This is a great — short — piece on the varients [invariably] brought up in conversation about the Bible. AND EXPLAINS why scholarly critics say the following:
The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament. ~ Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 55.
…First, these are errors in the copies, not the originals. Second, they are minor errors (often in names or numbers) which do not affect any teaching. Third, these copyist errors are relatively few in number. Fourth, usually by the context, or by another Scripture, we know which is in error. For example, Ahaziah must have been 22. Finally, though there is a copyist error, the entire message comes through. For example, if you received a letter with the following statement, would you assume you could collect some money?
#OU HAVE WON $20 MILLION.
Even though there is a mistake in the first word, the entire message comes through-you are 20 million dollars richer! And if you received another letter the next day that read like this, you would be even more sure:
Y#U HAVE WON $20 MILLION.
The more mistakes of this kind there are (each in a different place), the more sure you are of the original message. This is why scribal mistakes in the biblical manuscripts do not affect the basic message of the Bible…
Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference , 2006), 158-162.
Thousands of Errors?
When the original language manuscripts are compared with one another, we find there are about 200,000 variants or errors in 10,000 different places. Variants are, very simply, disagreements between texts. These variants can be divided into two categories: unintentional and intentional.
The vast majority of variants are unintentional and are comprised of misspellings, interpolations of words or lines, or are orthographical in nature. Each time a certain word is misspelled in a certain point in the text, it is counted as an error. For example, if a certain word in a certain verse had the same misspelled word in 537 copies, that would count as 537 errors or variants. Orthographical variants refer to the way words are spelled differently in different places. The difference between “theater” and “theatre” is orthographical. Both spellings are correct, but each is preferred in a different geographical location.
Because they preserve the errors of their exemplars, early translations of the New Testament help locate where certain textual variants were mainly known and probably occurred. Also, the writings of the early church fathers are a great help at this point because when they quote the New Testament, they essentially have tagged the errors they preserved with a time and place. If the oldest occurrence of a variant is found in Augustine, for example, we would know the error was from
no later than the late fourth or early fifth centuries and was known in North African copies. If a different error from the same time period is preserved by Chrysostom, we would know that the error was found in copies in the Byzantine region. And if a variant is found in Justin Martyr’s writings, we know the variant was no later than the mid-second century and known to the Romans.
These observations led scholars to divide the copies into three major text types, each with their own peculiarities. The Western text type is named for the versions found around Rome. The Byzantine text type encompasses modern Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. The Alexandrian text type is named for the copies found in North Africa.
The Alexandrian text type has the oldest manuscripts. It is the text type found in the almost ninety surviving papyri and date back to the second (and possibly first) century. The vast majority of English translations are based on the Alexandrian text type since it is considered by most experts today to be the oldest form of the New Testament.
The text type with the most copies by far is the Byzantine. These manuscripts were written on vellum, a much more
durable medium than papyri. The Byzantine texts date from the ninth century onward. This text type was used by Erasmus to compile the first published Greek New Testament. The King James Version was based on Erasmus’s work. This accounts for the variation seen between the King James Version and almost any other major English translation.
Whether or not the Byzantine is the latest and the Alexandrian is the oldest text type is still being debated. The majority opinion is that the Byzantine is a combination of the Alexandrian and Western types. But the argument that at least some parts of the Byzantine text date just as far back as the other text types is a strong one.
The other kind of error found in Scripture is an intentional error. These are deliberate changes to the text by the scribes. It was probably not the scribe’s intention, however, to corrupt the text. They would sometimes try to correct what they saw as an error or to improve the text in some other way.
A good example of an intentional error is found in Mark 1:1-3:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You,
who will prepare Your way.
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!”
The above HCSB translation uses the Alexandrian (also known as Egyptian) text type as its source. Compare its translation with the New King James Version, based on the Byzantine text type:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
As it is written in the prophets,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
which shall prepare thy way before thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Note that the HCSB attributes the quote to Isaiah, but the NKJV attributes the quote to “the prophets.” Apparently at some point a scribe recognized the quote was not just from Isaiah 40:3 but also from Malachi 3:1 and sought to correct the attribution. Whether Mark intentionally, for whatever reason, made the attribution solely to Isaiah is unknown.
This dilemma does, however, illustrate another principle used in recovering the original writing: prefer the more difficult reading. Between the two renderings of Mark 1:1-3, it is easier to explain the difference as a correction from “Isaiah” to “the prophets” than to explain it as a corruption from “the prophets” to “Isaiah.” The more difficult reading is “Isaiah,” therefore it is considered to have a higher probability of being the original.
Regardless of the value of the techniques described above, there are some parts of the New Testament where we are just not sure what the original writing said. About 400 words fall into this category and comprise about forty verses. The content of these verses contain no basis for any essential doctrine of the Christian faith. As a result, scholars can recover 97 to 99 percent of the original content of the New Testament with certainty.
As it turns out, rather than being disadvantaged by not having the original writings, we find ourselves in a position of good fortune. If we had the originals, a critic of the writings would only need to call into question one document. Instead, a critic needs to deal with over 5,300 documents that agree substantially 99.5 percent of the time. This ultimately carries as much or more weight than having the originals.
Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), 281.
 David Allen Black, “Key Issues in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Biola University lecture, cd; Larry W. Hurtado, “How the New Testament Has Come Down to Us,” in Introduction to the History of Christianity, ed. Tim Dowley (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 132.
The HCSB uses the Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed., as the textual base for its translation of the New Testament. The Novum Testamentum Graece is primarily reliant on the Alexandrian text type.
 David Allen Black, “Key Issues in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Biola University lecture, cd.
J. Warner Wallace’s presentation to the Mars Hill Apologetics Group of North Coast Calvary Chapel. J. Warner is a cold case homicide detective and he hosts the PleaseConvinceMe Podcast (www.pleaseconvinceme.com).
If it’s true that the Bible contains scientific facts that were written thousands of years before man discovered them, the implications are staggering. These facts would be evidence that the Bible is the word of God, and its promise of Heaven and threat of Hell are therefore not to be mocked or ignored. A great video. Here is a quote to compliment #9:
“The Book of Leviticus in the Bible was probably the first recording of laws concerning public health. The Hebrew people were told to practice personal hygiene by washing and keeping clean. They were also instructed to bury their waste material away from their campsites, to isolate those who were sick, and to burn soiled dressings. They were prohibited from eating animals that had died of natural causes. The procedure for killing an animal was clearly described, and the edible parts were designated.” ~ Gwendolyn R.W. Burton and Paul G. Engelkirk, Microbiology for the Health Sciences, 6th Edition (New York, NY: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2000), 9.
Church at the Cross, Grapevine (2016) – Many people claim that the Bible is merely a human book, irrelevant, full of errors, and unreliable as an authoritative source of truth for all people. But, what does the evidence suggest? Can we trust the Bible? Speaker: Dr. Dan Wallace (author and Sr. Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary).
Some posit that Jewish thinking on Satan is borrowed from Zoroasterian thought, however, Satan makes an appearance in the book Job. Job is a very early book… pre-dating Zoroaster’s life easily. Satan, as described there, is nothing like the evil god Ahriman, who is a dualistic equal to Ohrmazd the good god, rather than a subordinate.
There is a waay more in-depth dealing with this topic of a supposed Zoroastrian influence in Dr. Corduan’s PDF here:
Another excellent resource that responds to specific scholars on the issue is professor Edwin M. Yamauchi’s, PERSIA AND THE BIBLE, esp. chapter twelve. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Corduan’s excellent book:
Scholars commonly observe that the real significance of Zoroastrianism lies in the influence it has exerted on the development of other world religions, specifically Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, it has been suggested that Jews picked up the concepts of Satan, angels, demons and the apocalypse (resurrection and judgment at the end of the world) during their exile in Babylonia and immediately thereafter. Notions of Zoroastrian influence were particularly popular during the early twentieth century. Even though scholarly support for them has eroded, they continue to be propagated on the popular level and in introductory textbooks.
There is nothing intrinsically pernicious about the idea that one religion may have influenced another one. A case in point lies in the origin of Islam in the life of Muhammad. We know that Muhammad came into contact with established versions of Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. We know what those adherents believed for the most part, and we can show exactly how some of those beliefs showed up (and how they were modified) in the Qur’an. Thus it makes sense to think in terms of the influence that these three religions exerted on Muhammad. I have argued that we must leave plenty of room both for Muhammad’s own creativity and for the vestige of original monotheism present in Arabian culture at his time. The idea does become objectionable when the identification of a supposed influence is used to eliminate all originality (or even truth—the “genetic fallacy”) from a religious belief simply by showing that it was derived from some other source.
We can use the example of influences on Muhammad to establish criteria by which we can judge whether Zoroastrianism could have influenced Judaism. In order to conclude reasonably that such an influence occurred, the following points have to be true:
Zoroastrianism must have been established in the form in which it was supposed to have influenced Judaism.
There must have been sufficient opportunity for the Jews to absorb the doctrines.
There must be sufficient resemblance between the Zoroastrian version of the doctrines and the biblical version to make influence a reasonable conclusion.
There must be a clear indication that the influence went from Zoroastrianism to Judaism and not the other way around. This criterion is particularly incisive if there is some evidence that the beliefs in question may have been present in Judaism before the period of supposed contact with Zoroastrianism.
As it turns out, not one of these criteria supports the notion of Zoroastrian influence.
1. Zoroastrianism had a particularly tough time getting established in Persia. Even the kings we know as Zoroastrians worshiped Ahura Mazda along with other gods. All these kings ruled at a time later than the period of the exile. Cyrus, who sent the Jews back to their own land, was not Zoroastrian. If Zoroastrianism had influenced Israel at this time, then the Jews must have been more open to the message of Zoroaster than the Persians themselves were.
2. The kind of intimate contact necessary for assimilation of foreign beliefs cannot be demonstrated for the Jews in the mainstream of biblical Judaism. As stated above, Persia did not become Zoroastrian until after the exile. So the influences (if any) must have come much more indirectly. An interesting sidelight to this discussion is that the ten northern tribes were indeed transported by the Assyrians to the region roughly identical with Media, the sphere of Zoroaster’s activity. But the northern tribes had no concrete influence on the development of Judaism (in fact, they basically vanished). It would be far more likely that their presence in Media might have influenced subsequent thought there, but we have no evidence for that hypothesis either.
3. By and large, the supposed resemblances between Zoroastrianism and Judaism are superficial at best. Beyond the idea that Jewish biblical writings show evidence of Satan, angels and apocalypse, there is very little similarity in the details. It must be kept in mind here that (1) we know very little about the Zoroastrianism of the Achaemenid dynasty; (2) much of what we do know comes from sources considerably later than biblical writings; (3) what we do know reflects the garbled, magic-obsessed, syncretistic religion of the magi—hardly the Zoroastrianism necessary for the Jews to use as source for the biblical version. The Talmud (itself a very late source—A.D. 400) states that the Jews brought the names of angels back with them from Babylon; we can also allow for the idea that they may have been stimulated in their thinking about God, Satan, angels, demons and so on (in fact, common sense tells us that they must have done so). Nevertheless, such broad strokes are a far cry from proving that the Jews directly borrowed the actual concepts from Zoroastrianism. The Old Testament depicts Satan as a very inferior being, not as a dualistic opponent of God. We find only the sketchiest references to angels. They are definitely not objects of worship, and it is apparent that the apocalypses of the two cultures differ in all details other than that there is a resurrection and a judgment.
4. Finally, beyond resemblances, there are no particular data to support the assertion that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism rather than the other way around. The very idea of foreign influences on Judaism has its basis in a dogmatic commitment by Western biblical scholars of the early twentieth century to explain Judaism in terms of the supposed evolution of religion (see chapter one). Thus all claims to an original revealed monotheism needed to be rethought in terms of either evolutionary development or foreign influences such as Zoroastrianism. Wherever such scholars find an apparent resemblance to another religion or culture, they immediately infer that the other religion was the source that influenced Judaism. This tendency also shows up in the ascription of Zoroastrian influence, though the data really do not support the arrows going in that direction (just as it would be difficult to make them point the other way). It becomes apparent that in tracing the supposed influence the question is frequently begged in favor of Zoroastrian influence on biblical writings. A quote by James H. Moulton is telling for this whole enterprise:
It is perhaps as well to remember that these theories do not come from Iranian experts, but from scholars whose fame was achieved in other fields. Were we to count only the Iranists, we should even doubt whether the Parsi did not borrow from the Jew, for that was the view of [the Iranian scholar] Darmesteter!
In sum, the story of Zoroastrian influence on other religions has been greatly exaggerated. The resemblances are more superficial than real, and even where they are close, there is no good reason to infer direct influencing or borrowing. The real significance of Zoroastrianism does not lie in its influence on other religions but on what we learn about this religion in its own domain, as well as what we learn about the experience of monotheistic religions by its example.
Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 129-131.
Here are some ways to deal with Muslim apologists questioning Jesus’ Divinity:
(Above) Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim, answers a question from a faithful Muslim about how Jesus could have both a Divine (God) nature and a human nature without confusion or contradiction. See more from Nabeel HERE Follow him on TWITTER as well.
Nabeel is battling stomach cancer, so any prayers would be a gracious help.
Here is a more in-depth presentation dealing with how the question is typically raised.
Muslims around the world are being trained to ask Christians, “Where did Jesus say, ‘I am God, worship me,’ in those exact words?” However, if Muslims are suggesting that Jesus could only claim to be God by uttering a specific sentence, we may reply by asking, “Where did Jesus say, ‘I am only a prophet, don’t worship me,’ in those exact words?” The unreasonable demand for a particular statement, if applied consistently, would thus force Muslims to reject their own view!
Fortunately, we have a simple way to examine what Jesus said about himself. According to both the Bible and the Qur’an, there are certain claims that only God can truly make. For instance, God alone can correctly state that he created the universe. Of course, a mere human being can pronounce the words, “I created the universe,” but the statement would be false coming from anyone other than God.
Hence, if Jesus said things that can only truly be said by God, we must conclude that Jesus claimed to be God. Interestingly, Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree on many of the claims that cannot be properly made by (or about) mere human beings. In this video, we consider several examples of such claims.
For more on the deity of Christ, watch these videos by David Wood:
After noting the problems in Bart Ehrman’s book, TRUE FREE THINKER notes — using Bart Ehrman’s own methodology — just how many of these variants accumulated over time:
…I do not know how many copies Misquoting Jesus has sold but it is reported that “Within the first three months, more than 100,000 copies were sold.”
The way it works is as simple as it is deceptive: you multiply the 16 variants by how many times they have been reproduced. As the 16 have been reproduced 100,000 (in three months alone) you multiply these and so the total of variants in Misquoting Jesus equals: 1,600,000.
And that, boys and girls, is how Bart Ehrman manages to make sensational claims that gain him notoriety and quite a few shekels….
Which is why this Q&A with Ehrman is so powerful:
In the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, added to the paperback version, there is a Q&A section. I do not know who the questioner is, but it is obviously someone affiliated with the editors of the book. Consider this question asked of Ehrman:
Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets Of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?
Note that the wording of the question is not “Do you believe…” but “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy…?” This is a question that presumably came from someone who read the book very carefully. How does Ehrman respond?
The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.
Suffice it to say that viable textual variants that disturb cardinal doctrines found in the NT have not yet been produced.
Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 54-55.
Tracing ancient history is about examining sources and the manuscripts behind them, as well as the nature of their content and claims. In regard to Julius Caesar, the key sources are his own accounts of the Gallic Wars, the speeches of Cicero, Sallust’s account of Catiline’s War, Suetonius’s section on Caesar in Twelve Caesars, and Plutarch’s section on Caesar in Plutarchs’s Lives.
In some ways, Caesar’s autobiographical account gives us more to consider than the accounts of Jesus do. It provides direct testimony about events Caesar participated in. Sallust and Cicero were Caesar’s contemporaries as well, so there are reliable outside sources closely tied to the time of these events. Two of the most important sources for the emperor’s life, however, Suetonius and Plutarch, write in the early second century. That’s more than 100 years after the time of Caesar.
Manuscript support lies behind these sources. And this is where things get especially interesting. Around 12 manuscripts are essential for determining the wording of Caesar’s account. The oldest manuscript is from the ninth century—a full 900 years removed from the actual events. The list extends to manuscripts from the 12th century. Cicero’s speeches have an even older pedigree. They have about 15 manuscripts ranging from AD 400 to 800. Sallust’s account has around 20 manuscripts from the 10th and 11th centuries.Plutarch’s Lives is also mostly divided across six key manuscripts that range from the 10th and 11th centuries. Suetonius’s manuscript is dated AD 820. Classics scholars build much of our understanding of Caesar around these sources, even though their manuscript traditions contain significant gaps of time.
Considering Jesus’s Sources
What about Jesus? Here we mostly rely on the four Gospels. Their production falls well within the Suetonian and Plutarchian time period. But even if you hold to the more conservative tradition that the synoptics were written in the 60s and John in the 90s, or the common alternative that the synoptics were written in the 80s, you’re still within 60 years of the events described. Contemporaries of Jesus and eyewitnesses of those events were still alive, unlike Suetonius’s or Plutarch’s accounts.
Gospel authorship is also debated. Conservatives argue the apostles Matthew and John are the sources of the Gospels under their names. If so, this is like Sallust’s and Cicero’s accounts in which the authors are contemporaries of the figure being chronicled. The other two Gospels are also traditionally tied to apostles—Mark uses Peter as a source and Luke uses Paul. This is a well-established tradition tied to Papias in the early second century. Once again, this contemporary link is what we see with Sallust and Cicero. Even if one severs those links with a less conservative reading, authorship remains tied to contemporary figures. Add the corporate and oral nature and role of the Gospels and we have good reason—purely on secular grounds—to regard the traditions we have of Jesus. Our sources give us a solid core for understanding him. Ken Bailey’s essay “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels,” James Dunn’s Jesus Remembered, my own and Robert Webb’s edited work Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, and Robert McIver’s Memory, Jesus, and the Synoptic Gospels make this case in detail.
What about the manuscripts? Here the New Testament is far superior to its classical companions. Our earliest manuscripts start appearing within decades of the writing. The fragment p52 is dated around AD 125. It only has a few portions of John 18, but it starts a trail that has full manuscripts of the Gospels appearing by the fourth century. The number of Greek manuscripts we have of the New Testament up to the time of the printing press is more than 5,800. The wording of the New Testament, including the Gospels, is extremely solid. Unclear spots often appear with an “or” note in Bible margins that record such differences. Yet none of those differences affects any core doctrinal teaching of Christianity. The only thing affected is how many verses make that teaching point.
So we can see the Gospels compare favorably to the classics in terms of what the sources say about Jesus and Caesar. If such sourcing works for the classics and the study of Caesar, it should work for Jesus as well….
* Darrell L. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 30 books, including
One in five Americans now identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. How would you identify yourself? Philosopher and apologist Dr. William Lane Craig presents five reasons why belief in God makes good rational sense.
“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have SEEN the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can CLEARLY SEE His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:19-20)
The Bible is indispensable to the Christian walk and faith. How do we know it’s the Word of God though? For instance, I know the Bible is God’s Word because of two “books.” The “Book of Nature” and His “Book of Revelation.” Often times people view this “Book of Revelation” as just the Bible, which is surely a major part of the equation. But this revealed truth and revelation comes by way of us interacting with the Holy Spirit – who is the revealer of revelatory truth.
Evangelical theology holds that Revelation can be found in two spheres: 1) Nature and 2) Scripture. Romans 1:19-20 speaks of the former:
Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Romans 1:19-20 speaks of what is theologically called general revelation and 2 Tim. 3:16-17 speaks of special revelation. Human reasoning can show that general revelation is possible since it can demonstrate the existence and nature of God, finite beings that can receive and understand it, and the possibility of objective meaning and truth. However, it is special revelation found only in the canonical books of Scripture that actually manifest the reality of God’s specific message, in human language, to human beings. It is only here that we learn God is a Trinity (Tri—unity), the plan of redemption, and the savior Jesus Christ. General revelation is to all humans, but special revelation is specifically for believers. General revelation contains truth and morality available to all humankind, but special revelation contains truth and morality specifically to God’s people. General revelation is sufficient to condemn humans, but only special revelation contains the message and means of salvation.
Special revelation consists of the sixty-six books recognized as Scripture. What identifies these books as Scripture concerns the rule, standard or canon applied to discover what books constitute special revelation. Norman Geisler’s General Introduction to the Bible lists and applies the following general principles in discovering the canon of Scripture.
Norman L. Geisler and Douglas E. Potter, A Prolegomena to Evangelical Theology (Indian Trail, NC: Norm Geisler International Ministires, 2016), 113-115.
The “Book of Nature” can reveal truth about my Creator and this revelation goes a long way to show me a lot about God and build my trust in Who He says He is and His Word.
Nature as a Book
The metaphor of referring to nature as a revelatory book is deeply rooted in Christian church history. “Book of Nature” references are found even in the patristic writings. For example, Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430), made the following statement in his classic work the Confessions: “In your great wisdom you, who are our God, speak to us of these things in your Book, the firmament made by you.”1
Protestant reformers continued the Christian practice of speaking of nature as a revelatory book. The Reformed (or Calvinistic) theological tradition in particular articulated the “two books” revelatory perspective. The fullest expression is found in the Belgic Confession, Article 2, written in 1561:
We know him [God] by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God…
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.
Later, during the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the Christian forefathers of science readily referenced the “two books” of revelation idea. For example, Francis Bacon (1561–1626) famously spoke of “the book of God’s works” and “the book of God’s word” in his work Advancement of Learning in 1605.
So to speak about this book of nature in relation to God and how Romans describes this book… I can agree with Dr. Moreland when he says that he KNOWS God exists from natures evidence:
I, like Dr. Moreland, have a “belief/faith” similar to this:
“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.” Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207.
Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him. (William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010], 38.)
I. Half a Dozen (or so) ontological (or metaphysical) arguments
(A) The Argument from Intentionality (or Aboutness) (B) The argument from collections. (C) The argument From (Natural) numbers (D) The Argument From Counterfactuals (E) The Argument from physical constants (F) The Naive Teleological Argument (G) Tony Kenny’s style of teleological argument (h) The ontological argument
I. Another argument thrown in for good measure.
II. Half a dozen Epistemological Arguments
(J) The argument from positive epistemic status (K) The Argument from the confluence of proper function and reliability (L) The Argument from Simplicity (M) The Argument from induction (N) The Putnamian Argument (the Argument from the Rejection of Global Skepticism) (O) The Argument from Reference (P) The Kripke-Wittgenstein Argument From Plus and Quus (See Supplementary Handout) (Q) The General Argument from Intuition
III. Moral arguments
(R) moral arguments (actually R1 to Rn) (R*) The argument from evil.
IV. Other Arguments
(S) The Argument from Colors and Flavors (Adams and Swinburne) (T) The argument from Love (U) The Mozart Argument (V) The Argument from Play and enjoyment (W) Arguments from providence and from miracles (X) C.S. Lewis’s Argument from Nostalgia (Y) The argument from the meaning of life (Z) The Argument from (a) to (Y)
(See also this long list of responses to many skeptical issues.)
Again, this is a faith from the natural side of man and his environment. The “revelatory” side of faith is a miraculous typeof faith. Albeit reasoning powers and truth still play a significant role in the Revelatory side of the equation as well, our “reasoning” is guided by the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come” (John 16:3, HCSB).
This faith is more akin to what Dr. Craig speaks about in his excellent book, Reasonable Faith:
….fundamentally, the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premise in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as “God exists,” “I am condemned by God,” “I am reconciled to God,” “Christ lives in me,” and so forth; that such an experience Provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 43 (More at the bottom of the page)
These Christian positions I emphasize above are believed by myself with 100% certitude. This “belief” is both a combination of the book of nature (showing me evidences that support reasons to trust my Creator) AS WELL AS the revealed truth of the Holy Spirit, of which the Bible plays a huge role in.
In other words, I can have a firm basis for my belief just like a jury hearing the testimony of two eyewitnesses that saw a crime happen… but this is not a 100% belief, just like a jury’s is not a hundred-percent. The addition to the Christians certitude about God’s existence and the trusting of His character would be analogous to transporting the jury to the crime for them to have an inner witness of this past event.
This is what the Christian believes, and is what Nicodemus struggled with:
There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.”
Jesus replied,“I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”
Jesus answered,“I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus.
“Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied.“I assure you: We speak what We know and We testify to what We have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. If I have told you about things that happen on earth and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about things of heaven? No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.
“This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
How can these things be… exactly.
There is still a supernatural side to our faith. And one cannot even “see the kingdom of God” unless one is born again. And so the “miraculouse” portion needed to bring certitute that the skeptic is asking for is kept from him-or-her until this regeneration, otherwise the mind is at a state of war with God (Romans 8:6-9).
But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. (Galatians 1:15-16, HCSB)
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9, HCSB)
For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. (Romans 12:3, HCSB)
How do I know the Bible is God’s Word then? Tentatively by the Book of Nature. Assuredly by the witness of Holy Spirit.
Again, there are many streams that combine into this trust of the Bible. I know God exists by the preponderance of the evidence and through the witness of the Holy Spirit… but I bring this dichotomy to the Bible as well.
Having read many of the holy books of the world religions (in part or in full), I am familiar with the structure of these religious scriptures as well as Holy Scripture. These differences are stark! Likewise are the claims in these scriptures that separate the Bible from other works. For instance, “[t]he writings from the Far East, the teachings of Confucius, Buddhism and Hinduism do not even make a claim to be God’s word,” continuing:
They present to their followers a path to a simpler, more satisfactory life. The Muslim Koran makes no claims to being words from Allah. Rather it is the writing of Mohammed, a religious leader, his record of history as well as his desire for the future. But has any prophecy in the Koran come to pass? Only the Christian Bible claims to be God’s very word to man and only the Bible contains the verifiable track record of prophetic fulfillment as evidence of its claims. Biblical prophecies are batting 1000. No other religious group or religious writings can make the same claim.
Similarly, we are called to examine the Scriptures, and this book, unlike any other religious book, has the means to do so… one of the most important arguments that is pivotal to the Christian faith can be found at a post on the Resurrection, entitled: “Christianity Is the Only Falsifiable Religious Worldview.” Other posts that compliment this are:
This belief has been a source of contention with many people, even Christians, in the past. But the more I research, the more I find it to be the case that Christianity is the only viable worldview that is historically defensible. The central claims of the Bible demand historic inquiry, as they are based on public events that can be historically verified. In contrast, the central claims of all other religions cannot be historically tested and, therefore, are beyond falsifiability or inquiry. They just have to be believed with blind faith.
Think about it: The believer in the Islamic faith has to trust in a private encounter Muhammad had, and this encounter is unable to be tested historically. We have no way to truly investigate the claims of Joseph Smith (and when we do, they are found wanting). Buddhism and Hinduism are not historic faiths, meaning they don’t have central claims of events in time and space which believers are called upon to investigate. You either adopt their philosophy or you don’t. There is no objective way to test them. Run through every religion that you know of and you will find this to be the case: Either it does not give historic details to the central event, the event does not carry any worldview-changing significance, or there are no historic events which form the foundation of the faith.
This is what it looks like:
So far we have demonstrated the fact that the world’s great religious books cannot all be right. In fact, if any of them is correct in its teachings regarding the supernatural and eternal, the others are by definition wrong. So, how do we decide which documents to trust?
Examine the evidence for their truth claims. Hindu documents, for instance, posit an afterlife filled with reincarnations. Is there any historical support or objective evidence for such a position? Does objective, independent evidence exist to document the Buddha’s enlightenment, or Mohammad’s experiences with Allah? A number of cities, inscriptions, and places are described only in the Book of Mormon; to date, none have been found by archaeologists.
Conversely, independent evidence for the existence and deity of Jesus Christ is remarkable. Manuscript evidence documenting the trustworthy nature of the biblical materials is overwhelming. There are excellent reasons to believe the Bible is what it claims to be: the word of God.
So in looking at the Bible I look to it’s INTERNAL TESTS (it’s consistency, it’s claims, the claims of Christ, etc.):
Internal Evidence, of which John Warwick Montgomery writes that literary critics still follow Aristotle’s dictum that “the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself.” therefore, one must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and do not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualified himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies. As Dr. Horn continues:
“Think for a moment about what needs to be demonstrated concerning a ‘difficulty’ in order to transfer it into the category of a valid argument against doctrine. Certainly much more is required than the mere appearance of a contradiction. First, we must be certain that we have correctly understood the passage, the sense in which it uses words or numbers. Second, that we possess all available knowledge in this matter. Third, that no further light can possibly be thrown on it by advancing knowledge, textual research, archaeology, etc…. Difficulties do not constitute objections. Unresolved problems are not of necessity errors. This is not to minimize the area of difficulty; it is to see it in perspective. Difficulties are to be grappled with and problems are to drive us to seek clearer light; but until such time as we have total and final light on any issue we are in no position to affirm, ‘Here is a proven error, an unquestionable objection to an infallible Bible.’ It is common knowledge that countless ‘objections’ have fully been resolved since this century began.”
The BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST is important for the trust of the Bible’s claims as well. The bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, since we do not have the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regard to the number of manuscripts. I compare, for instance, Buddhist scripture to the record of the manuscript evidence to the Bible in a very long post, but here is one graphic from that post:
There are other evidences that get to within a couple of years of the Messiah’s death that no other religious Scripture can. Here again is a comparison between Christian Scriptures and Buddhist Scripture via Dr. Habermas:
So the above video is a mix of the Bibliographical Test as well as the EXTERNAL TEST. Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves? In other words, what sources are there – apart from the literature under analysis – that substantiate its accuracy, reliability, and authenticity? Here are a couple examples from differing categories found in my post entitled: Evidence OUTSIDE the Bible for Jesus (Updated w/ Bill Maher)
Hostile Non-Biblical Pagan Witnesses
Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient that his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who had previously tried to explain away the darkness that occurred at the point of Jesus’ crucifixion:
“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)
If only more of Thallus’ record could be found, we would see that every aspect of Jesus’ life could be verified with a non-biblical source. But there are some things we can conclude from this account: Jesus lived, he was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of his crucifixion.
Early Christians are also described in secular history. Pliny the Younger, in a letter to the Roman emperor Trajan, describes the lifestyles of early Christians:
“They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
This EARLY description of the first Christians documents several facts: the first Christians believed that Jesus was GOD, the first Christians upheld a high moral code, and these early followers et regularly to worship Jesus.
Hostile Non-Biblical Jewish Witnesses
In more detail than any other non-biblical historian, Josephus writes about Jesus in his “the Antiquities of the Jews” in 93AD. Josephus was born just four years after the crucifixion. He was a consultant for Jewish rabbis at age thirteen, was a Galilean military commander by the age of sixteen, and he was an eyewitness to much of what he recorded in the first century A.D. Under the rule of roman emperor Vespasian, Josephus was allowed to write a history of the Jews. This history includes three passages about Christians, one in which he describes the death of John the Baptist, one in which he mentions the execution of James and describes him as the brother of Jesus the Christ, and a final passage which describes Jesus as a wise man and the messiah. Now there is much controversy about the writing of Josephus, because the first discoveries of his writings are late enough to have been re-written by Christians, who are accused of making additions to the text. So to be fair, let’s take a look at a scholarly reconstruction that has removed all the possible Christian influence from the text related to Jesus:
“Now around this time lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was a worker of amazing deeds and was a teacher of people who gladly accept the truth. He won over both many Jews and many Greeks. Pilate, when he heard him accused by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, (but) those who had first loved him did not cease (doing so). To this day the tribe of Christians named after him has not disappeared” (This neutral reconstruction follows closely the one proposed in the latest treatment by John Meier, Marginal Jew 1:61)
Now there are many other ancient versions of Josephus’ writing which are even more explicit about the nature of his miracles, his life and his status as the Christ, but let’s take this conservative version and see what we can learn. From this text, we can conclude that Jesus lived in Palestine, was a wise man and a teacher, worked amazing deeds, was accused buy the Jews, crucified under Pilate and had followers called Christians!
Jewish Talmud (400-700AD)
While the earliest Talmudic writings of Jewish Rabbis appear in the 5th century, the tradition of these Rabbinic authors indicates that they are faithfully transmitting teachings from the early “Tannaitic” period of the first century BC to the second century AD. There are a number of writings from the Talmud that scholars believe refer to Jesus and many of these writings are said to use code words to describe Jesus (such as “Balaam” or “Ben Stada” or “a certain one”). But let’s be very conservative here. Let’s ONLY look at the passages that refer to Jesus in a more direct way. If we do that, there are still several ancient Talmudic passages we can examine:
“Jesus practiced magic and led Israel astray” (b. Sanhedrin 43a; cf. t. Shabbat 11.15; b. Shabbat 104b)
“Rabbi Hisda (d. 309) said that Rabbi Jeremiah bar Abba said, ‘What is that which is written, ‘No evil will befall you, nor shall any plague come near your house’? (Psalm 91:10)… ‘No evil will befall you’ (means) that evil dreams and evil thoughts will not tempt you; ‘nor shall any plague come near your house’ (means) that you will not have a son or a disciple who burns his food like Jesus of Nazareth.” (b. Sanhedrin 103a; cf. b. Berakhot 17b)
“Our rabbis have taught that Jesus had five disciples: Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah. They brought Matthai to (to trial). He said, ‘Must Matthai be killed? For it is written, ‘When (mathai) shall I come and appear before God?’” (Psalm 92:2) They said to him, “Yes Matthai must be killed, for it is written, ‘When (mathai) he dies his name will perish’” (Psalm 41:5). They brought Nakai. He said to them, “Must Nakai be killed? For it is written, “The innocent (naqi) and the righteous will not slay’” (Exodus 23:7). They said to him, “Yes, Nakai must be kille, for it is written, ‘In secret places he slays the innocent (naqi)’” (Psalm 10:8). (b. Sanhedrin 43a; the passage continues in a similar way for Nezer, Buni and Todah)
And this, perhaps the most famous of Talmudic passages about Jesus:
“It was taught: On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus. A herald went before him for forty days (proclaiming), “He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray. Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him.” But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover. (b. Sanhedrin 43a)
From just these passages that mention Jesus by name, we can conclude that Jesus had magical powers, led the Jews away from their beliefs, had disciples who were martyred for their faith (one of whom was named Matthai), and was executed on the day before the Passover.
The many avenues of evidence for the Bible as unique — some discussed here and many not — bring me to a preponderance of evidence that the Bible is the unique Word of the Living God whom I already have natural and revelatory evidence of His Being. And not only does the Bible claim to be the actual Word of God in contradistinction to other “holy” scriptures, so to does Jesus claim to be God whereas Mohammed never claimed to be God, Confucius never claimed to be God, Zoroaster never claimed to be God, Buddha never claimed to be God, Joseph Smith never said he was God….
We have both eyewitness and corroborative witnesses to these events and to the character and person of Jesus. In fact… that is how we attain most of our information about reality and history. History, by-the-by, would be in the category of the Book of Nature:
✦ “What are the distinctive sources for our beliefs about the past? Most of the beliefs we have about the past come to us by the testimony of other people. I wasn’t present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t see my father fight in the [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar. I have been told about these events by sources that I take to be reliable. The testimony of others is generally the main source of our beliefs about the past…. So all our beliefs about the past depend on testimony, or memory, or both.” ~ Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies (Foster City, CA: IDG Books; 1999), 57-58.
✦ “In advanced societies specialization in the gathering and production of knowledge and its wider dissemination through spoken and written testimony is a fundamental socio-epistemic fact, and a very large part of each persons body of knowledge and belief stems from testimony.” ~ Robert Audi, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd edition (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 1999), 909.
✦ “But it is clear that most of what any given individual knows comes from others; palpably with knowledge of history, geography, or science, more subtly with knowledge about every day facts such as when we were born..” ~ Ted Honderich, ed., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), 869.
How does the “character” of as well as the teachings of Jesus stand up to the other founders of the major religions of the world? Let’s see:
The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strong-minded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.
All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.
Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.
Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.
Jesus did say He was God.
His character and actions proved it.
All the other world religious leaders/founders still lie in their graves and had characters that were not Godly ~ Jesus rose to prove His point.
BUT, I also have a confirmation by the living God through the miraculous intervention and witness of the Holy Spirit that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God, making my best inference more than that… making it a certitude that no other worldview offers their adherents.
The study of God and delight in knowing God requires a mode of understanding that transcends simply empirical data gathering, logical deduction, or the dutiful organization of scriptural or traditional texts into a coherent sequence. The Christian study of God intrinsically involves a mode of knowing from the heart that hopes to make the knower “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15, KJV, i.e., a knowing grounded in the “sacred writings which have power to make you wise and lead you to salvation,” NEB), to save the soul, to teach the sinner all that is needed to attain saving knowledge of God (Clement of Alex., Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? pp. 591-604; Catherine of Siena, Prayers 7, pp. 58-61; Baxter, PW II, pp. 23-25; Wesley, WJW VIII, pp. 20 ff., 290 ff.).
Faith’s knowing is distinguishable from objective, testable, scientific knowledge, although not necessarily inimical to it. It is a form of knowing that embraces the practical question of how we choose to live in the presence of this Source and End of all (Clement of Alex., Exhort. to the Heathen IX, ANF II, pp. 195-97; Teresa of Avila, CWST, III, pp. 219-22; Calvin, Inst. 1.11-13).
Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, Volume One: The Living God (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2006), 9-10.
The assurance that God has spoken to them directly through his holy Scriptures gave the Reformers their unique boldness. The formation of that truth theologically was the fundamentally new element in the Reformation. The Reformation battle cry was sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” But sola Scriptura meant more to the Reformers than that God has revealed himself in the propositions of the Bible. The new element was not that the Bible, being given by God, speaks with God’s authority. The Roman Church held to that as well as the Reformers. The new element, as Packer points out,
was the belief, borne in upon the Reformers by their own experience of Bible study, that Scripture can and does interpret itself to the faithful from within—Scripture is its own interpreter, Scriptura sui ipsius interpres, as Luther puts it—so that not only does it not need Popes or Councils to tell us, as from God, what it means; it can actually challenge Papal and conciliar pronouncements, convince them of being ungodly and untrue, and require the faithful to part company with them. . . . As Scripture was the only source from which sinners might gain true knowledge of God and godliness, so Scripture was the only judge of what the church had in each age ventured to say in her Lord’s name.
In Luther’s time the Roman Church had weakened the authority of the Bible by exalting human traditions to the stature of Scripture and by insisting that the teaching of the Bible could be communicated to Christian people only through the mediation of popes, councils and priests. The Reformers restored biblical authority by holding that the living God speaks to his people directly and authoritatively through its pages.
James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVasity Press, 1986), 48-49.