Extend | Isn’t the Bible a Myth?


The content for this post is mostly sourced from:
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Conversations On Faith and Life (New York: Redeemer City to City :, ©2010)

How can we know that what the Bible says about Jesus is historically reliable?

1. The New Testament Accounts of Jesus were written too early to be legends

A. Luke’s sources are eyewitness accounts ( Luke 1:1-2 )
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

B. John also uses eyewitness testimony and claims to be an eyewitness himself ( John 19:35, 1 John 1:1-4 )
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —
this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

C. Paul invites his readers to talk to witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection ( 1 Cor 15:6 )
“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living”

Why Is that Important?

The shorter the distance between the original events and the written records the harder it is to invent fictional stories.
The fact that the records of Jesus life were finished within the lifetime of eyewitnesses shows that the authors were confident their facts could be checked.

2. The documents are too detailed to be legends

A. Mark records that Jesus slept on a cushion in a boat ( Mark 4:38 )

B. John records that Peter was a hundred yards from shore when he saw Jesus and that they caught 153 fish ( John 21:8 )

c. John notes that blood and water leave jesus’ side at the crucifixion ( John 19:34 )

d. The gospels use personal name’s, even of people who are incidental to the story ( Luke 23:26 )

Why Is that Important?

The best explanation for why the authors included these seemingly irrelevant details was because they had been retained in the eyewitnesses’ memory.

3. The documents are too counterproductive in their content to be legends

A. If you were trying to build a movement would you invent something as complicated As the death and resurrection of Jesus?

B. Original witnesses to the resurrection were women?

C. The disciples as competent leaders of a movement? ( Eg. Peter )

Why Is that Important?

What is The best explanation for the events recorded in the gospels? What we read about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is what actually happened. This is not good propaganda. The authors make no attempt to alter or “sanitize” the biblical story.

How would you respond to the objection, “You can’t believe in the Bible because it contains miracles”?

1. If God exists, miracles exist
2. It is impossible to disprove the existence of God
3. Therefore, It is impossible to disprove the existence of miracles
Why Is that Important?

You can’t discredit the bible based on the fact that it contains miracles. If God exists (as the bible assumes he does) then we would expect to find miracles in the bible.

How would you respond to the objection, “The Bible is full of contradictions”?

1. The gospel writer’s were not simply news reporters. They were teachers.

A. John notes that it would be impossible to put together a complete account of all Jesus’ teaching and acts. ( John 21:25 )

B. The gospel writers selectively included and arranged their material under the inspiration of the holy spirit. ( Sometimes thematic, sometimes chronological )

• Matthew establishes Jesus’ messianic credentials (Matt 1:1)
• Mark emphasises Jesus as servant and the cost of discipleship ( Mark 10:45 )
• Luke writes an “orderly account” ( Luke 1:3 )
• John writes in order “that you may believe” ( John 20:31 )

C. Seeming contradictions are often a matter of emphasis. ( eg. john’s account of the empty tomb emphasises Mary’s conversation with Jesus)
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put
him!”( John 20:2 )

2. Eyewitness memory is selective, they each saw part of the events.

A. The gospel writers drew on eyewitness accounts, therefore there can be some variation in description without any contradiction of facts.

B. A case in point: the empty tomb.

• John: Mary arrived “while it was still dark” ( John 20:1 )
• Matthew: Mary arrived “at dawn” ( Matt 28:1 )
• Mark: Mary arrived “just after sunrise” ( Mark 16:2 )

Which one is right? All three.

Why Is that Important?

Virtually every “contradiction” can be answered by appealing either to the author’s teaching purpose or the perspective of the eyewitness account.
When properly examined there are no contradictions in the bible.
Helpful Hint: its always good to ask, “what particular contradiction is bothering you?”