Friday, February 28, 2014

Article: Can We Be Certain Jesus Died on the Cross? A Look at the Ancient Practice of Crucifixion

In this featured article, New Testament historian Mike Licona examines the ancient practice of crucifixion.  He offers 4 reasons that demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus did indeed die by crucifixion.

You can check it out here.

For more great resources like this one, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

ID the Future Podcast: The Nye-Ham Creation Debate- Where was Intelligent Design?

In this featured podcast of ID the Future, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute discusses the recent debate between Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Bill Nye "the science guy."  

In the podcast Luskin discusses:
  • Ham's "because the Bible says so" arguments
  • The absence of design arguments in the debate
  • Bill Nye's points regarding Tiktaalik, hominid skulls, etc.
You can listen here.

Further, checkout this excellent, link-packed article by Luskin on the same topic here.

As for me, I felt the debate illustrated why the apologist should not base their entire apologetic on the age of the earth.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Article: The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or Less) by J.W. Wartick

In this featured blog post, J.W.Wartick of "Always Have a Reason" makes his case for Christianity in 15 minutes or less.

In his case, Wartick utilizes:

1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument (7 minutes)
2. The Moral Argument
3. Christianity is Unique (3 minutes)
4. Jesus is God (5 minutes)

It is my conviction that every Christian case maker should have something similar prepared for evangelism.

You can checkout the article here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Debate Video: William Lane Craig vs. Shabir Ally- Who is the True Jesus? The Jesus of the Qur'an or the Jesus of the Bible?

Debate description:

In March 2002 Dr William Lane Craig began participating in a series of debates with Shabir Ally on the topic, "Christianity and Islam." One of these debates was held at the University of Western Ontario on the subject, "Who is the real Jesus? The Jesus of the Qur'an or the Jesus of the Bible?"

This was an interesting exchange.  I was fascinated by Ally's attempt to defend the contention (due to the teaching in the Qur'an; Sura 4:157-158) that Jesus didn't really die on the cross.  The fact that Jesus Christ died by Roman crucifixion is attested to by the large majority New Testament critics.  

Moreover, Ally didn't seem to hold the Qur'an to the same high standards that he did the New Testament in regard to reliability and historicity.  He seemed very willing to test the NT on historical grounds, but not the Qur'an.

In summary, I appreciated this respectful exchange and found it instructive.

For those interested in learning more about what separates the Muslim from the Christian when it comes to Jesus and His Resurrection, I recommend Mike Licona's book Paul meets Muhammad: A Christian Muslim Debate on the Resurrection.

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, February 24, 2014

How We Got the Bible: The Canon of the Scriptures

Chapter 14 studies the canon of both the Old Testament and New Testament. Lightfoot begins the chapter by explaining that the word canon came from the Greek word kanon and the Hebrew word qaneh. Its basic meaning is “reed.” A reed was sometimes used for measurement and so the word kanon came to be known as a standard or rule. The word was also used to denote a list or index. So in relation to the Old and New Testaments, it refers to the books which are regarded as having divine authority and make up each testament. Additionally, he emphasizes that divine authority is not granted but recognized.

The Old Testament Canon

We have good reason to think that the canon of the Old Testament was set by the time of Jesus. Josephus, Origin, and Jerome all affirm the count of twenty-two books which is the same as the thirty-nine which make up the Old Testament today after accounting for grouping differences. Josephus also gives great detail on the three part division, timeframe, and reverence for the books. Evidence also comes from the New Testament for the apostles heavily quoted from a collection of authoritative writings and thus there was an agreed upon collection of “Scriptures” among them. The exact books can be determined by these quotes. Finally, Jesus mentioned (Luke 24:44 and 11:51)  a collection of writings that is divided into the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms and which extends from the time of Abel to the time of Zechariah. A timeframe which agrees with the Jewish order of the Hebrew Bible of Genesis to Chronicles.

The New Testament Canon

The Muratorian Fragment, which dates to the second century, lists Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, thirteen letters of Paul, Jude, two letters of John, and Revelation as authoritative. Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter and possibly 3 John are not included. For the most part, the writings of Origin and Eusebius agree with this list and its omissions. However, Lightfoot writes:

When the church of Christ was first established, it had no thought of a New Testament. Its Bible was the Old Testament and its new teachings were based on the authority of Christ as personally mediated through the apostles. Soon, inspired men began to put in writing divine regulations both for churches and for individuals. It was inevitable that these written instructions would become normative, for Christians could not have less respect for them than for their Christ. Thus Paul’s letters were carefully gathered into a single whole; next came the collection of the Four Gospels, and then all the others followed.

It was due to this process of circulation and collection that James, 2 and 3 John, and perhaps others were disputed as authoritative. They were questioned because they were not well known or circulated in the church, not because they taught a different gospel.

Finally, in A.D. 367, Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of twenty-seven books that were accepted at the time and these are the same twenty-seven books recognized in our New Testament today.

Lightfoot concludes the chapter by stating the following:

It is important to emphasize that no church council made the canon of Scripture. No church by its decrees gave to or pronounced on the books of the Bible their infallibility. The Bible owes its authority to no individual or group. The church does not control the canon, but the canon controls the church. Although divine authority was attributed to the New Testament books by the later church, this authority was not derived from the church but was inherent in the books themselves. As a child indentifies its mother; the later church identified the books which it regarded as having unique authority.

Stand firm in Christ,

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries offers a daily devotional called A Slice of Infinity that you can receive in your email. On September 13, 2012, the following was published:

How Can I Believe in God and Pain?

"How do you expect me to believe in God," asked Woody Allen, "when only last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of my electric type-writer?"

For a while now, at least in the Western world, the existence of any form of pain, suffering, or evil has been regarded as evidence for the non-existence of God. If a good God existed, people reason, these things would not. But they do and, therefore, God does not.

My job takes me around many different parts of the world in order to answer people's questions about the Christian faith. I find it fascinating that I have never been asked this question in India, a country that certainly knows a lot more about suffering than many of us in the West. I find it even more intriguing that Christians who write books in situations where they have known unspeakable torment because of the gospel do not normally raise this as an issue for themselves either. Why?

There are so many ways in which questions concerning pain can be raised. It can be raised because of personal loss and suffering or because of a personal interest in the issue of theodicy, to name but two. However, regardless of the way the question is raised, it normally comes down to a moral complaint against God. "How could you allow this to happen?" The complaint is against God's moral character. "Can I really trust God if I see this happen?" But if you are sure that you can trust God, regardless of the pain you find yourself in, there is no temptation to turn you away, as you realize God is the only one who can help.

Firstly, let's deal with the argument against God's existence. Ravi Zacharias has dealt with this thoroughly in his book Can Man Live Without God. If you argue from the existence of evil to the non-existence of God, you are assuming the existence of an absolute moral law in order for your argument to work. But if there is such a law this would also mean that there is such a God, since God is the only one who could give us such a law. And if there is such a God to give us this law, then the argument itself is flawed, since you have had to assume the existence of God in order to argue that God doesn't exist. It is an attempt to invoke the existence of an absolute moral law without invoking the existence of an absolute moral law giver, and it cannot be done.

Secondly, we must also ask the question: What would it take to create a loving world void of evil? A world in which love is capable of meaningful expression and experience would also imply a world in which there is choice. If someone tells you that they love you, those words mean something because they are freely given. If you learned that someone had told you they loved you but that they had been forced to say it, their words would not mean very much. Thus, if we want to speak of a loving world, we must also speak of a world in which choices are exercised. And in such a world, there is also the possibility of choosing a course of action that is not loving, i.e. evil.

While these observations are helpful in getting at the heart of contradictions often behind the questions of God and suffering, I do not think they get at the heart of the questions as people most commonly ask, namely: Can I trust God even when faced with great evil? Is God morally trustworthy? Can I trust God even if I don't understand what is happening?

These are profound questions, and whole books could be written about them. But I will offer one more thought. Maybe the reason we question God's moral character when bad things happen is that we live our lives largely independent from God on a daily basis. In other words, we struggle to trust God in times of trouble because we do not really trust God when things are going well. Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don't need God. We do not rely on God on a daily basis, and so we do not really know God. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we have not really been close to God in the first place.

As I said earlier, I have never been asked questions about God and suffering when I am travelling in countries riddled with the realities of it. In fact, when I visit churches in parts of the world where they are faced daily with horrific affliction, I normally leave inspired. They trust God in everything, even when things are going well. When times are hard, they cling to God because they have already learned to trust. They have learned that God does not change, even when our circumstances have.

Michael Ramsden is European director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom.

A Slice of Infinity is “Our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, go here

To receive A Slice of Infinity in your daily email, go here

That you may know,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Science vs. God

Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe was a guest on the The City podcast this week. He discusses his journey to the Christian faith through science. How science can be incorporated into the cultural and imaginative apologetic approach and the beauty of mathematics are also among the topics discussed. Here are a few highlights:
  • Every month that goes by the evidence for design goes up by a factor of a million.
  • More than 80% of research mathematicians believe in God and an afterlife.
  • The rise in atheism correlates with the rise of urbanization and science illiteracy.
The podcast can be listened to here.

Stand firm in Christ,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Article: The Case for Day-Age Creation by Hugh Ross

Regardless of how old one believes the earth is, it is important for believers to familiarize themselves with the differing views.

In this featured article, Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe makes a case for Day-Age Creation.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Video: What Would You Say to a Muslim if You Only Had a Minute?

For more from the One Minute Apologist, see here.

For more from Mike Licona, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Video Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony- Is God Necessary for Morality?

For those familiar with Dr. Craig's work, you may have heard or seen him refer to this debate in his work on the moral argument.

Apologetics315 has the audio here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, February 17, 2014

How We Got the Bible: Ancient Versions: The Old Testament

Chapter 13 describes the ancient versions or translations of the Old Testament. Like the ancient versions of the New Testament are independent witnesses to the Greek text, these versions are independent witnesses to the Hebrew text. They help by: 1) telling us something of what the text used before the time of the Massoretes was like; 2) providing clarification or complementation to the Massoretic Text; and 3) very often increasing the credibility of the Massoretic Text. These versions follow below:

Samaritan Pentateuch - This is not a translation but a form of the Hebrew text that arose when the Samaritans separated themselves from the Jews and built their sanctuary on Mount Gerizim around 400 B.C. They adopted their own form of the Hebrew Scriptures which counted only the five books of Moses as authoritative. It contains around 6,000 variants to the Massoretic Text. However, many of these are spelling and grammatical differences and differences due to the peculiar beliefs of the Samaritans. There are a few instances where it agrees with the Septuagint and these cause textual critics to take notice.

Aramaic Targums – After the Jewish exile in Babylon, Aramaic became the spoken language of the Jews. For this reason, when the Hebrew text was read during public worship an Aramaic interpretation had to be provided. Eventually these interpretations, or targums, were written down. By the fifth century there were two official targums, Targum Onkelos of the Pentateuch and Targum Jonathan of the Prophets. Fragments of Targums were found at Qumran and they consistently support the Massoretic Text.

Syriac Peshitta (Simple) – An Eastern Aramaic version begun possibly as early as the middle of the first century A.D. by Jews, Christians, or both. Its earliest form agrees closely with the Massoretic Text, however the later forms are influenced by the Septuagint.

Latin Vulgate – Latin translation of the Old Testament completed by Jerome from 390 – 405 using Hebrew manuscripts which were relatively the same as the Massoretic Text.

The Septuagint – Lightfoot devotes much of the chapter to this version. The compilation of this Greek translation of the Old Testament is documented in the Letter of Aristeas. While there are historical problems with this letter it seems reasonable the it rightly documents that the translation of the Pentateuch took place in Alexandria in the third century B.C. Since Aristeas only writes of the translation of the Pentateuch, we do not know how or when the remainder of the Old Testament was translated. However, it is certain that the entire Old Testament was available in Greek well before the rise of Christianity. The Septuagint was never a unified and guarded form of the Old Testament text and because of this it is hard to say what it means to the Hebrew text when it differs from the Massoretic Text. Because of the Dead Sea Scrolls discoveries it must at least be acknowledged that it is possible that there were different forms of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah and 1 and 2 Samuel. However, Lightfoot writes:

Although there are numerous textual variations between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text, the great majority of these are minor. Often it is not mentioned how very much the Septuagint supports the Hebrew text. Yet even when the Septuagint differs and offers a better reading, nonetheless it never replaces the Hebrew as the standard form of the text. Because it is a translation, the Septuagint always remains secondary. Only with great care, then, can one speak of “the authority of the Septuagint.”

Apart from the Septuagint’s relation to the text, it has had great influence. The titles Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy came from the Septuagint through the Latin Vulgate. The grouping of books into Law, History, Poetry, and Prophets and the dividing of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, etc. are a result of the Septuagint. It was also the only Bible the early church had and it was the text most often quoted from by the apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament. Even New Testament terms and phrases such as “apostle,” “atonement,” “covenant,” “faith,” “forgiveness,” “glory,” “law,” “peace,” “redemption,” “righteousness,” and “truth” are derived from the Septuagint. Lightfoot closes the chapter by writing the following:

Today we can only be grateful for the Septuagint. The New Testament was written in Greek, but before it came the Old Testament translated into Greek. It was in God’s providence that the Septuagint by its language and vocabulary would open up the way for the gospel in a world dominated by Greek.

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

On November 20, 2013, I had the privilege of attending and hearing Ravi Zacharias speak at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on “The Problem of Suffering and the Goodness of God”.

He began the lecture discussing one of the problems with the skeptic’s solution: trying to make value judgments after denying the existence of values.  He then opened with a quote from the lyrics of the Moody Blues song Question, “Why do we never get an answer when we’re knocking at the door?”  Next he describes three aspects of the problem - the reality, the universality and the complexity. He goes on to share four answers provided by the Christian worldview - God is the author of life, there is a story, life is sacred and the cross.  He then closes with another quote from the song Question, “I'm looking for someone to change my life.  I'm looking for a miracle in my life.”

Of the many thoughts and points made in the lecture, there are two that stand out to me.  The first was when he was discussing the historic philosophical search for unity in diversity.  Earth, air, water, fire - what is glue that holds them all together, what is the fifth essence, the quintessence?  I realized that the quintessence for science is evolution.  In some form, everything is a result of evolutionary processes.  The second was when he was sharing his version of the moral argument.  If evil exists, then good exists.  If good and evil exist, then there is a moral law.  If there is a moral law, then there is a moral law giver.  The question arises, why must there be a moral law giver?  The answer is because when the problem of evil arises the question is always raised by a person or about a person.  The intrinsic value and essential worth of the person is explicit in the problem.

To listen to the entire presentation and Q&A that followed, go here. 

For more about Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, you can visit the website here.

You can also check out the many lectures and dialogues sponsored by the Veritas Forum by visiting their website here.

That you may know,


Friday, February 14, 2014

Is Marriage About Love?

In this featured article, Greg Koukl examines the claim that if people are in love, the fact that they are the same sex is irrelevant to whether their marriage should or should not be sanctioned.

Stand firm in Christ,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Featured Essay: The Euthypro Dichotomy by Ken Ammi

Christianity is true because it splits the horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma.

In Plato’s 
Euthyphro, Socrates proposes a dilemma that calls into question the premise of theistic ethics:

1. Is something good because God proclaims it?

2. Or, does God proclaim it because it is good?

The points of the dilemma are:

1. Is something good 
merely because God proclaims it? In which case, goodness is arbitrary and God could interchange good and evil at a whim.
2. Is there something separate from God to which God adheres; does God have to act according to an ethical standard which is outside of Himself? In which case, God is not all sufficient and obeys a higher standard.

Let us survey our options and see which concept best provides an absolute and imperative moral premise: an ethos.

All claims to naturally evolving ethics can be logically disregarded since—as commonsensical or true as they may be—while there may be actions which help to ensure survival, since nature is not an ethical agent there is no natural ethical imperative. We could feed the poor or eat them.

Semantic Morality:
Ethics can be immediately grounded in human dictates but not ultimately. Humans can make epistemic statements about morality but not provide an ontological premise since—as this view presupposes the above under “Nature”—there is no objective, extrinsic ethical imperative. Thus, humans can, without recourse to God, declare certain actions ethical or unethical, even claiming that these are absolutes, but these are ultimately ungrounded assertions; they are semantic, intonated morality.
We concoct useful and survival assisting concepts but these do not amount to ethical imperatives. Also, this ethic is impotent, being established by humans who can only deal out justice if the evildoer is caught—its justice is restricted. On this view, ethics are based on majority rule; the fittest as it were. Justice in Nazi Germany differed from the Allied Forces’.

An aside: let us grant that the above (“Nature” and “Semantic Morality”) are valid and let us call these, for the sake of economy of words, “the naturalistic view.” Let us now pose the A-Euthyphro Dilemma:

1. Is something good because a naturalist proclaims it to be good?

2. Or, does a naturalist proclaim something to be good because it is good?

Does a naturalist determine what is good? In that case, what was unethical yesterday, is ethical today and may again be unethical tomorrow and thus, this is arbitrary and robs us of the ability to condemn anything since the moment we condemn one action and declare another virtuous they may be shifting like so much quicksand.

Or, are naturalists adhering to something outside themselves? They are, and this implies an ethical imperative which implies an ethical law, which implies an ethical law giver, administrator and adjudicator.

Now, to theologies:

Generally, two coeternal gods (two separate and distinct beings) consisting of a “good” and “evil” god. This is truly arbitrary as the subjective goodness of the one is measured against the subjective evil of the other and visa versa.

Strict Monotheism:
Envisaged is one single eternal being, one person, perfectly united, not in the least bit divided. Perhaps such a God lacked companionship/relationship and had to create someone with whom to enjoy that which it lacked.

Being alone in eternity, relationship is not a part of its nature, character or being. Thus, when this God creates beings it does not seek personal relations with them and thus, does arbitrarily concoct ethics for them. Such a God is capricious as it is not bound by relationship and since ethics is not intrinsic to its nature, ethical actions by this God are not guaranteed.

Pantheons, Polytheism and Henotheism:
These groups of gods are generally conceived of as having been created by one or two previously existing gods. Whether the many gods are eternal or created by others, they enjoyed relationships with each other. Yet, being distinct beings and persons, they are not famous for conducting ethical relationships with each other but are infamous for quarreling.
In the view of many gods who were created by other gods; the ancient gods somehow established an ethical law which is then external to the subsequent gods and is a law to which these gods are subservient.

Since they could enjoy relationships with other supernatural beings they were not generally interested in relationships with humans. They considered humans to be play things—they manipulate our fates or take human form to fornicate with us but there is little, if anything, in the way of ethical relationships.

Pantheism, Panentheism:
Essentially, this view postulates that God is the creator and creation. Thus, on this view God’s creations are, in reality, extensions of God. Therefore, on pantheism or panentheism ethics amounts to God dictating to God how God should treat God. God is the director, the actor and audience.

In the Bible we are dealing with Trinitarian monotheism, a triune being: one God, one being, and yet, three “persons” (a being who exhibits characteristics of personhood) each is God, each is eternal, each is distinct and yet, each is the one God. One coeternal, coexisting, coequal being consisting of three “persons.”

This God is not alone in eternity, is not in relation to separate eternal beings and is in relationship to separate persons. Since each member of the Trinity is eternal, each has enjoyed eternal relationships. This God is not lacking in relationship. God enjoys a relationship that is both unified in purpose and diverse amongst the persons.

Resolving the Euthyphro Dilemma:
Ethics are based upon the Triune God’s nature. God’s nature is relational and benevolent, eternal and free from conflict. God enjoys relationships and encourages His creation to enjoy likewise relationships. Life consists of enjoying relationships with humans grounded upon the enjoyment of an eternal relationship with God.

Thus, the Triune God neither adheres to external, nor constructs arbitrary, ethics since they are an aspect of His very nature.

You can checkout another article by Ammi dealing with Morality vs. Ethics here.

You can find more of Ken's work here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quote: Edwin Yamauchi on What We Can Know about Jesus from Non-Christian Sources

“We would know that first, Jesus was a Jewish teacher; second, many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; third, some people believed he was the Messiah; fourth, he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; fifth, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; sixth, despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by A.D. 64; and seventh, all kinds of people from the cities and countryside-men and women, slave and free-worshiped him as God.” [1]

For more on the non-Christian sources for Jesus see here and here.

And before some says, "We should have more from ancient history written about Jesus," see here.

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, p. 115.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Article: What Did the Disciples See? A Closer Look at the Resurrection Appearances

Last week we featured an article by Eric Chabot that dealt with the earliest record of Jesus' death and resurrection.

This week, checkout his excellent article on the resurrection appearances.  Just what did the disciples see?  What do scholars say?

Check it out here.

Courage and Godspeed,

[HT: Wintery Knight]

Monday, February 10, 2014

How We Got the Bible: The Text of the Old Testament

Up until Chapter 12 of the book the focus has mainly been on the text of the New Testament. Lightfoot turns his attention to the text of the Old Testament in this chapter. He begins by describing the main manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible which are heavily relied upon by recent Hebrew texts. The following do not include all of the Hebrew manuscripts:

  • The Aleppo Codex. This codex, named after the Syrian city it long resided in, was originally a manuscript of the entire Hebrew Bible. Large sections of it were destroyed due to Arab riots on December 2, 1947 when the United Nations divided Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. It was completed in the tenth century. 
  • The Leningrad Codex. Written in Cairo about 1010, this codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the entire Hebrew Bible. It resides in the National Library of St. Petersburg, Russia, but has retained its name. This and the Aleppo Codex are model codices of “the Massoretic Text”. Most editions of the modern Hebrew Bible are founded upon this codex.
  • The Cairo Codex. This is a manuscript of the Former and Latter Prophets written by Moses Ben Asher in 895. It came into the possession of the Karaites (a Jewish sect), was carried off during the crusades, and then made its way back to the Karaite community in Cairo.
  • The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets. Written in 916 and contains Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets.
  • British Library Codex of the Pentateuch. Dates to the tenth century and contains most of the Pentateuch.
Why are these surviving manuscripts late when compared to the New Testament manuscripts? Lightfoot writes that Jewish scribes would ceremonially bury old manuscripts as they were confident that the newer copies had been carefully copied and checked with an authority and did not want the older copies to be used improperly as they contained the sacred name of God. He then goes on to discuss the scribal activity of the Massoretes beginning around A.D. 500 and before. The Massoretes developed a system of vowels and accents for the Hebrew text to ensure proper pronunciation without altering the text. They also instituted steps to prevent scribal errors. Some of these are as follows:

  • Numbered the verses, words, and letters of each book;
  • Counted the number of times each letter was used in each book;
  • Noted verses that contained all the letters of the alphabet or a certain number of them;
  • Calculated the middle letter, the middle word, and the middle verse of the Pentateuch;
  • Calculated the middle verse of Psalms, the middle verse of the entire Hebrew Bible, and so on.
The Massoretes contributed so much to the preservation of the text that our Hebrew text today is referred to as the Massoretic Text. Prior to the Massoretes, great care was taken by Jewish scribes. Lightfoot quotes from the Talmud:

An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least to deviate. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him…Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; between every book, three lines. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so. Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him....The rolls in which these regulations are not observed are condemned to be buried in the ground or burned; or they are banished to the schools, to be used as reading books.

The meticulousness of the Massoretes and the scribes that came before them ensure that the text of the Old Testament has been transmitted accurately. The majority of the manuscripts found near the Dead Sea prove the work of the scribes. Lightfoot ends with a discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The report of the discovery of some ancient manuscripts found near the Dead Sea came in March of 1948. The story is that an Arab boy was looking for a lost goat and came across a cave in the process. Within this cave a number of old leather rolls with writing on them were found. The boy and his friends took the scrolls with them and the scrolls eventually ended up in Bethlehem and were purchased in part by Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel and E.L. Sukenik. The manuscripts purchased by Mar Athanasius were:  the Book of Isaiah, with fifty-four columns of text written on a leather scroll about twenty-four feet long; a Manual of Discipline, a rule book which governed the Jewish sect responsible for producing the scrolls; a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk; and a work of unknown contents which came to be known as the “Genesis Apocryphon”.  The manuscripts purchased by Sukenik were:  a part of the Book of Isaiah; a work entitled “The War of the Sons of Light and Darkness”; and a collection of Thanksgiving Hymns. All of these scrolls are now in Jerusalem at The Shrine of the Book. All told, about two hundred scrolls many only fragments, representing nearly every book of the Old Testament were found in the Qumran region. Qumran was inhabited from the second century B.C. to the first century A.D. and the scrolls roughly date to this time period. Lightfoot names a few manuscripts that stand out:
  • 1QIsa (Q stands for Qumran. The number prior to the Q is the cave in which the scroll was found. The abbreviation after the Q is the contents of the scroll. The suspended letter denotes the number of the manuscript)  - This manuscript was found in the first discovery and, except for a few breaks in the text, is a complete copy of Isaiah. It reads the same as the Massoretic Text and is dated to about 100 B.C.
  • 1QIsb – Also found in the first discovery, this copy of Isaiah 41 – 59  dates back to the last half of the first century B.C. and also agrees with the Massoretic Text.
  • 4QpaleoExm – This is a copy of Exodus from the early part of the second century B.C. written in an old Hebrew script call “paleo-Hebrew.” At times this manuscript is in agreement with early forms of the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint. These ancient versions of the Old Testament will be discussed in the next chapter.
  • 4QSama and 4QSamb – The former manuscript dates to the first century B.C. and is about ten percent of 1 and 2 Samuel in fragments. The latter manuscript dates to possibly as early as the third century B.C. and has several chapters of 1 Samuel. Both of these manuscripts at times agree with the Septuagint.
Lightfoot ends the chapter by stating, “the Old Testament text was well preserved and accurately handed down to us.”

Stand firm in Christ,

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Problem of Suffering and Evil Part 5

This week we conclude Dr. William Lane Craig’s disposition on the problem of suffering and evil given to his Defender’s class.  Last week he introduced the first of four Christian doctrines that increases the probability of God’s existence with suffering and evil, the purpose of life.   The remaining doctrines he discusses this week are humanity’s rebellion, eternal life and the incommensurable good that is the knowledge of God.

After a brief Q&A that includes a discussion of Voltaire’s Candide, Dr. Craig points us to the answer that only Christianity can offer, and few of us truly comprehend – the cross.  He then ties everything together with the story of Mabel, a very moving account of the power of the Gospel.

Go here to listen to the audio or here to read the transcript.

Next week we will continue our exploration through the thoughts of Ravi Zacharias and his team at RZIM.

That you may know,

Friday, February 07, 2014

Article: The Earliest Record for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7

In this featured article, apologist Eric Chabot examines the earliest record of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

You can checkout the article here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Article: Can We Trust the Early Traditions of Apostolic Martyrdoms? by J. Warner Wallace

In this featured article, cold-case homicide detective and author J. Warner Wallace argues that we have 5 good reasons to trust the early traditions of apostolic martyrdoms.

You can checkout the article here.

For a more detailed examination of each account, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Debate Video: Hugh Ross vs. Victor Stenger- Scientific Arguments for a Creator?

Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis, is an opponent of scientific arguments for a Creator. In this debate, Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe challenges many of Stenger's assumptions and makes his own case for a Creator with a testable creation model. 

This program was recorded at the 2008 Skeptics Society Conference entitled Origins and the Big Questions.  You can order your copy here.

The exchange was interesting, but I found Stenger's attempt to avoid an initial singularity to be disappointing. He argued using a model develop by Stephen Hawking based upon "imaginary time" in which Hawking himself admits is "just a metaphysical proposal." [1]  Moreover, Stenger seemed unwilling to defend it in the cross-examination.

Finally, the Q and A was interesting, with Dr. Ross receiving almost all of the questions.  Most were respectfully asked.

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), p. 136-139.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Short Videos: The Significance of the Dead Scrolls by Josh McDowell

Most of us have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their discovery.  But why are they important?  You can find out more by clicking on the four videos below:

Old Testament: Dead Sea Scrolls
Old Testament: Dead Sea Scroll Finding
Old Testament: Significance of Dead Sea Scrolls
Old Testament: Dead Sea Scrolls Contribution

The videos are part of a series entitled "Is the Bible Reliable?"  Which can be found here on

Monday, February 03, 2014

How We Got the Bible: Manuscripts from the Sand

In chapter 11 of the book, Lightfoot writes of New Testament papyri discoveries. He focuses on the most notable collections discovered and whether they oppose or confirm the Westcott-Hort text. These papyri collections are as follows:

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Discovered by B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, this collection contains at least twenty-seven manuscripts of portions of the New Testament. Twenty of these date to the second, third, or early fourth centuries. All of the manuscripts predate the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts and some by one hundred and fifty years. An example is Papyrus (P)1, which contains more than fifteen verses of Matthew 1 and is dated in the third century. The collection also contains a variety of Greek literature and everyday writings such as deeds, personal letters, and tax receipts. Items such as these provide us with a better understanding of terms and idioms in the New Testament.

The Chester Beatty Papyri. Named after the American who acquired the collection, these papyri came to light in 1931 and are thought to have been discovered north of the ancient city of Thebes in Upper Egypt. The collection consists of eleven manuscripts. Eight of these contain great portions of the Old Testament in Greek. The remaining three manuscripts (P45, P46, and P47) are of the New Testament. P45 is a copy of the Four Gospels and Acts, P46 is the earliest text of most of Paul’s letters as it dates to the early third century, and P47 is a third century copy of about a third of Revelation.  

The Bodmer Papyri. Named after Martin Bodmer who purchased the collection, and also discovered in Thebes in 1952, this collection has a large number of manuscripts written in Greek and Coptic and has text from the Old and New Testament. The three New Testament manuscripts in this collection are P66, P72, and P75. P66 dates to A.D. 200 or earlier and preserves almost all of the first fourteen chapters of John and partial fragments of the remaining chapters. The scribe of this manuscript made many careless mistakes, however, corrected most them. P72 is noteworthy for it contains complete copies of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude from the third or fourth centuries. This is the earliest known text of these letters. P75 is dated between A.D. 175 and 225 and encompasses significant segments of the Gospels of Luke and John. It is the earliest known copy of Luke and one of the earliest of John.

Aside from these collections, Lightfoot draws attention to the John Rylands Fragment (P52) which was found in 1934 by C.H. Roberts while sorting through papyri from the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England. This fragment is only 3 ½ by 2 ½ inches, has writing on both sides, and is part of John 18:31-33, 37-38. It is dated in the first half of the second century and confirms that the Gospel of John was already in circulation in Egypt, where it was originally found, at this time. Except for differences such as spelling and word omission, this oldest known copy of the text of John reads exactly the same as our modern text.

Lightfoot summarizes the impact the papyri discoveries have had in regards to determining the text of the New Testament:

The New Testament papyri in particular have thrown much light on the text of the New Testament. Of the nearly one hundred New Testament papyri presently known, more than fifty are of the fourth century or earlier, and more than thirty are of the third century or earlier. Further, these early papyri cover in part (some in whole) every book of the New Testament, except 1 and 2 Timothy.

He closes the chapter by summarizing what these papyri discoveries tell us about the Westcott-Hort text:

These early papyri mainly confirm the Westcott-Hort type of the text and add immeasurably to the solid foundation upon which our modern text rests.

 Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Problem of Suffering and Evil Part 4

This week’s post continues Dr. Craig’s explanation of why the probabilistic version of the problem of evil fails to disprove the existence of God.  Beginning with examples from science (chaos theory) and popular culture (the movie “Sliding Doors”), Dr. Craig demonstrates how it is impossible for us in our finite capacities to make any claims regarding the probabilities of why God would allow evil or suffering.  He further explains that the ethical theory of utilitarianism fails for the same reason.

He then goes on to demonstrate that God’s existence remains more probable relative to the full scope of the evidence. The interesting question isn’t “Is God’s existence improbable because of evil and suffering?” but “What is the probability of God’s existence relative to the full scope of evidence?”

Finally, he explains the first of four Christian doctrines that increases the coexistence of God and evil and suffering in the world: the purpose of life.

Go here to listen to the audio or read the transcript here.

That you may know,