New Testament Reliability: Eyewitnesses And Liars

It is surprising today that some people who bear the title, “New Testament Scholar,” doubt the reliability of the New Testament. Most people who read the books and articles of these scholars are under the assumption that because these persons are defined as scholars, they know what they are talking about.

When we examine the reasons that these scholars give us for why they believe the New Testament is not reliable, we find that their conclusions are based upon personal opinion, consensus amongst their peers, and a lack of trust in the miraculous portions of these texts—not upon any evidence that the texts are not reliable.

We might wonder why, if the New Testament is not reliable, early scholars did not expose the unreliability of these texts?

An Example Of Modern New Testament Errors: Bart Ehrman

In the opening statement of his book, “How Jesus Became God,” Atheist Theologian, Bart Ehrman, makes the following observation:

JESUS WAS A LOWER-CLASS Jewish preacher from the backwaters of rural Galilee who was condemned for illegal activities and crucified for crimes against the state. Yet not long after his death, his followers were claiming that he was a divine being. Eventually they went even further, declaring that he was none other than God, Lord of heaven and earth. And so the question: How did a crucified peasant come to be thought of as the Lord who created all things? How did Jesus become God?1

From this premise that Jesus was nothing more than a crucified peasant, Ehrman expresses his opinion that Jesus cannot be God. The entire book is dedicated to the principle that Jesus never claimed to be God Himself, it was the writers of the four Gospels who made Him God.

Here is the problem with Ehrman’s hypothesis:

These ideas are not supported by the evidence of history, nor the text of the 24,593 extant copies of the New Testament we have today.

First, we must remember that the very reason Jesus was arrested by the religious leaders of Israel was for blasphemy.

In the words of the Pharisees, Jesus was crucified because He, being a man, claimed to be God.

In John 10:30-33, Jesus told the Pharisees, “I and My Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.

The term, I and my father are one, is a clear statement where Jesus is claiming that God, whom He claims is His Father, and He are one and the same. We understand what Jesus meant by this statement in seeing how the Pharisees responded; they pick up stones to kill Jesus for Blasphemy.

Jesus Faces the Sanhedrin In Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew describes Jesus before the high priest as He is questioned about His true identity. The high priest uses an ancient Hebrew imperative to interrogate Jesus by placing Him under oath: are you the Christ, the Son of God?

There is no ambiguity regarding what is being asked or asserted concerning Jesus. The high priest is demanding an answer from Jesus because it was well known by this time that He had, on several occasions, claimed to be the Son of God.

And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”Jesus said to him, “It is as you said.

Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!  What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”  ~Matthew 26:62-66

Jesus answers in the affirmative that He is the Son of God, just as the high priest has said. Then Jesus uses two confirming scriptures from Daniel chapter 7 where the prophet describes the Messiah as the Son of Man, coming with the clouds.

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.  ~Daniel 7:13-14

Daniel is the first to use the term Son of Man to describe the Messiah, and the only writer to use the phrase, coming with the clouds, in the Old Testament.

John also writes in the Book of Revelation, that Jesus will be coming with the clouds when He returns.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him (Zechariah 12:10). And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.  ~Revelation 1:7

The term clouds is used in Hebrews 12:1 to describe those who are in heaven as witnesses, watching our progress here on earth. John said that when Jesus returns, these cloud of witnesses will be coming with Him to reign over the earth as Messiah.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  ~ Hebrews 12:1

Here, Jesus applies both of Daniel’s terms, clouds and Son of Man, to Himself. Jesus also confirmed to the Pharisees in Matthew 26:62-66, above, that He is the Son of God.

By these three declarations to the Pharisees, that He is the Son of God, The Son of Man, and Coming with the clouds, Jesus is confirming three things:

  1. He is God.
  2. He Is Messiah.
  3. He Is coming again to rule over the kingdom promised to David that will never end.

There is no mistake in what Jesus has told the Pharisees. We see by the response of the high priest in tearing his garments, that he clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. It was upon this declaration that the high priest pronounces “blasphemy,” and declares that Jesus should be put to death.

Did you also notice here that in addition to Jesus saying He is God and the Messiah, we also see that the Old Testament predicted the Messiah would be God?

Does this exchange between Jesus and the high priest look to you like it was fabricated? How is it that these simple men who penned the four Gospels had the ability to construct such an elaborate myth, even using the prophets of the Old Testament to play a part in their deception?

As this book progresses, you will see that in order to accept Ehrman’s theory that the disciples of Jesus made up the story that He is God, we would have to believe that the writers of the Old Testament were also in on this deceit.

The text written by Matthew contains references to Old Testament prophecies by Daniel, with allusions to Zechariah. John must also be in on the deception because he used the term “clouds” in describing the return of Jesus in the book of Revelation.

We see that Luke is a part of the conspiracy because he begins His gospel by referencing the prophecies of 2 Samuel 7:14, Isaiah 9: 6a, Isaiah 9: 6b, and Isaiah 9: 6c.1a

When the angel Gabriel told Joseph that the Son whom Mary carried in her womb was the Son of God, he said He will fulfill Daniel’s prophecy, David’s prophecy, and Isaiah’s prophecies of Messiah; and the promise of God that David would have a future descendant who will be the Son of God and Messiah who will reign forever.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  ~Luke 1:31-33

How wide, how far this deception Jesus’ Gospel is, even the entire Old Testament is involved!

This description by Jesus that He is God as He is before the Pharisees is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels.

You can see here that the hypothesis of Dr. Ehrman is beginning to unwind.

The Assertion That Jesus Is Only God In John’s Gospel

One of the stunning claims of Bart Ehrman regarding Jesus is his insistence that only the Gospel of John contains text where Jesus claims to be God.

Years later, when I was working on an advanced degree at Princeton Theological Seminary, this form of traditional theology had come to seem less than satisfying to me, as I had begun to entertain doubts about some of the most fundamental aspects of the faith, including the question of the divinity of Jesus. During those intervening years I had come to realize that Jesus is hardly ever, if at all, explicitly called God in the New Testament. I realized that some of the authors of the New Testament do not equate Jesus with God. I had become impressed with the fact that the sayings of Jesus in which he claimed to be God were found only in the Gospel of John, the last and most theologically loaded of the four Gospels. If Jesus really went around calling himself God, wouldn’t the other Gospels at least mention the fact? Did they just decide to skip that part?

Do you remember the text we just looked at where Jesus is before the Pharisees and the high priest puts Jesus under oath? Jesus affirms that He is God and then uses the prophecies of Messiah from Daniel 7, 2 Samuel 7:14, Isaiah 9:6a, Isaiah 9:6b, and Isaiah 9:6c to confirm Himself as God and Messiah.

This text where Jesus affirms with His own words that He is God is found in Matthew 26:62-66, Mark 14:60-64, and Luke 22:66-7.

According to Dr. Ehrman, there is no text in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus explicitly claims to be God. In all three of these examples above, Jesus is described as being condemned to death because He committed blasphemy for claiming to be God.

Dr. Ehrman is described as “an American New Testament scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity.”

With these credentials and over 20 books in publication, Dr. Ehrman doesn’t know that Jesus claimed to be God in all four Gospels?

This is a stunning revelation!

Perhaps this is the reason that Dr. Ehrman has written so many books asserting that the New Testament does not contain text where Jesus confirms that He is God. He hasn’t really studied the text, but has simply followed the teaching of other scholars who don’t believe Jesus is God.

As you can see from the text we just examined together, Jesus clearly was telling the high priest that He is God and will be coming with the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man, to rule a kingdom on earth that will never end.

It is not really possible to be any clearer that these texts illustrate this fact.

Most of us assume that a person who is described as a New Testament Scholar knows what they are talking about. The problem is that many of these men and women are atheists or agnostics. If a person begins with the idea that God doesn’t exist, of course they are going to object to any text in the New Testament that describes Jesus as God or performing supernatural works.

The question we must ask is why we should trust anyone who seeks to teach us the history of the Bible when they cannot find places in the four Gospels where Jesus clearly declares that He is God.

The Preceding is from my new book: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not.”

The First Christian Apologist, Origen

Some people have the idea that the term “apologist,” is one who seeks to apologize for the Christian faith. In fact, the Apologist is defined as one who presents evidence to defend the truth of the particular subjects they are upholding.

The first apologists were seen early in the second century. As Jesus’ church began to grow and people heard the incredible accounts of how He had risen from the dead, various heresies also arose.

These adversaries were the first critics of the four Gospels. They twisted the words of scripture, much like critics do today. It was about this time that the Christian church developed their Creeds to solidify the fundamental principles for what people believed about Jesus who had died and rose again.

Fortunate for us today, the early writing of the four Gospels were well known and there was no doubts about their authorship or authenticity from the beginning. Critics such as Lucian (a writer), Galen (a physician), and Celsus (a philosopher) enjoyed some scope of influence. We know about Celsus from the writings of Origin who argued vigorously against Celsus’ ideas:

  • “Jesus is not God.”
  • “There are secret teachings about Jesus that the church has hidden.”
  • “God cannot be eternal and yet be known.”

From these objections and the writings of the first Christian Apologists, we can conclude that intellectual criticism of the Christian faith was very common by the second century.

Some alleged scholars today who are found to be atheists, before they write that God does not exist, allege that they have a unique position in history as the first substantial critics and examiners of the claims of Jesus Christ.

What we discover when we actually investigate the resolute history of the New Testament, which is extant today, is that Christianity has always had its critics.

We might ask why critics began immediately after Jesus’ resurrection was made known. The answer is obvious. Truth is always vigorously opposed when it stands in opposition to how people want to live. Jesus said that people hate Him because He said that their deeds are evil. He stated that unless we all repent, we will all be lost.

Atheism has never been about a lack of evidence to believe, but about an agenda for a lifestyle desired.

When we read the objections that were leveled against the early Christian church, beginning just after news of Jesus began to spread throughout the world, we see a clear indication that the primary doctrines of the New Testament were already well established before these 27 books took their final form.

Ideas from liberal atheist theologians that the principles of the Christian faith which are taught today, are somehow different from what the early believers were teaching, is not true. Jesus’ virgin birth, the actual physical resurrection, and His clear existence as God as asserted by Himself and predicted by the Old Testament, were doctrines that were widely taught and proven from the very beginning.

Apologists today, such as myself, are continuing a long line of tradition to defend the truth of Jesus’ Gospel because it has always been true.

In 248 A.D., Origen successfully confirmed the miracles of Jesus, His claim to be God, and the resurrection against pagan philosopher, Celsus.[1]

In Origen’s defense of Jesus, called Contra Celsum, this early Christian apologist refuted all of the same criticisms that are being brought by Bart Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar participants today. Over 1,750 years ago, Origen refuted the ideas that Jesus was not capable of miracles, He didn’t claim to be God, and His resurrection never happened.

From the beginning, just after Jesus had healed, raised the dead, calmed the sea, and risen Himself from the dead, critics rose up to deny these things had happened. Men like Origen successfully defended these false ideas with evidence from the near historical record which existed at that time. Origen’s work in 248 A.D., became the most impactful of all early Christian apologetics works.[1]

New Testament scholars today regard Origen’s book which refuted the attacks against Jesus’ deity and resurrection that are being made once again today, as effectively neutralized as a threat. Over 1,750 years ago, Christianity received “unprecedented academic reputability.”[1]

In chapter 67 of Origen’s rebuttal of Celsus’ denial of Jesus’ Deity, Contra Celsum, he writes:

For we assert that the whole habitable world contains evidence of the works of Jesus.”[2]

In chapter 68, Celsus denied that Jesus was capable of miracles and that He rose from the dead. Origen writes in defense and describes the arguments made by Celsus:

“But after this, Celsus, having a suspicion that the great works performed by Jesus, of which we have named a few out of a great number, would be brought forward to view, affects to grant that those statements may be true which are made regarding His cures, or His resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves, from which many fragments remained over, or those other stories which Celsus thinks the disciples have recorded as of a marvellous nature.”[3]

Using the same text we have today in our New Testament, Origen defines the testimonies of those who saw Jesus perform miracles and risen from the dead as valid testimony. Even at this very early date in history, there were already denials of Jesus’ miracles and resurrection.

Today, critics who assert themselves as New Testament scholars state that because the accounts in our New Testament were written so long ago, we really don’t know if they are reliable. In the mind of some, we can’t really know if what we have in our Bible today is really what happened.

“The first thing to stress is that if we want to know about any figure from the past, we need to have sources of information. This may seem obvious enough, but for some reason, when it comes to Jesus, people seem to think that they simply know who he was, what he said, or what he did—almost as if they gained this knowledge by osmosis from the environment.

In fact, however, anything you know about Jesus, or think you know, has come to you from a source—either someone has told you, or you have read what someone has written. But where did these people get their information, what makes them authorities, and why should you think they are right?”8d  ~Bart Ehrman

Ehrman continues and seeks to create doubt in the mind of his reader that what we think we know about Jesus from the New Testament is not reliable.

As we read the rebuttals of Origen from nearly 1,800 years ago, he states that the same text we have in our New Testament today was already known at this early date as absolutely reliable. Origen details his refutation to Celsus by recording texts from the New Testament which matches what we have in our Bible today.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. ~1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Origen makes it certain that he knows the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are based upon eyewitness testimony of events that really took place.

But how should not He (Jesus) who, by the miracles which He did, induced those who beheld the excellent results to undertake the reformation of their characters, manifest Himself not only to His genuine disciples, but also to others.”8e ~Origen, Contra Celsum, Chapter 68

The idea brought forth by Ehrman and others that we can’t trust our New Testament because we don’t know if it is true is refuted by Origen in 248 A.D. Origen was certain at this early date that all the testimony of the New Testament was true. He successfully refuted Celsus, who also brought accusations that Jesus was not capable of miracles, nor did He rise from the dead.

Origen had access to records of the New Testament at that time that are virtually identical to those we have today, 1,800 years later. Ehrman said: “The first thing to stress is that if we want to know about any figure from the past, we need to have sources of information.”

Apparently Ehrman and others have not really studied the texts which exist today from just after the time when Jesus was crucified and risen, by sources like Origen. It is clear that there are many other sources to corroborate what the four gospels describe as truthful and accurate: Jesus did claim to be God, performed the miracles the Old Testament said the Messiah would be capable of, and did rise from the dead, just as Jesus said He would.

The New Testament Is Reliable

From the preceding, you can see that there has never been any evidence that what is written in the New Testament about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, has been proven to be unreliable.

In fact, the text of the New Testament passes every test required to determine whether events of past history can be relied upon as true accounts.

See The Article: “Why The New Testament Is a Valid Historical Narrative

Every event of history is validated by methods that help us have confidence in past events as genuine and reliable. Regardless of whether they are religious or secular, all history is validated by the same processes

  1. When was the source written or produced?
  2. Where was it produced?
  3. By whom was it produced?
  4. From what pre-existing material was it produced?
  5. In what original form was it produced?
  6. What is the evidential value of its contents?

The first four are recognized by historical experts as higher criticism; the fifth, as lower criticism; and, together, they are recognized as external criticism.

With the above six in mind, the following eight are the basic principles for determining whether any narrative is historical and Reliable:

  1. Human sources may be relics or narratives that consist of statements or a letter.
  2. Any source may be forged or corrupted. For this reason, there is a preeminent need to verify the originality of the source.
  3. The closer the source is to the event for which it alleges to describe, the greater the trust that is given for an accurate historical description of what actually happened.
  4. An eyewitness is more reliable than secondhand testimony or hearsay.
  5. If there are several independent sources while telling the same story, the credibility of the narrative is increased exponentially.
  6. The tendency of a source which has a clear bias, is motivation for the creation of false narratives. Internal evidence within the narrative that would detract from the story and make it less attractive are indications of balance and truthfulness.
  7. If the witnesses to a story have no personal benefit or direct interest in proving the story other than to tell the truth, the narrative is more credible.
  8. If the witnesses recall slightly different details of the events, even placing them in a different order, while telling the same story, this is evidence of truthful narratives.

When we apply these methods to any event of ancient history, we may be able to determine if the events are genuine events of history or contrived. When we apply these rules for analysis to the New Testament manuscripts, we find that they meet and exceed every requirement for valid historical events.

A large part of the historical records which validates the New Testament as a reliable representation of true events, are the early defenders of these texts against critics early in the history of the New Testament.

In reading the works of Origen, he quotes from all four of the Gospels in 230-250 A.D.

What is of particular interest is that Origen knew who the authors of the four Gospels were, and there is no mention in any of his commentaries that the true authors were in doubt.

When we read the quotations of Origin in his commentaries, we see that the text of our New Testament Gospels today, is the same text that Origen wrote in his commentaries nearly 1,800 years ago. If the four Gospels are the same today as they were at this early date, this is empirical evidence that the New Testament we have today is a reliable transmission of the true events Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote before the end of the first century.

There were more than 30 other Gospels that were under consideration at the time that only four were chosen. Because the Apostle John, an Eyewitness, was still alive when men like Polycarp assembled with other leaders to determine the true accounts of Jesus, John’s authority as an eyewitness provided empirical evidence for the reliability of the four Gospels we have today, and the elimination of all other alleged Gospels.

By the end of the first century, it was already widely known which books of the New Testament were reliable accounts of the actual events. By the third century, Greek Scholar and Christian Theologian, Origen, was already using the entire set of the twenty-seven books we have in our New Testament today.

Origen was one of the most prolific writers of history who penned over 800 treatises in many different divisions of theology, biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, and textual criticism. According to Epiphanius, Origen wrote over 6,000 different works during his life.

Known as the greatest textual critic of the early Christian church, Origen is considered one of the greatest biblical scholars of the second century. Writing commentaries on every book of the Bible, Origen was responsible for the entire body of text which became the New Testament.

It is for this reason that we know that men like Origen were in a position, after the first century, to correctly determine whether the four Gospels that described Jesus’ miracles, His assertion that He is God, and the Resurrection, were all valid and accurate.

Writing 32 commentaries on the Gospel of John and two on Matthew, Origen believed fervently that the Gospel writers wrote precisely what Jesus actually said and did.

As a great adherent to scripture, Origen would make no commentary regarding anything from the Bible without using a scriptural reference to support his views. In the mind of Origen, God was the true author of the Bible. The basis for this position was the testimony of the New Testament which cataloged the fulfillments of Jesus for over 400 Old Testament prophecies.

It is because of the incredible work of Origen in validating the authenticity of the New Testament narratives of Jesus that we can have tremendous confidence in their reliability today. Writing his commentaries on the New Testament so close to the time when the four Gospels were penned, Origen had no hesitation whatsoever in confirming that the eyewitness testimony of the four Gospels were genuine.

Origen wrote two commentaries on the facts of Jesus’ resurrection. Even at this early second century date, scholars had no problem fully corroborating the truth of the resurrection and the accounts detailed about Jesus from the four Gospels.

Confirming that Jesus was truly capable of performing miracles, Origen said this:

Any one who examines the subject will see that Jesus attempted and successfully accomplished works beyond the reach of human power.

Regarding whether there is evidence for Jesus from antiquity, Origen wrote the following:

For we assert that the whole habitable world contains evidence of the works of Jesus.”

The preceding is from the book: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not,” by the same author

Important Questions Regarding The Reliability Of The New Testament

  1. When any event of ancient history takes place and people record it upon pages and books, can a future generation accurately prove that these events did not take place, by evidence?
  2. What evidence could they present to prove their assertion?
  3. When these events are confirmed by later writers, like Apologist Origen, not many years after these texts are written, does this add evidence to the historical record to validate these events?
  4. If there are Hebrew texts that were written 1400 years before the events of the New Testament took place which predicted these precise occasions, does this add credibility to the New Testament?
  5. When the writers of these ancient events  state that they are eyewitnesses and that they know they are telling the truth, should we believe them?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it is impossible to validate any event of ancient history.

  • What if these texts survive for 2,000 years with the same descriptions of the same primary character; does this serve as evidence that people believed these events really happened?
  • If these events were of supernatural origin, does this invalidate their validity?
  • If people in a future generation, 2,000 years after these things took place, do not believe in supernatural events, does this invalidate these events?

Of course the answer to these questions is no. Belief that something is impossible, does not invalidate anything. There are many things that really happen in ancient history that people don’t believe, but they are still true.

  • If an event happens in history that is recorded and later copied thousands of times so that many other people can know what happened, does this increase the likelihood that the events actually took place?
  • What if there are more surviving copied which describe these events than any other event in the history of the world?

The fact that we have 24,593 surviving New Testament manuscripts, tells us that there were likely hundreds of thousands of copies made in the early years after Jesus rose from the dead. There are no other events of antiquity which even come close to the surviving numbers of New Testament manuscripts.

If the events described in the New Testament for Jesus were true, these are the kinds of numbers we would expect for surviving copies of the original autographs. By their shear surviving numbers we can fully validate that these events took place.

It is important to understand that there are no original autographs for any ancient events, secular or religious. This is because these texts were written on papyrus or other materials that could not survive 2,000 years or more. All that we have to prove any ancient event are manuscript copies.

Name one other true event of ancient history that has an equal or greater number of surviving manuscripts as the New Testament. There are none that are even close. Add to this fact that all of these manuscript copies match our New Testament today in every supernatural narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Add to these, the fact that these texts have remained in the custody of the Christian Church for nearly 2,000 years and have always been held as accurate and reliable narratives.

There are no other ancient manuscripts which have the empirical evidence to support their authenticity, greater than those of the New Testament. If we are going to discredit the narratives of the New Testament as unreliable, we must also do the same for every other ancient event that is presented to us today by surviving manuscripts.

It is simply because the New Testament presents the world with a man who claims to be God, and then performed miracles to prove that He is God, even raising from the dead, that critics state we cannot trust the New Testament. It is not because there is no evidence that these texts are true, but merely because some people don’t believe God exists in the first place.

The reliability of all the narratives of Jesus, the Messiah, is fully proven and validated by the surviving Manuscript copies of the New Testament, alone. We do not need anything else to prove these texts and the men and women who state otherwise disqualify themselves as true New Testament scholars.

See Also:


NOTES:

[1] Olson, Roger E. (1999), The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, ISBN 978-0-8308-1505-0, Page 101.

[2] Origen. The Complete Works of Origen (8 Books): Cross-Linked to the Bible (Kindle Location 6339). Amazon.com. Kindle Edition.

[3] Origen. The Complete Works of Origen (8 Books): Cross-Linked to the Bible (Kindle Locations 6344-6347). Amazon.com. Kindle Edition.



Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Archeological Confirmation, Atheists, Claims of Interpolation, Empirical Evidence for the Resurrection, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Jesus confirmed by secular sources, Josephus as a credible witness, Literary authenticity of the New Testament, Messianic Prophecies, Origin of the four Gospels, Reliability of the Bible, Resurrection Proven by Secular Sources, Robert Clifton Robinson, Tacitus as a credible witness, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus, The Importance of the Bible, The Miracles of Jesus, The Resurrection

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25 replies

  1. “We might ask why critics began immediately after Jesus’ resurrection was made known. The answer is obvious.”

    Are you saying that if a claim is immediately questioned, that means the claim must be true? If we apply that standard to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, the fact that so many people immediately questioned and criticized his never-heard-of-before supernatural claims is proof that his claims were true?

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    • We know that Joseph Smith is a fraud. The courts of the United States proved under examination that Smith did not understand one sentence of Ancient Hebrew. Smith alleges that an angel gave him the text that he wrote, yet not one city, or place that is named in the Book of Mormon that are alleged to have existed in the American continent has ever been found.

      A majority of the places, people, kingdoms, and events of the Old and New Testaments, are confirmed by archeology and other empirical evidences. The Bible is unparalleled by any other religious text or book.

      Like

  2. “Fortunate for us today, the early writing of the four Gospels were well known and there was no doubts about their authorship or authenticity from the beginning. ”

    Evangelicals and other fundamentalist Protestant scholars are the only scholars who hold this position. Even the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic scholars doubt the traditional authorship/eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Respected Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown in “Death of the Messiah” states that the authors of the Gospels were two generations away from the anonymous authors of the Gospels. They were not eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses. Conservative Protestants can refuse to accept this position, but they cannot claim that this majority opinion is based on a bias against the supernatural, as even they must agree, Roman Catholics definitely believe in the supernatural and in miracles.

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    • It doesn’t matter what alleged scholars say, it matters what the text says and that it exists today with greater extant manuscripts than any other ancient literature.

      The text is the proof, the statements of the writers are the proof, not the opinions of anyone living today. This is the catastrophic mistake that people make today, who think that a Ph.D enables them to impeach the authenticity of the New Testament, simply because they don’t believe it is true.

      These events are true, they happened, and faithful men recorded them. We have their words, preserved over 2,000 years and this is the empirical evidence which proves the words of the New Testament are true.

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  3. “As we read the rebuttals of Origen from nearly 1,800 years ago, he states that the same text we have in our New Testament today was already known at this early date as absolutely reliable. Origen details his refutation to Celsus by recording texts from the New Testament which matches what we have in our Bible today.”

    Historians believe that Origen was born in 187 AD. So saying that Origen knew that the Gospels were historically reliable is like me saying that I know for certain what happened in the War of 1812.

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    • Origen knew that the text of the New Testament was reliable just 200 years after the events, just like the writers of the text itself knew that the events were true when they wrote them. Origen was in a much better position to know these things, living closer to the events that we do today. The closer to an event of history that we find text to confirm these events, the greater the evidence that confirms the events are true.

      It is preposterous for you to say with any authority that you know that Origen could not have known if the New Testament texts were accurate. He said they were and he wrote a substantial body of commentary because He believed it to be true and supported by evidence.

      You can say that you don’t believe the New Testament, that is your choice. You cannot prove that all of the New Testament, and the commentary of Origen is not true because you cannot possibly know this.

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  4. “The idea brought forth by Ehrman and others that we can’t trust our New Testament because we don’t know if it is true is refuted by Origen in 248 A.D. Origen was certain at this early date that all the testimony of the New Testament was true.”

    How? How would someone who lived 200 years after Jesus’ death be “certain” that a book written 100-150 years before his birth was historically accurate?

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    • The same way that we know for certain that the founders of the United States came to this land, settled here, wrote a Constitution 242 years ago, and established a nation; by the records written by men who left these narratives for us.

      We know that the Narratives of Jesus are true because eyewitnesses wrote about what they saw and heard and preserved these texts for us. We know that faithful men ensured that these texts were preserved for us over the past two thousand years. We know that the surviving manuscripts of the New Testament which describes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is precisely the same as the New Testament we have today.

      We know that those who do not believe that God exists, oppose the miracles of Jesus and the fact that He claimed to be God, and this is why they say the New Testament is contrived. These same persons, claim the New Testament is a fabrication but have never provided a single piece of evidence to impeach its reliability, other than conjecture and speculation.

      There is absolutely no proof that every word of the New Testament is not true.

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  5. “From the preceding, you can see that there has never been any evidence that what is written in the New Testament about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, has been proven to be unreliable.”

    Really? Not even conservative, evangelical NT scholar Michael Licona believes that dead saints were literally shaken out of their tombs and brought back to life on the day of Jesus’ death, and three days later, they left their tombs and entered a major city to be seen by many people.

    Again, I would encourage you to read Raymond Brown’s “Death of the Messiah” to see other stories in the Gospels that most scholars doubt are historical.

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    • This is a common error that is made by people who are regarded as scholars, that they know more about the events of the Bible than the writers who recorded them. The Bible is the authority, not men who make commentary. The resurrected believers that were seen in Jerusalem after Jesus rose from the dead is precisely what we would expect after such an incredible event. God was saying to the world, that all those who trust in Christ will also rise and that everyone who died before Christ are included.

      Scholars make fatal flaws when they tell the world that what is written in the Bible is not true, and allege that they have greater authority than the words of the Bible.

      God intended that the entire Old and New Testaments would be understood by the world as the word of God. When the disciples came to the church at Thessalonica, Paul commended the believers there that they accepted the words of the New Testament as equal to those of the Old Testament; the word of God.

      For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. ~1 Thessalonians 2:13

      Certainly as God has the power, technology, and intelligence to create this vast universe, He also has the power to speak to unique men to write the words He wanted recorded in the scriptures and preserve these for every generation.

      I reject all of the criticism of those who state that any event of the New Testament did not take place exactly as they are recorded. There is absolutely no proof whatsoever that the dead were not raised and is described by Matthew:

      Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.~Matthew 27:51-53

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  6. “When we read the quotations of Origin in his commentaries, we see that the text of our New Testament Gospels today, is the same text that Origen wrote in his commentaries nearly 1,800 years ago.”

    This fact only proves that Christians today have very good copies of the original documents. It in no way proves that the stories in the original documents are historical facts.

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    • If you use this same criteria for all surviving secular ancient manuscripts, none of these would be reliable either. Of course a great number of extant manuscripts proves an event took place. How else could we validate any event of ancient history except by surviving manuscripts? The greater the number of surviving manuscripts, the greater the evidence the text is true. The New Testament has great numbers of surviving manuscripts than any other event of antiquity, secular or religious.

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      • Is this just your opinion or can you quote a respected historian who holds the view that the number of copies of an ancient book is an indication of its veracity?

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      • Gary,

        I visited your website this morning and read your “about” page where you describe the events which caused you to no longer believe. If it was merely the opposing view of an atheist theologian that caused your doubts, it is clear that you training up to that point was not sufficient.

        If you are inclined to read a view in opposition to your current view, I impeached many of Ehrman’s ideas in a book I recently wrote entitled: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not.”

        I have also read many of Ehrman’s books, as as one with 44 years of training. I was easily able to identify his errors. Did you notice that Ehrman rarely provides evidence to support his conclusions, but simply uses his “New Testament Scholar,” identity as the authority for these conclusions?

        In the first chapter of Why Jesus Is God, I refute a primary assertion of Ehrman, then impeach others as the book proceeds.

        If books like these, from people like Ehrman, are the reason you no longer believe, you have made a grave error.

        I don’t think you have really stopped believing, but just have a few difficulties that can be overcome. Perhaps…

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  7. “Because the Apostle John, an Eyewitness, was still alive when men like Polycarp assembled with other leaders to determine the true accounts of Jesus, John’s authority as an eyewitness provided empirical evidence for the reliability of the four Gospels we have today, and the elimination of all other alleged Gospels.”

    There is no mention by Polycarp, in any of his writings, nor in the writings of any other early Church Father, that Polycarp knew “John the Apostle” or “John the son of Zebedee”. All we have is that Polycarp studied under “John the Elder”. Scholars are divided regarding who exactly this man was.

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    • Irenaeus Is primarily known for his work called, Against Heresies, written 175-185.

      Irenaeus stated that he actually sat at the feet of Polycarp, when he was very young. Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle who penned the Gospel of John, 1-3 John, and Revelation.

      “I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord.” ~Irenaeus

      Polycarp learned about Jesus’ death and resurrection from John, personally. John said that he is an eyewitness of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and he wrote to tell us that his testimony is true and written for the sole purpose of giving the reader historical evidence to believe in Jesus as Savior.

      This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. ~John 21:24

      …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 20:31

      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…We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. ~1 John 1:1-3 (NLT)

      Polycarp was one of the men who authenticated the writers of the four gospels from the first-hand testimony of John. Polycarp spent substantial time with John and told him many things about Jesus. John knew that there were four Gospels that were genuine accounts about what happened with Jesus. He knew that like himself, these others, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, had not attached their names to their Gospels.

      Polycarp and others like him in the early Christian church, did not have to guess who wrote these four narratives. They had John’s eyewitness testimony and other men who had direct knowledge and understood why these men did not place their names on their Gospels.

      I will leave you with a letter from Irenaeus which he wrote in memory of what he learned from Polycarp as it was told to him by the Apostle John:

      For when I was a boy I saw you in lower Asia with Polycarp….I remember the events of that time more clearly than those of recent years. For what boys learn, growing with their mind, becomes joined with it; so that I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord.

      And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the ‘Word of life,’ Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures…I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And continually, through God’s grace, I recall them faithfully.” 

      It is a principal difference between truth and untruth that the first has no urgent need of defense, while the later is often vigorously busy assaulting truth.

      The reason that people who claim to be atheists spend so much time trying to refute the idea that God exists is because this truth is so powerfully presented.

      Things which are true stand the test of time and are never hindered or impinged by assault. The adage of the anvil and hammer as an illustration for the truth of Jesus’ Gospel, is that it has worn out many hammers.

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  8. “Writing 32 commentaries on the Gospel of John and two on Matthew, Origen believed fervently that the Gospel writers wrote precisely what Jesus actually said and did.”

    Believing something fervently is not proof that the belief is true.

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  9. I need help, some one responded to me with the following but I need valid sources to despite this. I have never heard of these three as being Bible scholars. See response below:

    “Greg Boyd admits in Note 4 at the end of this article that “Many scholars argue that Colossians and Ephesians were written not by Paul but by disciples of Paul. Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t affect the divine authority of the text. For this reason, I continue to follow the tradition and ascribe the authorship of these and other disputed works (e.g. the pastoral epistles) to Paul.” https://reknew.org/2014/01/the-cruciform-center-part-3-how-pauls-epistles-reveal-a-cruciform-god/

    Dr. Collins also confirms that “while these letters bear the name of St. Paul, they were actually written by Paul’s followers in homage to the great apostle” and were “composed near the end of the first century”. https://www.nowyouknowmedia.com/st-paul-s-pastoral-epistles-a-bible-study-course.html

    Felix Just holds a similar opinion, that 80% of scholars think Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles were not authored by Paul, and 50% doubt 2 Thes. and Colossians were. Mr. Just also feels that in-spite of the fact these writings are falsely attributed to Paul, “does not mean that it is any less valuable than the other letters, but only that it was written by someone other than Paul”. The logic behind including them in the Bible is they “are still considered ‘canonical’, all of them are still a part of the Holy Bible and foundation for the Christian Church”. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

    Contrary to your statement that scholars AGREE Paul wrote them, they acknowledge he likely did not write them BUT accept them as “church” tradition. BIG difference!”

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    • Stephan,

      Thank you for your questions, they are certainly relevant.

      It is important to note that these “scholars” are expressing their opinions, not necessarily from evidence which would prove their conclusions empirically. We are living during an unfortunate period of history where many men and women think that they know more about the text of the New Testament than those who wrote them, particularly those who wrote commentary about these 27 books during early church history.

      If you investigate the reasons for why these scholars believe that any of the text of the New Testament is not true, or in this case, the authorship of the letters, you will not find any empirical evidence to support their ideas. Most of these conclusions are based upon what other “scholars” have said or because of an idea that they personally have. Remember that the text of the New Testament has survived for nearly 2,000 years and that the text and authors of the New Testament have never been in doubt, nor proven untrue.

      There is absolutely no credible reason to doubt the traditional authorship of any of the letters of the New Testament. When we read the text for ourselves, we gain all the information we need and the commentaries of these new liberal scholars, is not relevant to proving authorship.

      It is also important to note that many of the modern liberal scholars are also atheists who do not believe that God exists in the first place. It is impossible to trust the conclusions of anyone who makes commentary about the Bible when they began with the idea that the Bible is not true and the text is not reliable.

      The historical narratives of the New Testament are the proof, not the comments of modern scholars.

      The numbers that are stated in these comments, do not come with any factual names to support them. Often minority scholars will state “majority, while not giving the actual names for or against. There are a minority which do not hold these facts as true, but it is my opinion that the majority of scholars who hold the traditional view of New Testament reliability, believe the traditional authorship of these letters.

      When we seek to find support for why these scholars believe that the stated authors of these letters are not true, we find only speculation and conjecture. The Early church Fathers did not doubt the authorship of these letters and they were in a far better position to know this than any modern scholar today.

      Blessings,

      Rob

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    • Stephan,

      I visited the first link you provided in your post and read the referenced item from Boyd:

      “Many scholars argue that Colossians and Ephesians were written not by Paul but by disciples of Paul. Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t affect the divine authority of the text. For this reason, I continue to follow the tradition and ascribe the authorship of these and other disputed works (e.g. the pastoral epistles) to Paul.”

      I find nothing wrong with this comment. It is well known that Paul likely suffered an eye ailment that prevented him from writing text. He often used a scribe to record his words. This does not mean that Paul was not the author, only that he used a scribe, much like Peter likely used Mark to write his Gospel of Christ, call the Gospel of Mark.

      I think that the person who used this reference, misunderstood what Boyd was saying. This comment by Boyd was not meant as an impeachment of Paul’s authorship, but in statement of actual facts that Paul probably used a scribe due to his own difficulties with his vision.

      Rob

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    • Gary,

      I have thought a lot about you the past few days. I have spoken to many thousands of people about some of the same subjects that you have brought to me.

      Although I don’t know you and it would be unfair for me to try and judge what the state of your heart is, I am guessing that you may want to believe what you once believed, but at the present time you are unable.

      If you tell me that your mind is made up then I see no further reason that we should continue. I have devoted my entire life, since 19 years of age, and I am now 62, to studying the Bible and specifically, the Messianic Prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures.

      I see that you have read many books and these publications do not seem to have helped you, or perhaps they have. I did not begin my own quest by reading the books and commentaries of people, but devoted myself to over 40 years of studying the text of the Bible.

      I think that this is perhaps a large difference between us. You seem to have read all the best books about the Bible, both for and against, but you didn’t say that you have devoted decades to studying the Bible.

      If a man will read the Bible as though he were a child, with no preconceived ideas about what it is or says, he will have a different attitude about what the entire structure of the Bible is all about. Those who read the commentaries of all the different people who are scholars or experts in their fields, usually have the kinds of conclusions about the Bible that you have.

      I have found that when I began to simply study the four Gospels and look at the words and actions of Jesus, I was amazed at the kind of person that He is. I have never seen another human being like Him. I have not found any of the text about Jesus to be contrived or forced, but simple, strait-forward, and honest.

      I studied the text of the letters that were written to the churches at that time which were not written as stories, but primarily as personal letters between persons. There are no efforts in these letters to convince an outside audience of facts, but words of encouragement, instruction, encouragement, and in some cases, rebuke, to real people that the author knew.

      I think that if you would forget about all the books you have read, and all that you are thinking of reading and devote six months to an honest, diligent, and thorough study of the New Testament text, you will find the answers to all of your questions.

      In any event, if you are not interested in taking up this challenge, I do not see the profit in you and I continuing our debate about these subjects. The things that I know about the texts of the Old and New Testament scriptures would never permit my mind or heart to doubt or stray from the certain trust I have in these words. To tell you the honest truth, each time I pick up my old Bible and read these scriptures, they cause life to pour into my heart and mind and refresh me. If I could never again read and study the Bible, I would rather die than live without these words.

      For someone who doubts the words of the Bible, this sounds like a man who has lost his mind. The truth is, these words have so filled my mind and heart that they are now firmly rooted in all that I know as truth and hope for the future.

      I have enjoyed our discourse, but I am certain that I will not be of any help to you, if you are firm in your desire to continue as you are.

      I hope you will take up my challenge. If you do, everything will change, everything.

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      • Thanks for the reply, Rob.

        I seek the truth, whatever and where-ever it is. I am always open to changing my mind.

        You said, “If a man will read the Bible as though he were a child, with no preconceived ideas about what it is or says, he will have a different attitude about what the entire structure of the Bible is all about.”

        I have spoken to people of other religions who say the very same thing about their holy book: “Gary, if you will just read my holy book, X, with and open mind and heart, without any preconceived beliefs or prejudices, God will speak to you and show you that my religion, ______, is the true religion.”

        Rob, so if many very sincere people, of many different religions, all believe that reading a book will reveal to a seeker of truth the one and only truth, is reading a book a reliable method of coming to the truth, Rob?

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      • Gary,

        And there lies your answer. I have read these other religious books and studied their religions. I discovered a profound difference between their religions and the relationship that Jesus offers us.

        If you had studied the Bible you would know that what Jesus presented the world is far different from these religions and gods.

        1. Salvation by grace through faith: All of the religions of the world offer salvation by the performance or good works of the followers. Many do not know whether they have salvation until after they die. Jesus did all of the work for us. He lived the perfect and sinless life that we are incapable of. He died to take our sins upon Himself and removed them from our record. He was raised from the dead as proof that his death for us was successful and our sins are no more. He was raised so that we could know that our trust in Him will give us the same resurrection from the dead, never to die again. Jesus promised that anyone who trust in Him will know for certain that they have eternal life and heaven is their home, if they continue to believe in, and trust Him.
        2. Resurrection: There is no other religion whose leader was willing to die for its followers, and had the power to raise from the dead. There are stories of people who have died and came back to life, but they all died again. Only Jesus was seen crucified and then alive three days later, just as the Prophecies of the Messiah had predicted for Him. Even His own brothers and the men who had been following Jesus, did not believe that He was God, until after they saw Him alive. Jesus lives forever, and no other religion or god has ever accomplished permanent resurrection from the dead.
        3. Personal: The religions of the world do not grant access to God that Jesus provided for us. Many of these gods and religions have leaders who are distant, uncaring, unknowable, while Jesus showed us by coming to earth and living amongst us, that God loves us dearly and wants a personal relationship with us.
        4. The Word: There is no religion that has the power of the written word that the Bible has provided for us. By its shear magnitude of prophecy where God demonstrates His ability to know all things and to control every event of history, we can see that only the God of the Bible is the True God. The beauty of the Psalms. The wisdom of the Proverbs. The life-lessons of the Old Testament where God makes Himself known to fallible men and women but changes them into incredible people who He can use to reach others. The eyewitness testimony of the men who walked with Jesus, ate with Him, heard Him speak, and watched Him perform the miracles that the Prophet Isaiah said Messiah would accomplish to prove to the world that He is both God and Savior. No other religious writing can match the words of the Bible.
        5. He lives in us: There is no god or religion where its leader promises to come and live inside those He saves. Only Jesus promised that when we sincerely trust Him with our life and confess our sins and turn to Him, He will come to reside in us. I have known the reality of His presence in me for 44 years and it is the most amazing personal experience of this world.
        6. Love: The God of the Bible is an infinite God of love. Many people who have belonged to other religions have studied the life of Jesus and His love, in comparison with the life of their religious leader. They left their former religion to follow Jesus because of the love that they saw in Him that was not in anyone else.
        7. Holiness: The God of the Bible is perfect, Holy, and without the imperfections of all other gods and religions. He demands perfection of all His creatures and does not permit sin to exist in His kingdom. When He created us perfect and without sin, and we all chose our own way and chose sin instead of obedience, He did something that had never been done before; He offered us a plan of salvation. When the angels fell into sin, God did not offer them salvation. Only to the descendants of Adam did God offer the life of His Son, to die for our sins, so that we could be cleansed and be redeemed to our former perfection. There is no religion or god who is Holy like the Lord of Heaven. There is no other religion who would give his life for those whom He created. Our God is a God of Love and Holiness. He will judge sin, but for the present time, He has called the world to repent and turn from its sin and come to receive the forgiveness and salvation that is only available in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

        Yes, read all of the books for the religions of the world. I have, and I found that only the Bible which reveals the True and Living God, has told us the truth about ourselves and offered us His love and was willing to die for us.

        There are some who can be saved, who hear these words and respond and find salvation. This is the narrow path to the True God and few there are who find it. There is also a broad path that leads to eternal destruction that most people chose instead. They do not have hearts that seek God, nor do they want to find the salvation that Jesus died to give us. God knew this before He made the universe. Despite His knowledge that most would not receive Jesus and would be lost, Jesus still died for the whole world and bore the sin and suffering that every person deserves. Because God knows who would respond and those who would not, He is able to speak of the saved as “chosen for eternal life,” and those whom He knew would not believe and continue with Jesus, as “not appointed to eternal life.”

        There are some who can be saved and many who cannot. It is because of their hearts of unbelief and not because God has not tried to save them, that the many are lost. If you continue in your unbelief and deny God His rightful place in your life, you will show at the end of your life that you were not appointed to eternal life. If you change your mind and return to Jesus, follow Him for all of your life; at the end of your life, you will show that you were one who was appointed to eternal life.

        Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that those who were once enlightened and have formerly known Jesus and walked with Him, if they fall away, will find it impossible to return to Him and be saved. Not because God is not willing, but because their hearts have been revealed for its true nature. They did not love God, but loved their sin and this world more, and they would not be saved.

        For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.” ~Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT)

        I can only pray that you are not this person and that there is still a spark of love for Jesus that can ignite a desire to turn from this foolishness you are pursuing and come back to Jesus and follow Him for the rest of your life. I cannot persuade you to do this. Only you have to power now to change your eternal destiny.

        Like

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