What Really Happened at Jesus’ Tomb?

A Look at “The Creed” Through History & Archaeology

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

One of the earliest records of the events surrounding the first Easter was recorded in an early saying or “creed” which the Apostle Paul mentions in his epistle (or letter) in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. It has been called the first Christian “creed” or Credo [Latin for ‘I believe’]. Although Paul refers to it, it is not original to him; it is Pre-Pauline. It very likely dates back to the earliest followers of Jesus – His first Disciples – those who waked with Him, lived with Him, those who watched the drama of His life unfold before their eyes…those who watched Him die…those who ate with Him and spoke with Him and saw Him after He reportedly arose from the dead.

Part of how we know whether or not something happened in the past or not is through eyewitness testimony. Eyewitnesses can be reliable or not. One way (certainly not the only way) we can test whether an eyewitness is speaking the truth is through internal and external evidence that is consistent with other verifiable facts in a particular time period. Unlike mathematics or deductive logic, history and archaeology yields probable answers – hopefully beyond a reasonable doubt.

From this early creed – I would like to consider three facts[1] that it is indeed genuine and bears the key marks of an authentic record of a monumental historical event – namely that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.

Question 1 – Did Christ die by crucifixion? (verse 3)

Fact #1 Jesus Died Due to the Process of Roman Crucifixion

Many ancient texts, both Christian and non-Christian, record the death of Jesus providing details of the event. Nearly every scholar, liberal and conservative, attribute the passage cited earlier in 1 Cor. 15:3ff as written before PAUL and thus a foundational record of that event. The four Gospels also state that Jesus’ death was by crucifixion as well as nearly 10 non-Christian texts including the writings of Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 18:3) and the Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 15:44) which mention Jesus’ death by crucifixion.[2]

Medical studies[3] that have been conducted have concluded that the general cause of the death of Jesus to be due to crucifixion. The majority of medical studies report that crucifixion victims died of asphyxiation, as well as complications arising from other medical factors, caused by the arms being extended and fixed overhead while the weight of the body hung below.[4]

Archaeological evidence also supports the historical situation presented in the NT accounts of the Easter story with amazing accuracy.  In the past few decades archaeologists in Israel have unearthed some remarkable discoveries which confirm at least two of the major characters associated with Christ’s trial before He was crucified: Caiaphas, the High Priest in Jerusalem who interrogated Jesus before the Sanhedrin & Pontius Pilate, the Roman official in charge of governing Judea in the First Century (see Matt. 26-27).

The Caiaphas Ossuary was discovered accidentally in 1990 when workers were preparing to build a water park in Jerusalem located just south of the Temple Mount. When the construction workers were excavating for the building project, the roof of an ancient burial chamber collapsed revealing twelve first-century limestone ossuaries (bone-boxes) remarkably well preserved. One of the ossuaries stood out from all the others with its ornate inscriptions and engraved rosettes. On the side of the box was an inscription which reads Yehosef bar Qayafa (“Joseph son of Caiaphas”). As R. Price points out, “The New Testament refers to him only as Caiaphas, but Josephus gives us his full name as ‘Joseph who was called Caiaphas of the high priesthood.’ Inside were the bones of six different people [entire families were often buried together], including a 60-year old man (most likely Caiaphas).”[5]

Ossuary of the High Priest, Caiaphas (Wikipedia)

Ossuary of the High Priest, Caiaphas (Wikipedia)

The Pontius Pilate Inscription was discovered in 1961 by Italian archaeologists excavating in the Mediterranean port city of Caesarea Martima (named in honor of Octavian by Herod I). The Pilate inscription was discovered on a slab used for a remodeling project in the fourth-century. The Latin inscription reads, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea” – the exact title given to him in Luke 3:1! Aside from a few references by Roman historians, the New Testament is one of the only other ancient sources which give information about Pilate and his fateful encounter with a young rabbi from Galilee named Jesus. It was that same Pilate that stood before Jesus and asked the most perennial question of all time, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Pilate Inscription (1st Century) (Wikipedia)

Pilate Inscription (1st Century) (Wikipedia)

Crucifixion – It’s very likely that the Romans learned & perfected crucifixion from the Carthaginians, whom they warred with from 264-146 B.C. (known to historians as the Punic Wars). Even the Greek historian Herodotus records the crucifixion of a Persian General by the Athenians as early as 479 B.C. (Histories, ix. 120–122). It was certainly one of the most painful methods of execution ever contrived in history. In fact, the English word, excruciating is derived from the word crucifixion.

First-Century Crucifixion Victim – By the first-century A.D. the Romans utilized crucifixion as a means of execution in certain provinces in the Roman Empire. We know they certainly utilized it in Jerusalem in the first century. In 1968 the remains of a first-century crucified man was discovered in an ossuary in a northern suburb of Jerusalem. Based on an Aramaic inscription on the ossuary archaeologists were able to recover the name of the victim as Yohanan ben Ha’galgol.  The signifcance of this discovery was that the anklebone of the victim was still pierced with a seven-inch nail with fragments of the wooden cross still embedded in it – a vivid testimony of the historical reality of Jesus’ own crucifixion two thousand years ago.

Question #2 Was Christ’s Crucifixion and Death “According to the Scripture?” (v 3b)

Fact #2 – The Old Testament Contains Many Old Testament Passages that Predict Christ and His Death Hundreds of Years Before He Lived

The earliest followers of Jesus were Jewish, so they appealed heavily to the Old Testament Scriptures as proof that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah He claimed to be. There’s not enough space here to cover all of the references and passages about the promised & predicted Messiah, but two really stand out above all the rest: Isaiah 53 (a prophecy of Isaiah) and Psalm 22 (a lament of David) – both were discovered in a cache of Dead Sea Scrolls (recovered from 1946-56) near Wadi Qumran near the Dead Sea.

Both OT passages refer to the Jewish Messiah’s particular method of execution and one even mentions that there would be those who would gamble for His garments when He was crucified and that He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb. Both ancient manuscripts date minimally to at least two hundred years or more before Jesus was ever born and internal evidence from Isaiah dates it to seven hundred years before Christ was born (in the 8th Cent. B.C.)! The Psalms were likely composed between the 9th or 10th Century B.C.!

Psalm 22:16&18For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet. …They divide My garments among them And for My clothing they cast lots…

Dead Sea Scrolls - Psalms (Wikipedia)

Dead Sea Scrolls – Psalms (Wikipedia)

Isaiah 53:5 & 9But he was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His wounds we are healed …And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth…

Fragment from Isaiah - Dead Sea Scrolls

Fragment from Isaiah – Dead Sea Scrolls

Question #3 Were the Eyewitnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection telling the Truth? (vv. 5-8)

Fact#3The Disciples Were Utterly and Completely Transformed by their firm conviction that they had seen the risen Jesus, even being willing to die for this belief

The Apostle John in John 7:1-5 reports that James the half-brother of Jesus was an unbeliever and apparently rather cynical regarding Jesus’ public ministry (Just imagine if it was your brother who claimed to be God!). Jesus’ other brothers even sought to remove Him from public eye because they thought He was insane (Mark 3:21) – but later in Gal. 1:18-19; Acts 15:13-21 – we learn that James had become the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. It is highly likely that James was transformed by something or someone he saw and had a huge change of heart about his half brother Jesus. What was it that changed the mind of James? The most likely explanation was that James had seen the risen Jesus.

The Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus (later, Paul) who was an early persecutor of Jesus’ followers, also had an experience that changed him forever. 1 Cor. 9:1 & 15:8-11 gives us a first-hand account of this experience and it appears three other times in Acts 9:1-9; 22:1-11; 26:9-19.

The other apostles confirmed Paul’s experience. Paul even made at least two trips to Jerusalem to speak with the apostles in order to talk to them about the “gospel message” He was preaching. On his second trip to Jerusalem Paul met with two of the chief apostles, namely Peter, James the brother of Jesus and John. Paul specifically explained that the purpose of His coming was to identify the nature of the Gospel that he was preaching and that he wanted to be absolutely sure that he was correct (Gal. 2:2).

There are many other detailed eyewitness details which testify that the New Testament writers were telling the truth. For more on this see chapter 11 ‘Top Ten Reasons We Know the New Testament Writers Told the Truth’ in our book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (pg. 275ff).

What Did the Disciples Have to Gain by Making up the Resurrection? Nothing! In fact, they had everything to lose!

As Peter Kreeft (professor of philosophy at Boston College) wrote:

Why would the apostles lie? …If they lied, what was their motive, what did they get out of it? What they got out of it was misunderstanding, rejection, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Hardly a list of perks!

When we sift through the creed recorded by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:3 – verse by verse – we can see from this brief survey, that it stands (and has stood) the test of time and history – that ancient documents of the New Testament are reliable and that Christ has indeed risen from the dead!


            [1] Adapted from Gary R. Habermas, “The Core Resurrection Data: The Minimal Facts Approach,” William Dembski and Thomas Schirrmacher, Editors, Tough Minded Christianity: Honoring the Legacy of John Warwick Montgomery (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008), 388-405.

            [2] There are many others in addition to these, such as Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, et. al., cited by Gary Habermas in, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing, 1996), see chapter 9.

            [3] For instance, William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” in Journal of the American Medical Association 255 (1986).

            [4] Habermas, “The Core Resurrection Data: The Minimal Facts Approach,” 401.

            [5] Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 305.

long_paul_in_prison

Principles of Godly Contentment

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” These were the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote from his lonely prison cell to the Christians in Philippi. Those are challenging words, and far easier to say than to live out. Paul knew what he was talking about, however, when it came to suffering and tribulation. Few people have had it worse than him. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, Paul describes some of his suffering:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Paul must have been a real man of character. To the flesh, the temptation to despair and wallow in self-pity must have been great, but by God’s grace Paul was strengthened that he might be content in any and all circumstances. Having come through all of these difficult life-challenges, Paul could really say that he had “learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” He doesn’t say that he had merely heard that he ought to be content. Paul’s beliefs about godly contentment were not merely a doctrinal or propositional type of knowledge. Rather, through experience, he had learned to be a practitioner of contentment. It is often only through practically experiencing turbulence that we learn contentment at a level deeper than propositional knowledge. That is something to bear in mind as we go through these difficult times in our lives — Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those who are his children so that we may grow more Christlike. Often, spiritual truth only begins to trickle from the intellect into the heart after we have been trained and disciplined by practical experience. Read more

christcrucified-mel-gibson-passion-of-christ

What was the Crucifixion like?

What was the extent of the physical suffering Jesus endured at the crucifixion?  Consider that the English word “excruciating” is from the Latin meaning “out of the crucifixion.”  I’ve found that the best way to comprehend the magnitude of the Christ’s physical suffering on Good Friday is to read the following description that we’ve adapted from the work of medical doctor, C. Truman Davis (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 380-383).  The short video above also illustrates the kind of brutal punishment Christ took to pay for our sins.

WARNING:  THIS IS GRAPHIC (You may have a difficult time getting through it).

The whip the Roman soldiers use on Jesus has small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones tied to it. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, and his hands are tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs are whipped either by one soldier or by two who alternate positions. The soldiers taunt their victim. As they repeatedly strike Jesus’ back with full force, the iron balls cause deep contusions, and the sheep bones cut into the skin and tissues. As the whipping continues, the lacerations tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock.

When it is determined by the centurion in charge that Jesus is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They throw a robe across his shoulders and place a stick in his hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. A small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns are plaited into the shape of a crown, and this is pressed into his scalp. Again there is copious bleeding (the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body). After mocking him and striking him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from his hand and strike him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into his scalp.

Finally, when they tire of their sadistic sport, the robe is torn from his back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal—just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage—causes excruciating pain, almost as though he were being whipped again. The wounds again begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return his garments. The heavy horizontal beam of the cross is tied across his shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution party walk along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss,

is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.

The 650-yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed. Jesus is again stripped of his clothes except for a loin cloth which is allowed the Jews. The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild pain-killing mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the cross beam on the ground, and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tight, but to allow some flexibility and movement. The beam is then lifted, and the title reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The victim Jesus is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tear- ing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It is undoubtedly during these periods that he utters the seven short sentences that are recorded.

Now begin hours of this limitless pain, cycles of cramping and twisting, partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep, crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over— the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally he can allow his body to die. With one last surge of strength, he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters his seventh and last cry: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus went through all of that so you and I could be reconciled to him; so you and I could be saved from our sins by affirming, Father, into your hands I commit my life.  If you haven’t done that, why not?

heart-brain

The Art of Biblical Integrity for the Christian Intellectual

Do you really believe what you say and think you believe, and how can you know? The answer may at first brush appear obvious — “of course I believe what I say and think I do,” you might say. If you didn’t, after all, why would you be spending so much time engaged in the intellectual defense of it? This raises an interesting question: Can you believe that you believe something which you do not in fact believe in your heart? Is it possible that we deceive ourselves about what our own beliefs are? Read more

Ten Common Christian Expressions Requiring Translation

How Do I Share What I Believe? Ten Common Christian Expressions Requiring Translation

Ten Common Christian Expressions Requiring TranslationEvery group has its own distinct language, and Christianity is no different. Back when I was an unbeliever, a Christian friend approached me and said, “Jim, I’ve been convicted lately, and God has put you on my heart. God told me you need to be born again; you need to come to repentance and experience a conversion. It’s time for you to deal with the sin in your life and have a true spiritual rebirth. Why don’t you invite Jesus into your heart and make Him the Lord of your life? If you have faith you can be saved. You can be washed by the Blood of the Lamb, and sanctified so you can enjoy fellowship with your Christian brethren.” OK, he didn’t actually put it quite like that. But he might as well have. I couldn’t understand a thing he said. His “Christianese” was fluent and mine was not. Years later, I found myself using much of the same language with my unbelieving friends, only to find them equally confused and alienated. So, here’s a list of common Christian expressions I’ve decided to translate for all my friends who are still speaking the language of the secular culture:

#1. “God has put you (or something) on my heart. / God told me.”
Really? As an atheist, I was offended by this kind of language. What makes you Christians so sure you know what God is thinking? Are you actually hearing a voice from Heaven? Does it sound like Morgan Freeman? Sounds a bit presumptuous to me.

Try this instead: “Jim, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. You come to mind when I am praying and talking to God.”

#2. “Be ‘born again.’ / Have a spiritual rebirth.”
Is “Born Again” a political party or something you want me to join? Aren’t all Christians “born again?” If so, why are you using the additional adjective? Are “Born Agains” the true, hardcore Christians? Are they political activists like the modern day “Birthers”? Sorry, I’m too busy to become a fanatic or join a movement.

Try this instead: “Reconsider your beliefs and begin a new life as a Christian.”

#3. “You need to come to repentance. / Experience a conversion.”
My mother used to take me to Catholic Mass occasionally when I was a small boy. I hated it. I never understood what those priests were saying, but I’m sure it had something to do with “penance,” “penitence,” or “repentance.”  Didn’t King James die a long time ago? Why are we still trying to talk like him?

Try this instead: “You and I might be ‘good’ at times but we’re not ‘perfect.’ If God is all-powerful, He has the ability to be perfect. The only way imperfect creatures like you and I can be united to a perfect God is to accept the pardon He’s offering for our imperfection.”

#4. “Deal with your sin.”
You go ahead and deal with your sin if you want to. I’m too busy dealing with everyone else’s sin. I’m a police officer, for crying out loud; we’re the “good guys.” We put the “bad guys” in jail, and most of the folks I arrest tell me they’re Christians. Please Mr. “Holier Than Thou,” don’t start talking to me about my “sin.” It’s offensive.

Try this instead: “The Bible says Jesus is God and the only perfect man who ever lived. Yet He died like a common criminal to pay the price for our daily ‘crimes’ of imperfection. If we are willing to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, He’s willing to apply His perfection to us.”

#5. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”
You mean like a boyfriend? What exactly does that mean to have “Jesus in my heart?” I’m not an emotional kind of guy, so please don’t ask me to sing songs or hold hands with Jesus, especially in public. Do I have to emasculate myself to become a Christian? If so, thanks for reminding me why I’m not a Christian.

Try this instead: “When we admit our imperfections, believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our mistakes, and accept His sacrifice, we can start a new relationship with God.”

#6. “Make Jesus the Lord of your life.”
Isn’t this the twenty-first century? Are there still serfs and lords? Was J.R. Tolkien the author of your Scripture? It kind of sounds that way. What is a “Lord” anyway? Is it like a “slave master”? Between bosses and supervisors, most of us have enough people trying to be our “Lord.” Thanks anyway.

Try this instead: “As you begin to appreciate the magnitude of God’s forgiveness and sacrifice, you’ll find yourself wanting to be more like Him.”

#7. “Have faith.”
If by “faith” you mean believing in something in spite of the evidence, no thanks. Blind faith is dangerous. I’m a cop; evidence matters to me. You can keep your “faith;” I’d rather have my “reason.” The world would be a better place if fewer people flew planes into buildings because they believed something blindly.

Try this instead: “Jesus gave us more than enough evidence to believe what He said about Himself. He never asked people to take an irrational, blind leap. He asked instead for a reasonable step of trust.”

#8. “Be saved.”
Saved from what and saved by who? Last time I checked, I’m the guy who usually does the saving. And doesn’t your holy book say “God helps those who help themselves?” I’ve been helping myself for thirty-five years now without a problem. No need to change that. I’m okay, but thanks for the offer.

Try this instead: “God doesn’t want anyone to be separated from Him. He’s given us a way home.  All we have to do is accept His offer of forgiveness through Jesus.”

#9. “Be washed by the blood of the Lamb.”
Tell me you didn’t just say that. I know what a “blood bath” is, and it’s not usually a good thing. I’m not sure what a lamb has to do with it, but lamb’s not my favorite food anyway. Are you trying to get me excited about Christianity or chase me away?

Try this instead: “It turns out that the death of one man (Jesus) provides forgiveness for the rest of us.”

#10. “Be Sanctified.”
Is that kind of like “sanctimonious?” I sure know a lot of Christians who are smug and self-righteous. Is that what happens over time if I become a Christian? It certainly seems that way. “Sanctified” sounds a bit arrogant. I bet sanctified people think their pretty “special.” You can keep your pretentious “sanctification.”

Try this instead: “Grateful people are selfless people. Christians who understand how much they’ve been forgiven are changed over time.”

Bonus Expression #11. “Enjoy fellowship.”
What, another Lord of the Rings reference? Really? Do you people ever use language from this century? Christianity sounds a lot like an exclusive country club. If I join, it sounds like I’ll get to become a “fellow” of some sort. Do I have to give up having a beer with the fellas in order to hang out with the Christian fellows? Hmm, that kind of makes the decision easy for me.

Try this instead: “It’s encouraging to find grateful Christians who are struggling to become people of God. We’re out there and eager to have you join our community, regardless of what you may believe today.”

I understand the importance of our theologically rich Christian language, and as a Christian I often use similar words when talking with Christians. But when I’m talking with unbelievers, I try to think about how I used to hear and interpret these words before I became a Christian. How do I share what I believe? I take the time to translate important Christian concepts for those who might be willing to entertain the ideas if only I was willing to speak their language.

This post is excerpted from my article, “What Cops Can Teach Christians about the Critical Use of Language” first published in the Christian Research Journal. The Christian Research Journal equips Christians with the information they need to discern doctrinal errors, evangelize people of other faiths, and provide a strong defense of Christian beliefs and ethics.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE

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Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Salvation

The Wisdom Chronicle

The Wisdom Chronicle is designed to bring nuggets of wisdom from the dozens of books I read every year in all genres. Each week, I endeavor to share the best of what I have gleaned. The determination of relevance lies with you. Blessings, Jim Whiddon

81. OUR NATION “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

82. COMPETITION “Being the one who makes your product, process, or service obsolete is the only way to prevent your competitor from doing so.”

Excerpt From: Peter F. Drucker. “The Daily Drucker.”

83. TEAM “Being on the Team vs. Being a Teammate:

Being on the team benefits your personal goals and ambitions. Being a teammate benefits the goals and ambitions of your team and your teammates.

Being on the team can make you a bystander. Teammates intervene in the lives and actions of their teammates.

Being on the team involves personal effort. Being a teammate involves the efforts of every player.

Being on the team means doing what is asked of you. Being a teammate is doing whatever is needed for the team to succeed.

Being on the team can involve blaming others and making excuses. Being a teammate involves accepting responsibility, accountability, and ownership of the team’s problems.

Being on the team makes you “me-optic,” asking what’s in it for me? Being a teammate makes you “we-optic,” asking what’s in it for us?

Sometimes players on the team are drawn together by common interests; teammates are drawn together by a common mission.

Sometimes players on a team like one another; teammates respect one another.

Sometimes players on a team bond together because of a shared background or compatible personalities; teammates bond together because they recognize every player is needed to accomplish the goal of the team.

Sometimes players on a team are energized by emotions; teammates energize one another out of commitment.”

Excerpt From: Joe Ehrmann, Paula Ehrmann & Gregory Jordan. “InSideOut Coaching.”

84. IDEAS “An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it.” — Don Marquis

85. OLD JOKE “An old married couple in their nineties contact a divorce lawyer, who pleads with them to stay together. “Why get divorced now after seventy years of marriage? Why not last it out? Why now?” The little old lady finally pipes up in a creaky voice: “We wanted to wait until the children were dead.”

Excerpt From: John Allen Paulos. “Innumeracy.”

86. SINNERS “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

– Chris Seidman

87. POLITICIANS “Political solutions can never put us on a sound economic footing. Politics is not interested primarily in the good of the nation. Instead, politics has to do with gaining and exercising power over your opponents, rewarding your biggest donors, and benefitting the priority constituencies of your party. If, in doing these things, you also accomplish something that is good for the country at large, that’s great. But such an outcome is more an afterthought in the political process than it is a primary focus.”

Excerpt From: Hovind, Chad. “Godonomics.”

88. PILGRIM CAPITALISM “Bradford decided to search the Scriptures and seek insight from God. He found three principles that saved the [pilgrim] village and possibly even the great nation that would follow. The foundational principles were property rights, incentive, and freedom. In the Bible, he discovered a blueprint for a new economic system. If socialism didn’t work in this best-case scenario with devout Christians, why would we think a less-than-ideal paradigm would work? In other words, if a mostly devout Christian community in the past couldn’t make it work, is there any hope Washington, DC will get it right today? God’s economic principles of property rights, incentive, and personal freedom are central to what I refer to as Godonomics.”

Excerpt From: Hovind, Chad. “Godonomics.”

89. WINSTON CHURCHILL CLASSICS

Concerning PM and Socialist Leader Clement Atley: “He is a modest man with much to be modest about. He is a sheep in sheep’s clothing.”

Concerning PM Stanley Baldwin: “Occasionally he stumbles over the truth, but hastily picks himself up as though nothing had happened. ”

Concerning PM Lord Balfour: “If you wanted nothing done, he is the best man for the task. There is absolutely no equal to him.”

Concerning PM N. Chamberlin: “You had a choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.  He has a lust for peace.”

Concerning T.E Lawrence (of Arabia): “He was not in complete harmony with the normal.”

90. CIVIL WAR “Lincoln had to have the grace to fight the bloodiest war in our history without “demonizing” the enemy with propaganda. If he had done that, he might have been able to galvanize the resolve of the North much faster, facilitating a quicker military victory. However, it would have made the reunion after the war much more difficult. Because he was truly fighting to preserve the Union, Lincoln never made the men and women of the South the enemy, but rather the evil that held them in bondage.”

Excerpt From: Joyner, Rick. “The Final Quest.”

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The Status of Women According to Islam

The status of women in Islam is a subject enshrouded in controversy. According to many Muslims, Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights, bestowing upon the women in his community privileges and rights that they did not have previously. The notion that women in pre-Islamic Arabia had no rights, however, is demonstrably untrue. Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi lists some of the rights that women had in pre-Islamic Arabia, which included ease of divorce, the ability to marry multiple men, and become overlords. Women were even able to propose for marriage, as in fact was the case with respect to Khadija’s marriage to Muhammad. Read more

How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important Details

How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important Details?

How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important DetailsA visitor to ColdCaseChristianity.com wrote recently to express her concerns and growing doubts about Christianity. Raised in the Church, she finds herself questioning the reliability of the Gospel authors because some of them failed to mention important events in the life and ministry of Jesus. Why does only one Gospel writer mention the Raising of Lazarus? Why does only one writer mention the dead people who rose from the grave at Jesus’ crucifixion? There are many examples of singular, seemingly important events mentioned by only one of the four Gospel authors. Shouldn’t all of the alleged eyewitnesses have included these events, and doesn’t the absence of information in a particular Gospel cast doubt on whether or not the event actually occurred? My experience working with eyewitnesses may help you think clearly about these issues and objections. You can trust the Gospel eyewitness accounts, even though some are missing important details:

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Scope
When I interview an eyewitness, I am very careful to set the parameter for the testimony before I begin. I usually frame the interview by saying something like, “Please tell me everything you saw from the moment the robber came in the bank, to the moment he left.” I make sure to set the constraints the same way for each and every witness. Without these parameters, the resulting testimony would vary wildly from person to person. Some would include details prior to or after the robbery, some would include only the highlights, and some would omit major elements in the event. If I want to be able to compare the testimony of two or three witnesses later, I’m going to have to make sure they begin with the same scope and framework in mind.

The Gospel authors clearly did not testify with the same initial instructions. There was no unifying investigator present to set the framework for their testimony, so their responses vary in the same way they would vary today if the scope of their testimony was not established from the onset. Mark, according to Papias, the 1st Century Bishop of Hierapolis, “became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.” More concerned about accuracy of individual events than the order in which they occurred, Mark offered details like many of my witnesses who are interviewed without a unified parameter. Mark is simply recording the preaching of Peter, and Peter only referred to portions of Jesus’ life and ministry, making no effort to order them for his listeners.

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Perspective and Purpose
In addition, the witnesses I interview often want to highlight a particular element in the crime scene or a particular suspect behavior they think is important. Sometimes their choice of detail is influenced greatly by their own life history. Their values, experiences and personal concerns guide their selection of which details they include, and which they omit. Witnesses also typically try to offer what they think I am looking for as the detective rather than every little thing they actually saw. They are speaking to a specific audience (an investigator), and this has an impact on what they choose to include or omit. When this happens, I have to refocus each witness and ask them to fill in the details they skipped over, including everything they saw, even if they don’t think it’s important to me as a detective. If I don’t encourage eyewitnesses to be more inclusive and specific, they will omit important details.

The Gospel authors were not similarly directed. They had specific audiences in mind and particular perspectives to offer, and none of their testimony was guided by a unifying investigator who could encourage them to fill in the missing details. Luke clearly had a particular reader in mind (Theophilus): “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught (Luke 1)”. Like other witnesses and historians, Luke likely allowed his intended audience to influence his selection of details. His testimony was also most certainly shaped by his own life experience (as an educated man),his own personal history, and his values. Matthew did something similar when he highlighted the details of Jesus’ life most relevant to Matthew’s Jewish audience.

Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Knowledge of Other Testimony
Sometimes an eyewitness will only provide those details he thinks are missing from the testimony of others. This is most likely to occur if the witness is the last one to be interviewed and he (or she) is already familiar with the testimony of the other witnesses. When I see this happening, I ask this last witness to pretend like he or she is the only witness in my case, “Try to include every detail like I’ve never heard anything about the case. Pretend like I know nothing about the event.” Once the witness has done that, I may go back and re-interview the prior witnesses to see why they didn’t mention the late details offered by the final witness. In the end, my reports related to everyone’s testimony will be as complete as possible, including all the details remembered by each person I interviewed.

The gospel authors were not similarly directed and re-interviewed. John was the last person to provide an account, and he clearly selected those events important to him, given his stated goal: “…many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20)”. John knew what had already been provided by others, and he selected specific events (some which were previously unreported) to make his case. He acknowledged his limited choice of data: “…there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written (John 21)”. John admitted what we already know: witnesses pick and choose from their own observations unless they are specifically directed to do otherwise.

Skeptics sometimes infer more from omissions (or inclusions) in the Gospels than what is reasonable, especially given the manner in which the Gospels came to be written. Because the four authors were not specifically instructed, guided or re-interviewed by a unifying detective, we simply cannot conclude much from the differences between the accounts. We must, instead, do our best to employ the four part template we use to evaluate eyewitness reliability after the fact. This template (as I’ve described it in Cold-Case Christianity), provides us with confidence in the trustworthy nature of the Biblical narratives. That’s why you can trust the Gospel eyewitness accounts, even though some are missing important details.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE

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Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor Academy

Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor Academy

Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor AcademyThis past weekend I got to hang out with Frank Turek, a dear friend, co-laborer and mentor. Frank is the author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, and he was here in our neck of the woods teaching several services at a large local church. Susie and I joined him afterward and we spent the better part of two days together. We ate some barbeque, ran through the local woods (we found out Frank runs faster than we do), and talked about our work and passion to train Christians to think critically about what they believe. Frank does more than train Christians, however. Frank trains trainers.

Frank’s been a teacher and cultural influencer for years, but in if you want to impact your culture exponentially, you’ve got to multiply your own efforts by creating additional trainers. That’s exactly what Frank does every year at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA). Frank has assembled a team of speakers and thinkers to help him train up the next generation of Christian Case Makers. This three day experience isn’t for beginners. It’s for people who have already started to step out and teach apologetics in their local churches and communities.  CIA will teach you how to present I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, including four categories critical to Christian Case Making: Truth, God, Miracles and the New Testament. You’ll also learn how to answer questions about those topics in a hostile environment. During these three days, in addition to hearing lectures and participating in discussions, participants will be asked to present a portion of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and answer questions from the instructors. Like last year, I am part of the CIA faculty, along with Frank, Greg Koukl, Dr. Richard Howe, Brett Kunkle and Ted Wright.

If you’re a tent-making Case Maker, I think you should come and be a part of this incredible opportunity for the following reasons:

It’s a Great Place to Grow Your Knowledge Base There’s an extensive reading list required for everyone who attends the program, so you’re going to have to prepare yourself with additional knowledge before you even arrive on the campus of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES). But trust me; you’re going to learn a lot from the instructors and other participants. The people who come to this academy are gifted and knowledgeable. We all get to learn from one another and everyone comes away with something they didn’t know prior to the training.

It’s a Great Place to Refine Your Approach One of the best things about CIA is the emphasis on presentation. It’s one thing to know something, another to communicate what you know effectively (especially if you want to be winsome or influential). This year we are increasing our focus in this area. We want to make you better Case Makers and communicators. We’ve got special break-out sessions planned for you to accomplish this goal.

It’s a Great Place to Learn the Art of Influence If you want to influence a culture effectively, it all begins with your “platform”. I will be talking a lot about that this year; Frank scheduled me to teach one of the new breakout sessions where we’ll examine a number of successful strategies guaranteed to increase your audience and influence. If you’re a tent-making Case Maker like me, this will be the perfect opportunity to learn from one another.

It’s a Great Place to Connect with Other Case Makers Perhaps my favorite part of this training is the opportunity to meet all of you and “hang out in the halls” together. If you’re staying at the local hotel, we’ll be eating breakfast every day (as well as other meals on the SES campus). We’ll definitely learn from each other, but more importantly, we’ll get to know each other as brothers and sisters (and likely begin a relationship that will extend over the years).

If you want to become a more effective Christian Case Maker, I can’t think of a better, more concise, more focused opportunity. Join us at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy from August 14th to 16th as we encourage, critique, train and inspire each other to make the case for Christianity.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE

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