Episode 7 - Embarrassing & Excruciating Evidence For The New Testament

The New Testament contains the markings of being authentic because it includes numerous details that reflect poorly on those who wrote it and on Jesus. Moreover, the writers were willing to die for their claims, and they were in a position to know if they were true or not.

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Hello, and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for, our Christian convictions. 

(0:12) Last week, we talked about the Bible and some reasons we should trust it. One of those reasons and types of testimony was early testimony. What is written in the New Testament was written very close to the events that it describes in terms of time. However, we also talked about eye-witness testimony, that what was written was either written by eye-witnesses or people who talked with eye-witnesses. Well, today we're going to continue on with those previous two E's and talk about three more E's: embarrassing testimony, excruciating testimony, and extra-biblical testimony. 

(0:47) So, embarrassing testimony. One thing we talked about when we talked about the Resurrection was the principle of embarrassment, and it simply says that any details embarrassing to the author are probably true. You're not going to make up things that make yourself look bad. And yet, the New Testament writers include numerous details that do not portray themselves in a positive light. For instance, the Gospel writers are dim-witted. Numerous times, they failed to understand what Jesus is saying to them. They're even uncaring and they write this down for us to see. They fall asleep on Jesus twice when He asked them to pray. Let's re-sensitize ourself to maybe what's actually going on here. They believe that God incarnate is standing in front of them and tells them to pray. And they fall asleep. That's embarrassing enough. But they write it down and it's preserved well enough for us to read 2,000 years later. You're not going to write down that you fell asleep when God told you pray unless it happened. But it gets worse! Peter's actually called Satan by Jesus. How would that actually have gone if they're making this up? Let's say they're sitting around the campfire, and Mark is saying, "Hey Peter, there's a great plot twist here. I'm going to have Jesus call you Satan." What worse name could there be for God to call you than Satan? Frank Turek has pointed this out in the past and I find it extremely persuasive and powerful. You're not going to have God calling you Satan unless it actually happened. And even then you might not write it down. They're also called cowards and they're doubters, and they write this down for us to see. 

(2:23) But there are also embarrassing things in the New Testament about Jesus. For starters, He's considered out of His mind by His mother and His brothers. Now, why would you include that in the document intended to get people to believe in this guy named Jesus unless it were true? And even if it were true, why would you include that His family basically wanted to Baker Act Him? They didn't think He was God, they thought He was crazy! But they include that for us. And that's extremely helpful because, when we come to see that after Jesus' Resurrection and ascension, James is part of the New Testament church and ultimately becomes one of the leaders of it. Well, this guy went from, "my brother's crazy", to "my brother's God." What could convince him of that? Well, the Resurrection. 

(3:09) But there are other embarrassing things about Jesus too. He's called a drunkard. That's not a good title if you're claiming to be God. He has His feet wiped with the hair of a prostitute. And this could've been taken as a sexual advance. And He's crucified by the Jews and the Romans, despite the fact that 'anyone who's hung on a tree is under God's curse,' it says in the OT. He's even buried by a member of the group that sentenced Him to death. All of these things are embarrassing and do not look good for Jesus. And as we've talked about previously, He first appears to women. No credibility there. So all of these embarrassing details and so many more are included in the New Testament by, oftentimes, the people who should be embarrassed by them. Or, they're about Jesus. And yet, what they do is give us great confidence in the credibility of the New Testament. 

(4:00) So that's embarrassing testimony. Let's look at extra-biblical testimony. Extra-biblical simply meaning 'testimony about Jesus from outside of the Bible.' Flavius Josephus, who lived from about 37 AD to 100 AD, was generally regarded as the greatest Jewish historian of his time. And he wrote a few different works, one of them was Antiquities of the Jews, which he finished in about AD 93. And he actually mentions Jesus multiple times. Now, there is a version of Josephus that has been edited by Christians very early on to make it seem better than it actually was. Now, I think it's sad that Christians felt they needed to be deceitful in order to testify to the truthfulness of who Jesus was, those two things don't really seem to go together to me. Because the fact is, that what Josephus wrote on his own is very helpful without being edited. And here's what he said:

(4:55) "At this time, the time of Pilot, there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilot condemned him to be crucified and to die, but those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

(5:26) Well, there is a lot in there. And all of it lines up with what the New Testament says. Now, does Josephus say that Jesus was God? No. But does he say that people believed to see Him afterwards and were willing to die for that conviction? Yes! He does. 

(5:43) So, there are actually 10 non-Christian writers that mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. Only 9 sources mention Tiberius Caesar. And if you include Christian sources, there are 43 different documents that talk about Jesus, and all of them line up with the Bible. 

(6:03) So, from these extra-biblical sources, we know that Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar. He lived a virtuous life. He was a wonder worker. He had a brother named James. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the eve of the Jewish Passover. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when He died. His disciples believed He had rose from the dead and His disciples were willing to die for that belief. Additionally, His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God. Those were a lot of details that are not in the Bible that we know from other, extra-biblical sources, that can give us more confidence in what Scripture actually says. 

(6:49) Now, one thing I want to mention is that it's common today to say, "Well, of course the Bible agrees with Christians. Christians wrote the Bible. They're biased." So, such a person is saying, "we shouldn't trust what Scripture has to say because it's written by Christians." Well, would you discount what Jews had to say about the Holocaust? "Oh, they're claiming they were persecuted. Those Jews. We shouldn't believe what they had to say." No! That's silliness. We're going to trust the people who were closest to the events. In the Holocaust, that's the Jews. When it comes to the New Testament and the things about Jesus, the people writing about Him are most likely going to be His disciples. And additionally, what's such an argument that says "we can't trust what Christians write about Jesus, because they're biased," what that actually says, when you distill it down, is "we shouldn't trust what people write if they believe what they're saying." But that's just foolishness, isn't it? Everyone believes what they say is true when they put forth a view and try to convince others. So, to say we shouldn't believe people who believe what they're saying is just nonsense. 

(7:55) So this last point, the Jews abandoned their long-held beliefs and adopt new ones. This takes us to excruciating testimony. So we've talked about embarrassing testimony today. We've talked about extra-biblical testimony. And we're going to talk about excruciating testimony. Remember, these are part of our 5 E's. So the New Testament believers abandoned their long-held, sacred beliefs, and they adopt new ones. And they don't deny their testimony under threat of death.

(8:22) So, before the Resurrection of Christ, the Jews believed in animal sacrifice. This was the only way to have their sins forgiven, and yet after the Resurrection, they think it's unnecessary, "we don't need to do that, we're covered by grace." Now, maybe this doesn't mean a lot to us today, but to a people who were very religious, very pious, separation from God is a huge deal. And so, they had to have been extremely confident that they didn't need to participate in animal sacrifices anymore or they wouldn't have abandoned them. 

(8:56) Additionally, before the Resurrection, the Law of Moses is binding. Afterwards, not binding. Before the Resurrection, they believe in a strict monotheism. God is One, both in being and in person. And after the Resurrection? God is a Trinity, God is three Persons in One Being. Beforehand, worship happens on the Sabbath, that is the holy day of rest. After the Resurrection, they worship on Sunday. Beforehand, they expected a conquering Messiah. Someone to liberate them from their oppressors and restore them to their sovereign nation state. And yet, they got a sacrificial Messiah.

(9:32) So, I hope what you're starting to see is Christianity looks nothing like Judaism in a lot of the important particulars. And adopting these new beliefs alienated Christians from their Jewish families, their friends, their neighbors, the people they worked with, the people the went to the Synagogue with. These new beliefs and their new religion separated them. So what's going to make someone go through all of that change in a time when religion was so much more important than it is today to people, unless they were convinced they were right? 

(10:03) Well, not much of anything that I can think of. But it gets more important because most of the Gospel writers and apostles were martyred and/or tortured for their faith. All were killed, except for one. But all were tortured and/or killed. What is going to make people die for something that they believe? 

(10:25) Now, this is not the same as the Islamic extremest, who blows himself up today. Because the first century apostle was in the position to know if what he wrote was true or not. And many people will die for something they believe is true, but no one dies for something they know is a lie. And your modern-day religious extremist is not in a position to know if Allah is god. But the first century writers of the Gospels were. And they were willing to die for that belief. 

(10:56) So that's excruciating testimony. It cost them something. And that caps off our 5 E's: early testimony, eye-witness testimony, embarrassing testimony, extra-biblical testimony, and excruciating testimony. These are 5 ways to look at the New Testament and the evidence about it and that it contains, that should give us great confidence that what the writers wrote is true. 

(11:20) Well I hope this has been helpful to you. I hope you now have more confidence in the New Testament, that you can better defend why it's true. And you don't have to rely on, "well the Bible says that the Bible is true." Or, "I get a good feeling when I read it." Or, "it changed my life." You have some better lines of argument.

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I hope to see you next week on Unapologetic.