See Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 for the rest of this series.
4. Testimony of Jesus
Throughout Jesus’ ministry years, he quoted or referenced the Old Testament as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of God. He even mentioned events in the Bible that many people struggle to believe as history.
For instance, many people today, even some Christians, refuse to believe that the events of Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah and the flood, and Jonah and the great fish actually happened. Critics call them myths. But Jesus referenced all of them as the historical events they are.
For example, when Jesus sent out his disciples to preach the gospel, he told them that if a town rejected them, judgment day would be harder on that town than it will be on Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15; 11:23, 24; Luke 10:12). Through this statement, Jesus acknowledged that the account of those two cities’ destruction by fire and brimstone falling from heaven was true. In Luke 17:28–32, Jesus even mentioned Lot and his wife when he explained his second coming.
On another occasion, Jesus described the unexpectedness of his second coming by comparing it to the days of Noah in Luke 17:26, 27 and Matthew 24:37–39. Just as people were going about their daily business before the flood, they will be doing the same when Jesus returns.
When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign, Jesus stated that he would only give them the sign of Jonah’s three days in the fish (Matthew 12:39–41). By this, Jesus prophesied that he would be dead and buried for three days similar to the three days Jonah spent in the great fish.
Many people doubt the biblical creation story, but Jesus legitimatized that account by quoting Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-5 in his description of marriage. Adam and Eve were real people.
Most importantly, Jesus used numerous scriptures to demonstrate his disciples how He the Christ fulfilled prophecy.
5. Accepted by the Early Church
Jesus taught his disciples, and they recorded his teachings in the four gospels and in the other books of the New Testament. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the Great Commission:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20a)
To teach new disciples, the apostles and other followers of Christ recorded these commandments in written form, and these writings soon became the New Testament.
In their writings, the disciples often referenced or quoted the Old Testament, demonstrating their belief that it was and remained the word of God. The book of Matthew extensively quotes Old Testament prophecies to show that Jesus was the Messiah. For instance, Matthew identified the location of Jesus’ministry headquarters by alluding to Isaiah 9:1-2; 60:1-3.
“The Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.” (Matthew 5:15-16)
John in his gospel also observed that even people’s reactions to Jesus fulfilled scripture.
“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John12:36-38; see Isaiah 53:1)
The author of Hebrews drew extensively from the Old Testament to develop his argument to demonstrate that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Hebrews also explains the power of scripture.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The disciples recognized that the Holy Spirit guided them when they preached the gospel. Thus, they also recognized that the Holy Spirit gave them the words to write when teaching through the written gospels and letters to believers. Even during the lifetime of the apostles, Peter equated Paul’s writings with Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Now a skeptic may say, of course the disciples believed what they wrote, but how can we trust it today?
Here are two helpful resources that have been written by former atheists to address this question.
1. Case for Christ: a Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel (© 1998).
I’ll admit that it’s been at least ten years since I read this book, but I have watched the 2017 movie, The Case for Christ, which dramatizes the author’s search. It shows Strobel as a young, atheist newspaper journalist in the 1970s, his desire to disprove his wife’s newfound faith in Christ, and the strain this conflict of beliefs put on their marriage.
Although the film focuses on Strobel’s relationship, it also introduces the viewers to some of the experts he interviewed and some of the answers he received for his tough questions such as “Does evidence exist for Jesus outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?”
This well-documented book contains three sections: “Examining the Record,” “Analyzing Jesus,” and “Researching the Resurrection.” Each chapter ends with a few discussion questions and a short list of resources for a reader to dig deeper into the subject.
2. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace (© 2013)
I bought this book after seeing it in the film God’s Not Dead 2 (2016) but didn’t get around to reading it until earlier this year.
Warner began his journey in researching the gospels after reluctantly attending a Sunday service with a coworker. The pastor painted Jesus as a smart guy, and this intrigued Warner enough for him to buy a Bible and read the gospels for himself.
As he read, he noticed that these writings weren’t just stories but eyewitness accounts, the type of accounts he dealt with every day at work as a detective. From that point, he examined the gospels of Christ as a cold-case crime.
In his book, Warner teaches the reader how to think like a detective and how to scrutinize the gospels like a detective. In a just-the-facts-ma’am manner, he methodically walks the reader through his own discovery process.
Warner illustrates certain points with his own sketches. Each chapter ends with “A tool for the callout bag, a tip for the checklist” section that ties together the chapter’s main points and conclusion.
In the back of the book, the author provides a list of resources, a list of other police officers and detectives who have written books on Christianity, and a works cited list.
In part 3, I discuss the preservation of the Bible over the centuries.