Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Significance of a Virgin Birth

Last Christmas, I posted this on my MySpace blog as an encouragement with the release of the movie, The Nativity Story. This Christmas season, I believe there is no better time to once again touch upon the subject of the importance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

The virgin birth of Christ was a fulfillment of supernatural prophecy starting in the Old Testament. Here are some Old Testament prophecies that have been fulfilled.

  1. Gen. 12:1-3 - God's promise to make a great nation.
  2. Gen. 17:19-21 God's promise that Sarah would bear Isaac.
  3. 2 Sam. 7:12-16 God's promise that Solomon would build the Temple.
What would it mean to us as Christians if God had failed to fulfill these prophecies?

  1. Our beliefs as Christians would be meaningless.
  2. The very foundation of our faith would crumble.
  3. The Word of God would not be reliable at all.
A. Note some indirect and direct Old Testament prophecies about the virgin birth.

  1. Gen. 3:15 - the "seed of the woman"
  2. Is. 7:14 - "Born of a virgin"
But there are those who reject the significance of this prophecied event. Modernists and liberals reject the doctrine of the virgin birth because they want to reduce Jesus Christ to little more than a great teacher. If they were to accept the virgin birth, it would mean a requirement on their part to to accept that Jesus is God.

What is the beef? Well they are particularly critical of the Is. 7:14 passage. In the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, Isaiah 7:14 reads, "Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son..."

What is the RSV? The Revised Standard Version was completed by the educational division of the National Council of Churches. How does this verse accomplish their goal? Their basis for this change is translating the Hebrew word "almah." The translators of the RSV were religious liberals and modernists. Their approach to biblical translastion is no different than certain cults (i.e., the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), who choose to revise God's Word, they render it how they want it to read.
What are our reasons for accepting the virgin birth of Jesus as valid and of significant importance to the Christian faith? Many outstanding Hebrew scholars support it as strongly as the Genesis Creation record. Not only that, the Septuagint (LXX), the Old Testament in koine Greek, translates "alma" as virgin. But are these good enough reasons to accept the virgin birth in and of themselves? No.

The New Testament also supports the OT prophecy translation of the word "alma" as virgin. In Matthew 1:23: there is no question about the word used for virgin here - it can only mean a woman who has never had relations with a man. From this eyewitness account of Matthew, the Holy Spirit inspired both Old Testament and New Testament writers and He affirms that Jesus Christ was virgin-born. Is there any more reinforcement to this truthclaim? Yes!
The Fulfillment of the virgin birth comes in looking at the biblical record. Jesus Christ was born without a human father. Take note of Matthew's account...

  1. 1:16, ... of whom was born Jesus" refers to Mary alone.
  2. 1:18, "...before they come together ...
  3. 1:25, "...knew her not..."
All of these verses point to nothing but the virgin birth. Then, in Galatians 4:4 is the partial fulfillment of Gen. 3:15.

  1. Gen. 3:15, "the seed of the woman"
  2. Gen. 4:4, "made of a woman"
B. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Consider the Jewish custom of marriage,(Matt. 1:18-20). The betrothal would compare with our engagement period only a stronger commitment. There was an intervalt that existed before the marriage was actually physically consummated.

Note that it was during this interval that Mary became pregnant. Joseph, the betrothed "husband" had two options: 1) He could make a public example of her for her obvious infidelity; or 2) Or he could privately put her away by a bill of divorcement.

However the Lord supplied Joseph with an explanation and a third option...marry the girl. Why did he take this option? The Scripture is pretty clear. Both Mary Joseph received the same message. Check out Luke's record, 1:26-38. Mary couldn't understand how that she, a virgin having never known (sexually) a man, could conceive and bear a child, v 34. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Ghost would bring this to be. He further assured her that "with God nothing shall be impossible.'' And neither Mary or Joseph questioned the message from God. The Scripture states that Joseph "...did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him ..." and Mary said, "...be it according to thy Word ..."

So what is the significance of all of this? Is the virgin birth an essential doctrine to the Christian faith? To put it another way, can a person be a true believer in Christ and yet deny that He was born of a virgin? The answer to that question is an emphatic NO. Why?

To deny that Christ was virgin born is to deny that the Word of God is true. It means that one is denying that Jesus was the Son of God. It is a denial that Jesus could die a sacrificial death. To say that Jesus was born strictly of human parents by human conception means that there is no characteristic of deity that would warrant Him the right to be the Son of God.

The doctrine of the virgin birth is vitally connected to many other Important doctrines. NOTE: John 10:31-38

1. The authenticity of the Scriptures. Liberals see the virgin birth as a "symbol" of Christ's uniqueness and they deny that it happened literally. However, if the Scripture is not reliable in this area - how can it be trusted at all? Mary accepted God's Word through the angelic messenger, as did Joseph. What is the problem with our accepting God's Word?

2. The actuality of the miraculous. Secular humanism sees man as the center of the universe, and the measure of all things. Humanism is a call to magnify man rather than God. They are also Darwinian in their concept of nature and therefore they refuse to accept the miraculous.

However, we cannot view the virgin birth of Christ as a normal development. Luke 1:37 tells us that "For with God nothing shall be impossible." The virgin birth bring to the forefront the appropriateness of Jesus' person. Hebrews 2:9-18 tells us that in order to redeem man, Jesus Christ had to become a man. So the virgin birth plays a vital part of God's plan of redemption. Jesus Christ, the Savior was born into this world without sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that "He who knew no sin, becames sin so that we might become the righteousness of God." 1 Peter 2:22 says that He did no sin. Jesus was God's Lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:19).

By the miracle of the virgin birth, the eternal Son of God was united with human nature and only through this union could redemption be accomplished.

Jesus Christ was begotten of the Holy Ghost, in a miraculous manner; born of Mary, a virgin, as no other man was ever born or can ever be born of woman. He is both the Son of God and God the Son. Reason and science would tell us that this is a biological impossibility, but the Word of God makes it clear that it had to be in order for us to have a Savior who could redeem us from Sin. Once again, I challenge you 'Where is your faith?' in men or in God? (Luke 1:37) "For with God nothing shall be impossible."

So my friends, as you celebrate this Christmas holiday season, remember that the baby in the manger was God incarnate. The baby in the manger....created His mother. Wow! What a powerful paradox to the Christian faith.

Rob Lundberg is the Director of Stand4Truth.Net Apologetics Ministries, a Christian apologetics ministry presenting a defense of the Christian message geared for the church and the culture at large (1 Chronicles 12:32; Acts 17; Phil.1:16; 1 Peter 3:15-17)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Responding to Cultural Buzzwords: Tolerance, Multiculturalism, and Relativism

Have you ever been placed in a situation where you have pointed out particular problems in our culture, only to have someone respond back with "Judge not, lest you be judged..."? In that encounter were you ever given the chance to finish it for them? In many cases, Christians are not given a chance. It is because we are told that "toleration" in a pluralistic, multicultural society is the "new edict."

Tolerance and multiculturalism are two of the catchwords of our time, but what do they really mean -- especially for Christians? Over the last twenty years we have seen an trap being set by the secular city to weaken of our biblical stand. We try to adapt in a culture that is so humanly indulgent, but it is of no spiritual good. Without sounding pessimistic, we are definitely offered challenges to share the truth with those cozy with the cultural norms.

At the same time many of us are aware that we have to be extremely discerning about the values and ideas championed by the media and the society as a whole. Let's face it folks, we are living in what is often called a "post-Christian" culture. That is why it is so important for us to examine the meanings of the pop culture's use of what is meant by tolerance and multiculturalism. These words do not mean what we have been to think in the government schools. How they are used today is so foreign to their original meanings.

In fact they are governed by a philosophical relativism which generates most of the cultural thinking today; and the prominence of relativism coincides with the decline of meaning of what we call "absolute truth".[1] However, for the Christ, it is vital to realize that the anchor of truth is found in Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the Scriptures (John 14:6).

There is an old saying, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." The Christian who falls for the relativism of modern culture will lose the strength that comes with a firm stand for the truths of the Word of God.

It might be a good idea here to set forth the meaning of these cultural poltergeists: tolerance, multiculturalism and relativism. What I hope to do is to put forth the original meanings, and then contrast them with with how they are applied in the culture.

First off let's look at tolerance. The concept of tolerance has its original foundations in the Old Testament. The Jews were commanded to be tolerant of strangers in their midst and to show them hospitality and care for their needs. They followed God's standard, despite the standard that the "alien" (not in the spacey sense) embraced. However in today's culture, tolerance has taken on a different meaning. It includes more than simply treating others with a certain amount of respect.

Today tolerance demands the affirming and accepting the differences between people, even theological differences, making it a primary goal not to offend anyone. In practical terms, this means people who believe under the standard of an absolute truth claim should must keep quiet about their convictions; keep them within the four walls of the church or their homes so as to avoid offending others. Sound familiar?[2]

The second term is multiculturalism. This concept has its foundations in the fact that God is no respector of persons (Acts 10:34). But it too has been adjusted to fit the relativistic culture, particularly over the last couple to three decades. In the secular city, it means that we should be embracing all peoples and all beliefs no matter the differences, all things are equal including ideas.

Multiculturalism is good when it comes to dress, food, and other cultural fancies.[3] The problem is one cannot embrace a biblical worldview and a worldview that is at odds with it. Both worldviews cannot be true. In logic this is called the violation of the law of noncontradiction. One of them is true and the other is false. To say that both are true is to stir a pot of chaos.

Thirdly and finally there is relativism, the overarching umbrella of the two aforementioned terms. Have you ever heard someone say "there is no such thing as absolute truth . . .truth is relative!"? This is the major philosophical underpinning for much of the chaos we see in America today, even for the hate crimes cases that are cropping up around the country.

There are some good books that have come out in recent years on this subject.  Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith's book Relativism, Feet Firmly Planted in Mid Air and Paul Copan's book True for You but Not for Me are a couple of must reads on this subject.  I also have a power point presentation on this subject responding from several different angles taken by those who say that we cannot hold to absolute truth.[4]

Why is this so popular today?  Many of us have heard that the more you say something, the more people will begin to believe it.  The next time you hear someone say, "it's all relative", ask them "are you absolutely sure about that?" and watch what happens.  You may get the "deer caught in the headlights look" or you could get challenged to defend your position.  Be ready. This ideology has become so popular that it does not require a whole lot of intelligence to believe such nonsense.  As an ambassador for Christ, you and I need to have a listening ear, and make sure that our "baloney detectors" are tweaked to zero in on and lovingly and graciously respond.


I first wrote this article, when I was living in Upstate NY for a newsletter that I used to put out. Let me apologize to those who were fortunate/unfortunate to read that article for a lot of the run on rambling sentences and bad grammar. This article is the revision of that one, and is due to my dialogues with people and continually researching this subject. As we move forward, and Christ tarries His coming, I believe this issue along with the subject of religious pluralism are going to be watershed issues, if they aren't already.

Let me conclude with this, if one says that truth is not knowable, they are saying something they "know" to be true. If someone says, that all truth is relative, then that statement is relative too and it is unlivable. We live in a time, an exciting time, to be trained up so that we can engage the settings in which we live with God's absolute truth. Did you ever think that logic starts with God? Despite the supernatural nature of the Bible, it is logical as well.

Living life under the umbrella is unlivable. We have a message that brings life. Go out and be His ambassador and share His message with grace.


[1] I had someone respond to a video I did tell me that he believed that absolute truth was systemic. On what system is truth determined? Science? Feelings? Experience?

[2] We might see some hints of the last twenty years leading to where we are today with "hate crime legislation." Today's tolerance watchdogs seem not to care whether they are intolerant of those they claim are intolerant, while being intolerant themselves. While demanding tolerance, they are intolerant of anyone they deem intolerant of them. Did you follow all of that?

[3] I enjoyed going over to the Republic of Moldova, a communist country that broke away from the former Soviet Socialist Republic. I fell in love with the people, their food, their simplicity in life, their worship, their love for the Word of God. All of those things. But I do not like the government ideology of communism. You want to know another thing? Neither do the biblically like-minded brothers and sisters in the faith.

[4] If you would like more information regarding seminars and workshops, please feel free to contact me at 540.424.2305 or go to my website at http://www.roblundberg.org/contact.html.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forum Question: How did we get just 66 books of the Bible?


Not too long ago I was the guest speaker at an Apologetics Focus Sunday, promoted by the New Heights Christian Church in Woodford, VA. I must say that it was a delightful and energetic time for all who participated. During the day I gave five presentations, one in the form of a Sunday School lesson, one in the form of a sermon, and three other talks that would later be followed up by a Question and Answer session.

During the Q and A time, a lady who was fancy to the History Channel and the Discovery Channel for their documentaries on religious matters asked two probing questions, one of which I will delve into in this posting. The question was, "Why are there just 66 books of the BIble and not others that they have found later in history?

Let me dive in and state that the Bible is more than just a book. It is a compilation of 66 books with a common theme that points to a Messiah who would come and die for sinful man's redemption, be buried and rise from the dead 3 days later in that same but glorified body. To put is succinctly, the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents composed over 1500 year, and those documents were written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses recording for us supernatural events that are in direct fulfillment to specific prophecies; and these writers claim that their writings are divine, rather than human in origin. Those 66 books were written from three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and from three different continents (Asia, Europe and Africa). But why just 66 books? The rest of this posting will answer this more clearly.

The Preliminaries

Some of us may have heard the word "canon", but have not really an idea of what it means. The word "canon"
means standard or list or index of standards. When we apply this to the Bible (a.k.a. "Scripture) it means an officially accepted list of books. The important thing that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds is that the church did not create the canon or the books included now as Scripture. The Early Christian Church RECOGNIZED that the books were INSPIRED from their INCEPTION. The Church did not make them inspired, they were inspired by God when written.

Why the Need for a Standard Set of Books?

There were several factors that need to be brought to the forefront as to the need for a standard set of books. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament had certain circumstances that led to their respective standard of documents.

There were a couple of factors that gave rise to the Old Testament canon. The first one was the fact that the Jews were scattered after the destruction of Jerusalem of AD 70 and there was a great need for them to determine which books of antiquity for that time were the authoritative Word of God. A second factor for the need for an Old Testament standard was the fact of the Christian church growing and there came the need for the Jews to reject anything that was not their own coming out of the Christian "community."

The New Testament on the other hand was faced with some adversity which brought forth the need for the canon of Scripture that would be considered authoritative. There were essentially three reasons.

First there was the adversity of heresy coming from the heretic Marcion (circa AD 140). He had developed his own canon and began to cause havoc in his propagating his work. Second, many of the Eastern churches were using books in their worship services that were certainly spurious documents. The third factor came from Rome in the Edict of Diocletian (AD 303), who declared the destruction of all the sacred books of the Christians including any authoritative scrolls. Eusebius writes,

"It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian's reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Saviour's Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire, and giving notice that those in places of honour would lose their places, and domestic staff, if they continued to profess Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty. Such was the first edict against us. Soon afterwards other decrees arrived in rapid succession, ordering that the presidents of the churches in every place should all be first committed to prison and then coerced by every possible means into offering sacrifice." ~ (Eusebius, History of the Church (VIII.2))

Athanasius of Alexandria tells us in his Festal Letter of AD 367 of a list of the 27 books which are the same exact books in the current New Testament canon.[1] Justin Martyr c. AD 150) in his First Apology, confers that "on the day called Sunday, there is a gathering together to one place of all those who live in cities or in the country, and the MEMOIRS OF THE APOSTLES or the WRITING OF THE PROPHETS are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader has ceased the president presents admonition and invitation to the imitation of these good things." (First Apology, ch 67)[2]

So we can see that as early as Justin Martyr and as late as Athanasius, the Early Church had recognized a set standard of authoritative works ranging from the what we know now as Old Testament works and New Testament works. But now with all this background how did these books become authoritative?

What were the tests for including a work from an ancient writer into the canon of authoritative works. There were essentially five tests that were dealing with the following:

1. Authority - Did the book come with a divine "Thus saith the LORD?"[3]
2. Prophetic - Was the book written by a man of God?
3. Authenticity - the Early Church used a principle that is common today, "if in doubt, throw it out."
4. Dynamic - Did the work have a dynamic quality to it that was evidenced in the life transforming power of God? and
5. Was it received and collected and read and used - was it accepted by the people of God (2 Peter 3:15, 16)?

So we can see that there are tests for determining which books were considered authoritative and which ones are not. Before closing this posting up, let me address the other part of this issue, why not the other books like the Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphal works?

What About the Apocrypha and Other Emerging Books?

So now we have looked at the tests and the reasons for the need of a canon of Scripture, what about these books in between the Testaments? What about the Apocryphal books used by the Roman Catholic Church? Why aren't they included? Josh McDowell sources Unger's Bible Dictionary in his New Evidence that Demands a Verdict giving several reasons to consider the non canonical nature of the Apocryphal books.

1. They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms;
2. They teach doctrines that are false and foster practices that are at variance with inspired Scripture;
3. They resort to literary types and display artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with Scripture;
4. They lack distinctive elements that give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power and poetic and religious feeling.[4]
Norman Geisler and William Nix sum up the case against the non canonical Apocrypha stating,

...(1) None of them enjoyed an more than a temporary or local recognition. (2) Most of them never did have anything more than a semi-canonical status, being appended to various manuscripts or mentioned in tables of contents. (3) No major canon or church council included them as inspired books of the New Testament. (4) The limited acceptance enjoyed by most books is attributable to the fact that they attached themselves to references in canonical books (e.g., Laodiceans to Col. 4:16), because of their alleged apostolic authorship (e.g., Acts of Paul),. Once these issues were clarified, there remained little doubt that these books were non-canonical.[5]

As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons for accepting what we have between the leather or hard-bound covers of our Bibles and why other sources can safely be thrown out as non-authoritative. The problem you and I will run into will come from folks who will challenge the credibility of the Bible and its authority. Use these criterium that you have read here in this posting, and you will not go wrong in giving a good response and putting what I call "a stone in the shoe" of the questioner.[6]

Please feel free to interact with this posting and provide your feed back. Thank you for indulging in this posting.


[3] This was a basic factor for determining the New Testament as being inspired by God and the chief test was apostolic authority. This authority did not mean that an apostle wrote the work but that it was approved by or directed by the apostles. The authority of the apostle was never detached from the authority of the LORD Himself (See Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:10)

[4] Ungers Bible Dictionary in New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999 : 29.

[5] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968 in Josh McDowell. New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999: 25,26.

[6] By this term "a stone in the shoe" it is a way of saying that you and I can give something to our questioner to think long and hard about, and most likely it is something that they have not thought about before.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Part 6: Do the Gospel Writers Contradict the Response of the Women in their Accounts?

This is the final posting in this series of specific challenges to the Garden Tomb accounts in the four gospels.  This last one is rather interesting because each of the gospel writers present a unique picture of the responses that came from the women following the dialogue with the angel(s) at the tomb.

Setting up the Challenge from the Skeptic

Our skeptic confronting the passages tells us that in Matthew's gospel, the "women run away and did tell the disciples."  In Mark's gospel it is alleged that the "women run away and didn't tell anyone."  It is also alleged by our antagonist that the "women tell the disciple what they saw, but the disciples all say, (essentially) "Oh you did not"(Luke's gospel). Finally, over in John's gospel our challenger states that Mary Magdalene "gets curious and goes back to the tomb, right behind the two men, and she stays after they’re gone. Then she sees two angels in white, plus she sees Jesus, but she thinks he’s a gardener.
Are these all contradictory accounts?  If you take the tone of a Bart Erhman or any other new skeptic, it might look rather contradictory.  But what you have to do is look at the big picture of all these accounts all put together.  To do this let me bring in the passages themselves.  

What Do the Passages Say?

To get the big picture, before coming to the response, I have provided the passages for yours and my reference.

Matthew 28:8  And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.

Mark 16: 7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"  8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Luke 24: 8 And they remembered His words, 9and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  10Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they (K)would not believe them.

John 20:10So the disciples went away again to their own homes.  11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;  12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

Response to the Challenge

What I will do here is summarize the challenge by responding to each of the points made.  Some may be combined and brought into play with other gospel accounts.  So here we go.

First allow me the privilege of dealing with the passage in Lukes gospel.  We are told by the skeptic that the "women tell the disciple what they saw, but the disciples all say, (essentially) "Oh you did not".  First off let me say that the women were not told the way that our challenger's bias presents it.  They do bring in a very interesting point.  Why weren't the women believed by the disciples when they told the men that they had seen the empty grave and seen the Lord?  

Let the record state that it is pretty common knowledge that in a patriarchal culture like Israel at that time, that a woman's testimony was not worth its weight in a court of law.  So if it is not worth a plug nickel in the minds of the Jewish men, why did the writers include it?[1]  

Skeptics do not like this principle as they try to put a limitation on it in this passage. But if you don't believe a woman in a court, and they are all testifying that a dead man has come to life, you cannot throw out the testimony unless they are proven to be liars.  Otherwise you believe them, whether they are women or not.  This is one of the reasons why these passages give the New Testament the credibility and authenticity that it has.  No one trying to make their case, during this time period, would dare bring in the women’s testimony to what they saw into account, unless what they were testifying to was true!

Now we turn to Matthew and Mark's accounts. Our skeptic friend tells us that Matthew's gospel, the "women run away and did tell the disciples" and Mark's gospel tells us that the "women run away and didn't tell anyone."  However in order to get the full picture of this, all three synoptic gospels must come into the picture here.

Both Matthew and Luke bring to the forefront that the women do testify that the LORD had risen, while Mark’s gospel states that the women were silent.  This is interesting because there are two gospel writers who bear witness to a testimony, and another gospel that gives a different look to the resurrection witness (John’s gospel).  Is there anything to be gleaned from this?  Yes.

Mark is the transcriber of the gospel bearing his name, but he is also Peter’s “secretary” to the events of the gospel account.  Peter is mentioned in John’s gospel as having been there with John.[2]  

While Mark’s gospel states that the women did not say anything, the question now is for how long did they not say anything?  The disciples had to have known something about the grave being empty.  How did they find out if the women were there first and they didn't say anything (Mark).[3]

To get the whole picture, allow me to paint it so that we can see it in its clarity. Remember these accounts are narrative historical accounts.

The women go to the tomb, and when they get there, they see the stone rolled away.  The gospel writers are pretty consistent that the women eyewitnessed the empty grave, and the body of Jesus no longer in that grave.

Finding this absolutely astounding, (after all, they SAW HIM DIE), emotions start stirring around.  Shock, fear of the unknown about a dead man coming to life, amazement and a whole plethora of other emotions take over.  Matthew and Luke say that the women reported what they had seen to the disciples.  Luke brings out that their testimony was not believed until Luke 24:12 when Peter gets up and high tails it to the grave to see for himeself.  Peter’s connection to the Mark’s gospel is his narrative to what he saw.  He knows the women said somethings but I think it is safe to say that though Mark states they did not say anything, he has meant this to mean it to be a momentary silence, because how can one keep from shouting “He’s Alive!”[4]  

Put all this in one big package, and it is clear that the events recorded by all four gospel writers are not in contradiction to the other(s).  

If you would like to review these installments they are listed here below:


[1]  This is known as the Principle of Embarrassment.The Principle of Embarrassment is a principle applied to
historical documents to evaluate their trustworthiness, authenticity, and veracity. Briefly stated, the Principle is statements by authors which tend to disparage their own agenda are more trustworthy.  Applying this to the Bible, this principle implies the veracity of the historicity of events described in the BIble.  

[2]  I don't know whether you have noticed it or not, but there is an interesting parenthetic written by John about his and Peter's speed in getting to the tomb.  Check out John 20:3-7.  Who got to the tomb first? 

[3] It looks like Mark gives only part of the details, where the other three Evangelists tell more of the details.  You have to look at the whole context of the event when all the possible passages show part or all of the event.  The event in this scenario is the Resurrection of Christ. 

[4] Mary Magdalene's eyewitness testimony falls in line with all that the other women had experienced.  The timeline of the full event is not given, but this does not sacrifice the truthfulness of the texts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Part 5: Are the Accounts of What the Angels Told the Women in Conflict with One Another? No.

We have seen up to this point that the Garden Tomb accounts demonstrate very clearly that the gospel writers' personalities were in tact toward what the Spirit superintended each of their writings.  For skeptics like the one who is catalyst to this my posting a response to this series, this next posting is going to reinforce my previous point even stronger.

Setting up the "Problem"

As you will see from the charges made by the skeptic, at least in this instance, that there is much neglect to the context of the entire event.  Here is what is challenged:

#1:  In speaking to Matthew's gospel it has been alleged that the angel invited the two women into the tomb and told them to inform the disciples that he would be showing up in Galilee. (Matt 28:1-8)

#2:  In Mark's gospel the person states that the "man in white tells them to inform the disciples that he’ll be showing up in Galilee." (Mark 16:1-8)

#3:  It is challenged that the "two men in white don’t speak." (Luke 24:1-12) and 

#4:  Our skeptical friend asserts that Mary Magdalene "finds Peter and tells him the stone is rolled away and that she also informs the “beloved disciple.”" (John 20:1-13)

What Do the Passages Say?

So that there is no question to the texts that are being challenged, I am going to quote the passages so that we can review them in the response.

Matthews gospel: 5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6"He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7"Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."

Mark’s gospel: 6And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"

Luke’s gospel: 5and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  6"He is not here, but He has risen Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (Please be reminded that our skeptic stated that the angels/men in white do not speak)

John’s gospel: 13And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

Response to the Challenge.

The common message that was told the women here in these passages is that “He is not here” (Mt 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6).  John’s gospel gives us a totally different perspective of the empty tomb through the persons that he chose to record under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  

The challenger of these passages makes the statement that Luke’s gospel that the angels (men) did not say anything (#3).  In all actual fact, the words of the angels (men) are recorded for us in 24:6, “He is not here, but He has risen.”  This shows us that the challenge is demonstrating a lack of looking at the entire context of the account before presenting this challenge to the text.

Given that we have these facts in hand, it is very clear that while the writers wrote different words, and that they had different audiences, it still remains clear that these passages are not in contradiction to any of the others in this instance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Part 4: Angel, Young Man/Men? Was what was recorded a contradiction?

We return back to the gospel records for our fourth out of six postings on whether or not the accounts of the Garden Tomb have contradictions to them. The fourth one deals with the angel or angels/young man/young men and what they did and said.

Setting up the problem.

In Matthew's gospel (28:1-8), states that an angel sat on the stone (v. 5). Mark's gospel (16:1-8) tells us that they saw a young man sitting wearing a white robe, and they were amazed (v.5). In Luke's gospel, we read that there are two men in dazzling clothing (24:3,4). Finally John's gospel gives a total different picture, with Mary Magdalene who was expected to go inside the tomb, but she leaves. In all of this though we see that there are two angels sitting in the tomb, one at the head and one at the feet of the stone-bed.

Now, is there a problem with whether these were human men or supernatural beings? What were doing and was it in conflict with the other accounts? Let's take a look.


If we look at each of the gospels in their contexts, we can see that there is really not a problem. Remember that the gospel writers record what they do with their personalities in tact and still under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Two angels (Luke), one angel (Matthew). One or two angels is no problem, because wherever you have two, you have one. This is not a problem. One young man in dazzling clothing or two angels in white clothing again, there is no problem.

Some may think that John’s gospel might be in conflict with the other three but this is not the case since John opts to record more details before telling us that there were “these two angels present”, than some of the other gospel writers. Again the problem that skeptic needs to remember not to do in reading the texts is that they do not need to impose upon the text how things really should be, but take the texts at face value. In so doing, there is no contradiction as the writers personalities and what they chose remained in tact while they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Part 3: Contradictions about What Was Seen Regarding the Stone at Jesus' Tomb? NO!

As you recall, this is Part 3 in a series of responses to one skeptical challenge regarding the gospels' accounts speaking about the tomb of Jesus.  If you want a more elaborated response to these, I will be presenting them this Fall in a course that I am currently writing and will be teaching that will be focused on the defense of the Resurrection of Christ.  For now, let's move to this entry's issue:  Are there any contradictions toward what was seen at the Jesus' tomb regarding the stone?  In this entry, it can be clearly seen that there are no contradictions.

Setting Up the Problem

Mattew's gospel records for us that there was an earthquake and an angel rolled away the stone, and there were guards that were trembling watching this happen (28:2,3). Mark's, Luke's and John's gospels record for us that the stone was already rolled back (Mk. 16:2-4; Luke 24:1-2).  The only difference between John and the other two is that John uses language that the "stone had already been taken away (20:1,2).

The question comes from the skeptic is that since Mark, Luke and John record that the stone was already rolled away, and Matthew does not, there must be a problem with Matthew's gospel.  Is this true?
Response to the Issue.

This is really not a problem.  The only problem is found in the challenge's lack of understanding of the fact that writers of each gospel account have their personalities in their writing and had the freedom to record what the Spirit of God guided them to write.  Again, the inspiration that came to the writers of Scripture was not 100% dynamic dictation.(1)  The writers personalities were totally in tact.

This being said, we know that Mark, Luke and John all agree that the stone was already rolled away before the women got to the tomb.  Remember they SAW the stone rolled away as they were arriving at the tomb site.  So, what's the deal with Matthew, why does he not say the same thing?

Well, if you look at the passage first thing we see is that Matthew provides with WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STONE.  There was an earthquake, "for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled back the stone, and sat on it."(2)  Matthew is essentially giving us more information than the other two, which is usually an indicator of authenticity rather than being in-genuine.

If one is so inclined to challenge Matthew, a couple things should be remembered.  First is that Matthew is not bound to record the exact same things as the other gospel writers.  He gives us more information and he jumps from the earthquake and trembling guards to the angel speaking to the women.  Writing with his mind totally in tact was supervised by the Holy Spirit, which brings me to the second point.

Second, we have a little enemy attestation in this same chapter(3). Where is this testimony from the enemy?  Right in the same chapter, 

11While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13and said, "Tell people, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

So we have more details from one of the gospel writers which confirm how the stone was rolled away and we have some rough tough Roman guards that fell like dead men when the supernatural event of an earthquake and an angel that could whip up on an entire Roman legion came down and rolled the stone away.  

Sounds like no contradictions to me.  If there are any problems, they are with the person looking for the contradictions ignoring the context of the accounts as they fall together.  This in most cases is due to a lack of understanding of the Bible.  

If you have lost track of these entries, please refer to the previous entries in this series.(4)  After reading this and the other postings in this series, what do you think?


(1) Rob Bradshaw notes that Dictation Theory means that God dictated the Scriptures to the writers and that the men who penned the Scriptures acted like typewriters taking the dictation while God spoke.  In other words, God took over by totally overriding their minds and personalities - hit the right keys. This theory has been consistently rejected over the centuries and no respected theologian or church leader has ever held it.  For more on the subject of inspiration you may go to Rob Bradshaw's Biblical Studies page found at http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_spirit.html.

(2) Matt. 28:2; Usually when the presence of God shows up, and an angel is present, you see the earthquake occurring with the event.  All through the Scripture whenever you see the presence of God, the earth is trembling.

(3) Habermas and Licona have a great section on this in their book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.  Enemy attestation simply stated, is when there is "testimony affirming an event or a saying is given by a source who does not sympathize with the person, message, or cause that profits from the account we have an indication of authenticity" (Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case of the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004: 37,38).

(4)  Other postings in this series: