Beginning with the idea that God does not exist and miracles are not possible, liberal New Testament scholars developed the assertion that Jesus was not God, nor was He capable of miracles.
These ideas progressed into what we see today as the hypothesis that eighty-five percent of the things that are ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament were created by the men who wrote this narrative.a
The basis of all claims in opposition to New Testament reliability is predicated upon two ideas:
- Jesus did not claim to be God.
- He was made God by the Gospel writers.
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:
- He is God.
- He Is Messiah.
- 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. This book presents stunning evidence to support Jesus as the only True God and why we can have confidence in the New Testament as a reliable source.
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 Where Jesus Claims 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.
John’s Presentation That Jesus Is God
Throughout John’s Gospel his intention is to prove that Jesus is God, by the inclusion of many facts.
John begins his gospel differently from Matthew and Luke who give us a Genealogy of Jesus for the purpose of verifying that He is qualified to be the Messiah.
John does not give us a genealogy for Jesus because God doesn’t have one. John’s purpose is to prove to us that Jesus is God and His true origin is from eternity where He has always existed as God.
Jesus did not begin at Bethlehem where He was born; He came out of eternity to take the body of a man so that He could die for us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. ~John 1:1-3
John defines who the “Word” is, in verse 14:
The Word Becomes Flesh
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory… ~John 1:14
There is no clearer definition for Jesus’ origin than stating that He has always existed and is the Creator of all that exists.
The Assertion 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?1b
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 Gospels Are Not The Beginning Of Messiah
The story of Messiah did not begin with the narratives of Jesus who performed miracles. It started 1,500 years before Jesus arrived, in the Old Testament. The Prophets describe a Messiah with the power of miracles as a sign to the world that He is God, dwelling within the body of a man.
When we see Jesus in the New Testament performing supernatural works, this is precisely what the Prophets of the Old Testament told us to watch for as we wait for Messiah to appear.
If Dr. Ehrman is right and the disciples of Jesus conspired to make Jesus God when He really was not, then we must add to this conspiracy, the entire body of Old Testament Prophecy. Over 400 Prophecies were written for the Messiah which predicted He would have the power of Miracles to confirm that He is God.
John The Baptist Has Doubts About Jesus
The prophet Malachi predicted that before the Messiah would come, a prophet would announce His arrival (Malachi 4:5-6). The New Testament records that John the Baptist was this man (Matthew 11:11-15).
When John was arrested by Herod and sentenced to death, John began to have doubts about whether Jesus really was the Messiah. He sent word to Jesus through one of John’s disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah whom the Prophets foretold.
Jesus’ response tells us a great deal about His identity:
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” ~Matthew 11:2-5
Jesus was reminding John that the Messiah would have a ministry of healing to validate His identity. John should know that Jesus is the Messiah because He is performing miracles exactly as the Messiah was predicted to accomplish.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. ~Isaiah 35:5-6
When we examine the narratives about Jesus we find that the miracles Matthew recorded that Jesus performed, were the same miracles that Isaiah 35:5-6 predicted for the Messiah.
From this we see that the claims of Bart Ehrman as one of the world’s leading New Testament Scholars is flawed. Dr. Ehrman alleges that the incidents of Jesus performing miracles is an isolated case that is limited to uneducated men who made up the miracles of Jesus in order to make Him God.
The facts are, the Old Testament scriptures predicted that the Messiah would perform miracles as proof that He is God. Jesus was simply performing what had been written for Him.
We have, not only the testimony of men who saw Jesus perform miracles, but also the prophets of the Old Testament who said that the Messiah would perform miracles. These prophets had been told by God to write prophecies for the Messiah that would describe Him as, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing, in Isaiah 35:5-6. When we examine the text of the New Testament, we see Jesus doing precisely what Isaiah wrote. These men had written their predictions hundreds of years before Jesus arrived.
Although the prophets wrote and described what Messiah would do, they did not understand all that they were recording.
This salvation was something the prophets did not fully understand. Though they wrote about it, they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about, for he told them to write down the events which, since then, have happened to Christ: his suffering, and his great glory afterwards. And they wondered when and to whom all this would happen. They were finally told that these things would not occur during their lifetime, but long years later, during yours. ~1 Peter 1:10-12 (TLB)
Where Is The Evidence?
According to liberal atheist theologians, the miracles which Jesus performed never actually happened. They base these opinions upon their view as atheists that God doesn’t exist and miracles are not possible.
It’s important to understand that there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that what is written about Jesus in the New Testament is not true. There is no proof that anyone fabricated the narratives of the four gospels which describe Jesus as performing miracles, or His claim to be God. These conclusions are based primarily upon the opinions of Theologians, most of which are either agnostics or atheists.
Because these Theologians don’t believe God exists, they assert that the writers of the New Testament made up their stories about Jesus. This is the basis from where they conclude that He cannot be God, nor capable of the miracles that are ascribed to Him in the New Testament.
Let’s examine a few facts of the New Testament manuscripts we do have today to validate Jesus:
There are no ancient works of literature, secular or religious, which have more surviving manuscripts than the New Testament.
- In the 24,593 extant copies of the New Testament that we have today, these texts are virtually identical to our current New Testament.
- All of the texts where Jesus claims to be God and performs miracles to validate this claim are in these ancient manuscripts.
- A frequent argument that is often made by atheist Theologians is that the New Testament was written too far from the time when the events took place.
- Some of the surviving New Testament manuscripts we have today were written as early as 60 A.D., just 28 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
- In a later chapter, I will show you a manuscript fragment of Matthew’s Gospel that has been scientifically dated to just 28 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
- This means that the New Testament was written closer to the time when these events took place than any other literature of antiquity.
- The surviving manuscripts of the New Testament are dated at various times throughout history, but they are all virtually identical to each other in their certainty that Jesus claimed to be God and His miracles prove this claim.
- In truth, there are no ancient manuscripts in existence which have been dated closer to the time when the events took place, other than the New Testament.
Not one of these texts of the New Testament which were written at these early dates, nor any which were copied after, differ from our current New Testament in describing the miracles of Jesus and His claims to be God.
The minor discrepancies that are found in these surviving manuscripts are in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Less than 400 of the 138,000 words in the New Testament are in question. Not one of these words changes the descriptions of Jesus performing miracles or the text where He claims to be God.
Assertions are made that there are many inaccuracies in the New Testament, which are referred to as “Textual Variants.”
Critics of the Bible often use the number, “200,000,” in describing how many variants there are in the existing copies of the New Testament. In fact, these critics are quite disingenuous in their statements as a single word which is misspelled in thousands of manuscripts—may be counted as thousands of variants, although only one word has been misspelled.
In “A General Introduction to the Bible,” by Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. William Nix, these astute scholars make the following observations regarding any variations between the ancient copies of the New Testament and the Bible we have today:
“There is an ambiguity in saying there are some 200,000 variants in the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, since these represent only 10,000 places in the New Testament (out of 138,000 words). If one single word is misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, this is counted as 3,000 variants or readings.”6
Biblical Scholar Dr. Philip Schaff, in his book: “Greek Testament and the English Version,” noted that there are really only 400 variants out of the entire 25,000 copies of the New Testament that are in existence. Not one of these variants are of any significance, nor affect any major doctrine of the Christian faith.
“Not one of these variations altered “an article of faith of a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other and undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.”7
In other words, in the very limited variants of the text within the many thousands of copies of the New Testament which are in some dispute—the issues are predominately a question of spelling or punctuation. In just 50 cases, even the text that is in doubt does not change the basic tenets of the gospels which substantiate that Jesus Christ was observed by more than 500 eyewitnesses as risen from the dead, after having been crucified—His death being verified by the Roman government, the Jewish Talmud, and the disciples of Jesus.
Can An Atheist Teach New Testament Theology?
Do you find it extraordinary that someone could be distinguished as a New Testament Scholar when they don’t believe God exists? Precisely how this person is qualified to teach others about the Bible, when they don’t believe the Bible, is uncertain.
Would you trust the words of a man who claims to be a doctor but doesn’t believe in medicine?
Would you trust the conclusions of an atheist who says that the disciples of Jesus made Him God, or the actual testimony of men who were there when these events took place?
We have what these men wrote and they said Jesus claimed to be God, performed miracles and was raised from the dead.
If these men did invent the story that Jesus is God, where is the evidence of this? Dr. Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar Scholars, and all other Liberal Theologians never provide us with any textual evidence of fraud; only their personal feelings and observations.
Written As Historical Narratives
Bart Ehrman asserts that the four Gospels are not eyewitness accounts of the events which transpired during the time when Jesus was on earth.
“Our next earliest sources of information about the historical Jesus are the Gospels of the New Testament. As it turns out, these are our best sources. They are best not because they happen to be in the New Testament, but because they are also the earliest narratives of Jesus’s life to survive. But even though they are the best sources available to us, they really are not as good as we might hope. This is for several reasons. To begin with, they are not written by eyewitnesses…But in fact the books were written anonymously—the authors never identify themselves…”2
Does this statement sound surprising to you? If you read Dr. Ehrman’s books you will quickly notice that statements like this, which begin with the certainty that the New Testament is “our best sources,” immediately digress into, “ they are not written by eyewitnesses.”
How does Ehrman know that the New Testament narratives are not written by eyewitnesses? He is guessing. He assumes that because the four Gospels do not have the name of the writers attached to them, they cannot be relied upon.
In fact, the reason that these names were omitted was purposeful. The authors did not want to receive personal recognition, they wanted Jesus to be recognized.
The evidence proves that the four Gospels are written by eyewitnesses. In fact, when you read these narratives for yourself, you will see that these men state specifically that they are eyewitness.
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. ~2 Peter 1:16-18
Ehrman’s conclusions are based solely upon his idea that the stories about Jesus are too spectacular to be true; God doesn’t exist and miracles are not possible; therefore, the disciples of Jesus made up these stories.
Most people who have read Dr. Ehrman’s New York Times Bestsellers assume that he made these conclusions based upon evidence. When we read his books, we find that conclusions are made by conjecture and there is no evidence in the historical record which support his ideas.
Ehrman began with the assumption that God does not exist; therefore Jesus cannot be God; therefore Jesus did not do what is recorded of Him in the New Testament.
Now you see how the world has arrived at a place where an atheist dictates to us whether Jesus is represented correctly in the New Testament.
Notice Ehrman’s statement regarding the accounts of Jesus:
“The reason we need books like these (the book Ehrman wrote) is that the Gospels cannot simply be taken at face value as giving us historically reliable accounts of the things Jesus said and did.”3
Dr. Ehrman stipulates that if the New Testament were considered reliable, it would be all that anyone would need for historical scholarship to prove that Jesus is who is described by the New Testament.
“If the Gospels were those sorts of trustworthy biographies that recorded Jesus’s life “as it really was,” there would be little need for historical scholarship.”4
The problem is that Dr. Ehrman states that the New Testament is not trustworthy, while all the evidence proves that it is reliable. As we progress through this book you will see this evidence and understand why Ehrman is wrong.
This is what happens when a person starts with a bias that God does not exist. Every conclusion and statement that comes afterwards becomes inaccurate. The evidence from history provides us with tremendous evidence that what we have in our Bible today, is exactly what was written about Jesus when the events took place.
“All we would need to do would be to read the Bible and accept what it says as what really happened. That, of course, is the approach to the Bible that fundamentalists take.”5
By “fundamentalist,” Ehrman means men like myself, who have, for hundreds of years, documented and written to bring evidence of Jesus’ Narrative as “trustworthy biographies that recorded Jesus’s life.”
Ehrman’s book is filled with inaccuracies which allege that Jesus never intended to present Himself in the manner that these men describe Him as in the New Testament. If you read Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions carefully you will notice that he believes that he is in a better position today to tell us whether the New Testament narratives are true, rather than the actual men who wrote these historical accounts 2,000 years ago.
After learning that Dr. Ehrman does not know that Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels contain clear references by Jesus to be God as He is before the Pharisees and about to be killed for Blasphemy, it is doubtful we can trust his judgment that the New Testament has misrepresented Jesus.
It is Dr. Ehrman that is inaccurate and making untrue conclusions based upon his feelings instead of the evidence.
The following is what the text of the four Gospels actually present, in direct contradiction to Ehrman’s claim:
The New Testament Claims Eyewitness Accounts
John writes that he has both seen and testified that the evidence contained in the Gospels is true and he knows that he is telling the truth because he was there and saw Jesus do these things.
And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. ~John 19:35
John tells us the reason he is writing, to give us evidence to conclude that what is written by the four Gospels is eyewitness testimony. The reason that John says this narrative was written and preserved for us is so that anyone might read it and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God—equal to God.
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. ~John 20:30-31
John was the only disciple of Jesus, never to abandon Him. Even at the cross, John stood close by—not afraid to be identified with Jesus. The other disciples were hiding away while John remained faithful to Jesus. For His steadfast love, John was given the privilege of writing the most magnificent Gospel of all. The very words which John penned in his narrative of Jesus should be written in Gold.
The intent of John’s narrative of Jesus is to prove that He is God. For this reason, John’s Gospel is different than the other three.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us about what Jesus said and did; John tells us why He did these things.
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life.
He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. ~1 John 1:1-4 (NLT)
Jesus said that He called these men to write and bear witness of what they saw.
And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. ~John 15:27
Paul records the purpose of the four Gospels of Jesus as historical narratives of actual events, recounted by eyewitnesses.
Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” ~Acts 1:21-22
As Peter stands before thousands of people from all over the world on the Day of Pentecost, he describes David as a prophet, predicting the Messiah who would come from his line of descendants. Peter said that David predicted the Messiah would be killed and resurrected and the men who saw these things would be His witnesses.
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. ~Acts 2:29-32
There is a pattern here that we should not miss. The New Testament was written as a historical narrative, not as unsubstantiated stories. The evidence for this is disbursed throughout the twenty-seven books that were written to act as a witness for Jesus.
The assertion of those who seek to discredit the New Testament is that these accounts should not be seen by the reader as historical, nor reliable. When we read the text for ourselves, it is impossible to maintain this stance.
Clearly, Paul, Peter, John, and the other writers of the New Testament understood that Jesus had called them to tell the truthful details of His life, death, and resurrection. The reason? So that a historical record could be preserved for every generation. These men did this so that people could know about the incredible salvation that God has provided for all people.
The reason that this should be important to you is understood by what is being attempted today by Liberal Theologians. These men and women have launched a full scale assault on the credibility and reliability of the New Testament. They have caused the whole world to sit up and take notice.
If the accounts that are found in the New Testament about Jesus are misrepresented to the world as not true, then everything that Jesus died to give the world will be lost.
The facts of evidence prove they are true.
One of the reasons I wrote this book was so that people might know that there are individuals who are held up today as New Testament scholars, who do not believe that God exists. The world doesn’t know this. They see that these men and women have the credentials to make credible commentary on the New Testament. They believe that these individuals know what they are talking about. They hear from these deceptive scholars that what is written about Jesus in the New Testament is not true. They stop believing that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world. They miss the eternal life that God has freely made available.
Written As Eyewitness Narratives
The writers of the New Testament make numerous statements in the text that it was their goal to be witnesses of what they had seen and heard about Jesus.
When Peter went into the temple and began to pray at 3pm, he saw a man who was crippled. He lifted the man by the hand and he was immediately able to walk. The crowd looked to Peter as something spectacular and he told them that this power to perform miracles came from Jesus whom they crucified and God raised to life.
Peter said that his purpose was to bear witness of Jesus and point people to Him.
So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. ~Acts 3:12-15
Paul records that Peter and the other Apostles stood before the captain of the temple, with the chief priests, the Jewish high council, and the esteemed Gamaliel. Peter again confirmed that all of the men who wrote in recording what Jesus had said and done were witnesses that He was crucified and raised on the third day.
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things. ~Acts 5:29-32
When Peter came to the Roman Centurion, Cornelius and his household, he testified that he and the other men who had been with Jesus for the last three years of His life were witnesses to “all things which He did.”
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” ~Acts 10:34-43
The Purpose Of The New Testament Is Clear
Since there is such a great body of evidence within the New Testament to validate that what was written came to us by eyewitness testimony, there is no valid reason to doubt that what is written about Jesus is true.
When we compare all of the records which have survived history, we find that they agree that Jesus was both capable of miracles, was crucified, and raised on the third day. There is no ambiguity in these important facts. What is at question are 40 lines, containing about 400 words out of nearly 200,000 words which make up the New Testament. Not one of these lines or words brings into question the miracles of Jesus, His death by crucifixion, or the resurrection that took place afterwards.
Of the 40 lines in question, 75%, or about 300 words, are all found in the last portion of Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 16, verses 9-20. The other 100 words are very minor and do not alter the testimony of Jesus’ miracles, His crucifixion, or the resurrection.5.5
Because of the evidence presented by the surviving New Testament manuscripts, and these being uniform in their descriptions of Jesus’ miracles and the text where He makes it clear that He is God, the objections of Dr. Ehrman and others who dispute these text as reliable, have no evidentiary validity.
The entire purpose for writing the Gospels in the first place, was because the world had seen Jesus’ miracles as acts of God who came to our world, to show Himself and redeem us from sin and death.
The disciples saw the miracles Jesus performed and later realized that what He was doing, the prophets had foretold. Because of the validation of the Old Testament, these men were confident that what they had written had the support of the Hebrew historical record.
Jesus’ disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. ~John 12:16 RCR
What Would You Do?
If an event of this magnitude took place in your life, what would your response be?
There is a line in the popular movie Déjà vu where Denzel Washington tells a woman about the things he has seen. He asks her what she would do if she saw things that were so incredible she was sure no one would believe her. She said, “I would try.”
The events these men described in the narratives of the New Testament were beyond belief. They understood that people were going to find it hard to accept their testimony. It was for this reason that they said things such as John 19:35, And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
There is no other event in the history of the world that has left us with greater written evidence than that of the New Testament.
If we evaluate the events of history we see that the testimony about Jesus in the New Testament was written closer to the time of these events than any other event in the history of the world, just 28 years. We have more surviving manuscripts of the New Testament than any other event of antiquity, 24,593. Our Bible today is a virtual copy of the text that was originally written, 2,000 years ago.
The closest secular manuscripts that have survived time and decay are those of the Iliad, with a 500 year gap between the time the events took place and the first copies. There are only 642 surviving copies of the Iliad.
Strangely, no one disputes the authenticity or accuracy of the Iliad, while vigorously refuting the New Testament.
This is because Homer’s Iliad does not call the salvation of people into question. The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires our repentance and surrender to Jesus as our Savior. This is the reason why people are resistant to define the New Testament as accurate and reliable as it deserved.
Jesus said that the reason people do not come to Him is because He testifies that their works are evil. People love their life the way it is and they don’t want God anyone else to interfere.
The world…hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. ~John 7:7
But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. ~John 5:40
Our Premise Determines The Outcome
If we begin with the idea that God does not exist, then this premise will affect many other parts of our life. We see this best illustrated by Bart Ehrman who began writing books with the idea that God cannot exist.
Based on a fundamental error from the start, every work that proceeded afterwards was in error. Imagine an entire lifetime wasted because of one error which ruined everything that came after.
When we don’t accept the surviving Manuscripts of the New Testament for what they are, historical documents which were copied from originals that were written near the time when these events took place, our trouble begins.
Simply looking at the evidence and not the opinions of people who are asserting that what we are seeing is not true, can change our view.
For myself, the final convincing pieces of evidence to believe the authenticity of the New Testament narratives of Jesus consisted of three things:
One: The events which are described for Jesus do not reside in the historical record alone. There is a vast history of Hebrew text which supports the certainty that a person exactly like Jesus would come into the world scene.
Jesus literally said and did precisely what the Hebrew prophets said the Messiah would say and do.
This means that the New Testament is supported by a very long history of events and evidence which stated beforehand that the events we read in the New Testament would take place.
Two: Years ago I began a course in fraud detection for written testimony. These are the principles that are used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation everyday to detect untrue testimony by people who claim to be witnesses.
Near the end of this course I began to take what I had learned and apply these principles to the four Gospels. I was stunned by what I found.
When we use intelligent procedures which have been proven to detect fraud in written testimony and apply them to the text of the four Gospels, we are able to validate these texts as authentic accounts by evidence that proves these testimonies are absolutely reliable. I will present evidence for how these techniques can be applied to the New Testament narrative, in the next chapter.
Three: The shear magnitude of surviving manuscript evidence that has been left to us from the events that took place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are empirical and compelling. If we simply take these texts as they are and examine them as preserved evidence, we cannot conclude that they were altered or embellished. Exaggerated and untrue stories do not survive 2,000 years of history without being discovered as frauds. They do not survive in the sheer numbers we have for the New Testament. Most surprising of all, they match the Bible we have in our possession today.
- Why The New Testament Is a Valid Historical Narrative
- Alleged Textual Variants Of The New Testament Do Not Change The Narrative
- The Internal Evidence Of The New Testament Proves Its Integrity And Reliability
- Archeological Discoveries That Confirm The New Testament Narratives Of Jesus
- How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable
- First Century Manuscript Evidence For Jesus
- The False Assertion That The Gospel Writers Borrowed From Mark Or The “Q” Document
- It Is Very Easy To Deceive An Atheist
- Impeaching The Idea That The New Testament Is Not True
- New Testament Reliability: Eyewitnesses And Liars
- The Four Gospels Were Not Written Anonymously
- The New Testament Passes Every Literary Test of History
- The New Testament Is Intended As Historical Accounts
- Examining The New Testament For Reliability And Eyewitness Accounts
- Proving The New Testament Is A Reliable Narrative Of Jesus’ Crucifixion And Resurrection From Evidence
- Does Jesus Live In The Believer? How Jesus Communicated A Remembrance Of All He Had Done To The New Testament Writers
- Table Of Extant Greek New Testament Manuscripts
- 121 Non Biblical Sources For Jesus in the Historical Record
- How Does Criticism Of The New Testament Relate To Its Reliability?
- Evidence Of New Testament Reliability: Reliance Upon The Old Testament
- Truth And Lies Regarding New Testament Reliability
- The Truth Of The New Testament Is Not Defined By Opinion, Bias, Or, Doubt, But By Historical Evidence
- The Historical Records Of Jesus’ Life, Death, And Resurrection Are Unimpeachable
- How Liberal New Testament Scholars Deceive The World Today
- When A New Testament Scholar Is Not
- Jesus Authenticates The New Testament As Scripture
- The New Testament is Written by Jews, About Jews, For Jews
- Empirical Integrity of the New Testament
- Biblical Inerrancy And The Errors Of Critics
- The Reliability of the New Testament
- The Historical Record Proves That God Exists
- Old Testament Law: A Lesson In God’s Nature Not Understood Today
- Are The Old Testament Laws Applicable Today?
- The Greatest And Most Astute Scholar In History Said That Jesus Is God And Messiah
Categories: Anonymity of the Four Gospels, Archeological Confirmation, Atheists, Bart Ehrman, Disregard for the Bible, Historical Validity of the New Testament, How The NT Writers Remembered, Literary authenticity of the New Testament, New Testament Criticism, Origin of the four Gospels, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Reliability of the New Testament, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, Secular sources for Jesus, Tacitus as a credible witness, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus, The Importance of the Bible
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