New Testament Times


Christ's Birth - Was Jesus born in a stable?



The Inn

No room in the inn...and she laid Him in a manger. Away in a manger, but not a stable?

We know the Christmas story so well. Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem and were turned away from the village inn by the innkeeper. They took refuge in a barn, where baby Jesus was born and laid in a manger. A very early church tradition says the site of the nativity was a cave near Bethlehem.

The Biblical story of the birth of Jesus is found primarily in Luke 2. Dr. Luke neither quotes nor mentions an innkeeper. We suggest the story does not refer to an inn, a cave or even a barn, but rather a house!

The text of Luke 2 notes there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the "inn." Unfortunately, the Greek term translated inn (kataluma) had multiple meanings, among them inn or caravansary. Used only on other time in the New Testament (Luke 22:11 and the parallel passage, Mark 14:14), it was the place where Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. Here, Dr. Luke gave additional information about the kataluma. He said it was a furnished large upper story room within a private Jerusalem house. The kataluma of the last night of Jesus' earthly ministry was the "upper room."

We suggest the kataluma of Jesus' first night was a similar room in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph came into town with Mary ready to deliver. Arriving at Joseph's ancestral home, they found it already full of other family members who had arrived earlier. While the exact reason space was not made for a pregnant woman is unknown, it probably indicates the house was full of elder members of Joseph's family, who had priority.

So that is when Mary and Joseph went to the barn, right? Not exactly. The Biblical account mentions neither barn nor cave - it is assumed because of the manger. Mangers are animal feeding troughs, and barns are where one would expect to find them. But in the ancient world, as well as in primitive modern cultures, mangers are also found within the house itself. Animals are regularly kept in homes at night.

A small number of flock animals were housed not in attached exterior sheds, but inside the house in one of the ground floor rooms. Here, animals, tools and agricultural produce were stored. Here too, food was prepared and possibly consumed. Family sleeping quarters were on the second floor (an upper room). By being inside, the animals were protected from the elements and theft. In addition, their presence provided body heat for cool nights, access to milk for the daily meal and dung as a critical fuel source.

Excavations in Israel have uncovered numerous installations within domestic structures which probably represent ancient mangers. Some are carved, but most are stone built. Wooden mangers, of course, have not survived in the archaeological record.

Consequently, Mary and Joseph did not find space in the living quarters of the ancestral family home. Instead, they stayed downstairs in the domestic stable, still within the ancestral home, where a manger or two was located. Here they were visited by the shepherds, and maybe the wise men some time later.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).


Christ's Boat on the Sea of Galilee - Did Jesus really sit on this boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee?



In the winter of 1986, a drought brought the Sea of Galilee to its lowest level in memory. While of great concern to the region's inhabitants, this natural disaster proved a boom for archaeologists. Numerous ancient sites and artifacts, previously unknown, were discovered.

Late in January 1986, between the ancient harbors of Gennesar and Magdala, local residents made the chance discovery of a boat's oval outline in the muddy lake bed. Word spread like wildfire. In less than two weeks, local newspapers were announcing discovery of "the Jesus boat." Did Jesus really perform miracles from this boat (Mark 4:39)?

Map of GalileeArchaeologists, called to examine the still unexcavated vessel, announced it was the first ancient ship ever found in the Sea of Galilee. They suggested that it was built and used between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. - the time of Jesus. But did Jesus actually sleep here (Mark 4:37)?

Marathon round-the-clock excavations ensued, racing against both now-rising waters of the Sea of Galilee and treasure seekers. The archaeologists even invented new techniques of excavation and preservation as they went along. Just before the site was flooded, the almost completely intact hull was fully excavated, encased in polyurethane and floated to shore for further study and conservation. But did Jesus really walk on water along side this boat (Matthew 14:25)?

The boat is 26 1/2 feet long, 7 1/2 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet high. It was probably of the Sea of Galilee's largest class of ships. Fore and aft sections were most likely decked and it probably had a mast, meaning it could be both sailed and rowed. Did Peter, James and John actually row this boat (John 6:19)?

Evidence of repeated repairs suggested the boat had a long life. But, in the end all usable wooden parts were evidently removed and the remaining hull sunk to the lake bottom. This is what archaeologists recovered. Could this be the boat abandoned by the disciples when they followed Jesus (Luke 5:11)? Studies of ancient ships suggest this vessel had a crew of five (four rowers and a helmsman). The ancient Jewish historian Josephus referred to such ships holding 15 people. Skeletal remains from Galilee during this period indicate males averaged 5 feet 5 inches tall [1.651 meters] and about 140 pounds [63.503 kilograms]. Fifteen such men could fit into this vessel. So did Jesus and the Twelve sail together in this boat?

The Galilee boat dated to the general time of Jesus' ministry. It was the type used by Jesus and the Twelve, and was large enough to hold 13 men. It may have been in use at the same time He sailed the sea. He may have even seen it. BUT, there is no proof that this boat was ever actually used by Jesus or any of the disciples.

Archaeologists, as scientists, should not make spectacular claims about their finds. Thus, Jesus cannot be connected to this particular boat with certainty. Yet, it helps us visualize daily life in Galilee as Jesus knew it. This is archaeology's contribution to illuminating Scripture.

Franz, Gordon. 1991. "Ancient Harbors of the Sea of Galilee," Bible and Spade 4/4, pp. 111-121.
Wachsmann, Shelley. 1988. "The Galilee Boat: 2,000 Year-Old Hull Recovered Intact," Biblical Archaeology Review 14/5, pp. 18-33.


The Cross - On what kind of a cross was Jesus crucified?



Three different types of Roman crosses. Which type was used to crucify Jesus?

Pictured are three types of crosses commonly used by the Roman army in the first century A.D. Each carried an inscription stating the victim's capital offense and a seat-like projection, not designed for the victim's comfort, but to prolong their agony. Nails and ropes held the victim's legs and arms in place.

The cross on the left was called a "high tau" cross because it was shaped like the capital Greek letter tau ("T"). The middle cross was known as a "low tau" cross, shaped like the lower case tau ("t"). In both cases the central post was generally set permanently in the ground while the cross bar was carried to the site by the victim. The cross on the right was an actual tree still in the ground (dead or alive) with its limbs serving as the cross bar. Jesus was probably crucified on a "low tau" type cross.

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (I Cor. 15:3-4)


The Cross - Why do all four Gospels contain different versions of the inscription?



Artist's depiction of Calvary. Provided by Eden Communications.D oes the fact that all four Gospels contain different versions of the inscription on the Cross indicate error? By no means. Both Luke and John tell us that the inscription on the Cross of Jesus was written in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew. It is therefore a reasonable assumption that three of the Gospel writers each chose to quote a different language, and that one writer chose to quote the words common to the other three.

  • Can this assumption be justified?
  • If so, can it be said with any certainty who chose to quote what?
  • And why?


Let us begin with the way each writer prefaces the inscription(s).

  • Matthew 27:37 says, 'And [they] set up over his head his accusation written'.
  • Mark 15:26 says, 'And the superscription of his accusation was written over'.
  • Luke 23:38 says, 'And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew'.
  • John 19:19 says, 'And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross'.

Notice that all these prefaces differ. Mark tells us that a superscription was written; Matthew, that it was set up over his head; Luke, that it was written in three languages; and John, that Pilate was the writer. All these statements are correct, even though each writer says something different!

The four accounts of the inscription are arranged below so the similarities and differences are easily discerned:



Matthew 27:37




Mark 15:26




Luke 23:38




John 19:19




What was the significance of using three languages?

It was the custom of the Romans to use gypsum letters written on a rough board affixed to a cross to proclaim the reason why a person was being executed, although three languages were not always used.

Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire; it represented human government, power, and conquest. Greek was the international language of culture; it represented human wisdom, art, and commerce. Hebrew was the religious language of the Jews; it represented the Covenant Race, the Law of God, and the means by which God made Himself known to man. In the providence of God, all of these human and divine institutions were addressed when Jesus was crucified. How did this come about?

The most probable scenario is that the Roman governor, Pilate, dictated the title in Latin and the centurion in charge of the execution implemented the edict and its translation into the other languages. The words 'King of the Jews' were a public sneer at the Jews by Pilate, and this was compounded by his additional taunt that their 'king' came from Nazareth, i.e. that he was a despised Galilean.


As John is the only Gospel writer who mentions Pilate, or Nazareth, or who calls the inscription a 'title' (Latin titulus), it is abundantly evident that John is quoting the Latin which read:

The Latin abbreviation INRI was adopted by the early church. Painting by Matthias Grunewald. Provided by Eden Communcations.IESUS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM

(Latin used 'I' and 'V' where English uses 'J' and 'U'.) That this is the Latin is further confirmed by the fact that the Early Church adopted as a symbol the Latin letters 'INRI', which are the first letters of this inscription (only), and this symbol appears in many early paintings of the crucifixion.


Luke was a highly educated man (a physician- Colossians 4:14) and he addressed his Gospel to a Greek nobleman (the 'most excellent Theophilus' of Luke 1:3). It is therefore very reasonable to suppose that Luke gives us the Greek inscription:



Matthew wrote for the Jews and used many quotations from the Old Testament to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. It is therefore most likely that Matthew quotes the Hebrew inscription (see drawing below).


This leaves Mark, whose Gospel is shorter than the other three, and who gives us a somewhat abbreviated account of the life of Jesus, as his purpose is to tell us more about what Jesus did than what Jesus said. For example, he omits the birth of Jesus, as well as the whole of the sermon on the mount and several other discourses. True to his style, Mark abbreviates the inscription to the words common to the three languages used, namely 'THE KING OF THE JEWS'.


Now comes the most interesting part! The Latin title, being the official indictment, would undoubtedly have been written first on the board. This then would have determined the length of the board and/or the size of the letters required to fit the inscription into one line and for it still to be readable by the crowd from a distance (John 19:20).

In those days they did not use spaces between the words in any of the languages as we do now, and so John's Latin 'title' contained just 26 letters and no spaces.

Luke's Greek 'superscription' contained 30 letters, and so must have been written in slightly smaller letters than was the Latin. It is easy to see that there would not have been room for 16 more letters for the words 'Jesus of Nazareth' (i.e. 'Jesus the Nazarene') in Greek.

Matthew's 'accusation' in Hebrew contained just 19 letters, which is rather fewer than the two other languages, because the Jews did not write vowels in Hebrew. Whoever translated the title into Hebrew apparently did not think it worth adding 'of Nazareth'. Perhaps he thought that to have lived in Nazareth was not an indictable offense!

If we put all of this together, it is highly probable that the board with the inscriptions looked as shown below, with the Latin written first, probably at the top, and then either the Greek or the Hebrew.

Artist's conception of sign on Jesus Christ's cross.


Although ancient Hebrew was dissimilar to the modern typewritten Hebrew script used here for convenience, the number of letters was the same.



INRI - What do these letters appearing on the crucifix mean?




Artist's conception of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The letters "INRI" are initials for the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross (John 19:19). Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire.

The words were "Iesus Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm." Latin uses "I" instead of the English "J", and "V" instead of "U" (i.e., Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum). The English translation is "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

Artist's impression of Christ on the cross.

The Early Church adopted the first letters of each word of this inscription "INRI" as a symbol. Throughout the centuries INRI has appeared in many paintings of the crucifixion.

By the way, Pilate's title for Christ was actually written in three languages.

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, "Write not, 'The King of the Jews;' but that he said, 'I am King of the Jews'." Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."
     -John 19:19-22 (KJV)



Paul's Cyprus Travels - What has archaeology revealed?


Map of Cyprus
Paul and Barnabas arrived at Salamis on Cyprus by sea and preceded "through the whole island as far as Paphos" (Acts 13:6). On other parts of their travels it seems likely that they took advantage of the network of roads constructed under the authority of Rome. Thus after leaving Cyprus on their way to Psidian Antioch, Paul used the via Sebaste constructed in 6 BC by Augustus (e.g., French 1994: 49-58; see also Mitchell 1993: 70).<1> In Macedonia the via Egnatia served as the route from Neapolis westwards (Gill 1994: 409-10).<2> The Cyprus journey would have taken the pair of them from the east coast of Cyprus to the west. This claim may reflect the way that the route used passed through some of the most important cities of the island. However it is first important to understand the development of the province.

The province was acquired in 58 BC (Badian 1965), although Cyprus had earlier been considered as one of the "friends and allies of Rome."<3> Initially it formed an annex to the Roman province of Cilicia,<4> and in 48/7 BC the island was returned to the control of Egypt. The death of Cleopatra in 31 BC brought Cyprus back under Roman control. Subsequently, in 22 BC, Augustus made Cyprus one of the senatorial provinces under a proconsul of praetorian status. There were no Roman colonies established on the island.


The evidence for a road between Salamis and Paphos is twofold; firstly in the form of the Roman itineraries, and secondly in the form of milestones. The "Peutinger Table" which lists the routes and mileages would suggest two possible routes from Salamis (Miller 1916: 827-29). The first cut to the north-west to Chytri, over the Kyrenia Ridge to the north coast. It then followed the coast to Soli, Arsinoe (Marion), and then south to Paphos. The second headed for Citium on the south coast, then westwards to Amathus, Curium and then Paphos. These routes are not contemporary, and are likely to have developed over a period of time. The distances can be tabulated as follows:

Salamis to Tremithus
Tremithus to Citium
Citium to Amathus
Amathus to Curium
Curium to Palaipaphos
Palaipaphos to Paphos


This gives a total of 115 miles.<5> The alternate route via the north coast would have been much longer. 88 miles from Salamis to Soli (or 71 miles via Tremithus), and then another 54 miles to Paphos via Arsinoe, giving a total of 142 miles.<6> The distances between cities would also be convenient for a day's travel, making this at least a six day journey from one end of the island to the other.<7>

The best way of dating these roads is by the surviving milestones which often bear the names of the emperor (Mitford 1980: 1333-35, n. 213). Most of these belong to the fourth century AD, and are likely to represent a period of repair to the road system rather than its expansion. Paul's and Barnabas' journey, at least along the south coast, would have been facilitated by the construction of a Roman road during Augustus' reign. This is attested by a milestone, located 11 (Roman) miles from Paphos towards Curium (Mitford 1966:98-99 no. 3).<8> It reads:

[imp.ca]ESAR AVG[vstvs]
[divif.]PONTIF[ex max.]

As Augustus is named as pontifex maximus the work must have taken place after 12 BC.<9> Although the inscription only allows certainty about the construction of the road between Paphos and Curium, it is possible that it was extended eastwards as far as Salamis. The next significant development was the construction of "new roads" ([via]s novas; Corpus inscriptionum latinarum III.6732)<10> throughout the province<11> between July and September 81 during the reign of Titus.<12> A milestone identified a new road heading north-east from Salamis to Agios Theodoros and thence presumably to Carpasia.<13> The other roads which were constructed in the Flavian period were presumably an extension to the Augustan scheme. Mitford proposed that the route across the heart of Cyprus from Soli to Salamis was one of these constructions (1980: 1336).

The next main series of inscriptions comes from the Severan period.<14> As some of these were found along the road heading from Paphos to Curium it is clear that this was in part repair work. However it is from this period that there is the first clear indication of a road from Soli to Arsinoe and then south to Paphos.<15> Given this evidence the simplest solution to the proposed route of Paul and Barnabas was from Salamis along the south coast.


The only cities on Cyprus mentioned in the Book of Acts are Salamis and Paphos. However if Paul and Barnabas travelled on foot along the Augustan road along the south coast,<16> they would have passed through Citium, Amathus and Curium before reaching Paphos.<17>

Three of the cities had been granted the status of asylum in AD 22 due to the standing of their civic sanctuaries.<18> These were Salamis (Olympian Zeus; Mitford 1990: 2189-90), Amathus (Aphrodite; Mitford 1990: 2185), and Paphos (Paphian Aphrodite). It should be noted that although these deities may sound like anthropomorphic Olympian gods, in fact some had a more regional feel. Paphian Aphrodite was in fact represented by a sacred rock or baetyl rather than the cult statue of a goddess.<19> A similar cult of sacred rocks is recorded near Amathus. An inscription found at Agios Tychon near Amathus records a cult of "Cyprian Aphrodite" and the sanctuary of "the Seven within the Stelai" (Mitford 1980: 1302, no. 28; 1946: 40-42, no. 16).<20> The dedication was made by the Roman governor of Cyprus, L. Bruttius Maximus (79/80). This was presumably a sanctuary with a central baetyl with other sacred rocks around it. The worship of sacred rocks is not uncommon in the east. In particular the famous baetyl of Emaesa was to be taken to Rome by Elagabalus<21> or the cult of Artemis at Perge (Butcher 1988: 90, fig. 6.114).

The sanctuary of Paphian Aphrodite also came to be linked to the imperial cult. The imperial cult was linked to the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaipaphos. For example Livia was identified as the new Aphrodite (Gardner, Hogarth and James 1888: 242, no. 61), and Augustus' daughter Julia as Augusta (Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes III.940). Other inscriptions relating to the imperial cult include and honorific inscription for Amyntor son Lysias, "high priest for life for the well-being of the imperial household" (Mitford 1990: 2197).

Harbor at Paphos, Cyprus
Harbor at Paphos, Cyprus, where Paul landed.

Both Salamis and Paphos were the two most important cities on the island. Paphos was the seat of the provincial administration (Mitford 1980: 1309-15), and it was here that Paul met the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus.<22> It had been founded around 312 BC, to replace Palaipaphos. During the second century BC it seems to have become the leading city of the island, taking the prominence away from Salamis.<23>

The city had been wrecked by an earthquake in 15 BC and Augustus had subsequently conferred on the city the title Augusta (Mitford 1980: 1310, with details of the proper title). Further honors were given to the city, perhaps under Nero, when it received the extra title of Claudia (Mitford 1980: 1310).<24> Paphos' centrality in the Roman scheme of affairs is also emphasized by the milestones that mark distances from it. Of the other cities Citium managed to retain elements of its earlier Phoenician past (Mitford 1980: 1318-20). The earlier Phoenician cult of Eshmun became that of Asclepius which was active under Augustus (Mitford 1980:1319). One of the first century BC or Augustan high-priests and benefactors of the cult carried a name, Asclepiodorus son of Asclepiodorus, which reveals his links with Asclepius.<25> Elsewhere in the city a stoa was dedicated in 41 BC to Zeus Keraunios, to the Divine Julius and to Aphrodite (Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 2641; Mitford 1990: 2195). Amathus also had an important cult site of Hera, which was certainly active in the Claudian period (Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes III.974).<26> An altar dedicated to Augustus was found on the acropolis (Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes III.973). The sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, which lay just to the west of the city, may have been developed at the same time.

In conclusion, the route followed by Paul and Barnabas through Cyprus would have brought them to several of the key cities of the island, including the three which had been granted the special status of asylum. The itinerary suggests that this would have taken at least a week. The road would have brought them into contact with some of the main cult centers such as the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaipapos. It also led them to the heart of the Roman administration of the island at Paphos.



Does the New Testament provide a reliable history of Christ's life?


The Last Supper by Roselli

Since it is from the New Testament that we gain our primary knowledge of Jesus, it is fitting to ask whether this literature is sound and historically accurate. Critics often describe the Gospels as pious legend, having no historical competence, and designed only for propaganda purposes. But while it is acknowledged that the Gospels are not biography in the strict sense according to 20th century definitions,[1] the following facts give immense weight to the historical accuracy of the New Testament.


Archaeologists studying ancient civilizations by uncovering ruins and examining artifacts, are with increasing success confirming the accuracy of the Biblical texts. Sir William Ramsey's vindication of Luke's writings is a classic example.[2] The findings of archaeology have in fact reversed the opinions of a number of former skeptics. Among these is the scholar Dr. William F. Albright, who writes:

"The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible [by certain schools of thought] has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of numerous details."[3]

Recent archaeological discoveries include both the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1f) and "The Pavement" (John 19:13). Their existence was doubted just a few decades ago. Confirmation of the accuracy of the setting of Jacob's well has also been found (John 4).[4] Such findings have caused many scholars to reverse earlier skeptical opinions on the historicity of the Fourth Gospel. Its author has demonstrated an obvious intimate knowledge of the Jerusalem of Jesus' time, just as we would expect from the Apostle John. Such detail would not have been accessible to a writer of a later generation, since Jerusalem was demolished under Titus' Roman army in 70 A.D.

Also, the recent recovery of a Roman census similar to the one in Luke 2:1f, and the historical confirmation of his "synchronism"[5] in Luke 3:1f, underscores the care Luke took in writing his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4).

Critics of Luke's Gospel often retreat into non-verifiable and subjective opinions, but they have not overthrown Luke's historical confirmations.[6] By extension, the other two "Synoptic"[7] Gospels of Matthew and Mark, painting essentially similar portraits of Jesus' ministry, are also trustworthy accounts of his life.

Additionally, outside the Bible, Jesus is also mentioned by his near-contemporaries. Extra-Biblical and secular writers (many hostile) point to Jesus' existence, including the Roman writings of Tacitus, Seutonius, Thallus and Pliny, and the Jewish writings of Josephus and the Talmud. Gary Habermas has cited a total of 39 ancient extra-Biblical sources, including 17 non-Christian, that witness from outside the New Testament to over 100 details of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.[8]


There are also characteristics within the texts themselves which mark the four Gospels as sober history and neither legend nor fictional propaganda. Consider that the Gospel writers set the leading disciples in very poor light (Matthew 14:30, Mark 9:33f, Luke 22:54f). Notice as well that they included hard words by Jesus, which in fact repelled many hearers (Matthew 21:28f, Luke 9:23f, John 8:39f).

One distinction of the four Gospels is that their famed treasure of good news lies not nakedly on the surface, but hidden behind both challenge (Mark 8:34f, John 12:25f)[9] and threat (Matthew 25:31f). Such characteristics would have been counter-productive to propagandists. Their presence in the Gospels demonstrates the willingness of the evangelists to tell the truth, however embarrassing or inconvenient.


Some express concern that the Bible may have been altered down through the centuries. It is to this matter that Textual Critics address themselves. They have discovered entire manuscripts and parts of others, one portion dating to the beginning of the 2nd Century. The New Testament has far better textual support than do the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, or Tacitus,[10] whose contents no one seriously questions. In addition, the New Testament documents have always been both public, and widely-disseminated. Thus it would be impossible for any party to have materially changed their contents, just as the Declaration of Independence, for example, as a public document, could not have been privately altered without raising notice and creating public furor. Sir Frederic Kenyon, former Director of the British Museum, comments:

"The interval between the dates of the original composition and the earliest extant evidence [i.e. our oldest manuscripts] becomes so small as to be negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed."[11]

In conclusion, it is not necessary that the New Testament be treated with "kid gloves" and backed up by special pleading. Simply allow it to be subject to the very same historical-critical standards that Classical historians


  1. N.T. Wright of Oxford University writes that the four canonical Gospels do fit into the broad genre of Hellenistic biography. See N.T. Wright, Who Was Jesus? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1992), p. 73f. [up]
  2. Sir William Ramsey, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House reprint; 1949 from 1894 lectures). Intent on discrediting Luke's writings, in the last century this hostile scholar traveled across the Mediterranean to that end. But he was astonished to discover that his archaeological findings confirmed the full accuracy of the customs, locations, and the governing titles (e.g. "magistrates" Acts 16:35; "proconsul" Acts 18:12) Luke had mentioned. These varied widely from region to region. Ramsey concluded, "Great historians are the rarest of writers...[I regard Luke] among the historians of the first rank" (pp. 3-4). [up]
  3. W.F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (Revell, 1935), p. 127. [up]
  4. Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII (New York: Doubleday, 1966), p. XLII. [up]
  5. "Synchronism" means the tying together of unrelated events into a single timeline. [up]
  6. A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford, 1963). Sherwin-White is a renowned Oxford historian who writes, "It is astonishing that while Graeco-Roman historians have been growing in confidence, the 20th century study of the Gospel narratives, starting from no-less-promising material, has taken so gloomy a turn in the developments of form criticism... That the degree of confirmation in Graeco-Roman terms is less for the Gospels than for [The Book of] Acts is due... to the differences in their regional setting. As soon as Christ enters the Roman orbit in Jerusalem [e.g., Herod and Pontius Pilate] confirmation begins. For Acts [authored by Luke], the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming." (p. 107f) [up]
  7. "Synoptic" means to describe Jesus in a similar way (syn = together; optos = sight). [up]
  8. Gary Habermas, The Verdict of History (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), p. 169. [up]
  9. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Image, 1959), p. 157. [up]
  10. The closest we get to the original documents of each of the mentioned secular Classical writers is between 900 and 1300 years. By contrast, the "John Rylands Fragment" of the New Testament, containing John 18:31-33, has been dated as early as 115 A.D. Entire manuscripts of the New Testament can be dated to within 300 years of its completion. Virtually complete New Testament books as well as extensive fragments, can be dated to within 100 years of its close. Nearly the entire New Testament can be found in quotations by the early Christian writers. See Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 14f. [up]
  11. Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 20. [up]
  12. Military historian C. Sanders lists three tests in his Introduction to Research in English Literary History (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 143f. And seven factors are cited by Behan McCullagh as criteria for valid analysis of historical documents.[a] Using these sets of standards, John Warwick Montgomery[b] and William Lane Craig[c] respectively, roundly vindicate the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Renowned Oxford Classical historian Michael Grant, writes, "If we apply the same criteria that we would apply to other ancient literary sources, the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."[d] And Paul Meier writes, "If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that [Jesus' tomb] was actually empty... And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."[e] [up]



How do we know that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead?



Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Click here to read about what happened. (illustration copyrighted - God's Story)

The most powerful sign of all that Jesus is who he claims to be, namely the Son of God, is his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). This is a question with huge implications: Did it happen? Is the Resurrection story the great exception to the "usual dreary end of human life?"

Many now consider the Resurrection to be one of the most sure and certain events of history. A critical debate on the question "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" took place recently between world-renowned atheistic philosopher, Dr. Anthony Flew, and New Testament scholar and Christian, Dr. Gary Habermas. A panel of five philosophers from leading universities judged the outcome. What was the conclusion? Four votes for Habermas. None for Flew.[1] And one draw. Flew was judged to have retreated into philosophical sophistry while evading the widely-acknowledged historical facts cited by Dr. Habermas.


These facts (per Habermas) include:[2]

  1. Artist's conception of Jesus' body about to be prepared for burial at the tomb.Jesus died due to the rigors of crucifixion.
  2. Jesus was buried.
  3. Jesus' death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Many scholars hold that Jesus' tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
  5. At this time the disciples had real experiences that they believed to be literal experiences of the risen Jesus.
  6. The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify with Jesus, to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection, even being willing to die for this belief.
  7. The resurrection was central to their message.
  8. The resurrection was proclaimed in Jerusalem where the empty tomb was. As a result...
  9. The church was born and grew...
  10. ...with Sunday the primary day of worship.
  11. James, Jesus' skeptical brother, was converted by the Resurrection.
  12. Paul, the great persecutor of Christianity, was converted by the Resurrection.

So momentous was this single event in the First Century that its effects have been described as a "widening circle of ripples" from a "boulder crashing into the pool of history."[3] In one of the oddest turns in history, a message centering on a dead "criminal" (1 Corinthians 1:23) came to be proclaimed as "good news." Equally amazing was the extent of the Empire-wide transformation following its proclamation. The impetus for this message was the conviction that the same Jesus who was crucified was now alive again. These facts are admitted even by knowledgeable skeptics.[4]

The Resurrection story of course has had its critics, even from the very beginning. From the account of the first guards in Matthew 28:11f, all the way to the present, there have been efforts to explain away his resurrection. Each new attempt, however, is more perverse than those which came before,[5] while still failing to account for the range of indisputable facts.


  1. Gary R. Habermas and Anthony G.N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? -- the entire transcript, Terry L. Miethe, editor (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), p. XIIIf. [up]
  2. Ibid. pp. 19-20. [up]
  3. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man (Harper, 1957), p. 63. [up]
  4. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III (Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 553f. [up]
  5. John Shelby Spong argues that Peter felt so bad about Jesus' death he imagined him back to life. [John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), p. 255.]

Dr. Cavin of U.C. Irvine argues that Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother who began a hoax about the resurrection. [R.G. Cavin in William Craig vs. Robert Greg Cavin. Dead or Alive? A Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus. (California: Simon Greenleaf University, 1995).]

Barbara Thiering argues that the Gospels are in "coded" language which she has cracked through her reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Her bizarre theory says Jesus was drugged, crucified by the Dead Sea, yet he survived. He married Mary Magdalene, and then another woman, and died of old age. Notice the ludicrous improbability here: The entire early church is alleged to have been completely fooled, while Thiering, 20 centuries later, gets it right. [Barbara Thiering, Jesus The Man: A New Interpretation From the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Doubleday, 1992).]

C.S. Lewis exposes such pretentious absurdities in C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 191f.[up]

Some say that Christ's resurrection was a myth, not history. Is this possible?


Artist's conception of Jesus falling with the cross on the way to GolgothaSome critics charge that the Gospels have obscured the historical Jesus of Nazareth by cloaking Him in layers of legend and myth.[1] They claim that the Bible's stories of Christ's resurrection are myth, not history. There are at least FOUR REASONS why the mythological interpretation fails.

  1. Comparative literature demonstrates that myth takes a number of generations to develop. There are no parallels in other literature of myth developing and being believed in the presence of eye-witnesses and within the short timeframe in which the New Testament was formed.[2] (for more info)

Historical research is on the side of an immediate belief in Jesus' resurrection. An early apostle's creed includes the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-9) and has been dated by many scholars to within 3 to 7 years of Christ's death and resurrection.[3] This implies prior public belief. Scholars agree that the first letters by St. Paul appeared within 25 years or less of Jesus ministry, and the four Gospels within 21 (and no later than 65 years).[4] The preaching of the apostles always centered on the Resurrection. In a very short period of time, devout Jews throughout the Roman Empire who had formerly faithfully worshiped God on the seventh day of each week, converted to Christianity and began meeting on the first day, in celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Hundreds of witnesses saw Christ alive after his death. Once he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).

  1. Many of these eyewitnesses to Christ's public ministry were hostile toward the Jesus the Gospels describe (Matthew 12:22f). These opponents had both motives and means to correct falsehoods about Him had the first disciples attempted them.[5] Yet their opportunity did not produce a serious correction.
  2. The Gospels don't resemble either Greek myth or Jewish legend.[6] In contrast to those, the Gospels understate and lack embellishment, yet contain details counterproductive to the invention of legendary heroes. For example, the following six factors in John chapter 20 are at odds with the tendency of legendary material:
  3. Jews were the poorest of candidates for inventing a mythical Christ. No other culture has so opposed mythically confusing deity with humanity, as did the Jewish.[8]


  1. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (Scribner's, 1958). [up]
  2. John A.T. Robinson argues that, given its silence on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the New Testament must have been written prior to that date. For since the demise of the Temple in Jerusalem would have fueled Christian preaching that Jesus had replaced the Temple sacrificial system (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:11f), the New Testament would certainly have referred to its destruction as a past event, and distinguished it from the end of the world (Luke 21:25-28), had it already happened. [John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (SCM Press, 1976).]

John Macquarrie writes, "Myth is usually characterized by a remoteness in time and space... as having taken place long ago." By contrast the Gospels concern "an event that had a particularly definite location in Palestine... under Pontius Pilate, only a generation or so before the New Testament account of these happenings." [John Macquarrie, God-Talk: An Examination of the Language and Logic of Theology (Harper, 1967), pp. 177-180.]

A.N. Sherwin-White writes, "The agnostic type of form-criticism would be much more credible if the compilation of the Gospels were much later in time... than can be the case... Herodotus enables us to test the tempo of myth-making, [showing that] even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core." [A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 189-190.] [up]

  1. See Reginald Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology (Scribner's, 1965), p. 142. [up]
  2. See Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), pp. 11f, 14f. [up]
  3. Eta Linnemann, writes, "The eyewitnesses [both hostile and sympathetic] did not disappear from the scene in a flash after two decades. [Many are] likely to have survived until the second half of the A.D. 70's... Who at the time would have dared to alter the 'first tradition' beyond recognition?" [Eta Linnemann, Is There a Synoptic Problem? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), p. 64.] Interestingly, Dr. Linnemann was previously a negative critic of the New Testament in the line of Rudolf Bultmann. Having renounced her former position she now urges readers to "trash" her earlier works. [up]
  4. Michael Grant writes, "Modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory [Osiris, Mithras, etc.]. It has again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars." [Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (Scribner's, 1977), p. 200.] [up]
  5. Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus (Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 115. [up]
  6. M. Grant. writes, "Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seems so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit." [Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (Scribner's, 1977), p. 199.] Oxford's N.T. Wright demolishes Spong's assertion that the Gospels are Jewish midrash and therefore fantasy in N.T. Wright, Who Was Jesus? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1992). The two are different literary genres. And midrash is not fantasy anyway, but "tightly controlled and argued" material (p. 71f). See also Paul Barnett, Peter Jensen and David Peterson, Resurrection: Truth and Reality: Three Scholars Reply to Bishop Spong (Aquila, 1994). [up]

Is it true that the Bible's accounts of Christ's resurrection are full of contradictions?


The Gospels admittedly take a little effort to reconcile. But this "problem," as it is typically framed, is vastly overstated.

Artist's conception - Jesus falls with cross on road to Golgotha.It is commonly held that, since the Gospels differ from one another in emphases and detail, there must have been invention somewhere. Yet such an interpretation is not required! Reporters to any event (secular or religious), following all standards of accuracy and integrity, will each edit their stories differently with their eyes on what is relevant to their readers. Therefore, the rigid demands of the hyper critics that all four Gospels be exactly alike are arbitrary and artificial. Dr. Sayers states:

"One is often surprised to find how many apparent contradictions [in the Gospel Resurrection accounts] turn out not to be contradictory at all, but merely supplementary... Divergences appear very great on first sight... But the fact remains that all of [the Resurrection accounts], without exception, can be made to fall into a place in a single orderly and coherent narrative, without the smallest contradiction or difficulty and without any suppression, invention, or manipulation, beyond a trifling effort to imagine the natural behavior of a bunch of startled people running about in the dawn-light between Jerusalem and the garden."[1]



  1. Dorothy Sayers, The Man Born to be King (Harper and Brothers, 1943), p. 19f. Her comments are in her introduction to the radio plays on the life of Christ she prepared for BBC Radio. Also see: G.E. Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1975), p. 79f. John Wenham, Easter Enigma: Are the Resurrection Accounts in Conflict? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992). He says NO!

"Miracles are not possible," some claim. Is this true?




Loaves and fishesThe success of modern science in describing the world in terms of cosmic regularity has led some to rule out miracles as an outmoded and impossible concept. This is an unwarranted philosophical assumption and not a scientific conclusion. Philosophy cannot dogmatically forbid miracles apart from proving that there is no reality outside of nature.

Once God's existence is granted as a possibility (and there is abundant evidence provided for it at this site), miracles can't be dismissed out-of-hand. Rather, whether or not a given miracle has occurred becomes a historical matter that calls for investigation.[1]


  1. C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1960). Even atheistic philosopher Anthony Flew concedes that David Hume's objections to miracles involve "gross weaknesses." [Anthony Flew in Gary R. Habermas and Anthony G.N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? -- the entire transcript, Terry L. Miethe, editor (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 34.]



Was Jesus Christ's body stolen from his tomb?


There is no question that Jesus Christ's tomb was mysteriously empty. As Paul Althaus has said, the resurrection message "could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact..."[1] Dr. Craig observed that, "Conflicting traditions [to the empty tomb story] nowhere appear, even in Jewish polemic."[2]

At least one skeptic (Dr. John Dominic Crossan) has wrongly asserted that Roman law automatically forbade Jesus' burial, and that he must therefore have been thrown anonymously into a common pit. This is not sustainable. Raymond Brown has shown that Roman burial policy varied with circumstances and did allow the possibility of personal burial of some of the crucified.[3] This scenario would also contradict the consistent Jewish protests that the body had been removed.[4] Furthermore, the Gospels could not have successfully invented as owner of the tomb one so specific as a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43). Had the Gospels been false on this matter they would not have been able to withstand the swift correction and ridicule from the Jews.

How have doubters of Christ's resurrection responded? Some skeptics have claimed that someone must have stolen Jesus' body from the tomb, and that this led to the stories of miraculous resurrection. Is this possible?


Damascus Gate - Old JerusalemNeither the Jewish nor the Roman leaders, who guarded the tomb (Matthew 27:62f) would have taken the body. Rather, both had every motive to produce the body publicly in order to humiliate the disciples and nip their movement in the bud. And since the scene in question was right at Jerusalem, it was completely within their power to locate the corpse should it still have existed. Yet to their dismay, no such body was ever produced. If the Jews had the body, they would have wheeled it in at the day of Pentecost when all Jerusalem was in an uproar because of Peter's sermon on the Resurrection of Christ.


Likewise, is highly unlikely that Jesus' followers could have removed the body with a Roman guard protecting the tomb, plus a large stone door. And it won't work to charge them with inventing the account of the sleeping guards in Matthew. 28:11f. That story would only have served as apologetic propaganda had the guards stayed awake.

Why would the disciples (or anyone else) want to risk their lives to steal Christ's body? The biblical record shows the disciples were scared, discouraged and disheartened. Their only motive could have been to deceive. But everything we read about these men indicates they were good and honest. How could they have gone out the rest of their lives and daily preached that Christ had risen from the dead when they knew all along it was a lie? Would they have sacrificed and suffered so greatly for something that they know was an outright deception?

It would have been foolish to hide the corpse and fake a resurrection. The consequences of their loyalty to Jesus included beatings, imprisonments, and even death. No sane person chooses these for what they know is false. Under such pressures, liars confess their deceptions and betray their cohorts.

The explosive growth of the Church is strong evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Significantly, it wasn't the powerful, but commoners, burdened with every cultural strike against them (1 Corinthians 1:26f), whose Resurrection message peaceably transformed the Roman Empire. Who would ever have predicted such an "impossible" feat? Yet it actually did happen![5]

Jewish Family at PassoverThat Christianity originated in Judaism[6] is further evidence for his resurrection. Renowned archaeologist William F. Albright observed, "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D."[7] Jewish bias against the Jesus of the New Testament was massive. What else would have led Jews to accept a shamefully hung (Galatians 3:13) "criminal", as their promised Messiah when they had longed for a military deliverer? And what else would have moved Jews to break their monotheistic convictions[8] to worship Jesus as God the Son (John 1:18), or change their worship day from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)? A mere invented myth would have been powerless to overthrow such hopes and traditions.

"Jesus was so unlike what all Jews expected the Son of David to be that His own disciples found it almost impossible to connect the idea of the Messiah with Him."[9]
     -Millar Burrows

It is, as the New Testament states, Jesus' resurrection that singly overcame that "impossibility" (Acts 2:24).


In addition, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus points to a momentous miracle. Beginning as a violent enemy of the Church (Acts 8:3; 9:1, Galatians 1:13), he was utterly turned around into becoming Jesus' servant. Choosing suffering for Christ's sake (2 Corinthians 11:23f), Paul gave up all he had, endured persecution, and preached the Gospel in city after city all the way to Rome, where he died a martyr's death. He is credited with having had greater influence over the course of the Roman Empire than any other figure of the First Century apart from Christ.[10] Nothing short of Christ's resurrection has remotely explained his major transformation.


The other Apostles too, overcame fear to brave suffering, imprisonment, and even death, as they proclaimed the good news of the risen Christ across their world. Is it thinkable that these people would die so willingly for a mere myth? "Each of the disciples, except John, died a martyr's death... because they tenaciously clung to their beliefs and statements," observes researcher Josh McDowell.[11]

In contrast to others who have died for an unverifiable hope beyond the grave (e.g., mystics seeking reincarnation or Moslem militants expecting reward from Allah), Jesus' disciples lived and died for the historically verifiable claim that the grave was empty and that he was seen alive again.

Legal scholar Dr. Simon Greenleaf, founder of the Harvard Law School, notes:

"Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, [early Christians received] contempt, opposition... and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate, and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only [continued] their work with increased vigor and resolution... The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of like heroic constancy, patience, and unblenching courage... If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. From these [considerations] there is no escape but in the perfect conviction and admission that they were good men, testifying to that which they had carefully observed...and well knew to be true.[12]

Dr. Greenleaf is considered by many to have been one of the greatest legal minds we have had in the U.S. He was formerly an outspoken skeptic of Christianity and who set out to disprove the deity of Christ. In the end he concluded that the Resurrection was true "beyond any reasonable doubt." Greenleaf became a Christian after studying the evidence for himself. Many top legal minds agree with Greenleaf that if the case for Christ's death and resurrection were taken to a court of law, it would undoubtedly win. The claims are very well established and verified by independent and converging proofs.


  1. Paul Althaus in Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus-God and Man (SCM Press, 1968), p. 100. [up]
  2. Dr. Craig in M. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, editors, Jesus Under Fire (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995), p. 149. [up]
  3. Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, Vol. II (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p. 1205f. [up]
  4. See the Jewish Justin Martyr, "Dialogue with Trypho," and the "Toledoth Yeshu," a Jewish tale that the owner of the grave sold the body of Jesus which was then dragged through the city streets. Both are discussed by Gary Habermas in Gary R. Habermas and Anthony G.N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? -- the entire transcript, Terry L. Miethe, editor (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 99f. [up]
  5. "That the Christian movement could have succeeded, so that the humble men who fished on the shores of the Sea of Galilee are today better known than the very Caesars who ruled the world...is so amazing that it would be incredible if we did not know it to be the case." [Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion (Harper and Brothers, 1957), p. 140.] [up]
  6. Acts 2:5-43, 6:7. [up]
  7. William F. Albright in an interview in Christianity Today (January 18, 1963), p. 3. [up]
  8. "Monotheism," drawing on Deuteronomy 6:4 ("The Lord our God is one Lord"), set Israel's belief in contrast with the polytheism of its neighbors. It appeared to exclude, even in principle, Jesus' claim to be deity. In reality, however, the same Hebrew word "one" (echad-__) is used in Genesis 2:24 ("two become one flesh"), Joshua 9:2, and Judges 20:1, and implies a composite unity. Thus, while Jewish bias strongly opposed Jesus' claim to be God's Son, the word in question actually allows and even implies such a possibility. [up]
  9. Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Viking Press, 1958), p. 68. [up]
  10. Sir William Ramsey, as cited in Wilbur Smith, Therefore Stand (Wilde, 1945), p. 246f. [up]
  11. Josh McDowell, editor, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, California: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972), p. 255. [up]
  12. Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists (Kregel, 1995-reprint from 1847 edition), pp. 31-32. [up]

Some claim that witnesses to Christ's resurrection must have been hallucinating or experiencing mass hysteria, is this possible?

Artist's conception of the arisen JesusOn one point virtually all scholars of every description agree, the first disciples were themselves utterly convinced they had seen the risen Christ.[1]

The Christian gospel message about the death and resurrection of Christ breathes through virtually every New Testament document. So the real question is, how do we account for their obvious conviction? Were they just hallucinating?

While perhaps at first sounding plausible, many factors contradict such a notion.[2] To name a few:

  1. The large number of witnesses (hundreds) (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)...
  2. Covering the spectrum of personality types (e.g., John 20 -- Peter, Thomas, the two Marys, etc.), contradict the theory of hallucinations which, by definition, are not shared experiences.
  3. There is no such thing as a vision appearing to a crowd. It's generally received only by one person at a time, and that person must be expecting the vision and be in a highly emotional state. As the Bible shows, none of Jesus' followers expected him to rise from the dead. Luke said that when Jesus appeared to the disciples, "They were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit" (Luke 24:37).
  4. Mistaken identity can not be the explanation, either. Certainly the disciples would recognize the person they had been with every day for more than three years.
  5. The substantial, permanent, and positive change in lifestyle of many of the converted overthrows any theory of hallucination. Jewish scholar Dr. Pinchas Lipide, has written,

"When this frightened band of apostles suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society... Then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation."[3]

Although Lipide is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who does not accept Jesus as the Messiah, he concedes the inescapable evidence that Jesus must have risen from the dead.


  1. Renowned Oxford Classical historian Michael Grant states, "These accounts do prove that certain people were utterly convinced that [Jesus had risen]." [Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (Scribner's, 1977), p. 176. Even historical skeptic, Rudolf Bultmann, concedes the disciple's certitude to be "fact" in Kerygma and Myth, Vol. I, (SPCK, 1953), p. 42. Even ardent skeptic John Shelby Spong admits, "The change [in the disciples] was measurable and objective even if the cause of this change is debated. [It] was part of that first-century explosion of power that cannot be denied by any student of history." [John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), p. 26.] [up]
  2. Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 186f. This book cites 14 fatal flaws with the hallucination theory. "Apologetics" does not mean to apologize for, but to give a rational defense ("apologia") of Christianity (1 Peter 3:15). [up]
  3. Pinchas Lipide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Fortress Press, 1988), p. 125. [up]

What about the death and resurrection of Christ was important and vital to Christianity?




Artist's conception - Jesus Christ dead on the cross
Why did Christ have to shed His blood?

Many critics reject the "blood theology" of the Bible because they see it as a remnant of a very barbaric type of primitive religion termed a "slaughterhouse religion," Biblical Christianity is abandoned by some who consider themselves too refined to include thoughts of sacrifice in their worship.

The Bible quite forthrightly states, "That soul that sinneth, it shall die," and "the wages of sin is death" (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). In the moral government of God, He has ordained that physical and eternal death be the just penalty for sin. People may chafe against God's decree, thinking it is unfair or extreme, but their protests only show how sin has blinded them to sin's true nature. The fact that God requires such a drastic penalty should teach them, not that God is brutal, but that sin is heinous.

Yet God, in His matchless love for sinful man, has also decreed that the penalty for sin can be born by a substitute, and on that principle is built the Old Testament system for sacrifice.

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
     -Leviticus 17:11

Even if any man had wanted to, he could not offer himself in payment for his sins, for his sin had disqualified him from being an accceptable sacrifice. Consequently, the Old Testament provided for the offering of certain select animals whose blood was shed vicariously for the sins of those who repented and trusted God's revelation.

All of the spotless, innocent animals that became sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to that great sacrifice, the one made by Jesus Christ on Calvary's cross. John the Baptist introduced Him, saying "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The penalty God imposed on sin is both just and loving, for God Himself, in the Person of the Son, paid that penalty for all who will accept Him as their Substitute.

God the Son, clothed in human form, shed His blood for man's sin, thus satisfying every demand of holy justice. And through that precious blood, God showed Himself to be both "just and justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

The Bible portrays unsaved man as a slave to sin and speaks of freeing him in the same manner as slaves were redeemed in the ancient world. In Christ, "we have redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain manner of life ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:18-19).

Apart from Jesus Christ, all people are alienated from God. Sin's rebellion forged a gulf between God and man that is humanly impassable. Yet, Christ's blood built the bridge from God to man.

"Now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
     -Ephesians 2:13

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."
     -Romans 5:8-9

Human sin produces a pollution of the heart that can only be cleanses by God's grace. And that grace manifests itself in the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice, the Apostle John declaring, "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin" (I John 1:7). Revelation's glimpse of the future glory gives this account:

"These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple."
     -Revelation 7:14-15

The Bible emphasizes Christ's blood because only in His sacrifice can we find forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, salvation, and glory!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)


Did Christ really have to die before God could forgive sins?

At first glance, it seems that a God who loves sinful men and women enough to save them could devise a salvation plan that would not involve the death of His beloved Son. Is God unreasonably vindictive in demanding that payment be made for sin? Couldn't He forgive us without requiring some price to be paid?

These questions probe the very nature of God, and while we cannot fully understand God's infinite perfections, the Bible reveals enough about His character to give us an answer (Job 11:7; Deuteronomy 29:29).

While the Bible states "God is love" (I John 4:8, 16), it does not present love as God's sole attribute. Throughout Scripture God is portrayed as pre-eminently holy (Psalm 99:9; Isaiah 5:16) - holy in character (Psalm 22:3; John 17:11), holy in name (Isaiah 57:15; Luke 1:49), holy in works (Psalm 145:17), holy in His kingdom (Psalm 47:8). The reason that Christians can count on God's promises is because He has verified them with His holiness (Psalm 89:35).

The resolution of the alleged conflict between God's love and His wrath lies only in His holiness. The same God can show both love and wrath because He is first of all holy. The angels surrounding God's throne sing neither "Love, love, love" nor "Wrath, wrath, wrath," but rather, "Holy, holy, holy" (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8).

God's holiness involves a strict separation from all sinfulness and perfect justice in dealing with the sins of His creatures. If God were to violate this basic attribute, His forgiveness would be well nigh useless. Of what value is the forgiveness of someone who has no standards? The concept of salvation makes no sense unless one starts with God's holiness. Consequently, sin is no trifle, to be lightly dismissed or conveniently ignored. The existence of sin necessitated some reponse.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this problem in Romans 3:21-26, and he shows how God could be both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (3:26). The main emphasis of this passage is God's righteousness, mentioned in verses 21, 22, 25 and 26. Since God's holiness remains an immutable part of His character, He will not merely overlook sinful rebellion. However, justice and mercy merge in God's plan for men, to provide the "righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those that believe" (3:22).

God does not have to violate His holiness to provide salvation, for God the Son provides "a propitiation in His blood" for those who believe (3:25). "Propitiation" refers to the satisfaction of divine justice and comes from the practice of anointing with sacrificial blood the mercy seat on the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. This application of blood symbolized the death of a substitute as a penalty for breaking God's law. Jesus Christ became our Substitute, "For the wages of sin is death; but the (free) gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Jesus suffered on the cross, and the Apostle explains the suffering, saying, "This was to demonstrate His righteousness; because of the forbearance of God He passed over sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25). God had forgiven the sins of the Old Testament believers on the basis of Christ's future sacrifice, just as He forgives today on the basis of Christ's past sacrifice, done once for all time (Hebrews 10:12). And in it all, God remains holy. The crux of Paul's evangelistic teaching at Thessalonica was that "Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead" (Acts 17:3). Christ's death was not optional, for it was central to God's plan of salvation.

Some confusion results from the erroneous notion that God the Father must not have loved Christ since He required Him to die before granting forgiveness to sinful men and women. This ignores the plain teaching of Scripture that Jesus was God the Son, and, as equal in every perfection with God the Father, concurred in the redemption plan. On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, the hour has come, glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee" (John 17:1). Hebrews 12:2 reveals that Jesus both endured the cross and despised its shame because of "the joy set before Him." While some modern errorists present Christ going to the cross under protest against the cruel Father, the Scripture shows the Father and Son in perfect harmony throughout redemption.


God's holiness, righteousness and justice are immutable parts of His character, so He exercises judgment on sin as One who is sovereign in His moral kingdom. Yet, He himself has fulfilled that righteous penalty in the person of His Son so that, without violating His holy nature, He guarantees forgiveness and justification to all who believe.

Authors: Henry Morris and Martin Clark as excerpted from The Bible Has the Answer, published by Master Books, 1987. Used with permission.

"Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge," wrote J.N.D. Anderson, late Dean of the School of Law at the University of London. "If it is true [as he and others indeed demonstrate], then it is the supreme fact of history, and to fail to adjust one's life to its implications means irreparable loss."[1]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not about a mere historical curiosity, but an event of enormous consequences to you. According to Romans 1:4, Jesus' resurrection affirms the Bible's high claims about Him, and that He alone is the way to heaven.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
-John 14:6, NKJV

Christ's resurrection guarantees there will be a Last Judgment (Acts 17:31), and that there is a heaven and a hell (Revelation 1:18).

Yet this Risen Christ offers the forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation for whoever believes in Him (John 11:25,6, Romans 4:24,25). Everyone is inescapably affected by these implications.


Therefore you can't afford to remain an agnostic regarding Jesus and His claim on you. While many today are indifferent to such matters, avoiding Him is not an honest proposition. The mounting evidence supporting His claims demands your consideration!

And consideration is demanded not only for your intellect, but for your whole being! For the One who is "Alive forevermore" (Revelation 1:18) says,

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me."
-Revelation 3:20

By "door" is meant access to your heart, mind, and will. Jesus desires entry into your life that He may be your Savior and Lord. So "Today...Do not harden your heart" (Hebrews 4:7). Rather, open your heart to Him, and let the One who died and rose for you come in!



  1. J.N.D. Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection (Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1966), p. 4.


Where did Jesus get his name? (Jesus)


Jesus Christ - Click to read more about him. (illustration copyrighted - God's Story).
Read about the life of Jesus Christ

Meaning: Salvation, or "the Lord is salvation," "the Lord Saves."

"Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which was originally Hoshea (Oshea) (Num. 13:8, 16 - the King James Version of the Bible spells it "Oshea"), but changed by Moses into Jehoshua (Num. 13:16; 1 Chr. 7:27), or Joshua. After the Exile it assumed the form Jeshua, from which came the Greek form Jesus. It was given to our Lord to denote the object of his mission, to save. An angel told Joseph (his foster-father), "You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

JESUS CHRIST - Je'sus, the proper, as Christ is the official, name of our Lord. To distinguish him from others with the same name, he is spoken of as "Jesus of Nazareth" (John 18:7), and "Jesus the son of Joseph" (John 6:42).

The life of Jesus on earth may be divided into two great periods, (1) his private life, till he was about thirty years of age; and (2) his public life, which lasted about three years.

Jesus Christ as a baby - click to learn more. (illustration copyrighted - God's Story).

In the "fulness of time" he was born at Bethlehem, in the reign of the emperor Augustus, of Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter (Matt. 1:1; Luke 3:23; compare John 7:42). His birth was announced to shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). Wise men from the east came to Bethlehem to see him who was born "King of the Jews," bringing gifts with them (Matt. 2:1-12). Herod's cruel jealousy led to Joseph's flight into Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus, where they waited till the death of this king (Matt. 2:13-23), when they returned and settled in Nazareth, in Lower Galilee (2:23; compare Luke 4:16; John 1:46, etc.). At the age of twelve years he went up to Jerusalem to the Passover with his parents. There, in the temple, "in the midst of the doctors," all that heard him were "astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:41, etc.).

Eighteen years pass during which we have no record, except that he returned to Nazareth and "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

He entered his public ministry when he was about thirty years of age. It is generally believed to have lasted about three years. Each of these years had particular features of its own.





1.      The first year may be called the year of obscurity, both because the records of it which we possess are very scanty, and because he seems during it to have been only slowly emerging into public notice. It was spent for the most part in Judea.

2.      The second year was the year of public favor, during which the country had become thoroughly aware of him; his activity was constant, and his reputation was known through the length and breadth of the land. It was almost wholly passed in Galilee.

3.      The third was the year of opposition, when the public favor ebbed away. His enemies multiplied and assailed him with more and more persistence, and at last he fell victim to their hatred. The first six months of this final year were passed in Galilee, and the last six in other parts of the land" (Stalker's Life of Jesus Christ, p. 45).

The Gospels are eyewitnesses accounts of the words and work of Jesus Christ in many different aspects.

Jesus was also the name of four other men in the Bible...

1.      Joshua, the son of Nun (the King James Version says "Jesus" in Acts 7:45 and Heb. 4:8; all new translations avoid confusion by using the name "Joshua")

2.      A Jewish Christian surnamed Justus (Col. 4:11)

3.      Jesus Barabbas (sometimes just called Barabbas) - prisoner released by Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:16-17)

4.      An ancestor of Christ (Luke 3:29). Translated as Jose in the King James Version and NJKV, Joshua in the NIV and NASB.

What does the name "Christ" mean?



Meaning: anointed, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word translated "Messiah"

Christ is the official title of our Lord, occurring 1,514 in the New Testament. It denotes that he was anointed or consecrated to his great redemptive work as Prophet, Priest, and King of his people. He is Jesus the Christ (Acts 17:3; 18:5; Matt. 22:42), the Anointed One. He is thus spoken of by Isaiah (61:1), and by Daniel (9:24-26), who describes him as "Messiah the Prince."

The Messiah is the same person as "the seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15), "the seed of Abraham" (Gen. 22:18), the "Prophet like unto Moses" (Deut. 18:15), "the priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4), "the rod out of the stem of Jesse" (Isa. 11:1, 10), the "Immanuel," the virgin's son (Isa. 7:14), "the branch of Jehovah" (Isa. 4:2), and "the messenger of the covenant" (Mal. 3:1).

This is he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write." The Old Testament Scripture is full of prophetic declarations regarding the Great Deliverer and the work he was to accomplish. Jesus the Christ is Jesus the Great Deliverer, the Anointed One, the Savior of men. This name denotes that Jesus was divinely appointed, commissioned, and accredited as the Savior of men (Heb. 5:4; Isa. 11:2-4; 49:6; John 5:37; Acts 2:22).

To believe that "Jesus is the Christ" is to believe that he is the Anointed, the Messiah of the prophets, the Savior sent of God, that he was, in a word, what he claimed to be. This is to believe the gospel, by the faith of which alone men can be brought unto God. That Jesus is the Christ is the testimony of God, and the faith of this constitutes a Christian (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 5:1).