Who Killed Jesus?

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4 Ways To Respond To Wellhausen Problems and Astruc Cuttings

 

It has been estimated at least 90% of the Christians today and perhaps 99% of all people have no idea what is being taught in liberal universities today under the disguise of biblical criticism, textual criticism, source criticism, or literary criticism. In this blog, I will be opposing a (failed) hypothesis that is being taught at the college level by some professors who call themselves specialists, scholars, and critics.

The Documentary Hypothesis was first presented in 1878, just twenty years after Darwin published his hypothesis on how one living species might have started a process of biological changes in a macroevolutionary process called natural selection. In this blog, I will be examining the Documentary Hypothesis, but I will most often refer to it as the Wellhausen Hypothesis. Liberal scholars who devote entire careers on biblical criticism like to call the complex Wellhausen Hypothesis by its more traditional name, the Documentary Hypothesis. At the heart of it all, the Wellhausen Hypothesis is much more than just a four source claim on the origins and development of the first five books of the Bible. It wrongly posits that many contradictions exist, and it literally rips apart the text in an attempt to conclude, “See? I found two authors.” 

Wellhausen Followers Continue to Fool the World

In the fall of 2018, the problem of Wellhausen’s teaching and his followers came to my attention while working on my master’s degree. Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was a German historian, linguist, and Bible critic who lost his faith in the Bible. He began to research certain people in the past who made incorrect assumptions and speculations on whether or not Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible. These historical Bible critics who opposed Mosaic authorship include Abraham Ibn Ezra, Benedict Spinoza (a pantheist), and Jean Astruc just to name a few. Each one of those figures stumbled upon difficulties that they struggled with in the Pentateuch, and they did not find good answers to their satisfaction. Even if they did find a good answer that explains why a verse does not contradict another verse, for example, or why two divine names are sufficiently used, they rejected it. Today, Wellhausen followers continue to claim they have found a multitude of contradictions, and then they reject honest answers to their literary problems. Underneath the surface of opposing Mosaic authorship, Wellhausen followers bask in a sea of alleged contradictions and confusion by misreading Scripture. They present contradictions in what they call doublets, triplicates, conflicts, style issues, gaps, anachronisms, and repetitions. The most unusual act is when Wellhausen followers continue to perform an “Astruc Cutting” to certain passages – in an attempt to claim two different authors wrote it. 

Two Sources?

A French physician and professor named Jean Astruc (1684-1766) is often called the father of the Documentary Hypothesis because he presented his speculation that the Pentateuch has two sources, neither of which is Moses. In this blog, I am pointing to Astruc as the person responsible for so many of the Wellhausen followers today who continue to cut passages apart verse by verse. Astruc worked with two divine names in the text, YHWH and Elohim, claiming the two divine names give evidence of two authors. By cutting up the Pentateuch verse by verse and placing certain YHWH verses in one document and certain Elohim verses into another document, Astruc claimed he found two authors. Immediately, Astruc’s two source speculation faces a problem because there are a multitude of passages that use both YHWH (Yahweh/Jehova/LORD) and Elohim, and there are a multitude of verses that contain neither. Finally, in 1941, Umberto Cassuto gave an excellent response to Astruc’s two source speculation in his book, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch: Eight Lectures by Umberto Cassuto. In his book, Cassuto gave a clear reason why Moses used both divine names, YHWH and Elohim. YHWH is used mainly to refer to the personal deity of Israel. Elohim is used in a general sense for the creator over all people. 

Four Sources?

Building onto Astruc’s teaching, Wellhausen came along and proposed two more authors, a priestly author and the mostly Deuteronomic author, introducing his four source speculation, the Documentary Hypothesis, which I will continue to refer to as the Wellhausen Hypothesis. To complicate the matter further, Wellhausen followers play the innocent joker card by claiming redactors (editors) could have changed any number of words at any place in the Pentateuch at any time up to about 400 BC. By leading students into a sea of confusion about origins, development, and editing, students of Wellhausen scholars might walk away confused instead of reading what is actually in the text, namely, that 1.) Moses wrote down the words of the Lord and 2.) No textual contradictions actually exist. Moses wrote down ceremonial laws, cultural laws, moral laws, and regulations for the festivals as he was instructed by the Lord. Wellhausen imagined four authors wrote an imaginary J-document (written by an alleged author who preferred using the term Jehova/YHWH/Yahweh), an imaginary E-document (written by an alleged author who preferred using the term Elohim), a P-document (written by an alleged priestly author/authors), and a D-document (written by an alleged Deuteronomy author). However, Wellhausen followers fail to give credit to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch who wrote it during his lifetime. In his book, Cassuto reduced the Wellhausen Hypothesis down to five main flimsy pillars that supposedly hold up the four source speculation.

1.) Divine Names

2.) Language and Style

3.) Contradictions

4.) Duplications and Repetitions

5.) Composite Structure

Cassuto did a very good job in his book explaining why all five pillars fail. He presented a case where the Wellhausen Hypothesis has no real basis to hold it up.

Wellhausen Followers Today (Neo-Wellhausen) 

The new Wellhausen follower’s method includes four main offenses that still need to be challenged by anyone who honors truth. By responding to the following four ways Wellhausen followers continue to uphold the failed Wellhausen hypothesis, we can be salt and light shining truth in dark places. Below are four ways Neo-Wellhausen followers continue to live in the dark. Just beyond that, you will find a list of four ways we can shine the light of truth in a kind and gentle way.

4 Ways Neo-Wellhausens Live In the Dark

  1. Neo-Wellhausens continue to look for contradictions. They continue to claim contradictions and errors in the Pentateuch. They continue to consider/assume a second author is at work in places where the Wellhausen follower struggles to understand a difficult passage.
  2. Neo-Wellhausens  continue to work on cutting/dividing up the text. They continue to mentally apply the “Astruc Cutting” to short stories within a chapter.
  3. Neo-Wellhausens  focus on each of the four sources having a history. They focus on the compilation also having a development after compilation. They continue to approach Scripture with far fetched speculations and presuppositions such as the story and certain phrases were changed by redactors (editors) who came along and changed words and terms.
  4. They continue to teach that the Pentateuch is incoherent without acknowledging a lack of understanding or a misunderstanding coming from the human being.

Here is how we can point Wellhausen followers to truth.

  1. Let us examine any alleged contradiction or duplicate or triplicate presentation and discover the real context. We cannot be too quick to conclude that there is a contradiction when in reality, the struggle always ends up with the reader’s lack of understanding. Take the time to pray for wisdom and revelation and consider asking other good theologians who may have already discovered good answers to seemingly difficult passages.
  2. Let us find out why we arrive at knowing the Pentateuch is one literary piece written by mainly Moses during Moses’s lifetime. Become familiar with an explanation of why two divine names are used; Cassuto’s book is a good place to start. Know why we arrive at understanding the Book of Moses is a historical document from about the 1440s BC, written during Moses’s lifetime. We need to give credit to Moses, but we also need to be able to tell Wellhausen followers why the five flimsy pillars of Wellhausen fail. Cassuto began paving a way for us to approach Wellhausen followers in a kind and gentle and truthful way. Instead of just claiming Moses wrote it, let us take time to understand Wellhausen problems and carefully address them.
  3. Let us present all the verses in the text that refer to the Book of Moses, the Law of Moses, and the Book of the Law of Moses; there are many. Chapter after chapter, book after book from Exodus to Deuteronomy, we read that the Lord told Moses to “write down the words of the Lord.” In addition, let us present other biblical and non biblical texts that also refer to the Book of Moses.
  4. Let us present the theme of redemption and read the literary piece in context as one coherent message of God calling his people, God redeeming his people, and God preparing his people to go into the promised land. In Genesis, we find a historical account of Adam to Joseph being kidnapped and sold in Egypt. In Exodus, God calls his people out of Egypt. In Leviticus, God gives moral, cultural, and ceremonial laws so that the Israelites can live good lives. God gives directions and regulations to celebrate festivals at certain times each year. Two years after leaving Egypt, the book of Numbers covers a span of 38 out of 40 years of wandering in the desert. God reminds the Israelites in the desert that there are consequences for rebelling against Him, complaining, and disbelieving Him. God taught them how to walk with Him, not against Him. In Deuteronomy, we read the final preparation before they entered the promised land. God prepared His people one last time before Joshua led them into the promised land when Moses was 120 years old.

Who Wrote the Pentateuch?

The first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch or the Torah which include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, typically dated to either 1440 BC or the 1200s BC. For about three thousand years from about 1440 BC to the 1700s AD, the author of the Pentateuch was commonly and widely accepted as Moses. Even though the Pentateuch and the rest of the Bible refer to the Pentateuch as the Book of Moses, the Law of Moses, the Book of the Law of Moses, or the Book of the Law, Wellhausen followers reject a multitude of verses throughout the entire Bible. At the end of this blog, you will find a more comprehensive list of verses from the Bible that specifically refer to Moses as the author who wrote down the words of the Lord (Ex. 17:14, 24:4, 38:21, Nu. 33:2, Deut. 31:9, 24-26). Wellhausen followers blatantly reject Moses as the author. Wellhausen followers often point to the death of Moses (that is recorded at the end of Deuteronomy) and the verse that says, “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3) as supporting evidence that Moses could not have been the author of the entire Pentateuch.

Even if a priest wrote Numbers 12:3 and Deuteronomy 34:5-12, it does not mean that Moses didn’t write the rest of the Pentateuch. Even if oral tradition and certain lists were carried down from Adam to Moses, it does not mean that Moses didn’t write Genesis. Even though some passages were written down by the direct command of Moses (Ex. 38:21), the main author who wrote most of the Pentateuch is Moses, a three thousand year traditional view which is also called Mosaic authorship. 

Is There an Error In the Text or In the Reader’s Understanding?

In the publishing field today, there is usually one main author of a book who wrote and compiled an entire manuscript. From what we know of publishing today, it is very much possible for one book to have more than one author, and it is very much possible for one book to have more than one editor as well as a compiler who formats and for example, a compiler who organizes the chapters of an anthology. When studying the origin and development of the Pentateuch, however, we need to keep in mind what kind of writing method was used back then, acknowledging the situation was completely different, and give credit to where credit is due.

At first glance, the Wellhausen problem seems to be lacking the ability to give Moses any credit at all as the main writer and author of the Pentateuch. Upon further investigation, Wellhausen and his followers carry a much deeper problem: they claim narrative and literary contradictions exist in the text when there really is no contradiction. Every time we closely examine a problem that Wellhausen, his predecessors, and his followers have or have had with a specific passage, we will discover the problem is not in any way a contradiction in the text. In every case, the problem always ends up being with the critic who was not understanding or does not understand the text in context. Next, let me review the nature of a real contradiction. 

What is the Law of Non Contradiction? 

The Law of Non Contradiction can also be called the Law of Contradiction. Either way, it is generally accepted as the same law, but more commonly referred to as the Law of Non Contradiction. Basically, it states that something cannot both “be” and “not be” at the same time in the same sense. In logic, we explain it this way:

“A” does not equal “non-A”

For example, a zebra either has fins or it does not have fins. A zebra either has black and white stripes or it does not have black and white stripes. A zebra either has wings or it does not have wings. When applying the Law of Non Contradiction to literature, a contradiction could also be something like saying Bob named his zebra “Ribbon” or Bob did not name his zebra “Ribbon.” Either Bob did name his zebra Ribbon or he didn’t, but it can’t be both in the same sense at the same time. It could be that Ribbon was the name at one time, and then Bob began to call Ribbon another name later on at a different time. It could also be that Bob regularly called his zebra Ribbon, but the kids regularly called that same zebra “Flash.” In that case, that particular zebra has two names. In addition, Bob could call his zebra Ribby as a nickname. Furthermore, we know Ribbon came from a certain zebra who came from a certain zebra who came from a certain zebra. That family line of Ribbon’s genealogy could go four or five generations back to a certain zebra named Band. Thus, Ribbon could also be called a Bandite zebra from the tribe of Band. Going even further back, the Bandite tribe could be from a tribe further back called the zebralite tribe. Thus, Ribbon could be both a Bandite and a Zebralite. This example serves to address more than one alleged contradiction from Wellhausen followers. Let us now begin examining a few alleged contradictions from two different Wellhausen followers. 

Responding To Wellhausen Problems

Below, I will closely examine a few problems from two Wellhausen followers. I will show why their literary problems are not contradictions.

  1. What is the name of Moses’s father-in-law?

In Exodus 2:16-20, the author says Reuel is the priest of Midian who had seven daughters. After Moses married one of Reuel’s daughters, Zipporah (2:21), the reader sees Moses’s father-in-law, the priest of Midian, is called Jethro (Exodus 3:1, 4:18, 18:1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12). Later, the author referred to Moses’s father-in-law’s name as Reuel (Numbers 10:29).  The text presents two names for Zipporah’s father, Reuel and Jethro. Naturally, the conclusion is that Zipporah’s father had at least two names. The conclusion is not that the text has a contradiction. The question should be, “Can Zipporah’s father have two names?” We would have to honestly answer yes, it is possible to have two names. The text tells us that he had at least two names as they were recorded. Furthermore, is it possible to be named after a deceased relative? Yes. We know that a few generations before, one of Esau’s sons was named Reuel (Gen. 36:4, 10, 13, 17). Oddly enough, Wellhausen followers typically apply their own rules. Here, their strange rule must be “a person can only have one name,” which is not what happens in reality. Thus, the Reuel/Jethro issue is not a contradiction. 

2. Was Adam created before the animals or after the animals? 

In Genesis 1, an order of creation is presented in six days from the view of someone on earth, ending with the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day. Genesis 1 clearly says the animals were made before Adam. In Genesis 2, the chapter begins with a short summary of creation before living things were on earth. It moves into details such as when Adam named the animals (Genesis 2:19). Wellhausen followers claim that Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1 because Genesis 1 has Adam being created after the animals whereas they think Genesis 2 has Adam being created before the animals. However, Genesis 2:19 NEVER claims that the animals were made after Adam. Thus, Wellhausen followers read Genesis 2 incorrectly. There is no contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 1 gives us the order of creation whereas Genesis 2 gives us details just after creation. 

3. Who sold Joseph to Potiphar? 

I was surprised to find out how a young Wellhausen scholar from Yale University made at least four mistakes when reading the very short story of Joseph being sold and taken to Egypt (Genesis 37:18-36). This Wellhausen scholar from Yale found what he called textual difficulties, but the problem remains with his lack of understanding, as we shall see below, not in the text.

The first mistake he made is only a slight misreading of verses 18 and 20. The text does not say that the brothers conspired to kill Joseph two different times. The text begins with a narrative where the brothers saw Joseph approaching. The brothers begin to conspire a plan to kill Joseph. The text moves next to providing a quote of the brothers speaking about the heinous plan to throw Joseph in a pit to die. Ultimately, they wanted to end Joseph’s talk of reigning over them. 

Second, Reuben’s plan (verses 21-22) to save his brother is not identical to the brothers’ evil plan to kill him (verses 18-20). The two plans differ. 

Third, Judah’s reason (verses 26-27) for not killing Joseph is different than Reuben’s reason (verse 22). Judah suggested they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites so that they would not be responsible for whatever happened to him in Egypt whereas Reuben did not want to hurt Joseph in order to keep him alive, and Reuben preferred to restore him to his father Jacob. Later, when the brothers reunited in Egypt, Joseph affirmed that his brothers indeed sold him to the Ishmaelites (Gen. 40:15, 45:5). 

Fourth, this young Wellhausen follower examined an alleged error at great length, an error that he called an “Ishmaelite/Medianite problem.” He claimed it is an irresolvable difference that occurs. He is confused where the text says the brothers sell Joseph to both the Midianites and Ishmaelites who sold Joseph to Potiphar (verse 25-36). As the text reads, the Midianites lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. The main problem here is that the Wellhausen scholar wanted more details about the transaction than what the text actually gives. He isn’t satisfied with the information given in the story. He speculated as to what else may have happened. He speculated several different scenarios while rejecting what the text actually presents as sufficient for the purpose of the context. 

Another Wellhausen Follower Perfoms the “Astruc Cutting”

The most unusual act of all is when this young Wellhausen scholar from Yale performed an “Astruc cutting.” By an “Astruc cutting” I mean that the Wellhausen scholar took the passage of Genesis 37:18-36 and cut, verse by verse, one short Scriptural passage literally into two separate stories; a “Reuben story” and a “Judah story.” He assigned the Judah story to the J-document author and the Reuben story to the E-document author. He then went on to argue over whether the Judah story was the original or the Reuben story was the original. Like all other Wellhausen followers, he speculated on whether an editor possibly changed a few words here and there. He concluded that the Judah story must be the original, that the Reuben story must be the supplement. Like all other Wellhausen followers, he claimed that the E source conflicts with the J source. However, in reality, no such conflict exists. 

Evidence That Moses Is the Main Author of the Pentateuch

In Exodus, we learn that the LORD instructed Moses to “write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua…” (Exodus 17:14). We also learn that Moses wrote down the Book of the Covenant and read it to the assembly just after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and a multitude of other laws (Ex. 20-23). Moses gave instructions to the Israelites for when they enter the promised land (without Moses). After they entered the promise land, the king of Israel must write for himself on a scroll a copy of “this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests” (Deut. 17:18). At the end of Moses’s life when he was one hundred and twenty years old, a conditional promise of prosperity from the Lord was given to the Israelites if they turn to the Lord with all their heart and soul, keeping the commands and decrees that are “written in this Book of the Law” (Deut. 30:9-10, 31:11). Moses instructed the Levitical priests to read the Book of the Law to Israel at the end of every seven years during the Festival of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:9-13). Just before he died, Moses commanded the Levites to keep the Book of the Law by the side of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies (Deut. 31:26). 

Many other books in the Bible affirm that Moses is the author of the Book of the Law; also called the Law of Moses or the Book of Moses or the Book of the Law of Moses (Josh. 1:7-8, 8:31, 1 Ki. 2:3, 2 Ki. 14:6, Ezra 6:18, Neh. 13:1, Dan. 9:11-13, Mal. 4:4, Luke 2:22, John 1:17, 1 Cor. 9:9, and Gal. 3:10). Jesus referred to the Law of Moses, the Book of Moses, teachers of the law, and experts of the law numerous times (Matt. 5:17, Mark 12:26, Luke 24:44, John 7:19, 23), saying that Moses even wrote about Jesus (John 5:46). The Quran also happens to affirm Moses as the author of the Torah. Other church Fathers throughout the centuries have affirmed Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. In 1265-1274 AD, Thomas Aquinas affirmed multiple times that Moses wrote Genesis and that Moses wrote Genesis chapter 1 in particular. 

In closing, we are long overdue in responding to the Wellhausen problem. Let us respond with truth and love. We are long overdue to encourage students to take a stand for truth in the college classroom by giving good reasons, in a kind and gentle way, why the Wellhausen Hypothesis fails.

 

SOURCES

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica: Part I Prima Pars From the Complete American Edition. New York: Benziger Brothers, 2012. Kindle.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983.

Geisler, Norman L. The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015.

Hill, Andrew E., and Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991. 

MacRae, Allan A. DEDP Lectures on the Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch. Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1994. 

Wellhausen, Julius. Prolegomena to the History of Israel.

5 Examples Why Agnostic Bart Ehrman Is Not a Gospel Expert

Is Bart Ehrman still claiming that the four New Testament gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have contradictions? How can he still be saying that after many good explanations are available? How can he still be proclaiming his false teaching? Doesn’t he care to listen to the biblical experts who can explain how we can know that each one of his alleged contradictions is not a contradiction at all? Ehrman is an agnostic professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who presented at least three of his concerns in a video and went on to list about seven alleged contradictions. Unfortunately, the Christian he was talking to did not offer any significant explanation as to why Ehrman is wrong. The Christian went on to say, all that matters is that Jesus rose from the dead. What? Yes, the resurrection does matter, but so do false claims of contradictions. Working out every contradictory claim does not matter? Of course they matter. It takes time to present why the contradictory claim is not actually a contradiction. If a skeptic really wants to know if a contradictory claim is just an error on behalf of the reader or the critic, let the skeptic take the time to listen to several theologians and understand what the theologians are saying and why they are saying it. If a skeptic does not really want to find good reasons why particular contradictions do not exist in the biblical text, it might be because that skeptic has a difficult time admitting he is wrong. 

Ehrman, the agnostic professor and gospel skeptic, began with three concerns that he calls “problems with the gospels.” However, the problems remain with Ehrman’s lack of research and with his lack of understanding about the context, historical culture, and Mosaic law even though he is called a leading expert on textual criticism. If Ehrman continues to not accept the explanations for why his alleged contradictions are not really contradictions, then it might be because Ehrman just does not want to admit being in the wrong. Theologian Dr. Norm Geisler evaluated Bart Ehrman’s views and determined that Ehrman is not approaching the text as a neutral observer. 

“Bart Ehrman believes that people should approach the Bible without any presuppositions. They should not read the text through the eyes of faith but as neutral scientific observers. The difficulty with this claim is that even Ehrman does not approach the text as a neutral scientific observer but as one with presuppositions that are contrary to inerrancy. Thus it is no surprise that his conclusions oppose inerrancy.” – Dr. Norman Giesler, Defending Inerrancy, page 70. 

In this blog, I will give a short response to some of Ehrman’s claims, but a very much longer presentation can be made, perhaps in a book, showing how all of his contradictory claims are really not contradictions at all. 

  1. Gospel Dates – Ehrman claimed that the (publication) dates of the gospels are a problem. No, the publication dates and writing dates are not a problem. The early dating of the four gospels add credibility and reliability to the text so much so that we can be certain that God preserved the original texts. First, can Ehrman bring more value to the fact that the publication process and writing process was vastly different back then? He completely overlooks the entire writing process that took place from 30 AD-70 AD. While qualified writers at that time were able to use certain materials to write down specific texts, the serious nature of some Jewish priests hating Jesus, being jealous of Jesus, and calling for his death made the writing process even more protective. It is quite amazing that the four gospels survived at all under terrible authority figures. Ehrman cannot expect to apply a writing process and a publication process from 2018 to a time so long ago. I would expect that the original was significantly protected, and the task of reproducing the original was also significantly protected, both tasks which are completely ignored by Ehrman. Second, not only have the four gospels been dated to the lifetime of the author, biblical experts suggest that a fifth document most likely did exist, a document they often refer to as the Q document, which part of it may very well have been written during the life of Jesus, for example, soon after an event, sermon, or conversation occurred. Ehrman may be a leading expert in applying criticism to a text, but he is most definitely not a leading gospel expert by any means. He is not a biblical expert at all. Third, since there is no mention of the temple being destroyed in 70 AD, we have yet another clue as to the early dating of the gospels, placed before 70 AD, because at least one of the authors, if not all of the authors, would have included the major historical event in the New Testament texts. 
  2. Authors and Eyewitnesses – Ehrman claimed that there were no eye witnesses in the video? Did he misspeak? Of course the four gospels have eye witnesses directly to Jesus himself. Matthew was a tax collector who was a direct disciple of Jesus. Mark worked closely with Peter who was a direct disciple of Jesus. Luke traveled with Paul who had a remarkable encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ that forever changed his life. John was a direct disciple of Jesus. The authors of the four gospels were most certainly qualified to report the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For more information about early gospel dates and the reliability of the gospel writers, please read this short booklet, Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels by David Alan Black. 
  3. Oral Reports Passed OnFirst of all, while verbal storytelling most likely did occur in history, how can Ehrman be so sure that no one wrote down anything? He can’t. The Q document hypothesis shows that if the story was written down and reproduced, which it was, then it did not have any time to be changed. Once a story is written and reproduced, such as anything from Gilgamesh to any other historical document, it becomes a specific story. Once a written story is reproduced and begins to circulate, the original becomes obvious. Today, we have thousands of early dated copies of the same gospel story. The story did not change from year to year like Ehrman imagines. Second, The “telehone operator game” that second graders play does not apply to the publication process, and it does not apply to a monologue that is memorized and performed in front of an audience. Third, some people have remarkable memories and can recite word for word from scripts and monologues. I personally witnessed in my lifetime a speaker recite the entire book of Revelation from memory in front of a large audience. Even if sermons were given verbally in the past, when the same sermon is given over and over, it most certainly does not change at all. Rather, it becomes even more ingrained into the memory, in a very precise way, much like a stage performer where the speaker recites exact lines night after night without error. 
  4. Date When Jesus Died – Ehrman is confused about Mark’s testimony of the day when the Passover meal was eaten. Ehrman compares Mark’s testimony to John’s testimony of the day when the Passover meal was eaten. There are a few reasons why some people might have trouble identifying the day of the Passover meal that Jesus ate. Here is how we can be certain that Jesus ate the Passover meal on Thursday night. First of all, the Old Testament is very clear in several different books of the Pentateuch when the Israelites were supposed to eat the Passover meal (Lev. 23:4-8, Nu. 28:16-25). It says the Passover meal is supposed to be eaten on the first calendar Jewish month (Abib, also called Nisan), on the fourteenth day at twilight. The Passover dinner was supposed to be a one time dinner once a year. Second, the Jewish day would begin at twilight and extend into the night and throughout the next sunlight part of the day. Ehrman completely overlooks this important cultural difference between the culture back then to the culture today. So the fifteenth can also be called Passover day, but the Passover dinner was supposed to be eaten at twilight on the fourteenth day of Nisan (Abib). Jesus knew all these festival rules and regulations. He followed them by eating the Passover meal that we refer to as his Last Supper, but other corrupt priests might have planned on eating a Passover dinner on another night during the seven days that followed, which they were not supposed to do. In other words, corrupt priests may not have been following the rules for when to eat the Passover meal. Third, the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days beginning with Passover (day) on the fourteenth/fifteenth. Some people may have referred to the seven day celebration by calling all seven days the Passover Week. In the gospels, we hear what the people were actually saying and doing, but the law of Moses describes what was actually supposed to happen (Ex. 23:14-15). Fourth, the “preparation day” most likely refers to Friday, the day before the Sabbath day. Every Friday was called the Jewish day of preparation in order to rest on the Sabbath (Saturday). On the fourteenth of the first month, however, the Israelites still had to prepare for the Passover meal. Thursday that year was also a kind of preparation day, preparing for the Passover dinner that night. According to the law of Moses, the Feast of Unleavened Bread required food preparations on all seven days of the celebration. If Ehrman would take the time to understand some of these things, he would not be concluding with contradictions. Further explained in this way: Thursday the fourteenth of Nisan is when Jesus had the Last Supper at its proper time when the Passover dinner was supposed to occur, according to the law of Moses. Jesus was arrested after dinner. The next day was Friday the fifteenth of Nisan when Jesus was crucified, but it was technically still called Passover Day. Friday happened to be the day of preparation for the Sabbath, but it was also the day of preparation for the first Day of Unleavened Bread when the sacred assembly celebrated. John 19:14 does not contradict any other gospel book. Some people began to call the seven day celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, “Passover Week.” Fifth, in the Pentateuch, some people asked if they could still participate in the Passover meal even if they had been around a dead person. According to the books of Moses (Nu. 9:7-16; 19:11-16), a person who touched or was around a dead person was considered to be unclean for seven days. After Moses asked the Lord about this, the Lord instructed those unclean people to celebrate the Passover dinner in the following month, the second month of the Jewish calendar, at twilight on the fourteenth. In other words, no… anyone who touched a dead person or anyone who was around the dead person cannot participate in the ceremony because they are unclean for seven days. This might be why some people backed away from Jesus when he was dying on the cross: they didn’t want to be counted as unclean for seven days. 
  5. Time Jesus Was Crucified – Ehrman is confused about Mark and John’s testimony of when Jesus was crucified. Mark 15:24-25 says Jesus was crucified in the third hour whereas John 19:14-16 says Jesus was crucified in about the sixth hour. First of all, it is important to understand how they told time back then. Ehrman completely overlooks this historical time telling system. The first hour was at sunrise. The third hour was mid-morning. The sixth hour was mid-day. The ninth hour was mid-afternoon. The twelfth hour was twilight/sunset. Second, try not using a modern clock for just one month and see if you can figure out when it is 10:30 AM and when it is 11 AM. The point is that it is difficult to distinguish between the end of the third hour and the beginning of the sixth hour. Third, the third hour might have included anything from 9 AM-11 AM, which is the accepted time frame of when Jesus was crucified. John was not wrong when he said it was “about” the sixth hour. He was estimating. Fourth, the two accounts actually give us more information that the time must have been closer to the beginning of the sixth hour, closer at the end of the third hour, and not during the beginning of the third hour. 

For the sake of respecting your time, I will stop here, but much more needs to be said in response to Ehrman’s false teaching. If you can respond to Ehrman’s false claims of contradictions, I would encourage you to blog about it or write a book. These false claims and many more from Ehrman can be shown how they are not contradictions. We need to show why these false claims are false so that Ehrman stops misleading college students and stops with his false teachings about the gospel accounts. I am convinced that Ehrman has not given his claims enough research nor has he been fair to listen to the reasons why we can know for sure that his claims are not true contradictions after all. We really can know the Bible is the Word of God, without error. 

Evangelism Before and After Apologetics

As a Christian, have you ever wondered what the differences are between an evangelist and an apologist? Have you ever wondered if all Christians are supposed to evangelize and explain what we believe and why we believe it? Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit is moving in apologetics? Below is a slide presentation on Evangelism Before and After Christian Apologetics. The purpose of this talk is to show the importance of Christian apologetics when sharing the Gospel message. Several people pointed out last night that they found this presentation very helpful. Please feel free to use these slides in your presentation and/or circulate certain slides that you find especially useful.

Evangelism & Apologtics Oct 16 Sibu PDF

Sibu Rajappan has responded to Richard Dawkins below. Here is Sibu’s response:

“How can Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, their cohorts and their children (Ganapati, Murukan, etc.) be incarnations? In the Puranas, these gods are interacting with each other, in some instances, fighting each other! This is not how a Hindu understands incarnations/avatars.”

One Main Reason Why the New Testament Is Not Corrupt

Have you ever had someone tell you face to face that the New Testament is “corrupt”? What did he/she actually mean by stating that claim? What reasons, if any, did that person give for concluding with that kind of judgment? How did you respond to that person’s claim?

Instead of just wanting to believe the NT is corrupt or is not corrupt, we should first find out if the meaning we have today is the same exact meaning as the original text. Setting aside any preconceived notion of NT corruption, an honest researcher will test the claim of textual corruption, setting aside personal bias, and determine if the NT is textually accurate or if it has changed over time. This blog post will give one main reason why we can know whether or not the NT has any textual corruption. What does it mean to say that the “NT text is not corrupt”? It means that the text we have today has not lost its original meaning, and the original meaning has not changed over time.

Evidence Whether the NT Is/Is Not Corrupt:

1.) Quantity – With over 5,000 early Greek copies and over 15,000 ancient non-biblical citations, our database can compare ancient texts with each of the 27 NT books we have today. Even though some of those texts are small fragments, the average-size manuscript among the first 20,000 surviving translations (in languages such as Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Gothic, Armenian, and Arabic) is more than 450 pages long. Numerous manuscripts help us determine the original writing locations in the Middle East and the first days of Mediterranean distribution throughout western Asia and southern Europe. The evidence of “numerous copies” is very relevant when it comes to the issue of being the best attested book of all ancient books. Numerous ancient NT manuscripts make the NT we have today the best textually supported book from antiquity. With Homer’s Iliad numbering at 643 early copies, and Histories of Tacitus numbering at 20 early copies, we can undoubtably ascertain that over 5,000 early Greek NT texts and over 15,000 non-biblical citations are by far the most numerous pieces of evidence given to any ancient writing, affirming that 27 NT books have been significantly preserved. “Virtually the entire NT could be reproduced many times over just from the quotations of these (early church) fathers,” said Daniel B. Wallace, professor of NT studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Wallace estimated, “More than a million quotations of the NT by the church fathers have been collected so far.”

(It has been noted on Dan Wallace’s blog that the number of papyrus manuscripts of Iliad is up to about 1,500 copies, but the span of years is not noted. Thank you, Scott Shifferd for pointing that out.)

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that numerous copies and millions of subapostolic citations alone lead us to conclude that the original text has not changed. Logicians would call that kind of a jump a non sequitur. Instead, numerous ancient copies and non-biblical citations make the NT the best ancient document to check for accuracy, which leads to an affirmation of an unchanged, historical document.

(Note: the Didache is a book, Teaching of the Twelve Disciples, that was found and published by P. Bryennios in 1883. Early church Fathers refer to it in their writings, but the exact date is not easy to pinpoint. Some scholars place the Didache earlier in the first century. “Hence a date for the Didache in its present form later than the second century must be considered unlikely, and a date before the end of the first century probable,” wrote Jonathan Draper in Gospel Perspectives. Steven J. Patterson places a date range at the end of the first century whereas Audet disagrees. “The trend is to date the Didache much earlier, at least by the end of the first century or the beginning of the second, and in the case of Jean-P. Audet, as early as 50-70 C.E.)

2.) Dating – Since the culture was much different in the early first century, a first century writer had no publishing house such as Harper Collins or Random House who required a copyright page or a list of people to thank for the entire publishing process. Do the dates even matter? The dates *do* matter because early dates wipe out any notion of mythology. Early dates wipe out any possibility of legendary development, and early dates contribute to historical reliability. Today, historians place the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in AD 33, and we can determine that the recorded ministry of Christ lasted for three years. The life of Christ and the events during his earthly ministry were from AD 3-33. The original twelve disciples of Jesus were from AD 30-33. Historical accounts of the life of Jesus Christ are given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but when were they written?

Early writings such as those listed below give evidence to the traditional dating of the four original Gospels, also called the fourfold Gospel or the tetramorphic Gospel. The four Gospel accounts all consist of a common message of eternal life through Christ. Even though the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were written earlier than John, the four Gospels were all written in the first century while the author was still alive. The synoptics were presumably written before a major historical event, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Events from the early days of the universal church are from about AD 33-67, including the Jerusalem phase under the leadership of Peter, the Gentile phase under the leadership of Paul, and the Roman phase under the joint action of both apostles, Peter and Paul. With 27 NT books, one would need to look at each book, the content within, and cross reference with other historical books, both biblical and non-biblical, in order to determine the year or window of years that the individual author wrote that particular book. One of the five founders of the Evangelical Theological Society named Robert H. Gundry stated, “These books were written over the latter half or so of the first Christian century.” Scholars who study authorship in an intellectually honorable way will agree that each writer of the fourfold Gospel originally wrote his account during his lifetime.

a.) One of the earliest undisputed fragment collections of the NT surviving today is known as the John Rylands Papyri, dated around AD 117-138, located at John Rylands University in Britain, encased within a climate-controlled cabinet.

b.) In 1972, a Spanish paleographer named Jose O’Callahan determined from the “Dead Sea Scrolls Discovery of 1947” that the scroll collection included many fragments from the Gospel of Mark, written as early as AD 50. (It was not noted whether or not the Mark fragments were the original or copies.) Since the original must have been written before the copy, the original must be as early as AD 50 or earlier if the Mark fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls are copies, but not any later than AD 50. In comparison, a NT scholar and liberal critic, John A. T. Robinson, dated the book of Mark at AD 45-60.

c.) The Gospel of Luke is traditionally thought to have been written by Apostle Paul’s disciple, a physician named Luke, during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, dated to about AD 58-60. In comparison, NT scholar John A. T. Robinson dated the book of Luke at AD 57-60.

d.) The formation of the Gospel of Matthew probably took place before AD 44 while others insist on a date as late as AD 70. In comparison, NT scholar John A. T. Robinson dated the book of Matthew at AD 40-60.

e.) The Gospel of John is known by some scholars as the Gospel that was written as late as AD 95. In comparison, NT scholar John A. T. Robinson dated the book of John at AD 40-65.

3.) Scribes – Back in the first century, the culture had no “copy and paste” computer system to generate millions of unabridged copies of the original. The NT originals were most likely all written on papyrus scrolls at a time when bookbinding was just beginning to emerge with a new codex form (pages, not scrolls) and a new type of book cover called cases. Eventually, more durable writing materials such as parchment came into use since papyrus was fragile and susceptible to cracking and moisture. It was a common practice for authors back then to dictate to a writer called an amanuensis. Back then, reliable scribes were the ones who needed to make precise copies on papyrus scrolls in order to reproduce a copy and have it distributed to another place for people to read in another city. As demand for more copies increased, a reader dictated to a roomful of copyists. Highly literate scribes wrote in a way that strove to produce exact replicas with 100% accuracy, but some of the copyists made sight and sound errors or produced slight differences of inconsequential items. Wallace estimated, “More than 70% of all textual variants are mere spelling differences that affect nothing.” Today, scholars follow certain rules to compare these texts, and they can determine the original wording with great success.

4. Accuracy – Textual scholars examine and compare the earliest copies and the earliest fragments. Gundry explained it is necessary to do textual criticism. He stated it is necessary “to decide between differences in wording in the early Greek manuscripts, translations, and quotations of the New Testament for what its authors are most likely to have written. Fortunately, we have an abundance of materials to perform this task; and there is a large-scale agreement on the original wording.” Through a process called textual criticism, scholars such as B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort have evaluated multiple texts with textual variants to confirm the original. The main reason we know the NT text we have today is completely uncorrupt in transmission and completely unchanged in its meaning is because the text we have today corresponds directly to the earliest copies in a completely accurate way. Textual criticism is the main reason why the NT text is not corrupt. Accurate transmission and accurate translations give us an uncorrupted text today. Once we compare the old texts on a firm footing, we can confidently determine that the NT meaning has not changed.

The purpose of this blog post is to establish that the NT we have today is not corrupt. Numerous early Greek manuscripts and early versions such as Syriac and Latin, early manuscript dating, and the scribes who transcribed the books, all lead to a manageable process of textual criticism. Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of Apologetics at Veritas Evangelical Seminary Dr. Norman Geisler stated, “The historicity of the New Testament is based on more solid evidence than that for any other events from the ancient world. For no other events are based on more manuscripts, that are more accurately copied, that were written by more people, who were eye-witnesses or contemporaries of the events.” We can indeed make a reasonable conclusion that we have complete accuracy today in the NT text. We can safely conclude that the NT English versions we have today, including KJV-1611, ERV-1881, NKJV, NIV-1978/84, NASV-1963, and ESV-2001, are not corrupt. We can safely conclude that the NT text we have today is completely accurate, that is, it is the same text as the original.

Ok, the Text Hasn’t Changed, But Is It True?

At least two things are left in order to fully establish historical reliability; finding out whether the content is true by taking a closer look at whether the sources are reliable and finding out whether the actual record presents a true account of the life of Jesus Christ. A complete case for historical reliability and biblical inerrancy deserves a separate, very thorough examination of interior text, which would lead to another very long investigation. In order for a person to know if the NT is true without any contradictions, he would need to take the time to sufficiently understand historical truth and discover textual inerrancy in all its glory.

Is it reasonable to believe Jesus existed? Yes. Is it reasonable to believe the New Testament we have today is the exact same text as the original documents? Yes. We can improve our epistemology, how we know what we know, once we begin to discover truthful reasons for believing what we do. You no longer need to walk around thinking the NT is corrupt. You no longer need to walk around not knowing what to say to someone who says the NT is corrupt. You can know with certainty that the NT is not corrupt, based on numerous early written manuscripts, the early dating of those manuscripts, reliable scribes, and textual criticism – the accurate transmission scholars perform when comparing ancient texts to other ancient texts. The NT text we have today has the exact same meaning as the original text. It has not been corrupted in the transmission process. The next time someone tries to tell you that the NT we have today is corrupt, you can kindly respond by saying, “No, the NT is not corrupt, and here’s why…textual criticism. We can check over 5,000 early Greek manuscripts, over 15,000 early non-biblical citations, and about 20,000 other early translations with the text we have today and see that the meaning has not changed at all. The text we have today has the same meaning as the original.”

The Gospel Endures Forever

In the following passage of 1 Peter 1:22-25, Peter the apostle of Jesus Christ referred to Isaiah 40:6-8, speaking to the New Testament saints:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the glory of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the  Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news (gospel) that was preached to you.

WHO WROTE THE New Testament?

While it is biblically accurate to say God wrote the New Testament, it is more clearly explained by saying the New Testament was written by godly men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew wrote Matthew – The original author of the Gospel of Matthew is traditionally known as Matthew himself, the former tax collector and disciple of Jesus. Matthew must have been qualified by his education, knowledge, and eye witness testimony, fully capable of writing the words of Jesus into a coherent whole in the Greek language.

Mark wrote Mark – Another disciple and eye witness of Jesus, Simon Peter the businessman, helped his friend John Mark to write the Gospel of Mark.

Luke wrote Luke and Acts – Luke the beloved, skilled physician is also known as an accurate historian. He was highly educated, traveled with Paul, wrote the Gospel of Luke as well as the book of Acts, and is accepted as a qualified writer.

John wrote John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation – The Gospel writer of John is accepted as John the beloved disciple of Jesus, even though a few extremely liberal scholars are tempted to deny it. Like the other three synoptic Gospels, the Johannine style of the Gospel of John is a beautiful report of the life, acts, and words of Jesus Christ. John is a qualified scribe who wrote five NT books: the Gospel of John, three epistles of John (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John), as well as the Book of Revelation.

Paul wrote Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

Hebrews was written by ? but possibly Paul.

James was written by James the brother of Jesus.

1 & 2 Peter was written by Peter.

Jude was written by Jude.

“It was by dying to myself that I finally understood the world-changing power of the gospel.”  – Nabeel Quereshi

SOURCES

Black, David Alan. Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels. Gonzalez, FL: Energion Publications, 2001.

“Didache,” accessed 7/25/18, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1983.

France, Richard Thomas. “The Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus,” Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2012.

Geisler, Dr. Norman. Twelve Points That Show Christianity is True: A Handbook On Defending the Christian Faith. Indian Trail, North Carolina: NGIM, 2016.

Geisler, Dr. Norman. Systematic Theology Vol. One: Introduction, Bible. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2002.

Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2012.

Quereshi, Nabeel. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervon, 2014.

Thiede, C.P. The Earliest Gospel Manuscript, 1982.

Wallace, Daniel B. “The Bart Ehrman Blog and the Reliability of the New Testament Text,” danielbwallace.com, accessed 7/25/18, https://danielbwallace.com/2012/05/01/the-bart-ehrman-blog-and-the-reliability-of-the-new-testament-text/

 

What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

“What About Those Who Have Never Heard?” is a book divided into three sections. Each section presents a particular view on whether the unevangelized can go to heaven after bodily death. John Sanders, Gabriel Fackre, and Ronald Nash present three views—restrictivism, divine perseverance, and inclusivism—on whether souls can go to heaven if they never heard about Jesus. Even though all three authors searched through Scripture to find answers, the interpretations and handling of particular verses varied. Each author attempted to build a biblical case for his view, but each case seemed to add his own interpretation of what he thinks John 14:6 is saying. The strongest case came from the most assertive author, Nash, while the most accurate case for salvation came from Sanders. The weakest case came from Fackre.

Two more views are briefly presented on just one page of the book. Universal Opportunity Before Death is a view where all people are given an opportunity to be saved, by God sending the Gospel message through human messengers, angels, dreams, just before death, or by middle knowledge. Universalism is a view where all people will eventually be saved by Jesus somehow someway, and no one goes to hell. Universalism is heretical, and it is known to officially be condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in AD 553. Universalism is unbiblical because it is contrary to God’s justice and the biblical teaching on hell.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Restrictivism

Represented by Nash

This view limits God to only working a certain method of salvation throughout history. An extreme version of this view basically tells God who God can let into heaven. This view also says, in a rather harsh way, that each individual, before he dies, must have Jesus as his Savior or he will go to hell.

Nash seems to mishandle divine redemption throughout the ages. Salvation has always depended on God’s mercy (Ro. 9:6). While John 14:6 sounds like salvation-through-Jesus is a guarantee, John 14:6 is not stating the negative where all people throughout history who do not have Jesus as his Savior will go to hell. Salvation is offered to all people, but individuals need to personally receive divine mercy and believe by faith.

Postmortem Evangelism PME (Divine Perseverance)

Represented by Fackre

This view claims God will provide a second chance to the unevangelized people after they die. PME says salvation will be declared to all even after an unbeliever dies.

At best, this is only a man-made hope, not a direct biblical teaching. While it is possible that God could offer a second chance, the Bible does not teach it probably because people would take advantage of it in this life by living a self-centered life instead of a God-honoring life.

Inclusivism

Represented by Sanders

This view generally explains God’s great love and amazing grace as being a divine gift, extending to all people everywhere throughout history (including unlimited atonement – John 3:16). Just knowing Jesus is not the way to salvation—even the demons believe. Like the other two views, inclusivists believe salvation today is through Jesus alone. God is the only one who offers his plan of making atonement for human beings who all have a sin nature. Apart from God, we have no salvation. The Trinity is the means of salvation. Jesus is the one and only Savior because Jesus is God. Apart from Christ, we have no mankind redeemer. Inclusivists usually say salvation can also be found in general revelation, in addition to a special revelation of Jesus Christ.

The problem to the question at hand begins with the title question itself. “Those” are the people who never heard the good news about Jesus offering eternal life. We are essentially asking what happened to all the dead people who never had an opportunity to receive Jesus as his or her personal Savior. A leading evangelical theologian in America, John Walvoord, explained one dilemma as such. “The Old Testament saints did not believe in Christ in the same way and with the same comprehension that believers with the New Testament do for the simple reason that they were not in possession of the same information.” Walvoord went on to explain Old Testament salvation as trust in Jehovah himself while animal and grain sacrifices could not save. The act of sacrifices performed a work which demonstrated faith in God as his Savior. The Old Testament saints recognized and held to the promise of the future Son of God. Old Testament salvation “was still a work of God for man, not a work of man for God.” In addition, the pre-flood people did not know about Jesus who died on the cross one dark afternoon at Golgotha, a place known as the skull outside Jerusalem where capitol punishment was carried out. How did any of the Adam-Noah people get into heaven? Is getting into heaven only about knowing Jesus? Satan knows about Jesus, but Satan has been kicked out of heaven. There must be something about getting into heaven other than just knowing about Jesus. How then can any person be certain if his loved one has been accepted into heaven apart from knowing about Jesus?

Next, let us present the bad news – all people inherit Adam’s sin nature, which means all people are in need of getting in a right standing with God. No matter how good a person is, he falls short of God’s holy standard, which means all people are in need of receiving divine grace. The good news is that God loves everyone (John 3:16). The question remains. Can a guilty sinner get into heaven if they do not know Jesus? A simple answer says God is the one who judges each human heart. The question still remains, though. Can a soul get into heaven if they never accepted Christ as his Savior who paid the penalty for all human sin on the cross? The shortest answer is maybe. If the answer is maybe, then how exactly can a person get into heaven if they do not have Christ as his personal Savior? This is the point of the whole book, “What About Those Who Have Never Heard?”

Sanders, Fackre, and Nash agree on the following:

1.) God is all-loving and divinely just.

2.) It is God’s desire that He wants all human beings existing today to receive a saving faith in Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior.

3.) Jesus is the only Savior of the world (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).

4.) The one true God is revealed in the Trinity.

5.) By his nature, God is loving. He cannot be not loving.

6.) Jesus is the only way to the Father.

7.) The answers are found in the Bible.

The three views seem to struggle with a biblical explanation on why God would not give mercy to someone who does know Jesus, such as in the case of Satan. In addition, the views differ on how God extends his mercy on people today, and the three authors often misunderstand each other.

The main conflict in the title question usually comes from how one is supposed to interpret John 14:6. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The main difference between inclusivism and the other two views is that inclusivism significantly honors the Trinity as the Savior of the world whereas the other two views limit salvation to man’s idea of what God needs to do for salvation. “No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ” is understood by Nash in Nash’s restrictive sense of how he thinks God must offer salvation. Exceptions are given to the mentally incapable. I would guess that all three authors would, once again, affirm their belief in Jesus being both fully God and fully man and the only way to the Father. While I am not stating that Nash and Fackre deny the nature of the Son of God, they both seem to cut short the ability of the Father and the Holy Spirit offering salvation even if a person is ignorant about Jesus. Nash and Fackre both seem to limit historical salvation to accepting Christ as his personal Savior, with the exception of infants and the mentally challenged, all the way back to Adam. There is salvation in no one else which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Yes, all three views agree that Jesus is the only Savior. All three authors affirm Acts 4:12, but out of the three views, inclusivism welcomes and honors the salvific work of the Trinity, even if a person is ignorant about Jesus. In other words, it is correct to say, “No one comes to the Father except through God.” It is more clearly understood to say, “No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.” Walvoord affirmed, “the Savior of the Old Testament is the Savior of the New Testament.”

Sander’s book reveals a tension that exists among three different Christian beliefs. You very well might hear two Christians clashing, due to different ways the verses are interpreted and due to different conclusions that are drawn. Sanders, Fackre, and Nash each believe his own view about the unevangelized is the correct view and the others are wrong. The correct understanding of who goes to heaven is found in God’s historical work of biblical salvation and the actual act of divine redemption.

All five views below agree that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Listed below are five views strategically positioned on the Destiny of the Unevangelized Spectrum. Beginning with the heretical side of the spectrum, universalism says all people go to heaven. Ending with the most abrasive side of the spectrum, restrictivism says if Christ isn’t your Savior, you go to hell.

Destiny of the Unevangelized Spectrum

1 – Universalism – All people go to heaven. God figures out how to get everyone to heaven. CS Lewis alluded to this heretical view when he said, “It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption.”

2 – Divine Perseverance (Postmortem Evangelism) – The unevangelized will get an opportunity after death to receive Christ as his Savior.

3 – Inclusivism – The unevangelized will be accountable to God and might get to go to heaven, based on the revelation they had.

4 – Universal Opportunity Before Death – All people get an opportunity to be saved before they die, by God’s Gospel message, through human messengers, angels, dreams, at the moment of death, or by middle knowledge (God knows what the individual would have done if he had an opportunity to receive Christ as his personal Savior).

5 – Restrictivism – Anyone who does not receive Christ as his personal Savior will go to hell.

In my experience, I have found that most Christians I know are either a 3 or a 4. In summary, God has provided salvation in the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. Forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, abundant life, and a right relationship with God are found in no other name.

If you are not sure if your soul is going to heaven after you die, please take a moment right now and admit that you fall short of God’s holy standard (Ro. 3:23). The gift of eternal life is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro. 6:23). Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Ro. 10:13). Thank God for the finished work He did for you at the cross since Jesus paid the penalty for all your sins. Now go and repent from sin and tell someone that you received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Find a good Bible believing church, give your salvation testimony, and make a commitment to grow as a believer in the Word and as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assurance of salvation:

Romans 10:9

John 5:24

John 20:31

CS Lewis gave the following analogy for a stubborn, unthankful man who received an offer of atonement by God. “If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back, between gasps, ‘No, it’s not fair! You have an advantage. You’re keeping one foot on the bank’? That advantage – call it unfair if you like – is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself? Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the atonement.”

Sources

Geisler, Dr. Norman. Systematic Theology: Volume Three – Sin, Salvation. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2004.

Lewis, CS. Mere Christianity. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1952.

Sanders, John. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1995.

Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1969.

Evidence For God: Through Morality

In my last blog, I mentioned that there are at least sixteen ways we can show that God exists. In this blog, I will present one way to know God exists: through human morality. Keep in mind, there are more than just sixteen ways to show that God exists. (By the end of this blog, you will know what “5-5-6-5-47” means.) I will begin with two premises for morality. Then I will present the reasoning we use and how it properly leads us to conclude that a moral Lawgiver exists, and this Lawgiver we call God. Let us now begin with two premises (propositions) for morality.

MORALITY

The goal is to show the first two premises are true. The third proposition is a conclusion that necessarily follows.

Premise 1.) A moral law comes from (the rule is set by) a moral lawgiver.

Premise 2.) There exists an objective (universal) moral law.

3.) Thus, there exists an objective moral Lawgiver (called God).

Since the first proposition (premise 1) is self-evident, we do not need to spend a lot of time proving it. Moral laws are found in a system of ethics where certain actions are thought of as “good” or “beneficial” to human beings. Moral laws are a guideline for “right living,” as in they are rules for what we should do and for what we ought not to do. For example, if a classroom posts two rules such as “Respect your classmates” and “Respect the teacher,” we know that those two rules came from someone who we can call a moral lawgiver. Maybe the teacher came up with them. Maybe the principal came up with them. Maybe a parent came up with them. Maybe the teacher’s professor came up with them. But the bottom line is that SOMEONE came up with them. The two classroom rules came from SOMEONE. Other examples of morals include fictitious tales that teach a moral such as Aesop’s (EE-sop’s) Fables or some other short story that describes a moral. Whatever the case may be, the moral came from SOMEONE who presented the rule.
Today, a number of different lists can be found where crimes against humanity are noted as criminal acts. In 1996, the Draft Code defined crimes against humanity which includes: “murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, persecution on political, racial, religious, or ethnic grounds, institutionalized discrimination…, arbitrary deportation or forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, rape, enforced prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse, and other inhuman acts committed in a systematic manner or on a large scale and instigated or directed by a government or by any organization or group.” Once we begin examining lists and rules for what is good human behavior and what is bad behavior, we have found good reasons to believe premise 1 is true. We have also discovered that the moral lawgiver in all of these examples has a mind.
Premise 2 is not as self-evident. This means that we need to look at several aspects and determine if premise 2 is true. First, there is a sense in which a person is able to identify what is evil and what is good. This is because humanity carries within it a sense of right and wrong. In all cultures, humanity has the ability to sense what is right and wrong. Not only do various cultural morals exist, but objective morals are found in humanity. While cultural morals might change, “humanity morals” do not change. These humanity morals that do not change can be called objective moral values. America’s philosopher Mortimer Adler affirmed that an objective moral law exists. He said, “A natural moral law must be the same for all human beings, everywhere and at all times, if they are inherent in human nature and discoverable by our understanding of what is really good and right for human beings to seek and to do.” 
Second, a moral standard cannot fully be explained by evolution, social empathy, or relativism. Evolution as mentioned here can refer to empirical evidence for cultural changes from generation to generation and anthropological changes from generation to generation, which includes a change in knowledge. Evolution does not explain why human beings have a sense of right and wrong, nor does it explain who it is that sets the standard of right and wrong in humanity. Neither humanity nor evolution sets the standard of right and wrong. Humanity discovers a sense of right and wrong. There must be someone who sets a standard for objective moral laws. A Lawgiver has established a standard of morality on humanity. Empathy cannot be the standard because empathy varies from person to person. Relativism stems from individual preferences. Since preferences vary, preferences do not set a standard of morality. Saint Thomas Aquinas described acts of human rightness relating directly to an “enduring principle which has unchangeable rightness…” He further described the process of grasping a moral principle occurring in human consciousness. Instead of seeing our consciousness as having the ability to pick out right and wrong, Aquinas sees the conscience as being able to process reasoning skills in order to act morally. In addition, he thinks for an action to be morally good, it must be one in which the human is desiring a godly result. Where do these moral principles come from? Since evolution, social empathy, and preferences do not set an objective moral standard, we can reason that a moral Lawgiver who has a mind is the one who set the standard.
The question is, Who is this objective moral Lawgiver with a mind? And the other question is, Whose standard are you going to follow? Christian philosopher Edward Feser explained that “human beings can know what is good for them, and choose to pursue that good.” Knowing what is good comes down to whose standard you are going to follow. Your own standard? A politician’s standard? A religious leader’s standard? Or God’s standard? Feser went on to explain that each human being pursues what his intellect regards as good. He compares a human pursuing what he thinks is good to the actual essence of what it means to be a good human being.

Skeptic objects: The objective moral lawgiver is evolution.

Believer: How does evolution determine what is right and wrong?

Skeptic: A mass number of people decide what is right and wrong.

Believer: In 1933, the Nazis received 43% of the popular vote, and they occupied 288 seats in the Reichstag out of a total of 647 seats. A mass number of people such as the Nazis got it wrong. A mass number of people might not be able to decide what is right and what is wrong. Why does a mass number of other people know what is right and wrong?

Skeptic: Because humanity has the right to survive and not be tortured.

Believer: That doesn’t tell me why humans have a sense of right and wrong. Why is it right to value survival? Why is it wrong to kill off the disabled? Who gives humanity the right to survive?

Skeptic: Evolution.

Believer: No. God established humanity rights and a sense of morality in us, even if it is in our DNA.

The empirical evidence we have shows humanistic microevolution relating to a changing process in a culture of people over time. Humanistic microevolution, or humanistic macroevolution for that matter, does not explain why people know what is right and wrong. Even a newness in knowledge relates to the discovery of new knowledge. Discovering an objective moral law is not the same as making up a cultural law. Objective moral laws do not come from a changing culture. For example, back in the days of Hammurabi king of Babylon, two of his 282 rules were as follows: “If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off. If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.” Cultural laws come from a people within a changing culture, but humanity laws remain throughout cultural changes. “Thou shall not steal” and “Honor your parents” from Moses’ Ten Commandments in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 5 and the book of Exodus chapter 20 seem to be the objective morals that remain unchanged. Unchanging objective morals and humanity rights are set by a Mind who gave them. The question is, Who established humanity rights and objective morals? Which “Mind” has set the standard of right and wrong? We find the answer in Romans 2:15, “God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscious and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” The Ten Commandments were proclaimed by the Lord God, and then the Lord God wrote them on stone tablets for Moses (Deut. 5:22).
Third, there is a difference between talking about where morality comes from (what it is grounded in) and talking about how we know about morality. To use some fancy philosophical terms, the former is an ontological task (concerning the nature of reality), the latter an epistemological one (concerning the nature of knowledge and how we acquire it). How we learn about morality and who morality comes from are two very different questions. If we take a closer look at the laws of math, logic, and morality, for example, we come to find out they exist necessarily. Where do they come from? So we need an explanation of where objective morals come from. That is the whole point of arriving at the conclusion of a moral Lawgiver. Why do people all over the world have the ability to know what is right and wrong? Where does this knowledge come from? We also carry a sense of obligation to obey these prescribed objective moral laws. However, everyone fails at some point to perfectly keep the moral law, which means we all need grace, which is a separate but very important topic. C. S. Lewis made two observations in human behavior. “First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it.” The moral argument for the existence of God can be further described as follows:

1.) A prescriber is the one who prescribes moral laws.

2.) Objective moral laws necessarily exist. Objective moral laws cause humans to be obligated to those laws. Objective moral laws can be discovered by humanity, but humanity does not set the standard that already exists.

3.) There exists an objective moral Lawgiver called God. Moral laws are endowed on humanity (prescribed to humanity) by our Creator.

Once we have established that premises 1 & 2 are true, the conclusion necessarily follows: Thus, there exists an objective moral Lawgiver called God. Believers know that people look to God for Him to tell us what is good and what is evil. He is the one who has already set the standard of right and wrong. Strong believers know the benefit of keeping a focus on the Source of morality. Dr. Norman Geisler puts it like this. “…if there is such an objective moral law beyond all of us, then there is a Moral Lawgiver (God).”

Morality is one of the “Five Common Ways” that can be traced back to various people including ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, ancient Arab philosophers, and from other ancient philosophers and theologians such as Augustine and Anselm. The “Five Common Ways” have been further refined and clarified by philosophers such as C.S. Lewis, and more recent philosophers, William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler. Another five ways are commonly referred to as “Aquinas’s Five Ways.” They come from the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas as they are found in his book, “Summa Theologica.” The next six ways I will refer to as “Six Additional Principles” because they significantly contribute to the existence of God. These sixteen ways are divided into three groups as listed below.

“Five Common Ways” (also known as Five Standard Ways) are as follows:

morality, teleology, cosmology origins (first cause of the universe), cosmology in the present time (cause of sustaining the universe), ontology

“Aquinas’s Five Ways” are demonstrated through:

motion and change, causes, necessity, gradation, governance of the world

Six Additional Principles

from science, metaphysics, and philosophy include:

life comes from pre-existing life, metaphysical contradictions, time reasoning, one actual infinite principle, creation comes from a creator principle, contingency reasoning

Evidence from Edward Feser’s “Five Proofs”:

change, parts, universals, essence & existence, explanations
In addition to the sixteen ways to show God exists, Edward Feser has very recently explained five more ways to know God exists, as he has described them in his book, “Five Proofs for the Existence of God.” After I present the sixteen ways, I will also present Feser’s Five Proofs, giving you a total of twenty-one ways to know God exists. Each of the twenty-one ways are unique ways and principles that point you to the existence of God, but some aspects of the ways and principles overlap with others. It might seem as if one way or one principle is repeating another way, but there are both clear and subtle differences found among the twenty-one ways. I will also caution you that the way in which I am presenting the evidence is not going to be the exact same way in which someone else would present it.

In addition to these Twenty-One Ways To Show God Exists, there is an anthology called “Evidence For God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science” compiled by Dembski and Licona that demonstrate more ways to show that God exists. Only about three of the fifty ways repeat with three of my twenty-one ways described here. So altogether, you could go through “68 Ways To Show God Exists” as a good starting point, that is, if you are up for doing the homework.

If you are the type that likes to look ahead, I will tell you that the bulk of evidence for all “Five Common Ways” is found in relation to the following propositions:

  1. From morality, an objective moral law exists.
  2. From teleology, the universe (finite material things) has a great design.
  3. From cosmological origins, the universe had a beginning.
  4. From the cosmological present, every part of the universe depends on other things to exist.
  5. From ontology, contrasting “finite things can cease to exist” with “Pure Actuality” which has no potential to not be.
I will caution believers that many skeptics have attempted to give objections to the evidence of an objective moral law. It is good to be familiar with these objections and how to respond with kindness and gentleness. As soon as the skeptic’s objections are found lacking, the lazy skeptic often ends up denying the propositions, belittles the person making the statements, or twists any number of facts to suit his false agenda. At other times, the professional skeptic remains as academic as possible. I have found that both kinds of skeptics are emotionally attached to his false belief system to some degree, sometimes refusing to call his belief a “belief,” and he is often aggressive in his comments, displaying a range of emotions from arrogance to hostility.
Is there any evidence of God? I would answer with a resounding 100% yes. We can find a lot of evidence. However, if I told you that fire and dominoes are evidence for something, it would not make much sense. Skeptics often jump to the “god of the gaps” objection prematurely or reject evidence prematurely, based on a lack of information on how the evidence is used. So instead of making either mistake prematurely, it would be wise to examine a full case for the existence of God, which includes of course, understanding how the evidence is used and the reasons for believing certain propositions are true. If a skeptic insists that we cannot conclude the objective moral lawgiver is God, then at the very least, we can conclude that “Someone – a moral Lawgiver who has a mind” has prescribed an objective moral law for humanity.
What do we mean by “evidence”? Evidence includes things like fingerprints, but it also includes good reasons to accept certain propositions as true. When taking a look at the big picture of all the evidence that exists for the existence of God, the evidence can be used in such a way that it directly relates to specific propositions The evidence presented in regards to the twenty-one ways here will only relate to a general revelation, also called a natural revelation, of God’s existence. One piece of evidence might not be enough for a skeptic to accept that God exists. The twenty-one ways mentioned in my list refer to evidence from the general category, not from the category of Jesus.
In a courtroom, evidence is used in order to prove whether a person is innocent or guilty. In a similar way, we can use evidence to build a case and prove it, without the shadow of doubt, and properly conclude that God exists. If I presented to you two pieces of evidence such as fire and dominoes, it would not seem to make much sense unless I do the following: I give you my definitions of fire and dominoes, I give you my proposition, and I give you my reasons for believing that the proposition is true. For example, if I give you two pieces of evidence for the existence of God such as objective (universal) human morals and an expanding universe, I would need to demonstrate how those pieces of evidence are being used. To a very large degree, it might seem useless to first present a long list of evidence if we do not know how the evidence is being used. However, in a criminal investigation, searching for evidence, reasons, clues, and a motive might be the only way to find the criminal. In a homicide investigation, the investigator usually tries to find a dead body, search for clues, and other evidence that leads to the criminal. When searching for the existence of God, though, we not only work with evidence, but we also work with propositions that are backed up by evidence and good reasons to believe those propositions are true in order to establish a proper conclusion. When presenting a syllogism as a way to understand that God exists, we should have at least two true propositions that give a conclusion that naturally follows. This is why we say, “It is important to give reasons why we believe the propositions are true.”
So in a very real sense, we first work with the evidence in reality that is knowable (such as morality) in order to reason and find our conclusion, but the more important point to make is the way in which we are using the evidence of an objective moral standard and the way we are reasoning matters significantly because it makes all the difference in the world. Now you know the meaning of 5-5-6-5-47, or the shortcut 21-47. Hopefully, it won’t take me 67 more blogs to get through them all. Thank you for reading my article. Please click like and share.

Sources

Adler, Mortimer J. Truth In Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth. 1990.
Davies, Brian. The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Feser, Edward. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2008.
Geisler, Dr. Norman. Systematic Theology Vol. One. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2002.
“Hammurabi’s Code: An Eye for an Eye,” US History: Ancient Civilizations, accessed June 4, 2018, http://www.ushistory.org/civ/4c.asp
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1952.
United Nations. Draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind, Article 18: Crimes Against Humanity. 1996, 2005. Accessed June 3, 2018,  https://crimeofaggression.info/documents/6/1996_ILC_Draft_Code_of_Crimes.pdf.