East Side Church
(Baptist - Disciples of Christ)
201 Spruce Ave.
Sharon, PA 16146
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September 1, 2013
"We Are All Witnesses"
Acts 2:22-36

Intro : Many doubts voiced about truth, relevance of Christianity. Series addressing some of those questions. Dealing with actual objections made by skeptics of Christianity. Last week, discovered there were actual OT prophecies about Messiah which were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth . Accurate, detailed predictions of future events must have a supernatural source. Evidence of God's existence! Satisfies both logic of head, and logic of heart: We deeply desire wonder, awe, to provide meaning beyond everyday life! Bible presents God working out His plan in history in miraculous, meaningful ways.

Peter's Claim! Springboard: very first Christian sermon in history. Peter declared that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified two months earlier, had risen from dead. Today, want to examine another claim Peter makes in this sermon: There were actual eyewitnesses who recorded the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. (Read Acts 2:22-24, 32.)

Popular View of Bible's Reliability! Peter's claim is a controversial statement! Ever since Dan Brown's bestseller, The Davinci Code, the following idea has become a commonly assumed truth: The Bible does not contain reliable history about Jesus of Nazareth! Some sample statements made by Mr. Brown:

  1. "The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book." (Chapter 55)
  2. (The Bible contains) "glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda." (Chapter 55)

The idea that the Bible does not contain reliable history about Jesus of Nazareth has influenced popular thought. Question asked on Yahoo Answers: "How long after the life of Jesus were the Gospels written?" Some sample answers:

  1. "The NT story is fictional and Jesus, his mama, papa and all of his disciples etc, etc are all fictional."
  2. "There were political reasons in that day to alter the story and the quotations."
  3. "Most of what WAS written in the period after the crucifixion was never included in (the Bible.)"
  4. "It is difficult to date exactly...Many of the 30 odd gospels which were not included (in the Bible) do not even mention the crucifixion so there is considerable doubt if that actually happened."

Is there evidence for the Gospels being reliable history? Many people assume that the Bible does not contain reliable history about Jesus of Nazareth . In Acts 2, Peter claims that there were actual eyewitnesses who recorded the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Are the gospel accounts of Jesus reliable history? Any evidence?

  1. The texts of the Gospels! Popular picture of later scribes playing fast and loose with their copies, tampering with their texts for political reasons is grossly exaggerated. Science of textual criticism proves we know with 97-99% certainty what the Gospel authors truly wrote.
  2. Archaeology . People commonly call events of Jesus' life legendary. But there is definite archaeological evidence that confirms historical details in Gospels. Examples: Existence of Pontius Pilate. Location of the Pool of Bethesda.
  3. Testimony outside the NT ! Popular belief that the only place we hear about Jesus is in the NT. But other ancient references by non-Christians!

    Thallus, a Greek Historian of first century, mentions an unusual darkness that occurred at the time of Jesus' crucifixion.

    Early second century, Roman legate Pliny the Younger wrote that Christians met regularly and sang hymns to Christ "as if to a god."

    Early second century, Roman historian Tacitus referred to "Christ who had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius."

    Jewish Talmud speaks of Jesus as "the Nazarene" who "practiced magic and led Israel astray."

    First century Jewish historian, Josephus wrote: "Around this time lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was a worker of amazing deeds and was a teacher of people who gladly accept the truth. He won over both many Jews and many Greeks. Pilate, when he heard him accused by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, [but] those who have first loved him did not cease [doing so]. To this day the tribe of Christians named after him has not disappeared."

  4. When the Gospels were actually written! Popular idea that the gospels were written, rewritten and edited over 300 years. But there is historical Evidence that Gospels were written within 20-50 years of Jesus' death by people who knew Him. "The virtually unanimous early-Christian testimony which associates (the Gospels) with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (see e.g., Eusebius...(and) Irenaeus...) should be treated very seriously . And even scholars who see the Gospels as written by anonymous Christians almost always date them within the first century. This is certainly well within a time period that would have permitted accurate information about the life and times of Jesus to have been preserved ..." (Craig Blomberg)

An Illustration! Blomberg's point? Controversy over Steve Jobs movie is a current example! Daniel Chubb wrote on January 27th of this year: "Yesterday saw the Steve Jobs movie premiere arrive with mixed reactions ... from those... that were close friends of Jobs...The star of jOBS is Ashton Kutcher... Kutcher talks...about preparing for playing the role of Steve Jobs, which included watching over 4 days worth of video footage featuring Jobs. Over the years a lot of people have met the former Apple CEO <www.inentertainment.co.uk/20130127/steve-jobs-movie-premiere-brings-controversy/>, so this creates more critics than normal. We also heard from Apple's co-founder, Steve Wozniak, a few hours before the Steve Jobs movie premiere and he stated some things were " totally wrong." These included the way Wozniak had been dressed in certain scenes and the way this movie portrayed Steve Jobs."

Current example of how people are able to dispute facts within 20-50 years of a person or event! People still living today knew Steve Jobs. Peter's claim in Acts 2 is, "We knew Jesus! We are all witnesses!" He is inviting the doubters to investigate his claims. "Ask us! Put us to the test!"

The scandal of Christianity is that the biblical authors claim that God dared to act within history, where these claims can be investigated and proved true or false! There were actual eyewitnesses who recorded the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I challenge you to prove it for yourself! Read Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ or John Dickson's The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus . Also, Bible.org has a readable series of articles on the Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Most important! Read a Gospel for yourself! (Gospel of John story.)

Conclusion : We can use logic, historical evidence to prove that the Gospel accounts of Jesus are trustworthy! But let me close with a different type of logic: The logic of the heart: We deeply desire truth instead of treachery! World is full of lies and deception. Results in personal, societal breakdown. But if you claim Christianity is a bunch of lies without investigating it for yourself, are you being honest? No. You're claiming to know something that you don't know for sure. That's a lie! So, all the deception "out there" dwells in our hearts, too. We deeply desire truth instead of treachery . Let your desire for truth motivate you to examine Jesus: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."



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© East Side Church, 2013