In Part 1 of this 3 part series, we examined the claim by atheists that they have examined the evidence which exists and have concluded that God does not exist. We learned in part 1 that a majority of atheists have not examined the scientific evidence that is available, and simply choose to define themselves as atheists based upon their emotional response to the idea of God or gods.
In part 1, we examined the evidence for God from the Universe itself; the scientific and know properties of the universe which proves that it exists by intelligence, not by random acts, or any natural process.
In this second part, we examine the evidence from the Bible, which gives us empirical evidence from the historical record that God predicted events which are not possible by human intellect or knowledge.
Most atheists, decide that they will not believe that God exists, strictly because they choose not to believe, not because they have conducted an extensive search.
When you hear an atheists claim that there is no evidence for God, understand that this is a disingenuous statement. The person who is asserting this statement has not done the work necessary to make an informed decision. They have simply decided they don’t want to believe.
The actual evidence for God is quite substantial.
- The universe exists as empirical evidence for God.
- The Bible exists as empirical evidence for God.
- The arrival of Jesus on earth exists as empirical evidence for God.
This is Part 2 of 3 of the article: “Atheists Do Not Exist.”
The Bible As Evidence For God:
It’s important to understand that there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that what is written about Jesus in the New Testament is not true. There is no proof that anyone fabricated the narratives of the four gospels which describe Jesus as performing miracles, or His claim to be God. These conclusions are based primarily upon the opinions of Theologians, most of which are either agnostics or atheists.
Because these Theologians don’t believe God exists, they assert that the writers of the New Testament made up their stories about Jesus. This is the basis from where they conclude that He cannot be God, nor capable of the miracles that are ascribed to Him in the New Testament.
Let’s examine a few facts of the New Testament manuscripts we do have today to validate Jesus:
There are no ancient works of literature, secular or religious, which have more surviving manuscripts than the New Testament.
- In the 24,593 extant copies of the New Testament that we have today, these texts are virtually identical to our current New Testament.
- All of the texts where Jesus claims to be God and performs miracles to validate this claim are in these ancient manuscripts.
- A frequent argument that is often made by atheist Theologians is that the New Testament was written too far from the time when the events took place.
- Some of the surviving New Testament manuscripts we have today were written as early as 60 A.D., just 28 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
- In a later chapter, I will show you a manuscript fragment of Matthew’s Gospel that has been scientifically dated to just 28 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
- This means that the New Testament was written closer to the time when these events took place than any other literature of antiquity.
- The surviving manuscripts of the New Testament are dated at various times throughout history, but they are all virtually identical to each other in their certainty that Jesus claimed to be God and His miracles prove this claim.
- In truth, there are no ancient manuscripts in existence which have been dated closer to the time when the events took place, other than the New Testament.
Not one of these texts of the New Testament which were written at these early dates, nor any which were copied after, differ from our current New Testament in describing the miracles of Jesus and His claims to be God.
The minor discrepancies that are found in these surviving manuscripts are in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Less than 400 of the 138,000 words in the New Testament are in question. Not one of these words changes the descriptions of Jesus performing miracles or the text where He claims to be God.
Assertions are made that there are many inaccuracies in the New Testament, which are referred to as “Textual Variants.”
Critics of the Bible often use the number, “200,000,” in describing how many variants there are in the existing copies of the New Testament. In fact, these critics are quite disingenuous in their statements as a single word which is misspelled in thousands of manuscripts—may be counted as thousands of variants, although only one word has been misspelled.
In “A General Introduction to the Bible,” by Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. William Nix, these astute scholars make the following observations regarding any variations between the ancient copies of the New Testament and the Bible we have today:
“There is an ambiguity in saying there are some 200,000 variants in the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, since these represent only 10,000 places in the New Testament (out of 138,000 words). If one single word is misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, this is counted as 3,000 variants or readings.”6
Biblical Scholar Dr. Philip Schaff, in his book: “Greek Testament and the English Version,” noted that there are really only 400 variants out of the entire 25,000 copies of the New Testament that are in existence. Not one of these variants are of any significance, nor affect any major doctrine of the Christian faith.
“Not one of these variations altered “an article of faith of a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.”7
In other words, in the very limited variants of the text within the many thousands of copies of the New Testament which are in some dispute—the issues are predominately a question of spelling or punctuation. In just 50 cases, even the text that is in doubt does not change the basic tenets of the gospels which substantiate that Jesus Christ was observed by more than 500 eyewitnesses as risen from the dead, after having been crucified—His death being verified by the Roman government, the Jewish Talmud, and the disciples of Jesus.
Can An Atheist Teach New Testament Theology?
Do you find it extraordinary that someone could be distinguished as a New Testament Scholar when they don’t believe God exists? Precisely how this person is qualified to teach others about the Bible, when they don’t believe the Bible, is uncertain.
Would you trust the words of a man who claims to be a doctor but doesn’t believe in medicine?
Would you trust the conclusions of an atheist who says that the disciples of Jesus made Him God, or the actual testimony of men who were there when these events took place?
We have what these men wrote and they said Jesus claimed to be God, performed miracles and was raised from the dead.
If these men did invent the story that Jesus is God, where is the evidence of this? Dr. Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar Scholars, and all other Liberal Theologians never provide us with any textual evidence of fraud; only their personal feelings and observations.
Written As Historical Narratives
Bart Ehrman asserts that the four Gospels are not eyewitness accounts of the events which transpired during the time when Jesus was on earth.
“Our next earliest sources of information about the historical Jesus are the Gospels of the New Testament. As it turns out, these are our best sources. They are best not because they happen to be in the New Testament, but because they are also the earliest narratives of Jesus’s life to survive. But even though they are the best sources available to us, they really are not as good as we might hope. This is for several reasons. To begin with, they are not written by eyewitnesses…But in fact the books were written anonymously—the authors never identify themselves…”2
Does this statement sound surprising to you? If you read Dr. Ehrman’s books you will quickly notice that statements like this, which begin with the certainty that the New Testament is “our best sources,” immediately digress into, “ they are not written by eyewitnesses.”
How does Ehrman know that the New Testament narratives are not written by eyewitnesses? He is guessing. He assumes that because the four Gospels do not have the name of the writers attached to them, they cannot be relied upon.
In fact, the reason that these names were omitted was purposeful. The authors did not want to receive personal recognition, they wanted Jesus to be recognized.
The evidence proves that the four Gospels are written by eyewitnesses. In fact, when you read these narratives for yourself, you will see that these men state specifically that they are eyewitness.
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. ~2 Peter 1:16-18
Ehrman’s conclusions are based solely upon his idea that the stories about Jesus are too spectacular to be true; God doesn’t exist and miracles are not possible; therefore, the disciples of Jesus made up these stories.
Most people who have read Dr. Ehrman’s New York Times Bestsellers assume that he made these conclusions based upon evidence. When we read his books, we find that conclusions are made by conjecture and there is no evidence in the historical record which support his ideas.
Ehrman began with the assumption that God does not exist; therefore Jesus cannot be God; therefore Jesus did not do what is recorded of Him in the New Testament.
Now you see how the world has arrived at a place where an atheist dictates to us whether Jesus is represented correctly in the New Testament.
Notice Ehrman’s statement regarding the accounts of Jesus:
“The reason we need books like these (the book Ehrman wrote) is that the Gospels cannot simply be taken at face value as giving us historically reliable accounts of the things Jesus said and did.”3
Dr. Ehrman stipulates that if the New Testament were considered reliable, it would be all that anyone would need for historical scholarship to prove that Jesus is who is described by the New Testament.
“If the Gospels were those sorts of trustworthy biographies that recorded Jesus’s life “as it really was,” there would be little need for historical scholarship.”4
The problem is that Dr. Ehrman states that the New Testament is not trustworthy, while all the evidence proves that it is reliable. As we progress through this book you will see this evidence and understand why Ehrman is wrong.
This is what happens when a person starts with a bias that God does not exist. Every conclusion and statement that comes afterwards becomes inaccurate. The evidence from history provides us with tremendous evidence that what we have in our Bible today, is exactly what was written about Jesus when the events took place.
“All we would need to do would be to read the Bible and accept what it says as what really happened. That, of course, is the approach to the Bible that fundamentalists take.”5
By “fundamentalist,” Ehrman means men like myself, who have, for hundreds of years, documented and written to bring evidence of Jesus’ Narrative as “trustworthy biographies that recorded Jesus’s life.”
Ehrman’s book is filled with inaccuracies which allege that Jesus never intended to present Himself in the manner that these men describe Him as in the New Testament. If you read Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions carefully you will notice that he believes that he is in a better position today to tell us whether the New Testament narratives are true, rather than the actual men who wrote these historical accounts 2,000 years ago.
After learning that Dr. Ehrman does not know that Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels contain clear references by Jesus to be God as He is before the Pharisees and about to be killed for Blasphemy, it is doubtful we can trust his judgment that the New Testament has misrepresented Jesus.
It is Dr. Ehrman that is inaccurate and making untrue conclusions based upon his feelings instead of the evidence.
The following is what the text of the four Gospels actually present, in direct contradiction to Ehrman’s claim:
The New Testament Claims Eyewitness Accounts
John writes that he has both seen and testified that the evidence contained in the Gospels is true and he knows that he is telling the truth because he was there and saw Jesus do these things.
And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. ~John 19:35
John tells us the reason he is writing, to give us evidence to conclude that what is written by the four Gospels is eyewitness testimony. The reason that John says this narrative was written and preserved for us is so that anyone might read it and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God—equal to God.
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. ~John 20:30-31
John was the only disciple of Jesus, never to abandon Him. Even at the cross, John stood close by—not afraid to be identified with Jesus. The other disciples were hiding away while John remained faithful to Jesus. For His steadfast love, John was given the privilege of writing the most magnificent Gospel of all. The very words which John penned in his narrative of Jesus should be written in Gold.
The intent of John’s narrative of Jesus is to prove that He is God. For this reason, John’s Gospel is different than the other three.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us about what Jesus said and did; John tells us why He did these things.
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life.
He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. ~1 John 1:1-4 (NLT)
Jesus said that He called these men to write and bear witness of what they saw.
And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. ~John 15:27
Paul records the purpose of the four Gospels of Jesus as historical narratives of actual events, recounted by eyewitnesses.
Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” ~Acts 1:21-22
As Peter stands before thousands of people from all over the world on the Day of Pentecost, he describes David as a prophet, predicting the Messiah who would come from his line of descendants. Peter said that David predicted the Messiah would be killed and resurrected and the men who saw these things would be His witnesses.
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. ~Acts 2:29-32
There is a pattern here that we should not miss. The New Testament was written as a historical narrative, not as unsubstantiated stories. The evidence for this is disbursed throughout the twenty-seven books that were written to act as a witness for Jesus.
The assertion of those who seek to discredit the New Testament is that these accounts should not be seen by the reader as historical, nor reliable. When we read the text for ourselves, it is impossible to maintain this stance.
Clearly, Paul, Peter, John, and the other writers of the New Testament understood that Jesus had called them to tell the truthful details of His life, death, and resurrection. The reason? So that a historical record could be preserved for every generation. These men did this so that people could know about the incredible salvation that God has provided for all people.
The reason that this should be important to you is understood by what is being attempted today by Liberal Theologians. These men and women have launched a full scale assault on the credibility and reliability of the New Testament. They have caused the whole world to sit up and take notice.
If the accounts that are found in the New Testament about Jesus are misrepresented to the world as not true, then everything that Jesus died to give the world will be lost.
The facts of evidence prove they are true.
One of the reasons I wrote this book was so that people might know that there are individuals who are held up today as New Testament scholars, who do not believe that God exists. The world doesn’t know this. They see that these men and women have the credentials to make credible commentary on the New Testament. They believe that these individuals know what they are talking about. They hear from these deceptive scholars that what is written about Jesus in the New Testament is not true. They stop believing that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world. They miss the eternal life that God has freely made available.
Written As Eyewitness Narratives
The writers of the New Testament make numerous statements in the text that it was their goal to be witnesses of what they had seen and heard about Jesus.
When Peter went into the temple and began to pray at 3pm, he saw a man who was crippled. He lifted the man by the hand and he was immediately able to walk. The crowd looked to Peter as something spectacular and he told them that this power to perform miracles came from Jesus whom they crucified and God raised to life.
Peter said that his purpose was to bear witness of Jesus and point people to Him.
So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. ~Acts 3:12-15
Paul records that Peter and the other Apostles stood before the captain of the temple, with the chief priests, the Jewish high council, and the esteemed Gamaliel. Peter again confirmed that all of the men who wrote in recording what Jesus had said and done were witnesses that He was crucified and raised on the third day.
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things. ~Acts 5:29-32
When Peter came to the Roman Centurion, Cornelius and his household, he testified that he and the other men who had been with Jesus for the last three years of His life were witnesses to “all things which He did.”
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” ~Acts 10:34-43
The Purpose Of The New Testament Is Clear
Since there is such a great body of evidence within the New Testament to validate that what was written came to us by eyewitness testimony, there is no valid reason to doubt that what is written about Jesus is true.
When we compare all of the records which have survived history, we find that they agree that Jesus was both capable of miracles, was crucified, and raised on the third day. There is no ambiguity in these important facts. What is at question are 40 lines, containing about 400 words out of nearly 200,000 words which make up the New Testament. Not one of these lines or words brings into question the miracles of Jesus, His death by crucifixion, or the resurrection that took place afterwards.
Of the 40 lines in question, 75%, or about 300 words, are all found in the last portion of Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 16, verses 9-20. The other 100 words are very minor and do not alter the testimony of Jesus’ miracles, His crucifixion, or the resurrection.5.5
Because of the evidence presented by the surviving New Testament manuscripts, and these being uniform in their descriptions of Jesus’ miracles and the text where He makes it clear that He is God, the objections of Dr. Ehrman and others who dispute these text as reliable, have no evidentiary validity.
The entire purpose for writing the Gospels in the first place, was because the world had seen Jesus’ miracles as acts of God who came to our world, to show Himself and redeem us from sin and death.
The disciples saw the miracles Jesus performed and later realized that what He was doing, the prophets had foretold. Because of the validation of the Old Testament, these men were confident that what they had written had the support of the Hebrew historical record.
Jesus’ disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. ~John 12:16 RCR
What Would You Do?
If an event of this magnitude took place in your life, what would your response be?
There is a line in the popular movie Déjà vu where Denzel Washington tells a woman about the things he has seen. He asks her what she would do if she saw things that were so incredible she was sure no one would believe her. She said, “I would try.”
The events these men described in the narratives of the New Testament were beyond belief. They understood that people were going to find it hard to accept their testimony. It was for this reason that they said things such as John 19:35, And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
There is no other event in the history of the world that has left us with greater written evidence than that of the New Testament.
If we evaluate the events of history we see that the testimony about Jesus in the New Testament was written closer to the time of these events than any other event in the history of the world, just 28 years. We have more surviving manuscripts of the New Testament than any other event of antiquity, 24,593. Our Bible today is a virtual copy of the text that was originally written, 2,000 years ago.
The closest secular manuscripts that have survived time and decay are those of the Iliad, with a 500 year gap between the time the events took place and the first copies. There are only 642 surviving copies of the Iliad.
Strangely, no one disputes the authenticity or accuracy of the Iliad, while vigorously refuting the New Testament.
This is because Homer’s Iliad does not call the salvation of people into question. The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires our repentance and surrender to Jesus as our Savior. This is the reason why people are resistant to define the New Testament as accurate and reliable as it deserved.
Jesus said that the reason people do not come to Him is because He testifies that their works are evil. People love their life the way it is and they don’t want God anyone else to interfere.
The world…hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. ~John 7:7
But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. ~John 5:40
Our Premise Determines The Outcome
If we begin with the idea that God does not exist, then this premise will affect many other parts of our life. We see this best illustrated by Bart Ehrman who began writing books with the idea that God cannot exist.
Based on a fundamental error from the start, every work that proceeded afterwards was in error. Imagine an entire lifetime wasted because of one error which ruined everything that came after.
When we don’t accept the surviving Manuscripts of the New Testament for what they are, historical documents which were copied from originals that were written near the time when these events took place, our trouble begins.
Simply looking at the evidence and not the opinions of people who are asserting that what we are seeing is not true, can change our view.
For myself, the final convincing pieces of evidence to believe the authenticity of the New Testament narratives of Jesus consisted of three things:
One: The events which are described for Jesus do not reside in the historical record alone. There is a vast history of Hebrew text which supports the certainty that a person exactly like Jesus would come into the world scene.
Jesus literally said and did precisely what the Hebrew prophets said the Messiah would say and do.
This means that the New Testament is supported by a very long history of events and evidence which stated beforehand that the events we read in the New Testament would take place.
Two: Years ago I began a course in fraud detection for written testimony. These are the principles that are used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation everyday to detect untrue testimony by people who claim to be witnesses.
Near the end of this course I began to take what I had learned and apply these principles to the four Gospels. I was stunned by what I found.
When we use intelligent procedures which have been proven to detect fraud in written testimony and apply them to the text of the four Gospels, we are able to validate these texts as authentic accounts by evidence that proves these testimonies are absolutely reliable. I will present evidence for how these techniques can be applied to the New Testament narrative, in the next chapter.
Three: The shear magnitude of surviving manuscript evidence that has been left to us from the events that took place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are empirical and compelling. If we simply take these texts as they are and examine them as preserved evidence, we cannot conclude that they were altered or embellished. Exaggerated and untrue stories do not survive 2,000 years of history without being discovered as frauds. They do not survive in the sheer numbers we have for the New Testament. Most surprising of all, they match the Bible we have in our possession today.
These reliable narratives of the Bible contain over 400 predictions which precisely described the coming of a Messiah. When we compare what these 400 Prophecies predict, with the actual events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we see that they are virtually identical.
Validation Of New Testament Authenticity, 1,800 Years Ago
Writing early in the second century, Greek Scholar, Origen, stated the following:
In saying: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the prophet Isaiah,” Mark shows that the beginning of the gospel is intrinsically connected with the Old Testament. (Against Celsus 2.4.)
In other words, nearly 1,800 years ago, the four Gospels of Jesus Christ, His crucifixion, resurrection and claim to be God, were all known and understood by the most intelligent persons of antiquity.
Origen understood that these 400 prophecies of Messiah, were written and fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus ability to precisely complete every one of these prophecies, fully validates His claim to be God and proves to the world that God does exist.
Despite this empirical and stunning evidence, the atheists of today, deny that Jesus is a genuine person, or that any of the events written in the New Testament are true.
This is because atheists are not searching for evidence to believe that God exists; they choose by their emotions to deny what is proven and remain naive.
a Eighty-five percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him, according to the Jesus Seminar.
1 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (p. 1). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
1a Robinson, Robert Clifton. Messianic Prophecy Bible: The Complete Old And New Testament Scriptures, With 400 Messianic Prophecies And Commentary (Kindle Locations 73570-73572). Teach The Word Ministries Inc. Kindle Edition.
1b Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (pp. 86-87). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
2 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (pp. 89-90). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
3 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (p. 88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
4 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (p. 88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
5 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (p. 88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
5.5 General Introduction to the Bible, Geisler & Nix, Chicago: Moody, 1968, p.367
6 Norman Geisler and William Nix, “A General Introduction to the Bible,” Moody Press, New Addition, 1986, ISBN: 0802429165, Page 361
7 Philip Schaff, “Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version”. Revised edition, New York: Harper Brothers,1883, Page 177
Categories: Atheists, Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Messianic Prophecies, Messianic Prophecy Bible, Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus, Reliability of the Bible, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation is a free gift, The Importance of the Bible