If Jesus Wasn’t God, Then He Deserved an Oscar/Program 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2006
Three main assumptions that have been made by critics today who do not believe the New Testament books present accurate historical information about Jesus. The evidence that you can use to refute these assumptions.



Dr. John Ankerberg: Today on the John Ankerberg Show, recent surveys show that people are confused about what they believe about Jesus Christ. They think He was a great man, but are not sure about what He taught, who He claimed to be, and the purpose of His life. Through the years I have spoken to students on university campuses, to people in large gatherings, to conferences, and churches about the facts and evidence that can lead a person from skepticism to belief in Jesus Christ? Together let’s examine the evidence that can lead to a clear understanding of who Jesus is, resolve your doubts and answer your questions, and possibly lead you to faith in Him. Join me for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

Welcome to our program. I’m glad you joined me. This is the second program in our series where I’m taking you step-by-step through the facts and evidence that can lead a person out of skepticism to belief in Jesus Christ. In our first program I addressed those who claim to be atheists or agnostics, and began to lay a factual foundation that shows Christianity is totally based on a real man by the name of Jesus Christ who lived in real history. The reason we know Jesus lived is not only because of the emergence of the Christian Church, but because of seven authors who gave us historical information about His life. And we began to answer the question, how do we know that these authors gave us reliable historical information? Today, I want to continue down that path by examining the main assumptions critics make about the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. After you hear their assumptions, then I will present the evidence that you can use to refute them. Well, let’s begin. Go with me to a Christian University where I was presenting the assumptions critics make about the four Gospels.

Excerpt from Bob Jones University

Number one is, the critics assume that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John really didn’t write their books. Somebody else did 200 years later and put their name on it. Number two, they’re assuming that the people who wrote the book were not eyewitnesses down here. They were the guys that heard it through the grapevine way back there 200 years later. Number three, they’re assuming that the books were written and circulated to a generation of people. Not the people that actually were friends and enemies of Christ and had seen and heard Christ, but to a completely different generation that had never met Jesus, didn’t know anything about Him, and was 200 years removed from Jesus.
Now, that’s what standard fare is at the university. Let me ask you, What would you say to contradict a professor that said that? What information do you have right now that would put you on firm, solid, factual, historical ground to say that’s a lie, and you know it’s a lie?

Now that you have heard the main assumptions critics make about the four Gospels, I want you to hear the evidence that refutes these assumptions. To do so, come with me to Vail Colorado where I was speaking at the Dobson Arena.

Excerpt from Dobson Arena

Turn to 2 Peter 1:16. Do you remember The Last Temptation of Christ, the movie, and Martin Scorsese taking the information from Nikos Kazantzakis’ book, The Last Temptation of Christ? It’s just incredible that they were trying to put in story form the liberal view of today. They had the disciples sitting around a fire, okay. He’s Peter. He’s John. Jesus has already passed off the scene. And they’re sitting there and Scorsese, following Kazantzakis, has them say this.
Peter turns over to John and he says, “Hey, John, we’ve got to talk to the people tomorrow. We need a good miracle from Jesus. What could we have Him do?”
And John says, “Well, let’s see. I know. People are hungry so why don’t we have Him feed 5,000 people. That’ll kind of swing.”
You see, what they were saying was, Jesus didn’t really do this stuff. It was cooked up around the campfire with the disciples. Nikos Kazantzakis as well as Martin Scorsese and any of the people at Universal never read 2 Peter 1:16 to see what Peter himself said! Where he says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were” what? “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Underline the word “eyewitnesses.”
So first of all, Luke says, “We based it on eyewitnesses report.” Peter says, “Hey, this is not cleverly invented stories. We didn’t make this stuff up. We were there, Jack! We were there.”
Go to 1 John 1, the Apostle John. If you want to see a guy that says he saw something and that’s what he’s proclaiming to you, you have turned to the right spot. Take a look at this. Five times John says in these verses, “We have seen something.” Three times he says, “We have heard something.” Six times he says, “That which we have heard and seen, we proclaim or testify to you.”
Look at what he says. “That which was from the beginning.” Sounds like John 1:1, doesn’t it? “That which was from the beginning,” namely, God, “which we have heard.” Talking about the apostles and other eyewitnesses. “Which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at.” That word “looked at” is “carefully scrutinized; to really examine carefully.” “And our hands have touched.” Why did he say that had to touch Him? Because there was this little cult group going around called Gnosticism that said Jesus was a ghost. You don’t touch ghosts. He says, “We touched Jesus. Hence, He’s not a ghost.” “Which we looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared. We have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us and our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son Jesus Christ. He commanded us to preach to the people and” to what? “to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Verse 5, “And this is the message we have heard from Him and we declare to you.”
Do you get the idea that John saw something, heard something and that’s what he’s telling the people about? Look, Jack, if he didn’t say that here, I don’t know how the words could express that.
Now turn to Acts 2:22. Here’s what they said. Peter is preaching. “Men of Israel,” listen to this, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.” I want you to get the idea here. When Peter preached, he was preaching to other eyewitnesses. As F. F. Bruce at Manchester University said about the New Testament Gospels, one of the reasons that we know that they’re true information is, try to pad the case or lie when you’re preaching to an audience of people that were at the same scene that you’re talking about. And he says, “Remember, not all of those people were friendly.” They had killed the very person they were talking about. You had hostile witnesses. And if you said one word wrong, you’re history.
Go to Acts 2:32. Peter is preaching again, “God has raised this Jesus to life. We are” what? “witnesses of the fact.”
Go to Acts 4:19. Now look at this. This is great. Peter and John, okay? We just read John. See if this sounds like John, okay? “Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’” Boy, that sounds like John, doesn’t it? But they were saying, what we’re talking about is what we saw, what we heard. They are witnesses.
One more. Galatians 1:20. The Apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament. Paul says, and he wrote, “I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.” Now, when you hear this, you wonder if Avrum Stroll, Rudolph Bultmann, Nikos Katsanzakis, Martin Scorsese, or any of the liberal professors ever read the New Testament. They said they were there and they were eyewitnesses.
Now, the next thing is, when were these accounts written? Remember that the boys said—our liberal scholars say—“at the party” it was written 200 years later. Let me give you a couple of quotes. William F. Albright at Johns Hopkins University was the foremost biblical archaeologist in the world before he died just a few years ago. Every one of you guys that goes into archaeology in school and especially into biblical writings and so on, the Dead Sea Scrolls, you’ll have to deal with Albright. Before he died, William F. Albright said that every one of the books that you have in your New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation, every one of them, was written by a baptized Jew between the time of 40 to 80 AD. Then he went on and he said, “Most likely, 45 to 75 AD.”
One of the greatest critics of the Bible, who was not a believer but was a bishop, was the fellow that wrote Honest to God. John A. T. Robinson, a bishop and critic of the New Testament in England. He was challenged by his scholarly friends to reexamine when the New Testament documents were written. And before he died, he came out with a book called Redating the New Testament. In there he said, “Every book of the New Testament that we have was written before 69 AD, and the Gospel of Mark probably went to 40 AD.” When did Jesus die? 33 AD. 33 AD. If you want to see the documentation for that, look at The Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. It’s a book that just takes archaeology and puts the New Testament together from archaeology in terms of the dates. 33 AD was when Jesus died. If the first book, according to the critics, guys that didn’t even believe the Bible, came out in 40 AD, that means seven years after that the New Testament documents were starting to be on the newsstands around Jerusalem, okay? You don’t come up with myth or legend in seven years. Let me give you an illustration.
Alright, where were you—this will tell me how old you are—every one of you listen now. Where were you, what were you feeling, and what were you thinking when you heard these words: “The President of the United States has been shot,” talking about JFK? How many of you can remember where you were and what you were feeling? Great. How long ago did that happen? 1963. Thirty-two years ago. So if you’re 32 years of age or below, you have no idea what we’re talking about. But let me ask you guys that just raised your hand and said you’ve got no problem remembering that.
What if somebody came out and said, “Now, here’s how Kennedy died. He was driving down the street in his limousine and there was an Indian standing on the sidewalk. He had a bow and arrow. Took the bow, shot the arrow, got Kennedy right in the head and the arrow was sticking right out!” You would say, “No. Because we’ve all watched the gory scene of the bullets going through his head. We know he didn’t die by an arrow in the head.” Why? You were an eyewitness via the television or maybe you were actually on the street in Dallas.
I was speaking at First Baptist Church in Dallas and I was cruising along and it was one of those tours where you go from city to city and you don’t know where you are and you’re just preaching. And the fact is, I was talking and all of a sudden this audience goes absolutely stone-cold dead on me. I thought, “Gee, what did I say?” Then it dawned on me, I’m in Dallas. Where am I in Dallas? I was three blocks away from where Kennedy was shot. And the very people I was talking to, some of them were eyewitnesses right there on the curb.
Now, what I’m saying is this. You can remember, and if somebody came out with a phony report right now, because you can remember and you’re an eyewitness, nobody can get by with that. When these books of the New Testament came out, if it was only seven years from the time that Jesus had died, Kennedy was 32 years ago, and you can remember that clearly. You had no problem. Do you think it would be a problem for those people in that day to say to those apostles who were standing up in Jerusalem and saying, “He’s alive. We saw Him!” Get real, buddy! Do you think they would have been shy to say that? They’re the ones that killed Him, killed Jesus.
Let me give you a real example. Mark 2. It’s something that you guys all remember. You learned it in Sunday School class. It’s the story of the paralytic that was let down through the roof, right? Remember that story? Now let me show you something you never saw. In that account, what happens? The place is jammed out and the scribes, the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews are sitting there. And these poor guys pull up the paralytic and they take him to the meeting and when they get there, all the tickets are sold. They can’t even get in. Why? Because the bigwigs of the Jews are sitting there. So what do they do? One guy says, “Hey, let’s go to the roof. Let’s rip it up and tear it up and let the guy down.” The other guys were nutty, too. They said, “Hey, let’s do it.” The guy comes down through the roof. You know, I love Jesus. Nothing bothers Him.
And did you ever realize, this guy never walked? They obviously wanted Jesus to heal the guy. What does Jesus say to the guy? “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
“Hey, Jesus, you’ve got the wrong page here. Wrong script. No, no, no. Heal is what we need here.”
It’s really a wrong script when you realize in Matthew 9 if you look at the Greek words there, that it says this guy didn’t want to go to the meeting. It says when they picked him up, they forcefully picked this guy up and threw him on the mat. He didn’t want to go to the meeting. “Want to go?”
“Alright, you’re going anyway. Here we go.”
Now, this poor sucker’s coming down here and Jesus, He’s looking at all these people and Jesus says, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” And immediately the place goes up for grabs. Everybody goes “Ooh! Ah!”
What’s going on? Why did the place go into an uproar? You’ve got to know a little bit about Jewish background. Josephus, in his History of the Jews, tells us there is this guy by the name of Theudas who wanted to impress the people that he was God’s messiah. And if you were to be God’s messiah you had to do a miracle. So he picks out this one. This guy was a real mental case, okay? He goes out to the Jordan River. He’s got this crowd of Jews. He said, “I’m God’s messiah, the Son of God,” etc. They said, “Okay, if you are, show us the stuff. Give us a miracle.”
He looked at the Jordan River that was right there and he said, “Part, Jordan!” Everybody looked. Nothing happened. Josephus says they stood out there for about four hours in the hot sun and this guy is yelling at the Jordan River. And when nothing happened, they concluded, “This is blasphemy!” and they had a rock party. And they stoned old Theudas deader than a doornail for blasphemy. You could get killed. You didn’t go around saying “I’m the Messiah.” You didn’t go around saying, “I’m the Son of God.” You didn’t say any of that kind of stuff because they killed you if you did.
Jesus says, in front of the scribes, the leaders of the Jews, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” And they said, “We’re going to have another rock party.” And Jesus picks up on this and He says, “Hey, guys, what’s the problem? What’s the problem?”
They said, “Who do you think you are? God? There’s only One that can forgive sins. That’s God alone!” The Pharisees and the scribes weren’t always wrong. They were right. There is only One that can forgive sins. They read Isaiah in the Old Testament where God said, “I’m the only Savior. I’m the only God out here. I’m the only One that forgives anybody’s sins and nobody else.”
Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
They said, “Wait a minute. Who do you think you are? God?”
Now, they thought they were going to have a rock party. Things were getting a little tense in the room. Now, it’s interesting to see what Jesus did. What did Jesus do? He asks them a question, and I’m going to ask you this question and I want you to vote on the answer. I want to see if you’re still awake. Here’s the question. Jesus said, “Guys, in this situation, which is easier for me to say to the paralytic, number one,”—door number one—“your sins are forgiven, or” door number two, “take up your bed and walk?”
What was Jesus doing? Why did He ask them that question? Let’s take a vote and see if you know before I tell you the answer. How many say the easiest thing for Jesus to do in that situation would have been to say to this guy that had never walked, door number two, “Take up your bed and walk. Go on out of here.” That would have been the easiest thing for Jesus to say? Put your hand up, okay. You’ve got to put up one of them. Put your hand down.
How many would say, “No, no, those guys are all wrong. Here’s what the easiest thing for Jesus to say in that situation would be, ‘Hey, buddy, your sins are forgiven.’“ Put your hands up. How many wonder, why did Jesus even ask the question? I understand.
Well, let’s do it this way. They were saying, “Who do you think you are? God?” And basically Jesus, by saying “Your sins are forgiven” was claiming to be God, but, just like Theudas, you can make a claim, but you better back it up with a miracle, Jesus said, “Which is the easiest thing to say in this situation?”
Now, let’s say that Jesus was a fake and a phony like the modern liberal critics say today and like the scribes were saying back there. They were saying, “Jesus, you’re not God.” If you’re not God, you just want to try to pull it off that you are God, what are you going to say? You’re not going to say, “Hey, fellow, you that have never walked, I’ve got no power here, but let me just say, ‘Walk.’“ Nothing happens and what do they do? They kill you. So that’s not the easiest thing to say. If you’re trying to pass yourself off, you want a phony baloney miracle, something that can’t be touched. How about this one. “Now watch this. This is the proof that I’m the Messiah. Now watch this. Nothing up my sleeve. Now watch this. Here’s this guy. Are you ready? Watch this. ‘Fellow, your sins are forgiven!’ Did you see that?”
“That was a lousy miracle, Jesus. Nobody can see sins being forgiven. Boy, you’re a slick, slick willy if I ever saw one, I’ll tell you.”
So Jesus was saying to them, “Guys, you say I’m not God, and you think I said this so I can kind of impress you and I can be a slick willy and zip out of here and you couldn’t pin me to the wall.” That would be the easiest thing for Him to say, because they couldn’t see that.
But did you ever see what He said after He said that? He says, “But in order that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—that which you cannot see—“let me do something for you that you can see. And He said to the man, ‘I say unto you, take up your bed and walk.’ And the man stood up and he walked” and he walked out of there. And Jesus was saying, “When you see me do this one, you’ll know I did that one.”
Now, here’s the punch line. What book did that show up in? Mark. What was the first book on the newsstands? Mark. All the liberal scholars say that was the first one; seven years from the time we had Jesus’ funeral and He resurrected. Seven years. Just think about F. F. Bruce saying, “Listen, you had hostile people. Those Pharisees and Scribes, they were still alive when that book came out! If that had never happened and they were there and they were named to be there and all this stuff happened”—that was only seven years. You guys didn’t forget Kennedy in 32 years. Seven years with Mark. That account was on the newsstands and it tells me we have accurate information about Jesus, or it would have never gotten by the populous of that day.
Now, I’m just getting started. We’re going to pick up on this. Where we are going is, first, we’re going to establish that we have accurate historical information and so accurate that if you’re going to throw this out, you’re going to have to throw out Homer, Aristotle and all the classics of ancient history.
Then I want to say, “Now that we have accurate information, did Jesus ever claim that He was God?” We’ll look at the claims of Jesus Christ; we’ll try to look at the character of Jesus Christ; and we’ll look at the miracles of Jesus Christ and then draw a line for your modern-day friends.

Read Part 3

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