Monthly Archives: February 2012

Luke’s Sources

Why should we trust the Gospel writers and apostles?  Good question.  Most would argue that, with the sole exception of the Apostle John, they all were martyred for their faith, and that men won’t die for something they know to be a lie.  Fair enough.  There are lots of other reasons—extrabiblical historical documentation, bibliographical tests, consistency among the canonical accounts, archaeology, internal evidence, C.S. Lewis’ famous ‘trilemma’ argument, and so on—however the purpose of this particular post is not to defend the reliability of  the Gospels.  (If you are interested in exploring the reliability of the Gospels, there are sources listed at the end of this post.)

Where did the Gospel writers get their information?  After all, two of them (Mark and Luke) weren’t eyewitnesses to the events described in their texts.

Meet Michael Card, a gifted Bible teacher and frequent contributor to Day of Discovery television, who encourages us to “read at the level of our imagination.”  In other words, put the Biblical text in its rightful context and think very carefully about what was going on.

By way of background, Ephesus became home to Luke, the Apostle John (whose tomb is there), and Mary (the mother of Jesus) in the second half of the first century.  Luke was a thorough archivist and did his homework.  His accuracy as a historian is thoroughly documented.  When he recorded Mary’s thoughts, feelings, and song in his Gospel, the obvious source of that information is his neighbor in Ephesus—Mary herself.  Likewise the Apostle John.  (By the way, if I’m reading at the level of my imagination, I’m imagining Mary singing her song for Luke.)

Luke is big on details.  Only Luke mentions Joanna by name, that she supported Jesus’ ministry out of her own means, and that she was the wife of Herod’s household manager.  What a source for information about what was said when Jesus was hauled before Herod!  Likewise, only Luke records that Joanna was one of the women who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus on Easter morning.  These two clips (from this DVD) can give you a taste of reading at the level of your imagination.  (By the way, the background in the Joanna clip will be discussed in a future post in detail—it’s the likely site of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.)

References to explore the reliability of the Gospels:
Is the Bible Reliable as a Historical Document? (Lee Strobel)
Can we trust the New Testament? (CARM)
Dartmouth Apologia
Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
Reasons to Believe

John the Baptist

This blog is about sharing resources, and the video below demonstrates some of those resources in action (particularly videos embedded in the Glo Bible).  It also highlights some recent archaeology on John the Baptist, by Shimon Gibson.  If you start poking around the archaeology of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, you’ll quickly run into Shimon Gibson—more on him in a future post. 

Ever wonder where Jesus was baptized?  Where was John the Baptist beheaded?  See if these types of materials aid your understanding of the Biblical text.  These are historical events, as well documented as any events in ancient history.

We’ll explore a bunch of tools in a forthcoming thread devoted to that purpose.  But in any event, don’t miss the message.  What does it say, what does it mean, what does it mean to me?

Dick Woodward has some devotional thoughts on John the Baptist.


Credits & Sources:

Glo Bible

John the Baptist  (Wikipedia article)

Machaerus Photo by Thomas Bantle  (Where John the Baptist was beheaded)

Cave of John the Baptist  (Shimon Gibson site, 3D Virtual Tour)

Start Reading

Whether they know it or not, everyone has a position on the Bible. Some believe it to be the holy, inspired word of God. Some have no clue what it might be about. Many are in the middle and haven’t processed what the implications might be if it is true. Some people are confused—many with good reason (life isn’t fair and can be very harsh). Atheists believe that God does not exist. Agnostics are uncertain. Some people get caught up in our competitive and uncaring culture and just become apathetic.  And in others the mere mention of faith in God can provoke an ugly reaction, sometimes even rage.

Welcome.  So we disagree.  No surprise there. 

If you are ever going to get to the truth about the Bible, there are certain axioms.  First, we don’t get to make the rules, God does.   Dick Woodward figured this out years ago, and his first axiom is “I’m not, but He is.”  (Dick has boiled it down to what he calls “The Four Spiritual Secrets,” and they are the  proof text of his ministry.)

Second, there are a lot more people arguing over the Bible than there are people who actually read it (on both sides).

Reading and understanding the Bible can be a daunting task, particularly without help.  (It can also be incredibly rewarding and exciting.)  There are a lot of good resources available to help you understand what the Bible is all about—and that’s one of the main goals of this blog.  But at some point, to have anything more than an unsubstantiated or ignorant opinion, you’ve got to start reading.

The video below provides some introduction and background to the biographies of Jesus Christ, namely the four Gospels.  Check it out, then start reading.  Odds are you’ll discover a Jesus who is not a milquetoast pacifist who wants to please everybody, but a wise, radical, tell-it-like-it-is Savior who fights by sacrificing Himself to show how much He loves us.  Do you know this Jesus?  Think again.

Judge for Yourself

Here’s a short video that makes a really convincing argument in support of the dating of Easter, and may just crack the door to the possibility for new thinking.

Many Christian apologists today propose that we should apply the same burden of proof in reading the Scriptures that we would apply in a court of law.  Unfortunately our natural inclinations seem to take us beyond that standard.  Either we want a red-handed crime scene video or some elevated form of proof, or we can’t be objective beyond our own biases.

There are a lot of things we cannot know for certain, and we do indeed have to take many things on faith.  But not everything.  Isn’t it curious that once we think we know something, it tends to stay known—at least as far as we are concerned.

The truth is that modern scholarship offers up new ideas and corroborating evidence for the veracity of the Scriptures on a daily basis.  For example, among many other things I thought could not be known, I always believed that we could not know the dates of major events—such as Easter—recorded in the Scriptures.

Enter Rick Larson and others like him who are keenly inquisitive and have a passion for “puzzling things out.”  I won’t spoil the video for you, but as you consider the evidence he and others have compiled and the case they make for the exact dating of Easter, think about the burden of proof and judge for yourself.

A Fresh Approach

Here’s a video that captures the essence and purpose of this blog.

If you’re not getting much out of studying the Bible, consider these examples of the kind of material that can help you ‘see’ the Bible in a new, realistic light.

The events recorded in the Bible did not happen “long ago and far away,” as in a fairy tale.   Take the Apostle Paul for instance.  Paul was real, lived in real places under the harshest of conditions, and had a real reason for carrying out his mission.  Paul knew the truth.  His willingness to suffer for the sake of spreading the Gospel message is a powerful apologetic in its own right.

Paul’s writings contain a consistent prescription for peace and joy, perhaps best documented in Romans 12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.  The video concludes with a special interpretation of Paul’s central theme.

In the Bible we have Paul’s lengthy first-hand testimony, an amazingly accurate biography from Luke (i.e. the book of Acts), and an acknowledgment from Peter.  Study the accounts.  As you do, ask yourself why Paul would take the punishment and suffering that came along with his mission. 2 Timothy is a great place to start if you’re picking up the Bible for the first time.  It’s Paul’s last will and testament.  Listen to Dick Woodward’s teaching on 2 Timothy from his Mini Bible College audio series before you read the Scripture.  Then by all means read the text of 2 Timothy and develop an appreciation for the incredible man who wrote half of the New Testament.

%d bloggers like this: