Is the New Testament (NT) reliable? (Part II: The reliability of the New Testament story) 

To judge the reliability of the biblical story, scholars apply the criteria of authenticity to the biblical accounts. The criteria of authenticity represent standards or tools by which the historical plausibility of an event is assessed. So let’s discuss 3 of these criteria and apply them to the biblical story 

1. The criterion of multiple attestation: the criterion states that if an event or a story is recorded by multiple and independent sources, that boosts its likelihood to have occurred. Applying this to the biblical story, we have several non-Christian sources (Roman, Greek and Jewish) that affirm the following facts which are in congruence with the biblical story and therefore attest to the reliability of the story: 

            1. Jesus Christ lived in the first century AD in Judea.  

            2. He was believed to be a miracle worker. 

            3. He was followed by several disciples believing He was the Messiah. 

            4. He was accused of blasphemy by the Jewish leaders. 

            5. He died on the cross under the reign of Pontius Pilate. 

            6. His disciples claimed to have several encounters with Him after rising from death. 

            7. His disciples evangelized and preached about His crucifixion, death and resurrection. 

            8. Christians multiplied in numbers before the great fire of Rome.  

            9. Christians used to meet regularly to worship Him. 

       These facts, which are attested from many sources outside the NT, are in coherence with the NT story and hence, the biblical story as narrated in the NT fulfills this criterion of authenticity.  

2. The criterion of Embarrassment: the criterion states that if an event or a story is embarrassing to its writer, then it is unlikely to be invented and this increases its likelihood of occurring. We have several passages in the NT that seem to be embarrassing to the disciples who are also the early founders of the church. For example, at the time when Jesus was arrested, His disciples ran away and abandoned Him. Also, the very first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and Jesus’s resurrection were women and given the Jewish middle eastern context belittling women and their testimonies, if the story was made up by the disciples, women would have been the disciples’ very last option to witness the empty tomb and testify to the resurrection. 

       Hence, the biblical story fulfills this criterion. 

3. The criterion of contextual credibility (sociohistorical context): the criterion states that for a story to be authentic, it must contain elements that conform to and do not contradict with the socio historical context of that time. When we have a look at the NT, we find several elements that conform to the socio historical context of the story, for example a study was conducted on the distribution of personal names in the first century AD in Palestine reveals that the names mentioned in the NT manuscripts conform to the names used at that time in that region. Similarly, there are archaeological discoveries that are in alignment with the NT manuscripts. In addition to that, the gospel of Luke presents historical details that further add to the plausibility of the story in terms of its historical context. In chapter 3 verses 1-2, Luke writes “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness”. Such level of detail suggests that Luke was well aware of the Roman and Jewish historical context of his story. 

        Hence, the biblical story fulfills this criterion. 

Based on these three criteria, we can reasonably trust the NT story.  

Is the New Testament (NT) reliable? (Part I: The reliability of the manuscripts)

NT critic Bart Ehrman claims that the manuscripts we have today don’t represent the original writings, but in fact are error-ridden copies that cannot be trusted. The number of variations among these manuscripts even exceed the number of words in the NT in its original Greek language. He suggests that there are about 400,000 variations in the manuscripts we have and about 138,200 words of the Greek NT; that means that for every word that exists there’s around 3 options for it! 

However, is that really an indication of the accuracy of the manuscripts? and what do the numbers really mean? 

To answer this question and determine the reliability of the NT manuscripts, we need to look at how historians assess any work of antiquity coming from the ancient world. Historians generally assess any text by looking at three things: A) the number of manuscript copies that exist for the text; B) the time gap between the original text and its earliest surviving copy; and C) the significance of variations between the copies.  

Historians and textual critics have more confidence in the reconstruction of the original text when there are lots of copies, short time gaps, and insignificant variations. If we are to compare the NT manuscripts with the manuscripts citing the work of well-known philosophers, authors or historians like Plato, Homer or Seutonius, whose works are thought to be reconstructed with high degree of accuracy, we’ll find that the NT manuscripts outnumber any of these works and have much earlier attestations than these works as well. To put things into perspective, we have about 250 copies of Plato with the earliest manuscript found after about 1300 years of the original writing. However, for the NT we have over 5,800 manuscripts in the Greek language alone and around 20,000 manuscripts in other languages (e.g. Coptic, Latin, Syriac). In fact, the textual critic, Dan Wallace states that “in comparison with the average ancient Greek author, the NT copies are well over a thousand times more plentiful”. In addition, these manuscripts with all their translations are found to be cited extensively by the early church fathers during the early centuries of Christianity to the extent that Ehrman himself claims that these citations are so extensive that “if all the other sources of our knowledge of the text of NT were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire NT.” 

Regarding the time gap between the earliest surviving manuscripts and the original manuscripts, we have two manuscripts, P52 and P66, which are dated around 35-40 years after the original manuscripts. In the world of ancient literature, this is considered a blink of an eye. In fact, the average time between the writing of most works contemporaneous with the NT like the works of Pliny, Sueotonius or Tacitus and their first copies is not less than a couple hundred years, so again no other work of antiquity comes close to the early attestation of the NT manuscripts.   

With regards to the textual variants among the manuscripts, yes there are about 400,000 variants in the NT manuscripts, yet the significance of them is what really matters. So let’s first define what a variant is. A variant is any difference between manuscripts. If a scribe spells “John” and another spells it “Johnn”, that’s a variant. If two scribes use two different synonyms for the same word, that’s a variant. If two scribes write the same sentence with the same meaning but use a different word order, that counts as a variant. If a verse or a block of text is found in one copy but not in others, that’s also a variant. 

If we take a closer look at these 400,000 variants, we’ll find that 99% of them don’t impact the meaning of the text whatsoever. Most of them come from spelling and word order. The remaining 1% (only 4,000 variants) are meaningful but none of them affects one single doctrine of the Christian faith. And in fact, considering the vast number of manuscripts that we have for the NT, it logically follows to have a big number of variants. So the large number of variants is due to the fact that the NT has more manuscripts than any other work of antiquity 

In conclusion, based on the rich and early attestation of the NT, as well as the insignificant variations among its manuscripts, we can trust that the NT manuscripts are reliable. In fact, if we do not trust the NT manuscripts, we cannot trust any other work of antiquity. 

Were The Gospels Written By Anonymous Authors?

Bart Ehrman, a famous New Testament scholar, claims that the four canonical Gospels were written anonymously, and were later falsely attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, a century after they had been written. In his book, “Forged: Writing in the name of God, Why the Bible’s authors are not who we think they are”, he builds a story for why these names were selectively chosen after they had already been in circulation in the early Church. Instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, he says, the real authors were anonymous Christians who relied on hearsay and legend rather than eyewitness testimony. He claims that the canonical Gospels were written in the third person, and were not attested for, in church fathers until Irenaeus, in the late second century. 


Is there evidence for this claim? 

First, there is simply no evidence that the first manuscripts of the Gospels lacked attribution to their traditional authors. There are no manuscripts that simply lack titles that consistently identify Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to their respective Gospels. Academic critics, on the other hand, say the variants in the titles of those early manuscripts prove the author’s names were added at a much later date. However, the usual variant is just the absence of the word “Gospel” which leaves a title that begins with “According to . . .” followed by the author’s name which is never absent from these manuscripts! If this is evidence for anything, then it is evidence for the unbroken and consistent oral tradition that churches worldwide had about the authors of each Gospel. 

In fact, many scholars reject the notion that the Gospels were anonymous at all. They argue that the hypothesis, that the Gospels were anonymous, requires many assumptions to be validated, which violates the principle of Occam’s Razor (that the best explanation is the one that requires the fewest assumptions). They maintain that the Apostolic fathers didn’t mention the Gospels’ authors because this was their custom even when they quoted the Pauline epistles or the Old Testament.  

Second, even if the earliest copies of the Gospels did not contain the names of their authors, that would not disprove the traditional authorship of those texts. For example, the works of the ancient Roman historian Tacitus often do not bear his name, but few historians have ever questioned that Tacitus wrote them. We know Tacitus is the author of these works because other ancient writers, like St. Jerome, identify him as the author. Bart Ehrman himself explains that anonymous literature was the custom of that period of time. 

Third, again, even if the earliest copies of the Gospels did not contain the names of their authors, it is not accurate to classify them as anonymous writings. An anonymous writing is one where the author deliberately hides his/her identity. This is not the case in the Gospel of Luke for example. Luke clearly addresses his Gospel to Theophilus who seems to have inquired about the story of Jesus and requested Luke to develop an accurate account of Jesus. It is clear that the recipient – Theophilus – would know that Luke is the one who is addressing him given the context of their exchange. It also isn’t the case with the Gospel of John as he refers to himself often within the Gospel as the “disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23). 

Fourth, there is an unbroken chain of evidence since the beginning of the church that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the authors of the Gospels. As St. Augustine has dealt with the same claim in his reply to the heretic Faustus, he stated: 

“How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers but by the unbroken chain of evidence? So also with the numerous commentaries on the ecclesiastical books, which have no canonical authority and yet show a desire of usefulness and a spirit of inquiry. . . . How can we be sure of the authorship of any book, if we doubt the apostolic origin of those books which are attributed to the apostles by the Church which the apostles themselves founded?” 

By the end of the first century, the authorship of each Gospel had been confirmed. Papias of Hierapolis, wrote in the first decades of the second century that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were in circulation by the end of the first century. Justin Martyr, in 150 AD, referred to the Gospels as written by the Apostles or their companions, and Irenaeus, in 190 AD, affirmed the traditional authorship of the Gospels, mentioning that this was handed down to him. He concluded that the Gospels’ authorship would have been confirmed within a generation from their writing, among all Christian communities, without confusion or any evidence for discussion or disagreement. 

Finally, another argument in favor of the traditional authorship of the Gospels is this: if they had been forged, it is highly likely the forgers would have pretended to be more impressive-sounding authors. This is what heretics in the second, third, and fourth centuries did when they attributed their forged Gospels to people like Peter, Philip, and Mary Magdalene. Why pretend to be a relative unknown such as Mark or Luke? Why would they impersonate a persona non grata such as Matthew, whose popularity as a former tax collector would have been only slightly higher than that of Judas Iscariot? 

Biblical scholar Brant Pitre aptly summarizes the issue: “According to the basic rules of textual criticism, then, if anything is original in the titles, it is the names of the authors. They are at least as original as any other part of the Gospels for which we have unanimous manuscript evidence.” 

Has Evolution Been Observed?

The theory of evolution asserts that all living organisms are related, they descended from common ancestor(s), and the variations are explained by natural processes such as natural selection and genetic mutations. Scientists cite several evidences for evolution such as: 

  1. Comparative anatomy: the study of differences and similarities between living things 
  1. Embryology and development: how creatures develop before being born or hatching from an egg 
  1. Fossil record 
  1. DNA similarities: the molecules that carry the codes with the characteristics of living things 

For example, if we compare hippos with whales, we find the above four pieces of evidence. First, the anatomy of a whale and a hippo shows that both have smooth skin, lungs, internal testicles, etc. Second, the development stages of both embryos look similar. Third, there are fossils indicating transitional animals that are similar to whales, yet with legs as hippos. Fourth, the DNAs of both hippos and whales are closely similar. All this evidence points to a common ancestor between whales and hippos. 

While all of the above is true, the evidence can also support common design and intelligent design as much as common ancestry and evolution. 

Take for instance cars. If we apply the same evidence for a BMW and a Toyota, we would reach the conclusion that both brands descend from a common ancestor car, but they obviously don’t! 

When considering comparative anatomy, both BMWs and Toyotas have 4 wheels, an engine, doors, windshield and a trunk. 

When considering development, the production of both a BMW and a Toyota is similar.  

When considering the scrap metal of both a BMW and a Toyota, they look the same, as we can find scrap wheels, engines, and steering wheels.  

Finally, when considering structural similarities, both cars are built from the same components.  

There are two objections to this analogy by evolution supporters though: 

Objection 1: 

We have seen cars being designed before, so when we see a car on the street, we can draw an inference of design based on prior observation. But that doesn’t apply to living organisms because we haven’t seen anyone create them.  

Answer to Objection 1: 

Well, recognizing design doesn’t really necessitate that you have seen the designer in action or have a preceding observation of the production process. Scientists like Newton and Kepler have recognized design in the way planets are orbiting without having seen the designer. When you see writing on the sand along the seashore, it is reasonable to assume that someone has written it, not ocean waves, even if you haven’t any person writing on sand before. 

Objection 2: 

The car analogy is false, because cars don’t have mechanisms to evolve like living organisms do. Living organisms have mechanisms to evolve, which are mutations and natural selection. These mechanisms explain the vast variation in living things that we have today.  

Answer to Objection 2: 

Both natural selection and mutations are not sufficient to explain biodiversity. Natural selection is a process where the fit-enough for the surrounding natural conditions survives. Therefore, the characteristics that nature selects already exist in the gene pool. Natural selection cannot add any new characteristic to the gene pool. It just selects from existing characteristics, i.e., it’s a process of subtraction. Mutations are mostly harmful or neutral. They are also as random as ocean waves. If you find it hard to believe that trillions of ocean waves can eventually produce an essay on the sand of the seashore, then you might as well doubt that mutations can lead to DNA or biodiversity. 

Evolution Vs. Intelligent Design, Which Is More Reasonable?

When Darwin proposed the idea that all living creatures evolved by natural selection, he wasn’t aware of the structure of the DNA as it was discovered later. The DNA carries the genetic information of the living organism and is responsible for the fundamental and distinctive characteristics of the organism. Bill Gates describes the DNA as “a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” 

Now, given this very complicated, code-like DNA, which is a more reasonable explanation for this system: evolution or intelligent design? 

Evolution aims to explain the biological variations in life through natural processes such as natural selection and genetic mutations. However, applying the same concept to ocean waves, we should expect that the trillions of waves hitting the shores around the world, across the past billions of years of the earth’s existence, have produced a poem on the sand, rather than meaningless shapes. Whenever we see a writing on the shore, we reasonably and correctly infer the existence of someone to have written it, not the waves. 

In fact, every single encounter that we have with an object that resembles a complicated pattern or a piece of recognizable information, we reasonably infer the existence of an intelligent design behind it. We visit Mount Rushmore and see engraved images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. We never assume that the natural processes of abrasion or corrosion, caused by rain or earthquakes, have formed their images on the mountain. How much more intelligently designed are the real Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt?  

What Do Scholars Think Of The Resurrection Of Jesus?

The New Testament provides multiple evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. It stresses that Jesus predicted His own resurrection (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34), that the Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb when Jesus arose from death (Matthew 28:11) and that Jesus appeared to many of His followers for over forty days until His ascension to heaven (Mark 16:9-18; Acts 1:3)… and that too was witnessed by many (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9). 

But, how do Bible scholars, historians and lawyers consider the reliability of the evidence for the resurrection which is provided in the New Testament?   

Professor Thomas Arnold, author of a famous three-volume History of Rome and once chair of Modern History at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. He says: 

“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” 

Do others agree with this opinion? 

Simon Greenleaf was one of the greatest legal minds America has produced. He was the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University and succeeded Justice Joseph Story as the Dane Professor of Law in the same university. While at Harvard, Greenleaf wrote a volume in which he examines the legal value of the apostles’ testimony to the resurrection of Christ. He observes that it is impossible that the apostles “could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.” Greenleaf concludes that the resurrection of Christ is one of the best-supported events in history according to the laws of legal evidence administered in courts of justice. 

British scholar Brooke Foss Westcott, who was a divinity professor at Cambridge University, says: 

“Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.” 

Dr. William Lane Craig concludes that “when you . . . [use] the ordinary canons of historical assessment, the best explanation for the facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.” 

Sir Lionel Luckhoo is considered by many to be the world’s most successful attorney after 245 consecutive murder acquittals. This brilliant lawyer analyzed the historical facts of Christ’s resurrection rigorously and finally declared, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” 

Frank Morison, another British lawyer, set out to refute the evidence for the Resurrection. He thought the life of Jesus was one of the most beautiful ever lived, but when it came to the Resurrection, Morison assumed someone had come along and tacked a myth onto the story. He planned to write an account of the last few days of Jesus, disregarding the Resurrection. The lawyer figured that an intelligent, rational approach to the story would completely discount such an event. However, when he applied his legal training to the facts, he had to change his mind. Instead of a refutation of the Resurrection, he eventually wrote the best seller Who Moved the Stone? He titled the first chapter “The Book That Refused to Be Written.” The rest of the book confirms decisively the validity of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection. 

George Eldon Ladd, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, concludes: “The only rational explanation for these historical facts is that God raised Jesus in bodily form.”  Believers in Jesus Christ today can have complete confidence, as did the first Christians, that their faith is based not on myth or legend but on the solid historical fact of the risen Christ and the empty tomb. 

Gary Habermas, a distinguished professor and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, debated former atheist and leading scholar Antony Flew on the issue “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” A professional debate judge who was asked to evaluate the debate had the following remarks: 

“The historical evidence, though flawed, is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. . . “ 

Habermas does end up providing “highly probably evidence” for the historicity of the resurrection “with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.”  

Most important of all, individual believers can experience the power of the risen Christ in their lives today. First of all, they can know that their sins are forgiven (Luke 24:46-47; 1 Corinthians 15:3). Second, they can be assured of eternal life and their own resurrection from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:19-26). Third, they can be released from a meaningless and empty life and be transformed into new creatures in Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  

What is your evaluation and decision? What do you think about the empty tomb?  

After examining the evidence from a judicial perspective, Lord Darling, former chief justice of England, stated that “there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.” 

Weekend Top


Is there a proof that God exists? The cosmological argument

Modern scientific theories and hypotheses around the origin of the universe fully support the necessity of a non-material first cause, a “creator”, for the universe. For instance, both the Standard Big Bang Model, and the various proposed Past-extended Big Bang Models, necessitate a beginning of the universe and of time itself. As such, the argument for the existence of a creator from cosmology proceeds as follows: 

  1. The universe, as everything bound by physical laws, has a beginning. Therefore,  
  1. infinite regression of physical causality to explain the existence of the universe is not possible, because of the conclusion in (a) that everything bound by physical laws already has a beginning, Therefore, 
  1. There is either nothing, or something not physical, that caused the universe to exist; but 
  1. Nothing is not capable of causing anything into existence. Therefore, 
  1. the universe was brought to existence by a non-material creator 

The first condition in (a) is proven by modern scientific theories explaining the origin of the universe. Thanks to the Big Bang theory, we now know that the universe and time had a beginning. Whether that beginning was a point of singularity, or an uncertain event (similar to a rounded beginning point of a cone), both possibilities necessitate a beginning to the universe. Alternative Past-extended Big Bang Models such as the bouncing universe or eternal inflation would put the beginning of the universe before the Big Bang, but still necessitate an overall beginning for the universe. This is due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Radiation Paradox and the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem. For example, the Second Law of Thermodynamics stipulates that all physical events evolve from order to disorder (i.e. low entropy to high entropy), so the universe couldn’t have been eternally bouncing or eternally inflating because entropy cannot decrease, it can only increase or,  stay the same. Our universe started with very tiny entropy. If the universe was eternally bouncing by expanding, then collapsing, then expanding, and so on, then how can our current universe have such a tiny entropy after all these infinite cycles? Of course, this is not possible and would necessitate a beginning to the universe; it couldn’t have been around since eternity given the low entropy that we are observing. Another evidence is the Bore-Vilenkin Guth Theorem which stipulates that as long as matter has positive pressure and density called the average Hubble expansion rate – which it does – then all alternative models for the Past Extended Big Bang such as the bouncing universe or multiverses or higher dimensional cosmologies will all need a boundary for past time, that is, a beginning. 

The second condition (b) flows from the first condition simply because any universe or physical causation for our current universe will itself have to have a beginning. As such, an infinite regression of physical causality is not possible. We are, therefore, left with either nothing causing the universe to exist or something not physical, which is the argument in (c). But nothing can’t cause anything, otherwise nothing will itself be something, which is not nothing! We are only left with something to have caused the universe to exist, but that something can’t be physical because it would be bound to condition (a) of needing a beginning. That non-physical something is the creator of the universe. 


Did the Old Testament and Judaism allude to a Triune God?

Many claim that the doctrine of the trinity was introduced only in the third century when the ecumenical councils had been held to put a framework for orthodox apostolic faith against the Arian and Nestorian heresies which led to the drafting of the creed of faith. However, when examined closely, the doctrine of the trinity was introduced way before that in the Old Testament.

The name that is used for God in the Old Testament is “אֱלֹהִ֔ים” pronounced “’ĕ·lō·hîm” and is usually referred to in the plural, although a singular verb is used sometimes. For example, the first chapter of Genesis states: “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) The hebrew translation of “let us make” is “נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה” pronounced “na·‘ă·śeh” which indicates a plural subject. The same phrase was used when God decided to confuse the builders of the tower of Babel: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7) the word “נֵֽרְדָ֔ה” pronounced “nê·rə·ḏāh,” means “let Us go down”. It has been also noted in some other books in the Old Testament like the Book of Isaiah, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”” (Isaiah 6:8) using the word “לָ֑נוּ” pronounced “lā·nū”; which means “Us”. This has been always noted as an indication of the hypostasis of the trinity nature of God that is of one will.

Jewish Rabbis used the “Logos” or the word “Memra” also “Ma’amar” or “Dibbur,” in Hebrew, as well as the Holy Spirit “Ruach Ha Kodesh”, in their interpretations to the Old Testament .  

“Memra” also “Ma’amar” or “Dibbur,” meaning “Logos” 

In the Book of Jubilees 12:22, the word of God is sent through the angel to Abraham. In other cases it becomes more and more a personified agency: “By the word of God exist His works” (Ecclus. [Sirach] 42:15); “The Holy One, blessed be He, created the world by the ‘Ma’amar'” (Mek., Beshallaḥ, 10, with reference to Psalm 33. 6). Quite frequent is the expression that “You who have made the universe with Your word and ordained man through Your wisdom to rule over the creatures made by You” (Wisdom 9:1). The same expression is repeated in the Jewish daily  prayers: “Who by Your words cause the evenings to bring darkness, who opens the gates of the sky by Your wisdom”; . . . “who by His speech created the heavens, and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts”; through whose “words all things were created” (Singer’s “Daily Prayer-Book,” pp. 96, 290, 292). So also in 4 Esdras 6:38: “Lord, You spoke on the first day of Creation: ‘Let there be heaven and earth,’ and Your word has accomplished the work”. “Your word, O Lord, heals all things” (Wisdom 16:12); “Your word preserves them that put their trust in You” (Wisdom 16: 26). Especially strong is the personification of the word in Wisdom 18:15: “Your Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of Your royal throne as a fierce man of war.”  

The Mishnah, with reference to the ten passages in the first chapter of Genesis beginning with “And God said,” speaks of the ten “ma’amarot” (= “speeches”) by which the world was created (Abot 5:1; comp. Gen. R. 4:2: “The upper heavens are held in suspense by the creative Ma’amar”). Out of every speech [“dibbur”] which emanated from God an angel was created (Ḥag. 14a). “The Word [“dibbur”] called none but Moses” (Lev. R. i. 4, 5). “The Word [“dibbur”] went forth from the right hand of God and made a circuit around the camp of Israel” (Cant. R. i. 13). 

In the Targum: 

In the Targum the “Memra” (i.e. “the Word”) figures constantly as the manifestation of the divine power, or as God’s messenger in place of God Himself, wherever the predicate is not in conformity with the dignity or the spirituality of the Deity. 

Instead of the Scriptural “You have not believed in the Lord,” Targ. Deut. i. 32 has “You have not believed in the word of the Lord”; instead of “I shall require it [vengeance] from him,” Targ. Deut. 18:19 has “My word shall require it.” “The Memra,” instead of “the Lord,” is “the consuming fire” (Targ. Deut. 9:3; comp. Targ. Isa. 30:27). The Memra “plagued the people” (Targ. Yer. to Ex.32:35). “The Memra smote him” (II Sam. 6:7; comp. Targ. I Kings 18:24; Hos. 13:14; et al.). Not “God,” but “the Memra,” is met with in Targ. Ex. 19:17 (Targ. Yer. “the Shekinah”; comp. Targ. Ex. 25:22: “I will order My Memra to be there”). “I will cover thee with My Memra,” instead of “My hand” (Targ. Ex. 33:22). Instead of “My soul,” “My Memra shall reject you” (Targ. Lev. 26:30; comp. Isa. 1:14, 42:1; Jer. 6:8; Ezek. 23:18). “The voice of the Memra,” instead of “God,” is heard (Gen. 3: 8; Deut. 4:33, 36; 5:21; Isa. 6: 8; et al.). Where Moses says, “I stood between the Lord and you” (Deut. 5:5), the Targum has, “between the Memra of the Lord and you”; and the “sign between Me and you” becomes a “sign between My Memra and you” (Ex. 31:13, 17; comp. Lev. 26:46; Gen. 9:12; 17: 2, 7, 10; Ezek. 20:12). Instead of God, the Memra comes to Abimelek (Gen. 20:3), and to Balaam (Num. 23: 4). His Memra aids and accompanies Israel, performing wonders for them (Targ. Num. 23:21; Deut. 1:30, 33:3; Targ. Isa. 63:14; Jer. 31:1; Hos. 9:10 [comp. 11:3, “the messenger-angel”]). The Memra goes before Cyrus (Isa. 45:12). The Lord swears by His Memra (Gen. 21:23, 22:16, 24:3; Ex. 32:13; Num. 14:30; Isa. 45:23; Ezek. 20:5; et al.). It is His Memra that repents (Targ. Gen. 6:6, 8:21; I Sam 15:11, 35). Not His “hand,” but His “Memra has laid the foundation of the earth” (Targ. Isa. 48:13); for His Memra’s or Name’s sake does He act (Isa. 48:11; II Kings 19:34). Through the Memra God turns to His people (Targ. Lev. 26: 9; II Kings 18:23), becomes the shield of Abraham (Gen. 15:1), and is with Moses (Ex. 3:12; 4:12,15) and with Israel (Targ. Yer. to Num. 10:35, 36; Isa. 63:14). It is the Memra, not God Himself, against whom man offends (Ex. 14:8; Num. 14:5; I Kings 8:50; II Kings 19:28; Isa. 1:2,16; 45:3, 20; Hos. 5:7, 6:7; Targ. Yer. to Lev. 5:21, 6:2; Deut. 5:11); through His Memra Israel shall be justified (Targ. Isa. 45:25); with the Memra Israel stands in communion (Targ. Josh. 22:24, 27); in the Memra man puts his trust (Targ. Gen. 15: 6; Targ. Yer. to Ex. 14:31; Jer. 39:18, 49:11). 

Memra also reflected Mediatorship. 

Like the Shekinah (comp. Targ. Num. 23:21), the Memra is accordingly the manifestation of God. “The Memra brings Israel nigh unto God and sits on His throne receiving the prayers of Israel” (Targ. Yer. to Deut. 4:7). It shielded Noah from the flood (Targ. Yer. to Genesis 7:16) and brought about the dispersion of the seventy nations (Genesis 11:8); it is the guardian of Jacob (Gen. 28:20-21, 35:3) and of Israel (Targ. Yer. to Ex. 12:23,29); it works all the wonders in Egypt (Ex. 13:8, 14:25); hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Ex. 18:15); goes before Israel in the wilderness (Targ. Yer. to Ex. 20:1); blesses Israel (Targ. Yer. to Num. 23:8); battles for the people (Targ. Josh. 3:7; 10:14; 23:3). As in ruling over the destiny of man the Memra is the agent of God (Targ. Yer. to Num. 27:16), so also is it in the creation of the earth (Isa. 45:12) and in the execution of justice (Targ. Yer. to Num. 33:4). So, in the future, shall the Memra be the comforter (Targ. Isa. 66:13): “My Shekinah I shall put among you, My Memra shall be unto you for a redeeming deity, and you shall be unto My Name a holy people” (Targ. Yer. to Lev. 22:12). “My Memra shall be unto you like a good plowman who takes off the yoke from the shoulder of the oxen”; “the Memra will roar to gather the exiled” (Targ. Hos. 11:5,10). The Memra is “the witness” (Targ. Yer. 29:23); it will be to Israel like a father (l.c. 31:9) and “will rejoice over them to do them good” (l.c. 32:41). “In the Memra the redemption will be found” (Targ. Zech. 7:5). “The Holy Word” was the subject of the hymns of Job (Test. of Job, 12:3, ed. Kohler). 

Philo of Alexandria was born 20 BC and died 50 AD had even interpreted Memra as the Logos before Saint John used this word in his Gospel “For there are, as it seems, two temples belonging to God; one being this world, in which the high priest is the divine word, his own firstborn son. The other is the rational soul, the priest of which is the real true man, the copy of whom, perceptible to the senses, is he who performs his paternal vows and sacrifices, to whom it is enjoined to put on the aforesaid tunic, the representation of the universal heaven, in order that the world may join with the man in offering sacrifice, and that the man may likewise co-operate with the universe. (1.216)” 

The Holy Spirit “Ruah” רֽוּחַ־

The Holy Spirit is mentioned more than 200 times in the Old Testament. In the book of Judges on Othniel, the son of Kenaz: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel.” (Judges 3:10) and also on Samson: “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart ” (Judges 14:6). “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2). And also in the book of Isaiah “Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field” (Isaiah 32:15). 

The Holy Spirit is mentioned more than 200 times in the Old Testament. In the book of Judges on Othniel, the son of Kenaz: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel.” (Judges 3:10) and also on Samson: “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart ” (Judges 14:6). “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2). And also in the book of Isaiah “Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field” (Isaiah 32:15). 

The Triune God revelations in the Old Testament  

God has been seen in revelations in the Old testament many times refuting the ideas that reject the capability of God to be seen and revealed. This of course supports the trinity doctrine because one of the hypostasis is the Word that became flesh.  

Revelation to Hagar 

For example, in Genesis 16, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are- the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”  Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi;[g] observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.” (Genesis 16:13-14) the scripture used the word “רָאִ֖יתִי” that means “have I seen”. 

Revelation to Abraham 

Genesis 18 “Then the Lord appeared to him” (Genesis 18:1) using the word “וַיֵּרָ֤א” pronounced “way-yê-rā” means appeared. 

Revelation to Jacob 

Genesis 32 “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30) 

Revelation to Manoah and his wife 

In the book of Judges “And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!”” (Judges 13:22) using the word “רָאִֽינוּ׃” that means we have seen. 

In conclusion, the Word, the Holy Spirit, and the Triune God are all mentioned in the Old Testament and Jewish religious texts foreshadowing what Lord Jesus revealed in the New Testament about the Triune nature of God. 


Is the Christian Faith Founded on the Bible Only?

The Sola Scriptura doctrine means “Scripture alone,” that is relying on the Bible as the only source for the Christian faith. For the early Protestant Reformers, Sola Scriptura led to an implicit divorce from the tradition that was abused by the Roman Catholic Church in some practices and teachings such as the papal infallibility and the selling of indulgences. Sola Scriptura had served the reformers’ goal of attempting to recover the early Church from under the layers of the false Roman Catholic teachings which had accumulated on top of it. The Bible was the only certain, infallible witness to early Christianity that they knew as a kind of tether to the early Apostolic Church as described in the book of Acts. However, while the “traditions of men” established by the Roman Catholic Church are false, most false teachings can be based on the Scriptures as well. The true Christian faith, however, is established by the teachings of the Bible as interpreted and understood by the Apostles and early apostolic fathers. This interpretation has been ingrained in the Church’s liturgical practices as well as documented in the ante Nicene, Nicene, and post Nicene writings of the Church fathers.  

One key historical truth about the early Christian Church in the Book of Acts is that the apostles and early believers practiced the faith without a completely documented New Testament as we have it today. The gospels were written ten to forty years after the resurrection of Jesus, i.e. sometime between 40 and 70 AD. Jesus didn’t hand over His teachings and writings to the Church in written text. He didn’t ask His disciples to take notes of His sermons. However, He promised that “these things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:25,26, NKJV). What Jesus did is basically this: He established a church of followers guided by the Holy Spirit. He gave this Church the authority to judge in matters of faith.  

Jesus Himself gave authority to the Church to resolve conflicts among believers. He taught the disciples that “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17, NKJV). Jesus didn’t tell his followers to open the New Testament and keep arguing from it to resolve a conflict, simply because it is not practical. Unless a church council, guided by the Holy Spirit, establishes a doctrine, there will never be unity among what Christians believe. Jesus gave this authority to the Church, to always pursue the spirit of unity and maintain authority among believers.  

Early believers followed this teaching of Jesus when they were debating whether Gentile believers must be circumcised or not. The Book of Acts describes the event as follows: “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2, NKJV). It has always been the role of councils from the very early church to determine the orthodox doctrines of the Church, starting with the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. There was no New Testament available to the Church to judge on this matter, but there was the tradition which carried the true doctrine including the word of God which was documented later.  

Reformers challenged the individual infallibility of the Roman Pope as unbiblical. However, the Sola Scriptura doctrine converts every “believer” to a pope when interpreting the Scripture. The reformation definition of the church as just the congregation of believers begs the question: “who are the correct believers?”. For example, can someone who believes in Jesus as Lord, yet believes that He is of lower status than the Father, and that the Father, Son, be considered as a believer? Just resorting to the Bible in resolving this issue has led to many factions at the time of the Arian heresy. At one point in the Church’s history, the majority of Christians followed the Arian heresy. It is not only Arius who was able to mislead many believers. Anyone can use verses from the Bible to establish a false doctrine. However, the Church, established by Jesus and led by the Apostles and their successors, constitute the authority to judge in such matters through church councils. Sola Scriptura has created millions of popes out of one pope. That is why there are thousands of Protestant denominations with varying doctrines and teachings that are straying away further from the true Christian teaching handed over by Christ and the Apostles. 

Sola Scriptura is also introducing what is exactly a contradiction of what the Scriptures mention in regard to the tradition handed over by Jesus and His apostles. In the first epistle to St. Timothy, St. Paul mentioned the Church as the pillar for truth: “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15, NKJV). St. Paul also taught that the Church must hold to traditions in the second epistle to Thessalonians as he commanded the believers to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15, NKJV). This verse in particular was changed by the reformers as they introduced a new translation of the New Testament, the New International Version (NIV), that replaces some words to serve their goals. The NIV translates the Greek word paradosis “tradition” as “teaching”. Reformers have thus established a doctrine that suits their own taste, even removing some books from the Old Testament that are called the second Deuterocanonical books, such as Tobit, Judith, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Many verses from these books were quoted by Jesus Himself. We end up with a problem, what good is Sola Scriptura when you can change what constitutes Scripture? 


Is the story of Jesus just a recycled version of Ancient Myths?

Numerous people claim that the story of Christ is not only a fake story but also a recycled one from many ancient myths. This claim was mostly promoted by Gerald Massey, a self-proclaimed Egyptologist. He claimed that multiple gods share the virgin birth on 25th of December, and that it is not a Christian story. Massey concluded this based on his own translations of ancient texts, however, his translations were found to be inaccurate. His translations and studies have, therefore, been refuted by other Egyptologists. In his book “Did Jesus Exist? The Birth of a Divine Man”, Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar focusing on the history of Christ, refuted several claims of why and how the story of Christ is a recycled story. One of the researchers he refuted was Kersey Graves, who wrote a book named ‘’The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours’’ in the 19th century. Numerous self-proclaimed scholars blindly followed his work, without looking at his work critically. Graves mentioned 35 people, according to his own research, who had exactly the same story of Christ. Some of these people were Horus, Krishna, Mithras, and Apollonius.

The main claim from Graves is: ‘’It is argued that, as the story of the incarnation of the Christians’ Savior is of more recent date than that of these oriental and ancient religions (as is conceded by Christians themselves), the origin of the former is thus indicated and foreshadowed as being an outgrowth from, if not a plagiarism upon the latter-a borrowed copy, of which the pagan stories furnish the original’’1. Ehrman refuted this saying that there is no claim of a virgin birth of a god in neither any mythology or Eastern religion. Something that did happen is that the birth of several historical figures in itself was seen as a miracle, however, this was not linked to the virginity of the mother. Furthermore, the mothers of these figures had intimate relationships with (demi)gods.  Noteworthy is that Graves lived in a period right after the renaissance (18th century), which is known as a period wherein humanity started rebelling against the Christian faith. 

Let’s take a closer look at the story of Christ and the proposed parallels.  


The claim is that Horus was born from a virgin, the god Isis, and that Horus was baptized by a person named ‘’Anup the Baptist’’. Anup was later on beheaded, just as John the Baptist was beheaded. Horus went for a certain time into the desert, where he was tempted by the devil, and he, furthermore, raised a person named Asar from death and that Asar means Lazarus. In addition, Horus is claimed to have had 12 disciples, just like Christ had.  

Horus, actually, was an Egyptian god of the heavens (the sun and the moon) and war. He is depicted as a human with a Falcon head. The real story of Horus goes as follows. Horus’ father, the god Osiris, died in a battle and Isis took his body and raised him from death for a certain time in order to get pregnant from him. Regarding Anup the Baptist, there has not been a person named Anup in Egyptian mythology. Massey just used this name in order to strengthen his case against Christ, and later research showed that he twisted the Egyptian God Anubis into Anup. Horus also did not enter into the desert to be tempted by the devil, actually, in Egyptian mythology Horus was poisoned by another god called Seth (who killed his father), and that the god Thot revived him. Regarding that Horus raised Asar from death; Asar is Greek for Osiris, who was his father. His father was, as previously mentioned, raised by his mother Isis to impregnate her. Horus also did not have 12 disciples, this is an inaccurate reference to his sons, who were not only less than 12 but also demigods.  


The claim is that Krishna was also born from a virgin, named Devaka/Devaki, on 25th of December and that Krishna was crucified for our sins, arose from death and ascended into heaven. In addition, he was crucified between two thieves.  

There are four main sources on the life of Krishna, namely: the Mahabharata (poems written by Krishna), the Harivamsha (seen as a sequel to the Mahabharata and resembles the Books of Chronicles from the Old Testament in its content), the Vishnu Purana (a work mainly concerned with cosmology) and the Bhagavata Purana (a work mainly concerned with worship and philosophy). Devaki was ‘’mentally’’ impregnated by Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, yet she was not a virgin as Krishna was their eighth child. Interestingly, the virgin birth is not mentioned in any work mentioning Krishna (the above mentioned works), and is seen as an addition from the 10th century. Krishna’s birthday is one of the most important Indian holidays, although it is not celebrated on 25th of December but at the end of the summer. Krishna has also not been crucified, he was murdered by a hunter named Jara who shot him in his heel. In ancient India, people were not crucified let alone being crucified between robbers. They dealt differently with robbers, based on their ideology. Also, Krishna did not die for our sins as he was cursed twice. At last, he did not ascend into heaven, as his body was cremated. 


The claim is that Mithras was also born from a virgin on the 25th of December and that several shepherds were present at his birth, and Mithras was a known teacher and the good shepherd for his people whom he served with his 12 disciples. Mithras died and resurrected after three days, and his followers kept celebrating Sunday as their lord’s day.  

Mithras, a god from the old Persian mythology, was actually someone who was worshipped by a subpopulation of the Romans, who practiced mysticism. The followers of Mithras lived side by side with Christians in Rome, in the first four centuries, and called themselves the ‘’followers of the Mysteries of Mithras’’. Later on, he was also worshipped by Zoroastrianism.  Mithras was not born on the 25th of December, and the shepherds who witnessed his birth were only mentioned centuries after the New Testament was written, thus likely copied from the New Testament. Mithras was also not seen as a shepherd, only as a mediator. Not a mediator between god and man, but between the ‘’good’’ and ‘’bad’’ gods known in Zoroastrianism. No Persian nor Roman tradition and/or writing about Mithras mentioned that he was a teacher nor shepherd for his people. Mithras did also not die for our sins, the only related story known about Mithras is a story in which he killed a bull. There is no source mentioning that Mithras had died, let alone been resurrected. Tertullian of Carthage (220 AD) mentioned that the followers of Mithras used to enact an Eastern play. 

Apollonius of Tyana 

Apollonius of Tyana is a man who lived around the same time as Jesus Christ. In his new testament textbook, Dr. Bart Ehrman states that he was also conceived by a virgin, was promised to be divine, and an Angel visited his mother before his birth, born miraculously, gathered many followers, and convinced them that he is divine by performing miracles. His opposition eventually delivered them to the Roman authorities and he was killed. There’s no record of the way he was killed however some historical documents claim that he rose from the dead and appeared to his followers and ascended to heaven where he lived eternally in heaven. The source of information is the book written by Sophist Philostratus. 

Now the similarity here is more obvious and compelling, but not the historical background. Apollonius is thought to have been born in 40 CE so his story comes after the death and  resurrection of Christ. It is therefore impossible for Jesus, or the apostles who documented the life of Jesus, to have copied from the life of Apollonius. The contrary might be true though. 

In addition, the life of Apollonius wasn’t documented by eyewitnesses. The earliest and most complete documentation has been developed by Philostratus around 218-238 AD, more than 120 years after Apollonius died. This biography was written to fulfill a request by Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus and mother of Caracalla. It is therefore not a reliable source and begs the question of: where were Apollonius’s devout followers after knowing that he was raised from death and ascended to heaven? 


Numerous people start stressing when reading stories that ‘’debunk’’ Christianity, yet if we would examine these stories more in depth we would conclude that the claims made are not historically correct. Several groups try to debunk our faith and the claims we make using false claims, and therefore we should always read about our faith and the authenticity of it.