It Is Very Easy To Deceive An Atheist

Most atheists will tell you that they are amongst the most intelligent and educated persons on the planet. I will demonstrate in this article that with the right information, it is quite easy to deceive those who assert that God does not exist.

Human beings are a peculiar species in that we look for evidence to support our own particular view. Whatever it is that we hold as truth, we look for information that will confirm to us that what we believe is true. Atheists listen to and read the commentaries of other atheists and critics of God. Those with a particular desire to know if God exists tend to listen to and read the writings of those who present evidence to prove the existence of God.

For these reasons, it is extremely easy to deceive the atheist and confirm to him that what he wants to be true, is true.

Three examples that I will present to you in this article come from recent encounters with an atheist who once claimed to be a Christian. This person told me that after reading books by Bart Ehrman and other critics of the Bible that he realized that God cannot exist.

In this article, I will show you the conclusions of Bart Ehrman who states that Jesus never claimed to be God, but was made God by the writers of the New Testament. Richard Pervo and Dennis MacDonald, have written several books seeking to prove that the New Testament Gospels were written as fictional romance novels.

Impeaching The Idea That The New Testament Is Not True

Do you know what kinds of books Ehrman writes? Bart Ehrman is an atheist himself who also claims to have once been a Christian. I have read several of Ehrman’s books and have impeached many of his assertions in several of my books.

Impeaching Ehrman: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not”

One underlying trait in all of Ehrman’s books is the fundamental principle that he rarely gives the reader any evidence to support his statements. For example, Bart Ehrman writes in “How Jesus Became God,” that the men who wrote the four Gospels made up the stories about Jesus. Ehrman states that Jesus never claimed to be God Himself and only the Gospel of John has any evidence that this writer believed Jesus was God.[1]

In the first chapter of my book: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not,” I devote nearly 40 pages to an impeachment of Ehrman’s assertion that the Gospel writers made up the story of Jesus and He never claimed to be God.[2]

All That Is Necessary To Deceive An Atheist Is To Tell Them What They Want To Hear

We can observe the ease at deceiving the atheist and critics of God and the Bible by how the modern atheist refers to Ehrman’s findings regarding the writing of the New Testament. The modern atheist repeatedly quotes the words of Ehrman who states principles as facts, without the support of any evidence whatsoever.

Not once in “How Jesus Became God,” does Bart Ehrman ever present any empirical evidence to support the idea that the Gospel writers made up the story of Jesus. Ehrman’s entire hypothesis is based upon his own opinions. Ehrman states that because supernatural works are described for Jesus, this is proof that the entire story of Jesus in the Gospels cannot be true.

Circular Reasoning is defined as a conclusion that must be true because the premise is true.

The modern atheist begins with the idea that Bart Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, therefore his premise that the writers of the New Testament made up the story of Jesus, must also be true.

In understanding this particular way in which atheists arrive at their own conclusions, we see that their entire basis of logic is flawed. They are easily deceived by persons they assume that know what they are talking about.

When A New Testament Scholar Is Not

I discovered this problematic method nearly 35 years ago when I began my own education and research journey into the true facts of the New Testament. I determined to discard all of the conclusions of other scholars and embarked on my own search for truth, based upon where the evidence led me.

This independent method of validating facts is the epitome of true New Testament scholarship and one that I have maintained throughout my 45 years as a Biblical scholar. I refuse to go along with the status quo for any principle that other scholars subscribe to, simply because it is the popular or well received conclusion. Unfortunately, many modern Biblical scholars today fear that they will lose credibility if they go against the mainstream of critical thought. Many modern scholars today write in opposition to the New Testament primarily because these are the books that sell millions of copies.

We also have a very large body of people who are designated as New Testament scholars, who are also atheists. It is an unresolvable conflict to begin as one who doesn’t believe God exists, but then assert that you are an expert in what God has written. The entire Bible is asserted throughout that it is the word of God. How can a person who doesn’t believe God exists, give the world a truly objective opinion about the true nature of the text they seek to analyze and conclude that claims to come from God? This is not possible. Human nature and how we think, always plays a substantial role in what we conclude.

We see this certainty demonstrated by Bart Ehrman when he states that he does not believe that God exists in the first place, and for this reason, no miracles are possible. These suppositions lead to the conclusion that the Gospel writers must have embellished the story of Jesus.

The problem with this flawed approach to New Testament Criticism is that it ignores the actual evidence that is presented by the text itself. When we read the surviving manuscript copies of the New Testament, we discover that the writers repeatedly state that they saw with their own eyes that Jesus performed miracles, raised people from the dead, was crucified, and was seen alive three days later.

The writers of the New Testament state that the disciples and Apostles of Jesus did not believe that He was God at first, even when they saw Him perform the miracles that are described in the texts. These writers state that It was only after they saw Jesus alive with their eyes, and touched Him with their hands, that they were convinced that He was God and the Messiah.

Examining The New Testament For Reliability And Eyewitness Accounts

In the process of all that Jesus did while on earth, the disciples realized later that He had been purposely fulfilling over 400 of the Hebrew prophecies that were written for the Messiah in the Old Testament. After Jesus was risen, He appeared to two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and took these men through these prophecies from Moses, David, and the Prophets.

Then Jesus said to them, …Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory? ~Luke 24:25-26 (NLT)

 After Jesus appeared alive to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He went to Jerusalem and also appeared to all 12 of the disciples at the same time, in bodily form. Jesus also took these men through all of the prophecies of the Old Testament that predicted the Messiah would be crucified and raised from the dead on the third day.

Then Jesus said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. ~Luke 24:44-48 (NLT)

The point here is that the entire New Testament is filled with over 400 fulfillments of these Hebrew Prophecies, as documented by the men who stated in the text that Jesus fulfilled these things. The Old Testament predicts that the Messiah will be God in human flesh and that He will be crucified and rise from the dead on the third day.

See The 400 Messianic Prophecies

The fact that we see Jesus claiming to be God in the New Testament and then performing miracles to validate His claim, is not surprising. Every Jewish scholar in Jerusalem in the first century, understood that the Messiah would have to fulfill these prophecies with great precision or He could not be the Messiah the Old Testament predicted.[3]

In all four Gospels, Jesus takes careful steps to demonstrate that He was fulfilling these Old Testament prophecies that predicted the Messiah would be God dwelling in the body of a man. The most famous of these is Psalms 110:1. In this text, David writes in describing his future descendant, the Messiah. David calls this man, both his son and his Lord. In writing Psalms 110:1, David was predicting that the Messiah would be both God and Man when He arrived.

Bart Ehrman Doesn’t Know That The New Testament 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?[4]

The atheists who read these comments by Ehrman, believe that because he is a New Testament scholar, He has to be right. In the following text you will see that Ehrman either doesn’t know these texts or doesn’t understand that they prove Jesus clearly claimed to be God.

Jesus Confounded The Leaders Of Israel

When Jesus stood before the Pharisees, as described in the first three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which Ehrman states above that there is no evidence that Jesus claimed to be God, He asks the Pharisees whose son the Messiah will be? These men knew well that this prophecy from David in Psalms 110:1, was written for the Messiah. Jesus made it clear that He came to fulfill this prophecy.

When the Pharisees gathered before Jesus to question Him, it was with the intent of publicly discrediting Him before all those who were listening. Instead, these men were themselves confounded. The text that the Pharisees used to trap Jesus was a well-known verse from Psalm 110:1a.

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ~Psalms 110:1a

In this portion of scripture, The LORD God is saying to the Messiah, “Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies my footstool.” The Pharisees believed that they already knew the answer to this question when they asked Jesus: “What do you think about the Christ (Messiah) Whose Son is He?” The Pharisees believed that the Messiah was the Son of David.

Matthew Records This Event In His Gospel

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”  ~Matthew 22:41-45

Jesus asks the Pharisees, “If the Messiah is David’s son, then why did David also call Him “Lord?” In other words, how could the Messiah be both a human being (David’s son) and also Lord (God’s Son)?

These men knew and understood that this verse of scripture that Jesus referred to was about the Messiah. Only the Messiah could sit at the right hand of God. Jesus believed these verses from Psalm 110:1 were inspired by God and were true—as did these leaders of Israel. Jesus asked these teachers of the law how Messiah could be both God and a human being?

“If the Messiah is David’s son, how can He also be David’s Lord?”

This is precisely what this prophecy from Psalms 110:1a is predicting.

The Pharisees didn’t have an answer. They were bewildered, but not Jesus. The obvious answer to this question is that the Messiah will be both David’s Lord (God) and His, Son (a future human descendant), a fact that Jesus made repeatedly concerning Himself.

The reality that Jesus is both David’s son and his Lord is confirmed by Jesus’ question which He asks of the Pharisees. For those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God, this is one of many places where He clearly asserts that He is God.

When Jesus asks this question of the religious leadership of Israel, no one was able to answer Him. This is because it was generally accepted by the Jews that Psalms 110:1 was speaking of the Messiah who will also be God. If by David’s words, the Messiah is both a son and Lord, He must also be God and man.

SIDEBAR: It is important to understand that the Pharisees were the Ph.D’s of that day; experts in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. Even though these men had the most advanced education available in the world at that time, they still didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Though He fulfilled every prophecy required of Messiah, they still did not believe. A Ph.D., does not guarantee that a person will be able to see, understand, or believe the evidence that exists. for God. If the heart is not willing, the mind will not receive any evidence, no matter how good it is.

The idea that God could be dwelling within the person of Jesus Christ was a reality that was totally unacceptable to the leaders of Israel. Yet, this is precisely what David was predicting when he penned Psalms 110:1.

Understanding this is true, how is it that a New Testament Scholar could miss this critical piece of evidence in stating that Jesus never claimed to be God? This is precisely what Bart Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar participants assert.

Here before the Pharisees, Jesus meticulously demonstrates from the Old Testament that His identity as God and Messiah is precisely what David predicted: A man who is both Messiah and God.

A Second Impeachment of Ehrman’s Assertion That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, do not state that Jesus is God:

Matthew describes Jesus before the high priest again 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?

Mark’s Testimony That Jesus Claims To Be God

The Gospel of Mark echoes the very same details of Matthew and Luke, with the text of Daniel, describing Messiah as coming with the clouds of heaven.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think? And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  ~Mark 14:60-64

Jesus confirmed that He is the object of Daniel’s prophecy, the Son of Man (Messiah), coming with the clouds of heaven. The statement of Jesus, sitting at the right hand of the Power, is a further confirmation of His identity. Only Messiah can sit at the right hand of God, according to the Prophecy of Psalms 110:1

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies Your footstool.  ~Psalms 110:1

When we arrive at chapter 12, “How Do We Know Jesus Is God,” Jesus uses this prophecy from Psalms 110:1, to confirm that He is both God and David’s descendent.

Luke’s Narrative That Jesus Claimed To Be God

Luke is the third Gospel which confirms the text where the leaders of Israel accuse Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be God.

As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe.

And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth. ~Luke 22:66-71

We have only begun our search for answers as to the true identity of Jesus and already we can see compelling evidence that today’s Liberal Theologians have not told us the truth about Jesus.

There is no possibility that the writers of the New Testament conspired with those of the Old Testament to fabricate a false narrative that Jesus is God. It is clear from this brief look at the text, that the Old Testament Prophets predicted a Messiah who would be God, and Jesus came into the world as the fulfillment of their prophecies.

This compelling evidence that Jesus claimed to be God in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospel, in direct contradiction to Bart Ehrman’s statement:

“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…”[4]

From this brief exercise in examining the statements of leading New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, we see just how easy modern atheists can be deceived simply because they hear what they want to believe.

Contrary to Ehrman’s claim, In all of the first three Gospels, Jesus claims that He is God, the fulfillment of Psalms 110:1. Ehrman said that there are no texts in these Gospels where Jesus claimed to be God.

The Pharisees were so infuriated by Jesus’ statements that He is God, they took up stones to kill Him.

Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” ~John 10:31-33 (NLT)

Despite this evidence from both the Old and New Testaments which proves that Jesus is both God and man, Ehrman ignores these texts and writes that there is no possibility that Jesus claimed to be God. His disciples simply made Him God by adding the text which describes the miracles He performed.

These are the statements that were written by a man who is regarded as a New Testament scholar. Either Ehrman is ignorant of these facts, or he is lying. Either way, this is not the work of a true scholar and no one should trust what he has written.

Those who read Ehrman’s books, believe what he said and use his books as evidence that the New Testament is not true and Jesus is not God.

Apparently atheists who quote Ehrman have never done their own independent investigation and do not realize that Ehrman is wrong that Jesus did not claim to be God, or he Ehrman has never actually studied the text.

A Second Area Of Deception Perpetrated Upon The Atheist Today Is The Idea That The Gospels Are Written As Ancient Fiction

My atheist friend, who I mentioned at the start of this article, who suggested that I trust the conclusions of leading New Testament scholars like Bart Ehrman, also stated that I listen to the hypothesis by men like Richard Pervo and Dennis MacDonald who claim that the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional Greco-Roman novel.

The following are just two of these alleged assertions that are used today to try an impeach the New Testament as untrue and unreliable. These ideas are widely believed by many modern atheists.

First, the idea of Richard Pervo that the four Gospels are a romance-novel.[5] A second hypothesis by Dennis MacDonald that the text of the four Gospels are nothing more than an epic-novel.[6]

Richard Ivan Pervo was an American Biblical scholar, former Episcopalian priest, and Fellow of the Westar Institute with a Th.D. In 2001, Pervo was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and sentenced to prison where he continued to write and publish.

Dennis Ronald MacDonald is the John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology in California with a Ph.D from Harvard. MacDonald’s primary method for determining that the four Gospels are fictional novels is called, Mimesis. This method of literary criticism looks for similarities in texts as the sole basis for determining whether two texts are fictional.

MacDonald ignores the actual New Testament text itself which states it is written for the purpose of giving the reader a historical narrative of true events. These statements are supported by the entire Old Testament, written 1,450 years before, which also states that a Messiah will come to earth who will do precisely what Jesus said and did. If MacDonald was truly searching for similar texts to confirm the purpose of the New Testament, why didn’t he use the Old Testament instead of known fictional ancient texts from completely non related sources? The answer is obvious; his agenda was to impugn Jesus and cause the reader to not believe that He is God or Messiah.

The Gospels As Romance Novels

Pervo builds his entire idea upon conjecture and speculation since there is absolutely no evidence within the text of the New Testament, nor from any other religious or secular source to support this hypothesis. It is important to know that, like Ehrman, both Pervo and MacDonald expect us to believe them because they are experts, not because they have presented any evidence which validates their claims.

Pervo and MacDonald are two “experts” that many atheists will present to you as examples that the New Testament is not reliable, when the evidence of the New Testament text itself is presented as proof that these narratives are historical, reliable representations of actual eyewitnesses who are writing about genuine events.

Pervo believes that the four Gospels were written as ancient romance novels primarily because of his personal analysis of the book of Acts and its connection with Luke’s Gospel.

Pervo’s primary assertion is centered on his belief that the historical references in the Book of Acts are filled with inaccuracies. Second, that the references to the miraculous events in these texts makes them certainly fictional.

The problems with Pervo’s acute analysis is obvious. One, these errors of assumption that the Book of Acts contains historical errors in the the details it describes, is impeached by archeological evidence from other scholars. The idea that Acts is inaccurate is quite easily to impeached by a simple examination of the findings of those who have actually traveled to Asia Minor and tested whether the words of Luke are true.

Pervo Impeached By Ramsay

One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsay.

Notice how Dr. Ramsay describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, as being without a single error.

“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually born upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”⁠[7]

Dr. Ramsay believed, at the onset, that the accounts described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago he undertook an expedition to Asia, to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[8]⁠

Why The New Testament Is a Valid Historical Narrative

Archeological Accuracy Points To Literary Accuracy

Since Luke’s description of cities, names, places, and customs are perfect in their historical accuracy, it is certain that the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also accurate and reliable.

The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded the specific events of Jesus’ ministry with the same precision. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.

One of the criticisms of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that, he says, was ordered by Caesar Augustus.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Luke 2:1-3

Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the taxpayers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts that verify Caesar Augustus did conduct the precise census described during the period of time Luke specified, near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.⁠[10]

Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.⁠[11]

An archeological discovery in Egypt uncovered a Papyrus that specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Augustus:

“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”⁠[12]

In his book, Archeological Confirmation of the New Testament, Dr. F. F. Bruce describes a problem that was present in Luke’s description of the Tetrarch of Abilene in Luke 3:1.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of AbileneLuke 3:1

Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanias” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time Luke specified that he was there. In recent history, an archeological discovery made in Damascus, Syria describes a person called the “Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch.” Scholars date this inscription between 14 A.D. and 29 A.D.⁠[13] This is the same period of time in which Luke had written in his gospel, describing Lysanias.

An interesting discovery in 1910 by Sir William Ramsay debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans, who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia.

They became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. Acts 14:6

This secular record was erroneously held as more reliable and accurate than the Biblical record in past history. Today we know that the Bible was correct all along. This continues to be a common error that is frequently repeated today. The facts bearing witness—the Bible is always right in matters of history, and the secular record is consistently wrong. This truth has been confirmed by archeological discoveries over the entire course of human history all over the world.

Other noted scholars such as Dr. Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, a British historian and scholar regarding Ancient Rome, wrote his doctoral thesis on the treatment of the New Testament from the point of view of Roman law and society.

Dr. Sherwin-White said this regarding the work of Dr. Ramsay’s conclusions on the Book of Acts:

“Any attempt to reject its (the New Testament’s) basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”⁠[14]

Dr. Sherwin-White examined the records of Rome and concluded that their own history proved the narrative of the New Testament scriptures regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.⁠[15]

Of all four gospel writers, Luke exhibits the greatest precision in recording specific details. This has allowed for the verification of every statement Luke has made in his account of Jesus. As a result of Luke’s meticulous record and the verification of his writing as accurate and reliable, we have great confidence—as the readers of this gospel—that it is true. When a man takes the time to ensure that everything he writes is accurate, we can be certain that even events which seem unlikely to us are truthful. Because Luke is classified as a scholarly historian by accomplished experts, we can have great confidence that his accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are also truthful.

With Luke, we find that every word he recorded for us, regarding the specific events in which he was writing, are true. Integrity is a quality a person either has, or they don’t have. Luke’s integrity as a historian is unparalleled amongst the writers of the New Testament. Although all the men who penned the pages of scripture, which are in our Bible today, were men of honor, integrity, and honesty, Luke exceeds every standard of excellence.

If a man tells the truth about the smallest details, he can be relied upon when he describes magnificent details. If Luke exercised such honesty in preserving the details of his gospel, we can also trust that what he said about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is also a true account.

Contrary to the claims of modern atheist, Richard Pervo that the New Testament is nothing more than an ancient romance novel, his conclusions are easily impeached by evidence. This is a man that is often quoted as a notable Biblical Scholar with a Doctorate degree, yet all of his conclusions are inaccurate.

MacDonald’s Assertion That The Gospels Were Written As An Epic Novel

Ph.D, Dennis MacDonald, who graduated from Harvard University, presents the idea that the Gospels were written as fiction, not as historically accurate events. MacDonald states that his examination of the four Gospels has led him to conclude that in comparison to Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, the writing style of the New Testament is very similar.

MacDonald states: “Mark was “not writing a historical biography . . . but a novel, a prose anti-epic of sorts.”[16]. Macdonald also concludes that like the work of Homer, the New Testament Gospels are intended as inspiring myths.[17]

Robert McNair Price is an American theologian with a Ph.D is Systematic Theology who argues that Jesus is not a historical person, and the New Testament is not true because it cannot be confirmed by any secular sources. Robert Price, concludes that MacDonald’s work convincingly demonstrates that Homer was a “major source” for the Gospel authors, particularly Mark and Luke.

The New Testament Can Be Confirmed By 121 Secular Citations

The problems that exists for both MacDonald and Price, is that they rely primarily upon personal opinions in suggesting their conclusions. This becomes a tremendous problem in that the New Testament exists today by 24,593 surviving manuscript copies, greater than any other religious or secular manuscripts in existence.

The text of these surviving documents speak for themselves. Anyone who actually studies the narratives of the New Testament can immediately see that they are not written in the style of a novel or in the manner of Homer or any other ancient narratives. The New Testament consists of 27 letters written between real persons with genuine evidence of honest conversations.

Notice the the text from 2 Corinthians chapter 1 as Paul is communicating with persons at Corinth:

“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece…

Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice—first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.
You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm. ~2 Corinthians 1:13-24 (NLT)

This text is classic evidence of personal letters between persons. In the body of evidence that one can draw from in ancient literature, personal letters are never contrived and then used as myths or as biographical.

The entire body of the New Testament consists of these letters, many of which, are written by Paul while in prison. They are written with a style that makes them impossible to be contrived, unthinkable as a novel.

If any person would read these texts from the New Testament for themselves, they would immediately realize these letters are nothing like other ancient novels or prose that MacDonald argues. The manner in which the entire New Testament is constructed is absolutely credible and bears no classic marks of embellishment or falsity.

The narratives of the New Testament are also unique in that they rely heavily upon the text of the Old Testament. Everything that Jesus said and did, is supported by over 400 Hebrew prophecies which Jesus clearly sought to fulfill. When we examine the time-line narrative of the New Testament, we see that Jesus never went anywhere or said anything, that He was not seeking to fulfill the texts of the Old Testament that were written for the Messiah.

The similarity in writing that is proven by actual evidence is from the text of the Old Testament which contains the 400 Messianic Prophecies that the New Testament consistently quotes from, throughout all 27 letters of the New Testament.

This evidence from the Old Testament scriptures makes it impossible that the narratives of the New Testament were written as fictional novels or after the model of Homer. Anyone who really studies the actual text of the New Testament can see this for themselves and very quickly understands that MacDonald’s hypothesis is not correct.

Liberal Theologians And New Testament Scholars Rely Upon Opinion, Not Evidence

When we read the statements and conclusions of these men in their published books, we immediately see that they have no evidence to support their suppositions that the New Testament is not testimony of actual events but “inspiring myths.”

The modern atheists today, relies upon the conclusions of these alleged scholars, strictly because of their education and claimed expertise. Although none of these experts ever present any compelling evidence to support their suppositions, today’s modern atheist falls headlong into their ideas and will not consider any alternative.

The surviving New Testament manuscripts are the evidence by themselves and when we compare all of the massive numbers of these manuscripts and read them in their original languages, we quickly realize that the fundamental narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, are all uniform and without change. These narratives have survived for nearly 1,800 years as evidence of the true events they describe.

Who Do You Believe?

An intelligent person must decide if they will believe what an ancient writer recorded, or what someone says today, who was not present when these things took place and has no real knowledge of these events.These suppositions are based completely on opinion, not evidence.

I cannot support these conclusions because these men, though well educated, have not provided the evidence necessary to convince a thinking person. When I examine the backgrounds of these persons who object to the truthful narratives of the New Testament, I have found that most are either agnostic or atheist, many have severe personal problems with their own morality in their personal lives. One man was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography.

I trust the written testimony of the New Testament because this is what the evidence concludes. The persons who write in opposition to this evidence have simply not provided the evidence necessary for me to believe them.

The modern atheist of our generation allows themselves to be deceived because they are ready to believe anyone who presents information that confirms what they really want to believe. For myself, I must have evidence that is provable and regardless of where the evidence leads me, either to one conclusion or another, I want to know the truth.

 


NOTES:

[1] Ehrman, Bart D. “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” (p. 1). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
[2] Robinson, Robert Clifton, “Why Jesus Is God, And Other Are Not.” Teach The Word Publishing, Inc.; February 8, 2018, ASIN: B079PLY5YP, Chapter 1.
[3] Ten times, after Jesus fulfilled a particular prophecy of the Old Testament, Matthew said: “This was done so that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled.”

  1. Born of a Virgin: Matthew 1:22-23 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Predicted in Isaiah 7:14
  2. Out of Egypt: Matthew 2:15 …and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Predicted in Hosea 11:1
  3. Messiah will be a Nazarene: Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Predicted in Isaiah 11:1
  4. Coming First to the Gentiles: Matthew 4:14-16 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” Predicted in Isaiah 9:1
  5. Taking Our Sickness: Matthew 8:17 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.” Predicted in Isaiah 53:4 (Prophecy 240 and Prophecy 241)
  6. He Will Be Gentle: Matthew 12:17-21 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust.” Predicted in Isaiah 42:1
  7. Teaching By Parables: Matthew 13:35 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Predicted in Psalm 78:2
  8. On the Foal of a Donkey: Matthew 21:4-5 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” Predicted in Zechariah 9:9
  9. Disciples Forsake Him: Matthew 26:56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. Predicted in Zechariah 13:7
  10. Clothing Gambled For: Matthew 27:35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Predicted in Psalm 22:18

[4] Ehrman, Bart D.. “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” (pp. 86-87). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
[5] Richard Pervo: Profit with Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles (1987) ISBN 978-0800607821, Luke’s Story of Paul (1990) ISBN 978-0800624057, Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts (with Mikael C. Parsons) (1993) ISBN 978-0800627508, Acts: A Commentary (2008) ISBN 978-0800660451
The Mystery of Acts: Unravelling its Story (2008) ISBN 978-1598150124
[6] MacDonald, Dennis R. (1983). The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664244644. OCLC 8975344.,The Acts of Andrew and the Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the city of the cannibals. Texts and translations. 33. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555404925. OCLC 21950803., Christianizing Homer: “The Odyssey,” Plato, and “The Acts of Andrew”. Oxford, UK & New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-508722-2. OCLC 473473966.
[7] William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8
[8] William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222
[9] .John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
[10]Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285
[11] Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
[12] 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages  159, 160 2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285
[13]F. F. Bruce, “Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament.” Revelation and the Bible. Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Page 321
[14] Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189
[15] Tacitus’ characterization of “Christian abominations” may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians. References: Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293 and An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485.
[16] Eddy, Paul Rhodes. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (p. 340). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[17] Eddy, Paul Rhodes. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (p. 334). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



Categories: A different Jesus, Agnostics and Skeptics, Alleged Contradictions, Archeological Confirmation, Atheists, Bart Ehrman, Common objections by Atheists, Dennis MacDonald, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Literary authenticity of the New Testament, Messianic Prophecies, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the four Gospels, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Psalms 110:1, Reliability of the New Testament, Richard Pervo, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, Studying the Word of God, The Claims of Jesus, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Make a comment or argument.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.