Eight Christian Scholars Defend the Faith/Program 3

By: Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr. , Dave Hunt, Dr. Anis Shorrosh, Dr. Robert

Morey, Dr. John Weldon, Bill Cetnar, Joan Cetnar, Dr. Gleason Archer; ©1993

The New Testament and the questions that skeptics ask? Have you ever asked questions about the New Testament? You wonder why it’s reliable? Have you ever heard from teachers at the university that the information about Jesus was not correct, it was just legend or myth?



Ankerberg: Welcome. We have eight guests with us tonight, professors and teachers. And have you ever asked questions about the New Testament? You wonder why it’s reliable? Have you ever heard from teachers at the university that the information about Jesus was not correct; it was just legend or myth? That’s what we’re going to talk about tonight and we’re going to ask those questions of our experts here on stage. Dr. Walter Kaiser, just a few months ago Time and Newsweek ran articles on religion. And of course, they went back and quoted F. C. Bauer and they also quoted Rudolf Bultmann and other critical liberal scholars that said that the Gospels were written so many years – Bauer said 200 years after the time that Jesus lived – that really we don’t have anything but legend and myth. We have no way of getting back to the historical fact, so really we don’t know too much about Jesus. We believe and hope that He actually lived but that’s about as far as we can get, and anybody that says differently just isn’t informed. What would you say to that?
Kaiser: John, I think that there is a very good piece of evidence, to start out with. The most controversial of the four Gospels is John. John is said to be too theological; too developed; and it’s too personal and too evangelistic. And alright, let’s take that then. John Rylands Papyrus. There’s a little scrap of paper, oh, about two and a half inches by an inch and a half but with a text from John 18, dated by those who study papyri and the shape of letters and the quality of the materials. And here it is, way up north in Egypt – deep in Egypt – dated AD 125. This was so impressive that William Foxwell Allbright, then at Johns Hopkins, was so impressed, he said, “This cannot be a second or third century Christian Gospel in the Christian century.” He said, “It must be the earliest of the Gospels.” So he dated John’s gospel to AD 45. Now, that’s much more conservative than what I am. I would be happy with 85-90. AD 90 will be fine, thank you. But he thought it was so impressive and it’s in circulation so far deep into Egypt that he was required to put it there. So I think there’s very, very good evidence for going against the old hypothesis of F. C. Bauer and Bultmann and others.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Bultmann said that John was influenced by the Gnostic writing of the second century, and of course, that really cut into his theory if the book was already written.
Kaiser: Yeah, the facts are hard to handle.
Ankerberg: Yes. Bob?
Morey: And I think we have to point out that one of the greatest liberals who wrote the book, Honest to God, which many college students were forced to read and endure, has written a book entitled, Redating the New Testament, in which he says all of the New Testament books were written before AD 70 and the destruction of the temple, and he did this on the basis of internal evidence. Here is a liberal who is more conservative now than the conservatives. Plus you have the book by Dr. William White and David Estrada based on the work of Father O’Callahan who was working with the Dead Sea Scrolls of the possibility, according to the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, that in Cave 7 of the Dead Sea Scroll area you found 27 little portions of the New Testament, some of which must be dated 57, 64, on the basis of what else was in that jar. Well, the conclusions are not altogether confirmed. They are still fighting about it I know in Denmark. As this evidence rolls in – and I read in the New York Times an entire page, they quoted liberal theologians who said, “I don’t care if it shows in the end these were portions of the New Testament. I will refuse to accept it because it will destroy all of liberal scholarship,” – it is a case of, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up.”
Ankerberg: Dave?
Hunt: Just for the ordinary person like us down here that don’t have all of these degrees, you know, and suppose a person doesn’t have this evidence available to them? Let’s just read the Bible. John claims it was what he saw, he handled and so forth. They claim to be eyewitnesses. [1 John 1] Now, either these guys had the secret of longevity and they’re still living way back there 200 or 300 years later. “Well, how come they didn’t write it sooner?” and “How come they could live so long?” Or else, they’re liars: whoever wrote this book is lying and pretending to be somebody that they aren’t. And as you read the New Testament and the moral impact it has on people’s lives, you can’t believe this thing was concocted by a bunch of liars.
Ankerberg: Right. Walter, we take those writings and some people say that, “You know, it came through all those monks in the Middle Ages and some of them were drunk and some of them weren’t too sharp and they made a lot of errors.” How do we know that the copies that we’ve got today, the Bible we have today, is really what John and Mark and Luke and Matthew, what they actually wrote?
Kaiser: Well, we have the science of textual criticism, which is one where there are so many copies for the New Testament, going back so close to the actual writing of them, that it has been, I think, possible to get that text out, and with all variations and with all kinds of classes of different readings that would come, so that basically we’re talking between 4,000 major manuscripts, up to 25,000, if you’re talking about parts of it. No other book has been so well attested. No series of events, no historical event in the whole of all history has had as much documentation as the New Testament documents. So indeed, they are extremely reliable.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now let me ask all of you to do something a little different tonight and that is that the cults, those in the occult, those that are liberal scholars, also all join together and say one thing. They say that if you were to accept those New Testament documents as being reliable historical documents that give us information about Jesus, even then, if anybody reads it, you will see that Jesus never claimed to be God. And they repeat this over and over again. Would you mind if I just called on each one of you to grab a portion of any of the verses there and tell us why that really speaks to you and why people can’t slip off with the fact that it’s clear to you that through those words Jesus is making a direct claim to being God. Walter, I’ll give you the first shot.
Kaiser: Well, I still think the best text ever is John 10:30: “I and my Father are one.” And “He that has seen me has seen God,” John 14:9. Now, you can fight about that but if you do, you go against the audience that was there. They understood this and picked up stones. They were going to stone Him because they said, “He’s blaspheming. He’s claiming to be God.” [John 10:30-33] And Jesus did not say, “Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Hold it down.” There’s no record of that. I would have thought that was there for the Jesus Seminar and those who are dropping stones in to say whether Jesus said this or not and whether it’s true or it’s not. I wish they would look at those other stones, not the ones they’re dropping in the basket, but indeed the ones that the Jews picked up because they understood Him clearly. He did claim to be God.
Ankerberg: Joan, coming from a Jehovah’s Witness background that denied that Jesus was God, what verse or verses really struck you that proved the point that He was claiming to be God?
Joan: Well, when I finally got a correct translation of John 8:58, knowing who the I Am really is from Exodus 3:14-15, His plain statement to the Jews in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was [or came into existence], I Am,” you just can’t get away from that. But they tried. They tried real hard. As I grew up I learned He was a ‘has been,’ I mean a ‘have been,’ and that is their translation of that. And it’s just not correct. It doesn’t stand up under any good scholarship, as my colleagues can say.
Ankerberg: Dr. Anis Shorrosh, coming from the Middle East and being an Arab Palestinian, what evidence in the New Testament convinced you that Jesus was claiming to be very God?
Shorrosh: Besides saving me, changing me, teaching me to love my enemies, giving me security for now and eternity, I find that the last book of the Old Testament declares, “And suddenly the Lord Himself will come to His temple.” [Mal. 3:1] And when Jesus appeared on the scene, He could make that claims, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” [John 14:6] “I am the light of the world.” [John 8:12] “I am the resurrection and the life.” [John 11:25] “I am.” And “I am” is equated, of course, with God’s name. Secondly, the most remarkable of all that my colleagues would agree with is John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He’s alive. He’s real. He can save you and anybody who wants to be saved. Only He can do that!
Ankerberg: Yessiree. We’re not afraid that Dr. Anis isn’t going to heaven, we’re just afraid he’s going to shout and go right on by. Dave Hunt, in your studies, what has been the saying of Jesus or the words that Jesus used that persuaded you He was God?
Hunt: Well, it’s all through the New Testament but let me take one maybe the rest of them weren’t thinking of so I don’t steal their thunder. Let’s go back to the chapter that Joan had. A little earlier in the chapter, John 8:31-32. Jesus said to those who believed on Him, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” That must have set those Jews back on their heels real fast. Who is this guy claiming to be? “If you continue in my word.” Hey, I thought we were following the Word of God. Is He claiming to be God? “Then you will be my disciples.” Wait a minute; I thought we were Moses’ disciples. Remember in John 9, that’s what the Pharisees said to this blind man who had been healed. [John 9:28-29] He’s undoubtedly claiming to be God. You couldn’t get away from it. And then finally at the end of the chapter He says, “Before Abraham was I Am.” [John 8:58] That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. They were ready to kill Him at that point. You just can’t deny it when you face the words of Jesus Himself.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Dr. John Weldon, what did Jesus say that struck you that you couldn’t get away from the fact that He was claiming to be God? Because you weren’t always a Christian; you were a skeptic coming out of the university. What changed your mind?
Weldon: I was a skeptic right until my last year undergraduate and I really didn’t believe in the Bible; didn’t believe in God; didn’t believe in Jesus. Christ dramatically changed my life. And I was amazed at the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity once I began to study it that I’d never been exposed to. But in John 5:22-23, Jesus said that all judgment had been given unto Him, that men would honor Him even as they honor God. Now, no one can deny that the Father is honored as God. And if men are to honor Jesus just as they honor the Father, then Jesus must also be God. It is God’s prerogative alone to judge all men and women at the end of history. And if Jesus has that prerogative and if all judgment has been given into His hand, then He must be God.
Ankerberg: Dr. Gleason Archer, the cults twist one of the verses that was just used and I’d like you to straighten it out. It’s John 1:1. It’s so clear. It’s so plain. Why is it that people twist it? And straighten it out for us. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” They say the Word was a God.
Archer: John 1:1 – en arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos. This is translated correctly in our normal Bible versions: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Now, with their very limited knowledge of Greek, the founders of the Watchtower Society said, “Oh, but there’s no word for ‘the’ before the word for God in that opening statement; it should have been a God.” But this is a mistake. It comes from a lack of knowledge of Greek grammar. In Greek grammar if you wish to emphasize the predicate nominative, that is, the Word was God, then the way you do it is you put the predicate first; but it cannot have a definite article with it. It cannot have a “the” with it. Otherwise, it would mean that God was the Word and that was the only form of God there was, rather than bringing out the point that He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. And so it’s a matter of assumed knowledge of Greek which the founders and teachers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses simply did not have. And if I recall correctly, when Russell was on the stand in a law court, he brought up something about what the Greek said and the attorney that was examining him came up with a Greek Bible and said, “Alright now, will you read the Greek and translate it for us at this point?” He said, “Oh, I can’t read Greek.”
Ankerberg: Dr. Robert Morey, what’s the verse that strikes you that Jesus is claiming to be God and you can’t slide off the hook?
Morey: Well, I think I’ll leave the Gospels and go to a post-resurrection passage. In Revelation 1, when Jesus appeared to the apostle John, He used certain phraseology from Isaiah 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12 where Yahweh said, “I am Yahweh, the first and the last, the first and the last, the first and the last.” He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. And what did Jesus say in Revelation 1:17, “I fell at his feet and he said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last.’” No creature could claim a Divine title in any clearer way than Jesus did in this post-resurrection. So He didn’t lose His divinity on the cross. He didn’t lose the Christ-idea like the Gnostics and the Christian Scientists. He was Deity from the beginning and He was Deity in His post-resurrection and He will forevermore be the theanthropic Person, the God-Man, Christ Jesus.
Ankerberg: Robert, a lot of folks out there can make claims. It’s one thing to establish the fact that Jesus claimed to be God. Father Divine in Philadelphia said he was God, too, but it was a terrible thing when he died there. “God” died in Philadelphia. The thing is that what’s the proof for Jesus’ claim that He gives so that the skeptic that is listening tonight and says, “Oh, big deal. He claims to be God; so what?” What’s the evidence that backs up that claim that people need to come to grips with?
Morey: Well, first there is the evidence of fulfilled prophecy – that is things that were beyond the control of Jesus Christ which fulfilled Scripture, which indicated the coming of Yahweh. Remember, Isaiah 40:3 said, “Prepare the way” for whom? For the Lord, for Yahweh, for God Himself. “The Lord shall come to the temple.” [Mal. 3:1] Bethlehem: He will be born there. [Micah 5:2] But don’t think that’s the beginning of ha mashiach, the Messiah. His origins reach back to olam, into eternity, from everlasting to everlasting. [Psa. 90:2] And when you find Jesus, for example, on the day He died fulfilling 33 prophecies in one day – and He was not on the cross with the FAX machine arranging everything. This was out of His control. Everything that happens to the very end fulfilled that He was, as was expected, as was declared, “the child is born, the Son is given, the Mighty God, the El Gibbor,” [Isa. 9:6] fulfilled prophecy. Secondly, the miracles that He did. He proved He was God. Who else can raise the dead and do what He did? And then lastly, we are told in Romans 1:4 that God declared to everyone who Jesus was by the resurrection out from among the dead. There were other resurrections, but it was one cradle and two crypts. His resurrection was a resurrection unto glory, a glorified body, immortal, incorruptible; the glorious. And the resurrection verifies to one and all, for God has declared to one and all by the man who He raised from the dead that this man is the One who is going to judge all men. [Acts 17:31]
Ankerberg: What if a guy says, “I don’t believe there was resurrection. So you claim there is one, so what’s the proof that there was a resurrection from the dead?”
Morey: Well, once you’re convinced when the Bible teaches a bodily resurrection. Someone said, “I don’t care. I already agree the Bible teaches that. Secondly, the physical reality. There was no body in the tomb. And let me tell you, if the body of Jesus could have been found by some Jew or someone, it would have been trotted out and there would have been trinkets and souvenirs and all sorts of things. Thirdly, the legal evidence. There is more evidence to convict Jesus of being alive than is necessary. Imagine that 500 people gave testimony in court that John Ankerberg robbed one of the banks down here and, “I saw him, yeah.” And along comes a liberal scholar and says, “Well, 500 people; they could have been having a magic mushroom party. They could have been having this. It was joint hallucination.” That guy wouldn’t get anywhere.
He ate. He drank. He said, “Touch; feel. I’m not a ghost. This is real. This is the body that was on the cross. Here I am.” [Luke 24:39] He proved it. And when He made that meal at the shore, [John 21] as Francis Schaeffer once told me, he said, “Bob, there were footprints in the sand.” Footprints in the sand. Legal evidence, the biblical evidence, the physical evidence, and lastly, the psychological evidence.
What else except the reality of the resurrection would change these pitiful cowards, these people who were depressed. They gave up on Jesus. They went back to fishing. They went back to farming. They said, “He’s dead. He’s gone.” The only ones who even cared were the women. And they went on the third day to put perfume on Him because they thought He was still a corpse. And the men would not believe the women. The women would not believe the women. Nobody would believe. They were not gullible people who were expecting a resurrection and they got what they expected – they were forced, like Thomas, to acknowledge: “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28] that Jesus was Lord and God by the evidence.
Shorrosh: Bob.
Morey: Yes.
Shorrosh: Don’t forget. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives? Where? In my heart and yours and every believer. Amen.
Ankerberg: Dave Hunt, for people that want to come to know that Jesus that claimed to be God and proved that He was God by coming forth from the dead on the third day, how do they come into a relationship with Him?
Hunt: Well, if He’s alive, He’s real. He’s God. He can hear your prayer. And you talk to Him. And He said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” [John 6:37] He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” [Rev. 3:20] It’s the door of every man’s heart. He said this after He rose from the dead. “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and I will fellowship with him.” [Rev. 3:20] That’s in fact the way I came to Christ. You know, “Believe on Him.” And I was bothered as a young fellow just before I went to high school, the summer before I was going to high school, and I said to the preacher who was trying to win me to the Lord, “Well, supposing there’s a secret doubt and I say I believe but I don’t really believe?” And He said, “Well, why don’t you just leave it up to Jesus. He said if you open the door He would come in. Why don’t you just open the door and ask Him to come in and then leave it up to Him.” And I did and I can tell you, a transformation in my life. I know He’s alive and I know He’s God. He changed me.
Ankerberg: Thank you. And next week we’re going to continue asking our experts here the questions that the skeptics ask, but we’re going to turn to the cults. We have more than 5,000 cults in America, many of them making truth claims of their own. We’re going to compare with they’re saying with what the Bible says. So I hope that you’ll join us.

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