pervasive Protestant faith permeating all aspects of their lives. So, when the pilgrims made ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11th, 1620, they were also grounded in their faith as Christians. In less than a year, they suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 members, but they never lost their faith.

At the end of the harvest of 1621, the pilgrims decided to celebrate. The pilgrims brought with them both religious and secular customs from their homeland. Among these customs were the tradition of a secular harvest festival and the tradition of a religious holy day of thanksgiving. These were two separate celebrations for the original pilgrims, but both celebrations had strong religious overtones. Even the secular harvest celebration included a religious component of thanks to the Christian God who had provided the harvest. In addition to this celebration, the pilgrims also dedicated a day of thanksgiving that was purely religious in nature.

When pilgrim Edward Winslow described these thanksgiving celebrations, his description included the following Biblical themes:

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Why Christian Case Makers Need to Learn a New Language

I worked as a member of our Gang Detail for two years prior to entering our undercover team. It was a great season in my career and I still think of it often. I had a partner who was younger (and more culturally relevant) than I was, and he connected with street gangsters almost immediately. He knew how to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk,” and he had a better understanding of the street language of gangsters. It was several months before I felt comfortable in my assignment; I had to learn an entirely new language (and culture) in order to communicate effectively. I had to learn a new set of expressions and many new definitions. Even more importantly, I had to saturate myself in the street culture, and do my best to understand the desires, ambitions, concerns and motivations of young men who were often on the wrong side of the law.
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The Importance of Christian Translators

This week I’m enjoying the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Each session features incredible thinkers presenting papers on a variety of theological and philosophical issues. I’ll be honest, I usually feel like an idiot in a room full of intellects. These theologians and philosophers are the best Christianity has to offer. They are intelligent, educated and articulate. They know their stuff and they are… how can I say this? Intimidating! There are times when I feel like I could spend the rest of my life studying, researching and preparing, yet never master the materials these professionals comprehend so exhaustively. Have you ever felt that way? If you’re a budding “one dollar apologist” you know what I’m talking about. You’re probably listening to podcasts, reading books and blogs, and doing your best to keep up with the latest research and critical thinking. You may feel like you’re not knowledgeable enough to contribute anything of value to the ongoing cultural conversation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here this week, however, it’s the importance of your voice in our world today, in spite of the fact you might not be the next William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland or Alvin Plantinga. As I sat in each ETS session and listened to these expert witnesses, I couldn’t help but think about our desperate need for Christian translators.

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