On Guard – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Who Was Jesus?

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29 RSV)

[Jim’s intro.

Thompson Chain Reference Bible’s Archeological Supplement by G. Frederick Owen

Pastor in Iowa, Rev. Lowell Stoesz, annually trekked to the Middle East for archeological digs.

Is the Bible true? Is the Old Testament historically reliable?

The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Solid Ground (Greg Koukl) – Since humans were involved in the writing process, doesn’t that mean the Bible must by necessity contain errors?

(If the Bible is so unreliable historically, why do archeologists carry it around like a guidebook while in the Middle East?)

What are colophons?]

On Guard!

The Challenge of Skeptical Scholars: Professor John Hick in The Myth of God Incarnate claimed that the divine Christ we read about I the gospels is a myth. In reality, they argued, Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be the Son of God or the Lord or any sort of divine figure. Of course, an event like Jesus’ resurrection was out of the question. . .

Wm. Craig wondered, Why don’t our New Testament scholars answer this stuff? Why does it go unchallenged in the press?

Setting the Stage. . .

The New Testament writings are Primary Source Documents. Since Jesus Himself didn’t leave behind any writings of His own, we depend on the records of others for knowing what Jesus said and did. Question: How can we tell if these records are historically accurate?

There are three sources of information about Jesus of Nazareth:

  • Christian
  • Roman
  • Jewish

Objections: If you depend on the New Testament rather than outside sources you’re reasoning in a circle, using the Bible to prove the Bible. Historians take it a step further, treating the New Testament just like any other collection of ancient documents and investigating whether these documents are historically reliable.

Response: The New Testament documents are the earliest, best and most complete sources about Jesus. By ruling that we rely only on sources outside the New Testament means that we ignore the earliest primary sources about Jesus in favor of sources that are later, secondary, and less reliable – and non-sense.

Burden of Proof

Should we assume that the gospels are reliable unless they are proven to be unreliable? Or should we assume that the gospels are unreliable unless they are proven to be reliable? Are they innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent? Skeptical scholars almost always assume that the gospels are guilty until proven innocent, that is, they assume that the gospels are unreliable unless and until they are proven to be correct concerning some particular fact.

Five reasons to challenge this assumption:

  1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to erase the core historical facts. “How can you know anything that happened two thousand years ago?
  1. The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary “urban legends.”
  1. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable.
  1. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision.
  1. The gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability. Luke, the author of the Third Gospel and the book of Acts of the Apostles provides and excellent case study. Was Luke reliable in getting the facts straight? Sir William Ramsey provides a well researched answer. . .


Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Habermas, Gary R., Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus

Lutzer, Erwin W., You Can Trust the Bible

McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence

Muncaster, Ralph O., Examine the Evidence

Pfeiffer, Charles F., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible

Price, Randall, The Stones Cry Out

Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ

Yamauchi, Edwin, Archaeology and the Bible

The Claims of Jesus

The Trilemma (Josh McDowell) Was Jesus Lord, Liar or Lunatic?

C. S. Lewis, a Cambridge professor, presents the problem:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God’. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. . . You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

JESUS CLAIMS TO BE GOD (Two Alternatives)

HIS CLAIMS WERE TRUE – He is LORD (Two Alternatives)

  • You can ACCEPT
    • You can REJECT

HIS CLAIMS WERE FALSE (Two Alternatives)

    1. He was a LIAR
    2. He was a HYPOCRITE
    3. He was a DEMON
    4. He was a FOOL for He died for it

Criteria of Authenticity – Moving beyond neutrality to affirmation.

Six signs of historical authenticity:

  1. Historical fit: The incident fits in with known historical facts of the time and place.
  2. Independent,early sources: The incident is related in multiple sources, which are near to the time when the incident is said to have occurred and which don’t rely on each other or on a common source.
  3. Embarrassment: The incident is awkward or counterproductive for the early Christian church.
  4. Dissimilarity: The incident is unlike earlier Jewish ideas and/or unlike later Christian ideas.
  5. Semitisms: Traces of Hebrew or Aramaic language (spoken by Jesus’ countrymen) appear in the story.
  6. Coherence: The incident fits in with facts already established about Jesus.

Explicit Claims

Messiah – Anointed One sent from God (Greek word – Cristos)

If Jesus Himself never claimed to be the Messiah, how did His followers come up with this idea?

Good evidence that Jesus made this claim:

  • Peter’s confession – Mark 8:27-30. Independent confirmation.
  • Jesus answer to John the Baptist in prison – Matt. 11:2-6; Luke 7:19-23. Criterion of embarrassment
  • Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem
  • Disruption in the Jerusalem Temple
  • Jesus’ Trial before the Sanhedrin
  • The plaque nailed to the cross. Criterion of dissimilarity, independent sources

The Son of God

Three examples that Jesus made this claim:

  • The wicked tenants of the vineyard – Mark 12: 1-9
  • Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22. “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Early source, original Aramaic version.
  • Mark 13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. Criterion of embarrassment

The Son of Man – This was Jesus’ favorite self-description, used over 80 times. This was not a title that arose in later Christianity and was then written back into the traditions about Jesus. On the basis of the criteria of independent sources and of dissimilarity, we can say with confidence that Jesus called Himself “the Son of Man.” Note the use of the definite article>

  • Daniel 7:13-14
  • Matt. 8:20 “Foxes have holes, the birds . . . have nests, but the Son of Man. . .”
  • Mark 14:60-64. All three of these titles come together at Jesus’ trial.

Implicit Claims

Jesus Preaching of the Kingdom – the centerpiece.

His frequent referral to the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples. And who will be the king over all Israel?

  • Matt. 19-28
  • Luke 22:28-30

Jesus Authority –

  • His teaching – You have heard. . . but I say to you. . .” The crowds were astonished to hear words like this.
  • His use of “Truly, I say to you”
  • His Exorcisms
  • His Claim to Forgive Sins – Matt 9:6

Jesus’ Miracles – Well corroborated historically, says John Meier

  • Matthew 11:4-6
  • Does so in His own name, not God’s

Jesus’ Role as Judge


Craig, William Lane, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics

Geisler, Norman, The Apologetics of Jesus

Hackett, Stuart C., The Resurrection of Theism

Jones, Peter, Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus

Kreeft, Peter & Tacelli, Ronald, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity

McDowell, Josh, Evidence that Demands a Verdict

McDowell, Josh, &Larson, Bart, Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity