Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Common Objection #16 - "We know nothing about Jesus outside of the New Testament."

Critics often claim that we know nothing about Jesus outside of the New Testament. I believe this claim is often the result of assumption and not investigation.
What follows is a summary of the data we have regarding Jesus outside of the New Testament from non-Christian sources.
There exist 17 known non-Christian sources that were written within 100-150 years of Jesus life which is excellent for ancient history. [1]

They are as follows:

Ancient Historians

Government Officials
Pliny the Younger
Emperor Trajan
Emperor Hadrian

Other Jewish Sources
The Talmud
Toledoth Jesu

Other Gentile Sources
Mara Bar-Serapion

Gnostic Sources

The Gospel of Truth
The Apocryphon of John
The Gospel of Thomas
The Treatise on Resurrection

Other Lost Works
Acts of Pontius Pilate- recorded as actual documents by Justin Martyr (ca. AD 150) and Tertullian (ca. AD 200). Both agree that it was an official document of Rome.
Phlegon- Phlegon’s work is not longer in existence and we depend on others for our information. [2]

What facts about Jesus do these ancient non-Christian sources report?

Here are just 12 of them:

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder-worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God. [3]

Please note that these facts are completely consistent with what the New Testament documents report concerning Christ.


From these non-Christian sources, we know more than 60 facts of the life of Jesus from outside the New Testament.

For those interested in examining more of these facts, please see here.

For readers interested in exploring the historical evidence for Jesus more in-depth, I recommend Gary Habermas' The Historical Jesus and/or Mike Licona's The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.

To view the other common objections we have dealt with, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Dr. Gary Habermas, Lecture: The Historical Jesus, Biola University.
2. Dr. Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus, p. 187-228.
3. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 222-223.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett

No one can deny the powerful international influence that Oprah Winfrey has had on millions of people and her influence continues to grow. Whether through her website, magazine or recently ended talk show, Oprah is arguably one of the most influential women in history. To her credit, Oprah in many ways has used her celebrity and financial success to help scores of people around the world.

However, just assuredly as Oprah has used her fame and fortune to help those less fortunate, she has also used her persuasion as a sort of pulpit, preaching “strange doctrines” to millions of sincere viewers around the world. She has gone from being a simple talk show host to a spiritual guru of sorts, raising questions about the character of the biblical God, salvation through Jesus Christ alone and the very reality of sin.

In their book, “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality, authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett address many of the questions raised by Oprah and the various teachers she promotes.

As the authors explain:

As Christian apologists who believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, we wanted to create a fictional, almost Socratic dialogue that would cover many of the themes of Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual teaching in recent years.” [p. 9]

The result is an short (117 p.), easy-to-read book that tackles the intellectual issues raised by Oprah’s spiritual teachings with an inside look at how the teachings of Oprah, when practically applied to one’s everyday life, can have very real, and sometimes very sad, consequences.

The book is arranged in 11 short chapters with the content centered on the dialogue of two female graduate students.

What I Appreciated

One of the elements of the book that this reader greatly appreciated was while McDowell and Sterrett clearly take issue with Oprah’s spiritual beliefs and the teachers she promotes, they do not attack Oprah on a personal level. Clearly, the intent of this book is to evaluate the truthfulness or falsehood of Oprah’s spiritual beliefs and the numerous teachers see has supported and this is done so with the utmost respect. Apologists should take note that when addressing one’s view, it is the belief and not the believer that should be dealt with.

I also enjoyed the manner in which McDowell and Sterrett dealt with issues raised by the dialogue in the book with easy-to-understand examples and illustrations that someone unfamiliar with apologetics “lingo” can clearly understand and apply to their own thinking.

Finally, this reviewer liked how the authors cleverly built a case for the truth of Christianity while addressing the issues raised by Oprah and her teachings.

The Content

Those familiar with Oprah’s teachings over the years will not be disappointed by the issues McDowell and Sterrett take aim at. After I finished the book, upon reflection, I could not think of one issue that Oprah has questioned in the media or one teacher she has endorsed that was not addressed directly or indirectly.

Issues addressed by McDowell and Sterrett include:

  • Is the God of the Bible a jealous God?
  • Can’t there possibly be more than one way to heaven?
  • Oprah’s Tolerance

  • Should we lose religion all together?

  • The teachings of Eckhart Tolle and the nature of truth

  • Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret

  • The Nature of God- theism, polytheism, or pantheism?

  • Is Jesus “the Jesus of Christ-consciousness” or the Jesus of the New Testament?”

  • What happens to the soul and body after death?

  • How can people experience the love of God through Jesus?

As well as addressing these critical issues, McDowell and Sterrett also clearly communicate what it means to truly be saved and know Jesus Christ as Lord.


This reviewer enjoyed “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality and I believe the book to be an ideal tool for reaching out to those who have been taken in by Oprah’s preaching and the different teachers and books she has promoted. Furthermore, the discussion questions for each chapter included in the back of the book make the it an ideal resource for a small group or Bible study.

Apologists will find the book helpful as it models an excellent manner to communicate with those who have questions about the variety of issues raised by Oprah and the teachings she endorses.

I encourage readers and seekers of truth to check out “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality and to those who have friends or family who have been swayed by Oprah’s preaching, this is the ideal book to read through with them and discuss.

Courage and Godspeed,