The Bible is a book written over the course of fifteen hundred years by more than forty authors. Christian apologist, Josh McDowell writes that these authors were kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds. The Bible was written in many different places, like out in the wilderness, dungeons, prison, while traveling, and while in exile. It was written during wars and times of peace and by scribes on three different continents and in three different languages. Different literary styles. Yet, it manages to tell ONE cohesive story throughout the history of the canon. And still, people will question how do we know it is the word of God.
Well, if what said above doesn’t convince someone, is there another way to demonstrate this uniqueness of scripture? Can we show somehow that these authors and their works are connected in some way? Yes. The answer is by fulfilled prophecy.
However, in most instances, we don’t have the time or the memory to run through the many examples of the successful fulfillment of prophecy. But maybe we can memorize one example. An especially strong one. Let’s try a method that I learned from a friend on Facebook. Below, I posted a short sample dialogue to guide a potential conversation:
Unbeliever: “How do you know the Bible is the word of God?”
Believer: “Great question! Before I answer you though, can I ask you a question?”
Unbeliever: “Okay. I guess.”
Believer: “If I described a situation by saying ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ or ‘they pierced my hands and feet’ or ‘they divided my clothes and gambled for my garments’, if I said those things to you, what do you think I would be describing?
Unbeliever: “Well, sounds like you are describing The Crucifixion. So what?”
Believer: “Very good. I am. But I am not quoting Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John where the story of The Crucifixion is usually told. I am quoting Psalm 22. A Psalm dated about one thousand years before the event of The Crucifixion. How would you explain that?”
Unbeliever: “Right. But the Bible writers knew about this Psalm ahead of time, right? They could just add these details in to make their story sound convincing. Couldn’t they?”
Believer: “Well, not really in this instance.”
Unbeliever: “Why not?”
Believer: “These details are unlikely additions because crucifixion, as a method of execution, did not exist one thousand years before Christ. Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 300-400BC and developed, during Roman times, into a punishment for the most serious of criminals. The Israelites executed people by stoning them, not nailing them to a cross. King David, the psalmist, further describes one being able to ‘count all my bones’ (v.17) and being ‘poured out like water’ (v.14) and their bones being ‘out of joint’ (v14). These references to The Cross would have made zero sense to a first century Jew until The Messiah was crucified. Apart from the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal God, how would you account for this?”
I am honestly not sure what the unbeliever would say to that. But this is one step, maybe just a small one, we can take as a body of believers to move the skeptic toward the truth of the Gospel. Maybe this explanation removes a barrier or stumbling block that kept this person from coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
May we lovingly engage these people whenever we find them. God Bless.
Each new year many believers vow to read the Bible cover to cover within the next 12 months. I have tried and failed this objective many times. This year I want to try something different. I will study just a few books (starting with the Gospel of Matthew) of the Word instead of the whole book. And I will STUDY instead just monotonously churn through words as I have done in years past. I will read commentaries, blog posts, opinions, histories, and textual criticism. Pretty much anything about Matthew that I can get my hands on. So suggestions for study material would be appreciated.
I hope to periodically post notes and things I have learned from this endeavor. I imagine some of it will be apologetics, some may be pastoral, and some maybe just asking questions for further study. My hope in sharing is that someone else may be inspired to dig deeper into God’s Word. I have already benefited even in this short time.
So let’s begin.
Apologetics for the Jewish People
From the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, it is clear that the writer is forming a work of apologetics for the Jewish people, beginning with a genealogy that connects Abraham to Jesus Christ and then consistently noting where the happenings of Christ’s life reveal fulfillment of prophecy in the Jewish Scriptures.
In just the first two chapters alone, we have five references to Jesus’ movements and presence fulfilling the words of the prophets. In Matt 1:22-23, we have noted the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 with the instance of the virgin birth. Then Matt 2:5-6 shows that a ruler will come out of Judah, a reference to Micah 5:2. Then in the span of the last eight verses of chapter two, we have three examples of completed prophecy with mentions of Hosea 11:1, Jeremiah 31:15, and a prophecy that is strangely unrecorded by the Old Testament Scriptures but listed internally as prophecy fulfillment in Matt 2:23.
There are many critics of Matthew’s habit of citing often vague and seemingly unrelated Old Testament scripture as fulfillment of prophecy. The references do not come across as obvious or convincing in many instances. I invite you to Google the discussions for more detail. Scholar R.T. France, in his commentary “Matthew”, says the apostle applies these texts in subtle, seemingly forced and artificial ways. But then he goes on to explain C. F. D. Moule’s observation that argues that “this ‘vehicular’ use of Scripture ‘is a symptom of discovery that, in a deeply organic way, Jesus was indeed a fulfiller of something which is basic in the whole of Scripture.’” France then goes on to say that:
“what may seem to us an embarrassingly obscure and even irresponsible way of handling Scripture is in fact the outworking of a careful tracing of scriptural themes, which in different ways point to Jesus as the fulfiller not only of specific predictions, but also of the broader pattern of God’s Old Testament revelation.” (pp39-40)
So this topic is heading way beyond the scope of one of my blog posts. A good item to shelve for further in depth study. There is tons more there. I invite you to dig in.
More interesting to me is that much of the story here in the first two chapters seems to be from Jesus’ adopted father Joseph’s point of view. Some scholars believe that Joseph may be an actual source for Matthew. But this just leads to more questions for me. When would Matthew have gotten Joseph’s testimony? Would it have been from another source who knew him or is this direct testimony? The reason I ask is that it is my opinion that Joseph is no longer living by the time of the Crucifixion because of John’s Gospel observing mother Mary at the Cross in chapter 19, verse 25-27:
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (NIV)
So, in John, Mary is there with her sister, another Mary, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelene. No Joseph. Now, we might think it is possible that Joseph was there but not mentioned until we see how the passage unfolds. In the passage, Jesus notices his mother and arranges for the beloved disciple, John, to become her new son and she would be his new mother! John is then to take her into his home “from that time on” (v.27). So many believe, including me, Joseph may have passed on by then. Nonetheless, it would seem odd if Jesus were to give his mother to the beloved disciple if His father, her husband, were still in the picture.
Note that Mary’s children are not by her side either in the passage from John. Many believe that could be due to the family’s skepticism as reported in Mark 3:21-22:
21 When his family[a] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV)
It’s interesting that in a parallel story later in Matthew (12:46-50) the writer doesn’t mention any worries by Jesus’ family of mental illness as it does in Mark. This may be inline with Matthew’s attempt to minister to the Jews about fulfilled prophecy and the deity of Christ so this doesn’t fit neatly into his apologetic purposes.
It should be noted however that the word “family” there in Mark 3 probably does not include Mary and Joseph and his brothers. We think this, in part, because later in verse 31 it describes these family members (Mary and Jesus’ brothers) arriving onto the scene and calling for him. In the NASB translation, the word “family” (from the NIV) is replaced with “his own people” and the RSV called them “friends”.
Other explanations for the source of Joseph’s testimony, if not him directly, could be that this came to Matthew secondhand, maybe from James or Jude as told to them by Joseph or maybe from other brothers and sisters or family members post-Resurrection. My guess is it would have to be from someone with a personal familial connection to protect this information for so long.
“How long?” you may ask. Well, the common dating of Matthew is around AD 80 (I personally think it’s earlier). If that were true, and Joseph died before AD 30 (to keep the numbers round), and it was true that Matthew 1-2 records his testimony of parts of the nativity story, Joseph’s side of things could have been kept by this relative or relatives for 50 years or more.
Herod The Great?
Bible skeptics often bring up Matthew 2:13-18, “The Slaughter of the Innocents”, as a narrative invention of the Apostle Matthew, mostly due to the fact that contemporary historians, like Flavius Josephus, do not corroborate the story of the murder of all infant boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. To answer this challenge, I found an interview with ancient history expert Dr. Paul Maier, Russell Seibert Professor at Western Michigan University. Below, Dr. Maier first provides some insight into the notorious character of Herod The “Great” and then he answers the difficulty.
Interviewer: Explain the paranoid side of Herod that begins to emerge later in his life.
Maier: “Josephus gives us just a hideous tale of what was going on in the family, attempted poisonings, one brother against another. It so rattled Herod that he actually put to death three of his own sons on suspicion of treason. He put to death his favorite wife out of 10 of them. Mariamne was his favorite. She was a Hasmonean Macabean princess and he put her to death and then he killed his mother-in-law — I should say, one of his many mothers-in-law. He invited the high priest down to Jericho for a swim. They played a very rough game of water polo and they drowned him. He killed several uncles and a couple of cousins. Some have said he is a real family man, you know, in that negative respect.”
(Continuing to document the cruel exploits of Herod . . .)
Maier:“Well, Josephus has a very grisly thing to report about Herod in his last months. He was paranoid, though he did have some grasp of reality. For instance, he was worried that nobody would mourn his own death. Of course that shows how deadly accurate he was. They were preparing a general celebration. And nobody likes to die knowing that they are going to dance on your grave. And so he was going to give the people something to cry about.
In 4 BC he is in his winter palace in Jericho. It’s the only place in the holy land that doesn’t snow or get cold in the winter. It’s 1,200 feet below sea level. And Herod is dying. He tries every remedy in the world to stop the gang of diseases that were creeping up on him. He went to the hot springs on the northeastern corner of the Dead Sea. And that didn’t cure him.
So he goes back to his winter palace and he invites his sister Salome in and he says, “I want you to arrest all the Jewish leaders in the land and imprison them in the hippodrome just below the palace here.” And the hippodrome has been discovered archaeologically, by the way. And so she does so and then she says, “Brother, why am I doing this?” And Herod says, “Well, I know that when I die the Jews are going to rejoice. So I want to give them something to cry about.” And so he wants these leaders all executed in that hippodrome so that there will be thousands of households weeping at the time Herod the Great dies.”
Interviewer: Speaking of Matthew 2, the Bible records this scene from Herod’s paranoia late in his life. The wise men alert him to the birth of a new king in Bethlehem. He wants to know where, so he can eradicate this new rival. The wise men wisely don’t return. Herod then responds by slaughtering all boys two-years-old and under in Bethlehem and in “all the region.” For all that Josephus writes about Herod, he makes no mention of this — in fact, there’s no extra-biblical evidence that this slaughter ever happened. How do you respond?
Maier:“No, it is interesting. Josephus does not mention it. And therefore a lot of biblical critics will pounce on that aspect of the nativity account and say therefore it didn’t happen. Now please understand this is an argument from silence and that is the weakest form of argumentation you can use. As we say in the profession, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
In this case one or two things could have happened. Josephus may have heard about it and not used it because you don’t have hundreds of babies killed or you have only about 12, as a matter of fact, 12 or 15. The infant mortality in the ancient world was so huge anyway that this is really not going to impress the reader too much, believe it or not. And I think if Josephus is choosing between the two stories about how Herod died right before his death, I think I would take the one where he is going to slaughter hundreds of Jewish leaders.
Or he may not have heard about it. Again, simply because in little Bethlehem it doesn’t amount to much — a village of about 1,500 residents. In my actuarial study, Bethlehem at the time wouldn’t have had more than about two dozen babies two years old and under — half of them female. And so this is not a big deal, and I think that is why Josephus either never heard about it or didn’t feel it important enough to record. So this does not militate against Matthew’s version by any means.”
This concludes are my study so far. Continuing to chapters 3 & 4 next time. God Bless.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
I often wondered why God tells us so much to obey the local authorities. I can find at least four more instances, in addition to 1 Peter above, in Scripture, where we are instructed to respect those in authority over us or those who treat us harshly. Two times from Paul in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-25. And a couple times by Jesus in Matthew 5:46 and Luke 6:32-36. To be clear, God never asks us to violate our consciences.
In Acts 5:29, we are implored that “we must obey God rather than men”. But legal authorities and other people in powerful positions, He wants us to love and treat kindly despite persecution. But how are we doing this “for the Lord’s sake” (v. 13):
He benefits somehow from our obedience?
Or do we benefit?
Does the church?
Does God benefit from our obedience to earthly laws?
Well, God doesn’t benefit from any of our actions because He is immutable, unchanging. Nothing can be added or subtracted to or from Him. We can find Old Testament and New Testament passages to support this:
“They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:26-27). “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). “He also says, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end’” (Hebrews 1:10-12).
So the first option is quickly out.
Does our response to earthly laws benefit us?
I think that it can be found throughout the Bible that our obedience benefits us. In the sense that such actions help us mature spiritually. It calibrates our objectives, our goals. We become more godly as we do as Christ did, carrying our respective crosses imperfectly, but carrying them nonetheless. In this exposure to people who treat us harshly or immorally, without provocation, grace and forgiveness must become a habit. If we consistently render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, or become more heavenly-minded, this is a good thing. A tremendous thing. The more we act on the truth that this world is not our home, the better. But this cannot be something we do “for the Lord’s sake”.
Does our response to earthly authorities benefit the Church?
Yes. I believe it benefits the Church (capital C) by moving along our Good Good Father’s plan for His followers to be Christ-like and attractive to those who do not believe. Our behavior “controls the narrative”, to use modern political phrasing. If we are obedient to the government, like Nero, in the time of Paul and Peter, obedient to rulers, bosses, authorities of man, what can be negatively said of us by unbelievers? Certainly nothing about our behavior, right?
They must deal with our beliefs if we do not give them more reason or justification to silence us for something else. In verse 15 of 1 Peter 2, it says “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” So controlling the narrative within our culture. In other words, if we are to be persecuted, let it be for our behavior in Christ, not deeds done in anger or fear or sin. One verse later, verse 16 challenges us to “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” To cite a recent hot button topic, the media or political commentators will bring up attacks on abortion providers, like bombings. These horrible events, committed by extremists, only served to move the narrative from the issue, the dismantling of life within the womb, and place it firmly on the terribly misguided beliefs of the perpetrators, which were then painted as mainstream Christian beliefs. Pro-Life protesters, going forward, could not “silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
So the movement suffers and children, sadly, continue to die at the hands of people who know better. The truth was hurt by folks, sympathetic to the cause, acting in evil.
Be Obedient, Like Christ
So obeying the authorities puts the believer on Christ’s path. He committed no crimes. Not against Roman law nor the Law of the Torah. Anything bad said about Him were lies. And His executioners knew it. The goodness of Jesus convicted the world. So must our goodness shine a light on a better way. The only Lord that saves. May this, increasingly, become our calling. God bless. Sources: https://www.allaboutgod.com/god-is-immutable-faq.htm
Are Christians Atheists Too? Wandering the raucous hallways of a facebook apologetics forum the other day and ran across an unbeliever who loved the “I just believe in one less God than you” argument. I mean really loved it. Moving up and down the threads, I saw him employ it numerous times in seemingly one sitting. But what’s the appeal really? I suppose people may think it’s a winning argument because it attempts to convict the believer of the same irrationality of which we accuse the unbeliever: Certain gods do not exist. And if we, indeed, make the claim that these other gods do not exist, we are then guilty of doing the same thing as atheists do, though not really atheism. In such a case, we would be making a positive knowledge claim [the non-existence of god(s)] that we cannot support observationally. So I would like to advise that we cease doing so, if this is the case, but I’ll get to that later. The atheist argument follows that the believer denies the existence of all other gods except the God of their own personal choice, presumably the God of the Bible. So we, as believers, assume our own atheism [non-existence of god(s)] or their silly “lack of belief” stance on atheism, regarding Thor and Zeus and Krishna and the like. The popular statement of this position is worded as such by atheist Stephen F. Roberts:
“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace has a tidy answer prepared for those who hold this position:
“In every criminal trial, a jury is asked to evaluate the actions of one defendant related to a particular crime. While there are millions of other people in the world who could have committed the crime under consideration (and indeed, millions of these people were actually available to commit the crime), only one has been charged. If the jury becomes convinced this defendant is the perpetrator, they will convict him based on their beliefs. They will convict the accused even though they haven’t examined the actions (or nature) of millions of other potential suspects. They’ll render a verdict based on the evidence related to this defendant, in spite of the fact they may be ignorant of the history or actions of several million alternatives. If the evidence is persuasive, the jurors will become true believers in the guilt of this man or woman, even as they reject millions of other options . . .At the end of a trial, juries are “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential suspect, because the evidence confirming the guilt of their particular defendant was sufficient. In a similar way, we can be confident “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential god because the evidence for Christianity is more than sufficient.”
Wallace’s response deals with our ability to judge rationally which gods exist evidentially through argument and reason. The existence of alternative “gods” do not logically hinder our ability to find one true One or render the existence of one true God irrational. That’s Wallace’s argument. But I want to deal with the first part of Roberts’ claim.
“I CONTEND THAT WE ARE BOTH ATHEISTS . . .” Atheist Stephen F. Roberts’ argument, well, maybe more of an assertion, is that atheists and theists, if they do reject other gods, do so for the same reasons. This is untrue. Theists reject other gods because of what they know. Atheists, reportedly, reject other gods because of what they don’t know (lack of belief). See, not too long ago, unbelievers adopted a new definition for atheism. Most of them categorically reject the definition of atheism found in the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” which calls atheism:
“Atheism” is typically defined in terms of “theism”. Theism, in turn, is best understood as a proposition—something that is either true or false. It is often defined as “the belief that God exists”, but here “belief” means “something believed”. It refers to the propositional content of belief, not to the attitude or psychological state of believing. This is why it makes sense to say that theism is true or false and to argue for or against theism. If, however, “atheism” is defined in terms of theism and theism is the proposition that God exists and not the psychological condition of believing that there is a God, then it follows that atheism is not the absence of the psychological condition of believing that God exists (more on this below). The “a-” in “atheism” must be understood as negation instead of absence, as “not” instead of “without”. Therefore, in philosophy at least, atheism should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist (or, more broadly, the proposition that there are no gods).“
They have replaced the definition above with what we will call a “lack of belief”. This position, if they would even agree to call it one, conveniently makes no knowledge claims. This is the upside for the god-denier. No propositions to defend. This “lack of belief” holds that theism must do the heavy lifting to convince them of our claim, since they have made none. The downside of this tactic is that atheism now lacks, among other things, explanatory power. A “lack of belief” only describes a personal deficiency and not reality. Atheism, as such, ceases to have cultural relevance as defined here, since non-beliefs cannot motivate or comment on or improve anything.
ANATOMY OF A TRAP So Roberts’ argument now becomes a trap, volleying the adherent between two definitions. The unbeliever must admit that they reject gods because of a personal deficiency, rendering the position impotent, or they must make a positive claim that NO gods exist, a knowledge claim that they cannot support with evidence. They can’t really do both, can they? While theism, Christianity in particular, continually seeks to explain the universe through reason, science, history, and philosophy, atheism reverts to “feels” and spiraling nihilism.
BUT ARE WE ATHEISTS TOO? But are we atheists too? Well, God never makes these claims. In fact, He acknowledges other “gods” quite boldly in scripture:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Deut 10:17. “Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:2. “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3. “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on *all the gods of Egypt* I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” Exodus 12:12. “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:” Psalm 82:1. “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Cor 8:5-6.
And an article by Elizabeth Sloane from www.haaretz.com, an online edition of the Haaretz Newspaper in Israel reasons:
As we move closer to Easter, as with most religious holidays, we will often experience a cultural backlash against our Christian faith. We see billboards, bought by atheist groups, denoting a lack of need for a Savior. At Christmas, we may see mythicism promoted by unbelieving “friends” on our facebook feeds. And claims alleging that the Bible is nothing but a book of fairy tales. It is for this reason I would like to share this bit of Bible teaching, to, both, strengthen our own confidence in scripture and help us further provide an answer to “everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have . . . with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
To do this, I will be referring heavily to Lydia McGrew’s marvelous book, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts”. McGrew’s book, itself, is an unearthing of evidence for the historical reliability of the gospels written in the 18th and 19th centuries by apologists William Paley and Jame Blunt, respectively.
From the synopsis of her book, the term “undesigned coincidences” refers to:
“ . . . an apparently casual, yet puzzle-like “fit” between two or more texts, and its best explanation is that the authors knew the truth about the events they describe or allude to. Connections of this kind among passages in the Gospels, as well as between Acts and the Pauline epistles, give us reason to believe that these documents came from honest eyewitness sources, people “in the know” about the events they relate.”
For this article, I want to simply paraphrase one of my favorite instances of this inter-locking of events within the gospels, though there are many more illustrated in McGrew’s book. Please, by all means, check out this book for the rest.
We start in John 18:10 when Jesus and His companions are waiting in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus waited there for Judas to arrive with a detachment of soldiers to arrest Him. Verse 10 explains the reaction of Jesus’ followers to His detainment at the hands of the officials sent by the chief priests and Pharisees.
“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus)” (verse 10). So after introducing the name Malchus to us, the Book of John doesn’t mention him again. We can only assume that the high priest’s servant left the scene holding the right side of his head, less an ear.
The story then leads us to the trial of Jesus and this exchange between Pilate and Jesus as He was questioned out of earshot of the Jewish council whose goal is to have Jesus executed. John 18:33-36:
“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Do you see a contradiction here between these two passages in the same chapter of John? When Jesus claims that His kingdom is not of this world, He supports His claim by saying that if it were not so, His followers would fight to save Him. Well, evidenced in John 18:10, Peter did fight. He lopped off Malchus’s ear with his sword.
So when Pilate hears these claims of being peaceful from Jesus, he goes to the Jews and says that he finds “no basis for a charge against him” (v. 38). Now because it was the aim of the Jews to present Jesus as opposition to Caesar, they could have shown a conflict in Jesus’s own words, opposed to the actions of his disciples (Peter), by simply showing Pilate Malchus’s wounded head. They could have attempted to show that Jesus and His disciples have a violent revolution in mind for the kingdom of Rome which would be a capital offense.
Why didn’t they do this? If our only source of information is John’s Gospel, it doesn’t make sense that the Jews wouldn’t use the attack on Malchus to make their case, right?
However, the question is answered in Luke 22:47-53. Describing the scene in the garden, Luke says:
“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22.47–53)”
In an excerpt from “Hidden in Plain Sight”:
‘Only Luke says that Jesus healed the servant’s ear, though Matthew and Mark also recount that the ear was cut off. Here again, Luke supplies a unique detail within a passage that is in some respects similar to the other Synoptic Gospels. And here, too, this detail is confirmed by an undesigned coincidence. If it is true that Jesus healed the servant’s ear, it explains Jesus’ words to Pilate, though those words are given only in John. Jesus could confidently declare that his kingdom is not of this world and even say that his servants would be fighting if his kingdom were not peaceful. If anyone tried to say that Peter cut off a servant’s ear, the wounded servant himself could not be produced to show this, and an admission that Jesus healed the ear would be further evidence of Jesus’ non-violent intentions, not to mention evidence of his miraculous abilities.”
This is one of my favorite undesigned coincidences because, embedded within, it, in a way, confirms an actual miracle. Because if not for the soldier’s healed ear, the Jews could have produced actual evidence, though circumstantial and dishonest, to build their case against our Good Good Father. Instead, the happening of the crucifixion of Jesus depended entirely on the political manipulation of Pilate and making him worry that he appeared to be “no friend of Caesar” (John 19:12).
In this way and among other ways, detailed in Lydia McGrew’s book, John and Luke fit together like a puzzle, Luke explaining a difficulty in John. The writer of John’s Gospel undoubtedly knew about the soldier’s ear but, for some reason, left out this detail, all the while, continuing the narrative as if it did happen. In a completely unforced way, John’s story only makes sense in light of Luke’s version. Not to mention, that in a separate coincidence, Jesus’s testimony in John 18:36 explains why Pilate cannot find reason to charge Jesus in Luke’s gospel. So the authors of both gospels end up supporting the historical reliability of the other in a subtle, undesigned way.
What should be made of all this? The best explanation is that the authors knew the truth about the events they described.
In my last article, Atheists Don’t Exist, commentors keyed on the idea that atheists simply lack a belief in a God or gods. According to them, they do not make knowledge statements regarding the existence of God or gods, as I attributed to them. While I refuse to believe that most atheists do not hold an opinion on this subject, through our discussion an interesting distinction was made. It was posited that if either side of the argument had “proof” there would not be a debate. Well, this site is dedicated to providing evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father. So I had to ask myself, “Isn’t evidence proof?”
The short answer is no. Evidence, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “something that makes another thing evident”. With evident defined as “easy to see or perceive; clear”. While proof is understood to mean “a proving or testing of something” or “evidence that establishes the truth of something”. The definitions do sound kind of similar, right? I would differentiate the terms by saying that proof is the highest standard of truth. If you prove something, you do so as a mathematical certainty. Evidence, on the other hand, needs to be considered and analyzed to substantiate or diminish a belief. Unfortunately, I have observed these words used interchangeably on numerous occasions and, in this case, regarding the reasonableness of the existence of God.
As I searched for a way to describe the difference between proof and evidence succinctly, I found this on-point quote by Oxford mathematician Dr. John Lennox:
“Can you prove that there is a God? In a mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is difficult to do and rare. But then there’s the other meaning – beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So when I hear the familiar “there is no evidence for the existence of God”, I should really hear “there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of God”. Of which, I can agree. But certainly, there is plenty of evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father at our disposal. None of it, however, can be considered a proof, but, as Professor Lennox supports, real world mathematical proofs are “difficult and rare”. Consequently, approaching a discussion or debate with these parameters for success, clearly, represents an act of futility since achieving such a high standard of certainty is so tall a task. This might explain why non-believers never apply these high standards to issues they tout. Ask yourself, can such a proof be made for macroevolution?
That said, the devout non-believer still might say, “I only believe things that can be conclusively proven. For example, I can prove gravity. If I drop this book, I can prove that it will fall to the floor”.
Right. With respect to Dr. Lennox, it isn’t hard to prove something that is observable. You might be able to prove that it falls that particular instance and the next and then the next after that. But can you prove that it will always fall? Or that it always has fallen? More so, what you have done is make a prediction based on prior experience of the effects of gravity on other books and similar items. You may have faith that the book will always fall, but you can’t prove it always will. In fact, the only reason you know the book fell is because you observed it. Again, can you prove it fell yesterday? According to the question above, if you can’t, well, then you shouldn’t believe that it did. In fact, should someone ask you if the book would have fallen yesterday, your honest answer should be “I don’t know” if you cannot prove it did.
Sure, this all sounds a tad silly. Of course, you believe that the book will fall even without mathematical proof. But you do so because you have seen books and other solid materials fall in the past and in the present. You have good evidence. You noticed that you have never observed an instance where a solid object knocked off a table had not fallen to the floor. So with the evidence of prior experience, you’ve made a reasonable assumption that it will happen again. You’ve considered evidence from reality to support a belief.
But then you might say, “I get this, but you are comparing a book, an object we can see, with the workings of an invisible God. Why should I believe something that cannot be proven or that I can’t see?”
To that, I would offer that you already do. There are plenty of other things, that you use everyday, that you don’t bother questioning even though you cannot prove how or why they work. Math is one of them. Math is a concept. Like all concepts, it is immaterial. In other words, the number three does not exist in the physical realm. You have never seen a number three, other than in the sense that it represents a number of items on a page or screen or in real life. You may see three apples, but what you see are the apples, not the number. The Scientific Method is another example. How do you test the Scientific Method to see if it works? You don’t. You just have to have faith that it does. Otherwise, you couldn’t do math or science. In fact, if someone were to state that “only things that can be proven are true”, how would this person prove that that very statement is true?
See, when you do not have to deal with the burden of conclusive proof, you are free to give answers that, after careful analysis, make the case for the existence of God in the Theism vs. Atheism debate. Answers that show that non-believers require more faith than believers do in order to live out their beliefs. No longer will you need to be stymied by demands of mathematical certainty that your opponents require, but do not apply to their own beliefs. Instances that fail to be a search for truth, but rather, serve to impede the achievement of any resolution or enlightenment.
So when an atheist coyly posts the familiar, “You know that you are an atheist too, right. You deny the existence of Thor, Odin, and all the other pagan gods. We simply go one god farther than you.” You can respond to them that we can reject those small “g” gods because we simply have more compelling evidential support for the creator God of the Bible. Tell of the evidence from history, philosophy, science, logic, etc. Then ask, by what evidence do you deny mine? And wait.
Maybe, at this point, you want to know what the evidence from history, philosophy, science and logic is? Or maybe you just want to be able to better explain to a loved one why you believe what you do. Well, “Like” this blog and every so often new content will be sent to your email. My intent is to simply present the evidence, hopefully, in an easy-to-understand, but informative and respectful way . You can decide what to do with it. Let me leave you with this quote from the great C.S. Lewis:
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
While the quote speaks of Christianity, the same rings true for theism. If God exists, this understanding requires action. How can what we do when faced with the evidence for the existence of God be anything other than infinitely important? God Bless.