The Historical Evidence for Jesus – Program 1

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Responding to the Radical Views Against Jesus

Dr. Gary Habermas presents the evidence that supports the biblical view of the historical Jesus.



today on the johnny Kernberg show what is the main reason for the fact that the early christians believed Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today and could give you eternal life when you die. It was because after he was dead and buried, they actually saw jesus alive, touched him and talked with him. They didn’t believe on jesus just because he said he was the son of God, but because they saw him alive after he was crucified. This proof to them that his teachings were true. For example, if you’re a university student and I told your dad just had a heart attack and died, you’d rush home and a few days later go to his funeral after the funeral. What if one day you are shopping at walmart and turn to the next aisle and suddenly you see your dad standing there in your amazement, You say dad and he turns around and says, how are you doing, son? You go over and shake his hand and give him a hug. Three of your friends who attended the funeral also see your dad standing there and come over and shake his hand and talk to him. In fact 15 other people who were at the funeral also meet you and your dad at walmart. What would you all conclude you would believe that somehow your dad who had died is now alive. Why? Because you saw him touched him and talked to him, You would never forget the fact that you saw him alive after he was dead. This is the kind of eyewitness evidence that the christian faith is based on individuals. The 11 apostles, family members over 500 people at one time all testified that they saw talked and touched jesus after he was crucified, buried and then appeared to them. The consensus position among scholars today is this historical evidence about jesus was written down and in circulation among christians within at least two years or possibly even weeks of jesus Crucifixion today, world class philosopher Dr Gary Habermas will present this historical evidence. He received his PhD from michigan State University and a second doctorate from Emmanuel College in Oxford. England Dr Habermas is chairman of the department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and has written more than 100 articles on the life of jesus in scholarly journals to hear the historical evidence for jesus resurrection. We invite you to join us for this edition of the john in Coburg show. Welcome to our program. Today, we want to answer the question, is there any eyewitness testimony that the early christians saw jesus alive after he was killed by crucifixion buried in a tomb and then arose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. I’d like to start with the information from the Apostle Paul’s own writings in first Corinthians 15, why these words have become the consensus position among scholarship today, that this evidence about jesus was written down and in circulation among christians within at least two years or possibly even a few weeks or months after jesus crucifixion. So let me read what Paul actually wrote in his first book to the Corinthian Christians in Chapter 15. So you can hear it for yourself. Now, paul wrote now I make known to you brethren the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received in which also you stand by which also you are saved. If you hold fast, the word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain for I delivered to you as of first importance. What I also received that christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas Then to the 12. After that he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James then to all the apostles and last of all as to one untimely born. He appeared to me also. Now folks, why have these words been accepted by almost all critical scholars. Dr Habermas explains one of the most important pieces of data that the critical community will almost unanimously admit is first Corinthians chapter 15. Now in the first two verses Paula just said, I came to you, Corinthians, I preached the Gospel. That’s when he came there in person and preached orally, we’re talking about 51 a. D. And he said, I preach the words of the Gospel. And if you believe those you’re saved. And if you’re not believing him you’re not. And then he reads ah Our estates for them. What the Gospel is? He says verse three for what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance that christ died for our sins according to the scriptures that he was buried. That he was raised on the third day according to scriptures and that he appeared to Peter and then to the 12th. And then he lists some other appearances and he says, last of all he appeared to me. So this is one of the clearest if not the very clearest accounts of the nature of the Gospel in the new testament. Now, why has this taken so seriously? First of all, it’s in a book that is unanimously written thought to be written by the apostle paul. Why is that? Well, as one scholar said, we don’t even need to discuss pauline authorship here. The internal and external evidence is so strong. Well like what you know, by 100 A. D. Just before 100 clement 95 A. D. Just after 100 Pollycarpus. About 107, Ignatius about 10, 1 10 those three men writing nine short epistles. That is an incredible amount of attestation from sources outside of paul to the authority of paul, that’s just one of the many reasons people will admit even skeptics that paul as an apostle believed, he saw the risen jesus. And so when he said, christ died for our sins according to scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, we have to take him seriously. For this reason, it’s unanimously admitted or virtually so that paul at least believed that they saw the risen jesus and that makes all the difference in the world. So you’re dealing with somebody who’s there at the beginning, who knows the other apostles whose repeating the Gospel that they all taught 15 11 1st Corinthians 15 11, he says whether it’s I’m who I who I am preaching, they who are preaching, it makes no difference. We’re preaching the same Gospel, Paul took great care and were told about this inaugurations one and two, he took great care to ascertain that this is the same gospel, the disciples were preaching. C. H. Dodd says this, he said paul’s rendition of the gospel is very, very close to jesus christ. He said, it’s the stream that’s very close to the main river, he said, anybody who wants to argue otherwise has to defend and bear the burden of proof for their thesis. Paul has given us the account right there at the river’s mouth. Now in the last few years, if you have read any of the comments from scholars from the far left, they have grudgingly claimed that we have very little historical evidence for jesus life and his death, but they claimed the apostle paul was the one who invented the deity of christ folks, They are dead wrong. Dr Habermas explains why these historical facts lay a sound foundation about jesus that goes back to the early eyewitnesses. Listen, Let’s talk about why this is so important in terms of history. First Corinthians 15 is nearly a given. Even from people like J. Walz and Michael Martin who say that Jesus probably never lived, Paul said, I delivered unto you the Gospel, which I also received Christ died for our sins was buried. Rose again the third day. Now, why is this so important? Let’s see what this looks like on a timeline. Let’s picture between my hands here. 25 years, 30 ish A. D. The cross of jesus 55 to 57 ish A. D. The writing of First Corinthians. And it really doesn’t make a difference if you’re liberal or conservative here. These dates remain within a year or two. The same. Now, Paul wrote this in 57, He said, I delivered it to you orally when I came to you. When was that? About 51. Now notice we’ve closed the gap from 25 years to 20 years, 30 ISH to 51. Then he said, I delivered unto you. That which I also received. Now the $10 million dollar question here is when did paul receive that material and from whom did he receive it? There’s five steps here. The book, the oral testimony. The cross down here. And we have two to go from whom did paul get it? When And of course those people had it before. He did. Now scholars, critics, not evangelicals who answer this question generally say the following paul received this material in Jerusalem From Peter and James, the brother of Jesus about 35 a. D. How do you get that? Well, if the cross is about 30 Paul believed he saw the risen Jesus just 1-2 years later. He said in Galatians, one that’s taken as an authentic pauline book. He went away for three years, came back to Damascus and he went up to Jerusalem three plus 25 years if he was saved one year afterwards. It’s one plus 34 years afterwards. But 35 is a nice round figure. You’ve got the cross about 30. The book written about 57 year old testimony. About 51. He said he came to Jerusalem in 35 and he said I spent time 15 days with Peter and with James, the brother of jesus. Now there’s a greek word there in english. It says he got acquainted with Peter or he saw Peter or he uh question Peter. The greek word is history. So the root word is his store. H. I. S. T. O. R. When transliterated english? And it’s the root word for word history. His story is used in documents outside the new testament greek papyri of the time, is used of explorers and people who are mapping. Say in one case a river and when I map this river, what am I gonna do? I’m gonna show you the twists and the turns. I’m gonna show you the rapids, the shallow areas, the place where you can take your your boat across the deep areas, the bends, the rocks, the trees, everything. And that’s called his store one critical, not evangelical essay, which is sometimes called the most authoritative one on that word. In Galatians 1 18 says that Paul played the investigative reporter. Now if he went up to Jerusalem about 35 A. D. Met with Peter and James, the brother of jesus played the investigative reporter. There’s one other thing to learn. What do they talk about? And you know, the old rule of literary criticism, we interpret a passage in its context and the passage before and the passage right after says paul was talking about the nature of the Gospel and you might think this, what else would he more want to talk about than the nature of the Gospel. He goes all this distance, he comes to Jerusalem. He meets with the head Apostle, He meets with the brother of jesus, what would be your what would your first question be? I think just normally paul would ask about the Gospel, but that is the context. And paul is saying, tell me about what happened here. Now in Galatians two when he comes back up 14 years later, he says specifically, I came up to check my gospel out first to Galatians 22. I came to see if I was running or had run in vain. So now paul is looking for the apostles to, as the passage says later, give him the right hand of fellowship to say paul, you’re right on the money, jesus called you on the way to Damascus. He gave you the gospel to the gentiles, go for it. And that’s basically what they did. Now back to the original point there first Corinthians 57 oral preaching 51 Cross 30. That’s already only 20 years and that’s very early. But paul got it from somebody else. Perhaps Peter and James 35 A. D. Now if Peter and James gave it to paul, they had it before paul. But nobody picks a date for when this data became formalized to first Corinthians 15, you know why we’re already on top of the cross, paul gets it about five years later. So what this shows is the resurrection proclamation and the gospel as a whole, which includes at least the deity, the death and the resurrection of jesus. It’s proclamation is immediate. See a lot of evangelicals even stumble when they say yeah we preached it immediately. We find it in first Corinthians in his 25 years later. Why don’t we say paul received it perhaps five years later and somebody had it before he did. Now this is one of the paths, what to the fact that the content for the gospel in particular, the deity, death and resurrection of Jesus are linked to strong historical grounds. And critics will give you those texts and Galatians one Galatians two, First Corinthians 15. Again, this is what I was talking about earlier. These are one of the, some of the main indications that we’re on strong historical grounds sir. Now, if you’re a non christian, I’m really glad that you joined me today. Well, let me ask you, what do you think is the central belief of the christian faith? What do you think? The early christians told their friends and family about Jesus before the bible was even written? Well, they told them about the historical facts that people saw Jesus alive with their own eyes after he had been crucified and buried After three days, they found the two empty and then Jesus started appearing in person, to friends and individuals, to groups, two groups of women to his own brother, to over 500 people at one time. And these people realized that all the claims that Jesus made about himself that he was the son of God, that he was dying for every man and woman’s sins while on the cross that he could forgive them. And if they believed in him and surrendered their life to him, he would come into their life and empower them to live for him. And when they died, he would take them to heaven and give them eternal life. Now this is the gospel that Jesus commanded all christians to go into all the world and preach dr Habermas calls this the foundation or the center of Christianity like you to listen. Well now maybe uh you might have a better idea of what I mean here when I said at the at the top of the program that we do have a good basis and I’m talking about the center of Christianity, the death, the burial, the resurrection of jesus christ. And we can get into a timeframe that paul is talking about this back about 35 A. D. With two of the central figures. Peter the head Apostle James, the brother of jesus, the pastor of the church of Jerusalem. This is a strong basis and this is the sort of thing that makes me uh surprised when I hear people saying, hey, there’s no evidence here and there and I just want to assure the person who’s listening who said, well, you know, do we have to listen to these guys who say there’s no historical basis. We can barely find anything, let them, you know, deal with this sort of data right here First Corinthians 15 slash Galatians one and two is a strong basis for the gospel. And and you know, let me remind you here again, we’re not talking with periphery things here, we’re talking with the very center of the faith. Paul says he’s met the resident jesus on the way to Damascus. He’s going up to talk to Peter and James. He comes back 14 years later, he wants to see if he was running or had run in vain. And they said, no, no, no, you’re not. So they’re checking him and glaciers to they said, you’re fine. And first Corinthians 1511, he says, whether it is I or they, this is what we preach. And this is what you believed the we there is the apostles. He’s saying here from them here from me were preaching the same message concerning what the gospel and the resurrection appearances in in general. What Paul says is, I didn’t make this up. I got it from somebody else I delivered to you. That’s what what I also received. Now look at verse 11, whether then it was I or they, this is what we preach. And this is what you believed. I think what paul is saying here is ask the disciples, they’ll give you the same thing I’m giving you ask me. I’ll tell you now what is this message? Just look at the previous verses, it’s the gospel and in particular, he’s been talking about the appearances here, he’s saying. I’ve talked to them, they’ve got the same message I have, they’ve talked to me. They commend me and go back and look at Galatians two. This is why we are in a very special point in history, rick almost reach out and and see what paul is saying and touches messages linked to time space history. It’s words on a page. He’s an accredited messenger. We’ve got ourselves a timeline and folks, it’s not an evangelical that came up with this timeline. This is largely developed in critical non evangelical theology. I think by using some of these methods, we see that we’re on very firm ground here regarding the very heart of our faith, the death, burial and resurrection of jesus christ. Now folks, a few years back, some critical new testament scholars claimed that the new testament documents should not be looked at as historical biographies of jesus, but only theological reflections about him. But mainstream scholarship today has now changed how it looks at the new testament. They are now treating them like other greek and roman historical books. Dr Habermas explains how the greek and roman historical writings also contain theological ideas but are not disqualified as reporting historical information. Now, why do I ask this? I’d like you to listen. One problem with the thesis that the new testament writers were theologians and therefore don’t present history is that historians of that time Greco Greco roman historians tell us. We don’t have any accounts of history like that, We don’t know accounts where people are just playing hardcore historians. The fact is if you study Tacitus, if you look at so antonius, if you look at plenty, if you look at others, these roman historians are famous for mixing almonds and even miracle accounts and other stories into their, into their history test that this is known to be biased in favor of the roman aristocracy. So antonius can’t talk without bringing in omens in the, in the caesars who saw their demise and so they acted this way or that way. Now what art historians say about them, they say, well ah that’s different. These guys are historians and they don’t mean to talk theology, but this theology is there, I’m saying in principle, just because the new testament has things to say about theology that has nothing to say about whether they can report history or not, there’s a great amount of data in the new testament and I think that’s recognized by the vast majority of scholars today. Now a few years back, some of the critical new testament scholars on the far left made outlandish claims that Matthew Mark luke and john really did not write the gospels. Dr. Habermas explains that # one, the traditional authors like Matthew Mark Luke and John can be defended. Number two, the critical scholars today have conceded that parts of the gospels are historically true and number three, if you take that evidence that they concede, you can easily defend traditional christian beliefs about jesus. This is very important. So I want you to listen, let me make three comments about the authorship of the gospels. The first is I think the traditional authors, Matthew, Mark luke john can be defended with a good deal of force. But in contemporary apologetics, rt France says for example, that even if we don’t take the time to sit down and work through each of the traditional authors, you can still support the authenticity of the gospels on this ground, the same one we do for roman history. These are still the earliest stories, extended stories about jesus and as such, they they are due the respect of being the earliest historical pieces of data we have. Let me go after the third way. You’ve got traditional authors, you’ve got if people don’t like that, you’ve got the earliest books that depict the whole life of christ. But third, I favor a type of apologetic that builds from the ground up. That doesn’t say all these books are historical and therefore anything in them is true. I would take snippets of information now today, as I tell my students over and over again with critics, paul is in the gospels are out well for the christian paul and the gospels are scripture. But if they’re gonna give us paul, why don’t we take paul and build a case and I would favor taking a few facts and building up the data around them and show that we can make our case based on these few facts alone. There is a body of Paula and literature that can be accepted as historical by virtually everyone. Let me give an example to jay Wells, the british professor of german, who has written a number of books, arguing that Jesus probably never lived. G. A. Wells will still grant eight authentic pauline letters that doesn’t satisfy the christian who would like 13. But let’s, instead of being upset with him for what he doesn’t give us. Let’s take what he does give us. Those eight include our most important doctrinal works, namely romans 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians and Philippians. He gives you all those. And so since paul is a given, even for somebody like jay Wells who argues jesus probably never existed. Let’s use paul. And when we’re talking about the resurrection of jesus, for example, or the nature of the Gospel, let’s look at first Corinthians 15, let’s look at Galatians Chapter One passages that are unanimously given. And that is precisely why the new testament still gives us our best data because even looking at it as a an irreducible minimum or the lowest common denominator, we have plenty of data here to talk about jesus of history. Thank you. Yeah, if jesus was only a man, only a profit. He lived closer to God than anybody else. But if he did then he if he was only a man should have seen his sin more than anybody else. And we should have seen and heard those prayers, but we don’t we see just the opposite Which of you can convict me of one sin, nobody could absolutely unique. Absolutely unique. Now, what would you consider being in that kind of a person’s presence? A guy that says, I’m the light of the world he can create and he can do all these things and he can forgive sins. What kind of a personality do you think he would have? Most people that are perfect or try to think they’re perfect, They’re kind of stuck up, right? You don’t want to be around them, they’re proud, They’re not humble. But isn’t it interesting that this guy who claimed to live a perfect life absolutely sinless is also considered by the skeptics to be the greatest example of love and humility that’s ever walked the earth. And a lot of people when they become a believer don’t understand that, that’s that’s a starting place. It’s not an end. It’s a beginning. And so when they come and they offer all of themselves that they understand to all that he is that they understand, then that begins the process and then it grows, it grows, oh my. The next day you find out what else you didn’t really tell. But it’s it’s the moment of trusting him. If there’s anything else added to it, then we’re not saved, saved salvation is by grace. That’s the only other way. There’s no other way. It’s a hard deal. And once the heart changes, which says in Peter, we have partaken of his divine nature and that’s a different deal. We we didn’t have that nature before. Now that his heart is within us, he works within us, pulling him us to the father, he pulls us that way. There’s automatically overnight, there’s a divine prejudice of the will that God gives to us. Then I thought it was the prayer that saved me. Prayer doesn’t save anybody. It’s it’s jesus that saves us. That involves a prayer. Certainly as we come before him, he comes into the world which he himself created and then and he he takes our sin burden upon himself. He lives a perfect life as a man. God, man, 100% God incarnate goes to the cross paste the debt. He didn’t know when we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. And then resurrection ascended back into heaven, then sends his spirit to come and live within us. That’s that’s the witnesses his spirit comes to live in. It’s it’s the mark on us. He came into the world to convict us of sin and of judgment of righteousness. It puts us into arena, we were never in before romans Paul says, you know before you were saved, you weren’t worried about righteousness. That wasn’t a big deal. But now that you’re safe, It becomes a real struggle. That’s Romans chapter six when he talks about the struggle that we have with the flesh. Yes, I have a brand new nature taken to the nature of christ but I still have my flesh to deal with and that is a battle royal that begins the moment we receive christ into our hearts. Next week on the john Achterberg show And the passengers are marked 14, Jesus says Eagle and ME, I am the son of God. Then he says and you will see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven number one, that’s a virtual quote from Daniel seven 13 and 14. He claims to be the pre existent one who comes from the ancient of days to set up God’s kingdom. And secondly, he uses this enigmatic phrase coming with the clouds. That phrase is used dozens of times and scriptures as a reference to deity. And jesus said that’s me, he’s already said Eagle and me concerning the son of man and the priest. It’s almost like he was waiting for this. He said good, we’ve got him the rest of you go home. So if Jesus claimed to be the son of God and Jesus claimed to be the son of man, why do we think paul’s inventing the deity of christ? Later thank you?

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ABOUT DR. JOHN ANKERBERG Dr. John Ankerberg is an American Christian television host, author, and speaker. Dr. Ankerberg is a graduate of the University of Illinois—Chicago,...

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