Unbelievable? Does Josephus’ Account of John the Baptist Invalidate the Gospels?

In an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I spoke with two skeptics and discussed apparent contradictions in the history offered by the Gospel authors when compared to non-Christian historians. One skeptic offered an objection related to the account of the beheading of John the Baptist. Although I had difficulty hearing and understanding his words through the telephone connection and his accent, his argument can be summed up succinctly: Josephus records the death of John the Baptist at a time in history that appears to be around 36AD, six years after the date commonly accepted for the crucifixion of Jesus. If Josephus’ record is accurate, John was executed after the Resurrection of Jesus, and the gospel accounts are wrong. This objection, along with an objection about the role and dating of Quirinius in the Gospel of Luke, formed the basis for his skepticism toward the Gospel accounts.

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Jesus Was A Case Maker

The Jesus I encounter on the pages of the New Testament is a committed case maker. He didn’t expect His followers to believe what He said (direct evidence) without good reason (the support of indirect evidence). Jesus continually supported His testimony with the indirect evidence of the miracles He performed. He then made the case for the authority of His testimony from the corroborative evidence of these miracles:

John 5:36
But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I dotestify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John 10:25
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”

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Unbelievable? Is There Enough Evidence Beyond the Gospels to Make Their Testimony Reliable?

During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, a caller asked about corroboration and wanted to know if there was enough evidence beyond the Gospels to verify the reliability of their testimony. I began by helping him understand the nature of evidential corroboration and the limited information typically offered by such evidence. Every piece of corroborative evidence typically addresses (and verifies) only a “touchpoint”, a small aspect of the testimony from which we infer the “reasonability” of the larger account. Corroborative evidence is always limited; it only addresses a small aspect of the event under consideration. Even with these limits, however, the Gospels are still well corroborated. I’ve written a chapter about this in my book, Cold-Case Christianity, but here is a brief summary of the evidence “beyond the Gospels”:

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Unbelievable? Two Reasons Why Some People Reject the Reliability of the Gospels

During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I responded to the objections of two atheists who rejected the reliability of the Gospel accounts on the basis of apparent contradictions with Josephus’ record and a concern about-corroborative evidence. I’ve learned to employ a four-pronged template when assessing the reliability of a witness, and I took this approach when I first examined the Gospels as a skeptic (I was 35 years old before I became interested in the Gospel accounts). As I evaluated the Biblical text with these principles in mind, I became convinced they were a reliable record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. I understand, however, when others come to a different conclusion, and I think there are two reasons why someone might disagree about the most reasonable inference from the evidence. Before I address these two reasons, however, I want to ask you to imagine the existence of a historical account related to an ancient teacher. Imagine investigating this ancient record and discovering the following:

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If Christians Are Supposed to Rely on Evidence, Why Call It Faith?

I’ve written a Christian apologetics book that makes the case for making the case. I argue that Christians ought to embrace a more evidential, thoughtful faith that can be described as the most reasonable inference from evidence. Many people, after reading the book and thinking about this definition of “faith,” have asked, “If you believe something because of the evidence, why use the word faith at all?” Juries render verdicts on the basis of the evidence and we don’t call their decisions an act of “faith,” do we? If evidence is an integral part of “faith decisions,” what is left for there to have “faith” about?

In all the years I’ve spent in criminal trials, I’ve yet to investigate or present a case in which there wasn’t a number of questions the jury simply could not answer. Although my cases are typically robust, cumulative, and compelling, they always have some informational limit. A recent case was an excellent example; jurors convicted the defendant even though they couldn’t answer the following questions: How precisely did the defendant dispose of the victim’s body? How did he find time to clean up the crime scene? What did he do with the murder weapon? How did he move the victim’s car without being seen?

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Meeting at the Square

Last month, I found myself standing in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The place dripped with historical significance. The place also seemed haunted in a "this isn't the safest place to express your badass self," kind of way. Yet, people gathered and took photos. People gathered and took time to reflect. And I think part of the mystique is that this is a place where men and women from all over the world gather to listen to their heart and learn from the past.
I have also stood in Red Square in Moscow and I have stood/sat/and lingered in Trafalgar Square in London. I have walked through and participated in the life of Times Square in NYC and I have had a coffee in the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) in Madrid, Spain. Around the world, places were kept for people to come together and simply enjoy the art of relating to one another.
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Why Would A Loving God Create A Place Like Hell?

When Rob Bell released his book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, he capitalized on the historic controversy surrounding the existence and nature of hell. Critics of Christianity have cited the hell’s existence as evidence against the loving nature of God, and Christians have sometimes struggled to respond to the objection. Why would a loving God create a place like Hell? Wouldn’t a God who would send people to a place of eternal punishment and torment be considered unloving by definition?

The God of the Bible is described as loving, gracious and merciful (this can be seen in many places, including 1 John 4:8-9, Exodus 33:19, 1 Peter 2:1-3, Exodus 34:6 and James 5:11). The Bible also describes God as holy and just, hating sin and punishing sinners (as seen in Psalm 77:13, Nehemiah 9:33, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Psalms 5:5-6, and Matthew 25:45-46). It’s this apparent paradox reveals something about the nature of love and the necessity of Hell:

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Why We Can't See God

Even though you may be convinced God is real, are there times in your life when God feels distant and hidden? It’s okay to admit it. King David was being very honest when he wrote, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

So why do people who believe God exists sometimes lose sight of God? Here are several possible reasons.

We take general revelation for granted. Our consciousness becomes callused to God’s creation; over a lifetime, the miraculous seems commonplace and we forget to notice that the wonder of the natural world reveals God. 

We’re using only our eyes. Jesus confronted a woman at a well who was struggling to believe. He told her, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The woman was looking only with her eyes, when she should have been seeing Jesus by faith.

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Are Near-Death Experiences for Real?

Remember all those books about people who died, went to heaven, and then returned to life with stories of their celestial vacation? They were referred to as “heaven tourism” books, and whether or not you are one of the millions of people who read one, you have to wonder. Are these Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for real or figments of over-active imaginations?

If you go by the immense popularity of books like Heaven Is for Real, a multi-million-selling book about a boy who dies and goes to heaven and comes back, the least you can say is that people are very curious about this question. They want to know if NDEs are for real, and by implication, if heaven is for real. Here’s our quick response.

If the historic words of Jesus, who actually died and came back to life, are not enough to convince someone that heaven is for real, why would the words of a little boy do the trick? Do the subjective words of everyday people carry more weight than the Bible? Maybe we’re being a little harsh. Personal experiences count for something, and millions of such experiences can’t be dismissed out of hand. Something is going on.

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Top Ten Tips for Beginner Writers

by Rachel Summers 

Whether you are writing a novel or other forms of creative writing, when it is your first time it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. This guide is here to provide you with ten of our top tips when it comes to writing when you are a beginner.

For those who are completely brand new to writing and have no idea, then alongside this guide the site Helping Writers Become Authors has many tools and resources available for you to use to help you structure, plan out and write the best you can.

We hope that you find this guide useful and that it helps you in your writing journey.

Be Passionate

Make sure that whatever it is that you are writing, you love doing it.

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