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Is the Biblical Jesus Credible?

AREOPAGUS Proclamation

Volume 18, No. 6 • Nov-Dec, 2008

by Daryl E. Witmer


Every year, often just as Christmas or Easter are approaching, the secular media invests a great deal of effort to trot out the big bad dogs of skepticism as regards the veracity of the Bible and/or the historicity of the Biblical Jesus.

These dogs usually do a whole lot of barking but have no real bite. They are like declawed toothless tigers – ultimately harmless but initially menacing enough to alarm many believers. Some, like The Jesus Seminar and The Da Vinci Code, make more noise and linger longer than others, like The Gospel of Judas controversy, shamelessly hyped by the National Geographic Society.

But all of them merit at least some response from those of us who contend that the Bible is reliable and that Jesus is who the Bible says He is. Intellectually respectable responses have always existed, although some of them have tended to be complex.

But today a number of clear, concise resources are available that are fully readable and understandable by anyone with even a basic education. Here follows a brief bibliography of both simple and scholarly resources (and corresponding pertinent excerpts) that address many tough questions about the true identity of Jesus.

JESUS: fact and fiction.
By Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and Paul Carden;
©2008 Rose Publishing; a laminated pamphlet.

Excerpt: ‘Do the Gnostic gospels tell the real story of Jesus? The New Testament gospels appeared in the first cen-tury, while people who knew Jesus might still be alive; the Gnostic gospels came out in the second century or even later. So the Gnostic gospels really don’t provide any helpful [first hand] information about the historical Jesus.’

How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way
By Philip Jenkins.
©2001 Oxford University Press.
Scholarly work.

Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.

By Darrell L. Bock.
©2006 Nelson Books. 

A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ
By Lee Strobel, a New York Times bestselling author.
©2007 Zondervan.

Well written. Very readable. We highly recommended it. Excerpts: ‘Are scholars discovering a radically different Jesus in ancient documents just as credible as the four Gospels? No, the alternative texts that are touted in liberal circles are too late to be historic-ally credible… Is the Bible’s portrait of Jesus unreliable because of mistakes or deliberate changes by scribes through the centuries? No, there are no new disclosures that have cast any doubt on the essential reliability of the New Testa-ment. The traditional view of Christ is amply supported by a firm foundation of historical facts. In sum, the Jesus of faith is the same as the Jesus of history.’ 

What the Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You
By J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, Daniel B. Wallace.
©2006 Kregel.

Excerpt: ‘The view that the divinity of Christ was invented in the fourth century is historically naive. From the time that the New Testament was penned through the centuries that followed, the evidence is overwhel-ming that Jesus was consistently viewed as more than a man by his followers. In short, all of the evi-dence points to the biblical Jesus as the real Jesus.’ 

The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospel
By Luke Timothy Johnson.
©1996 HarperCollins.
Scholarly work.

A Reasoned Look at Thomas, Judas, and the Gnostic Gospels
By David Marshall.
©2007 Harvest House.

Excerpts: ‘Jesus is the most frequent target of this kind of identity theft. The history of Jesus frauds is long and rich. The Gospel of Barnabas presents Jesus as a kind of apprentice to Mo-hammed… The Aquarian Gospel tells how Jesus ran off to India and Tibet… The Book of Mormon tells how he went to South America to preach Yankee platitudes in King James English. Few of these ‘copy Jesuses’ would fool anyone who knows the real Jesus. What about the orthodox Jesus? Is he a figure created by theological spin, too? The Gospels drive us to the ‘living center’ of biblical tradition, Jesus…’

Attempts to dispute the credibility of the Biblical Jesus are almost always based on the Lost (Hidden or Gnostic) Gospels which were rediscovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. But in actuality these writings were more rejected than lost. And, since undergoing scholarly review it seems clear that they themselves lack credibility as ever having been true Gospels.