Friday, March 25, 2016

Multiple Reliable Eyewitnesses (part 5 in the Why I Believe series)

In part 3 and part 4 of this series, I wrote about how evidence in creation shows that there must be a great, wise, powerful Creator.  I explained that knowing that we serve a God who created everything should give us courage to obey and follow Jesus.

But the evidence we see through creation can only take us so far.  Creation tells us that there must be a highly intelligent Designer, but how do we know who that Designer/Creator is?  I don’t believe in a vague concept of God.  I specifically believe, worship, and serve the God of the Bible.  And I believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be Lord and Savior. I believe Jesus died and that he rose again.  And with God’s help I have been willing to face danger and suffer loss for these beliefs.  So, it’s not enough to explain why I believe in God, I must go on to explain specifically why I believe in Jesus.

For me, one of the strongest types of evidence which gives me certainty about Jesus is the nature of the testimony about Jesus we find in New Testament.  If Jesus really did rise from the dead after being crucified, it would be foolish not to believe all that the Bible says about Him.  In the Bible, we find multiple, reliable, eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus.

The Bible is not the only book which claims to teach us who the great Creator of the universe is.  There are several competing “holy books”.  Because these books contradict each other in significant ways, they cannot all be true.  After the Bible, the next most widely read “holy book” is the Quran.  The Bible teaches that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is mankind’s only Savior and Lord.  The Quran specifically denies these claims.  Comparing the nature of the testimony in the Bible and the Quran is a good way to see why I am so convinced that Jesus really is Lord and Savior, and that it really does make sense to follow Him, no matter the cost.  While the Quran is the second most influential “holy book” in the world, in the US there are more Mormons than Muslims.  So, I’ve also included the Book of Mormon in my comparison.

New Testament/ Apostles
Quran/ Muhammad
Book of Mormon/ Joseph Smith
Multiple Witnesses?
Moral & Reliable Witnesses?
Includes Eyewitness Testimony?
Testimony brought worldly gain or suffering?
 Worldly Gain


Muhammad writes about events in the life of Jesus even though Muhammad was not there.  Joseph Smith writes about Jesus going to visit ancient American Indian tribes whom Joseph Smith never saw (by the way, no one else ever saw them either!).  But the New Testament includes among its authors men who saw with their own eyes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:20, 1 John 1:1).

Multiple Witnesses

The Book of Mormon was written by one man – Joseph Smith.  The Quran was written by one man – Muhammad.  The New Testament was written by either 8 or 9 men (depending on whether or not Paul wrote Hebrews).  Of the New Testament authors, at least three (Matthew, John, and Peter) were present for multiple appearances of Jesus after he rose from the dead.  Luke based his gospel on a careful investigation of other eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-2).  Mark may have been an eyewitness himself and may have based some of his gospel on information from Peter.

These New Testament witnesses all agree on the following facts:

Jesus was killed on a cross.  This happened in front of many people and there was overwhelming evidence that he was really dead.

Jesus was placed in a grave.

Jesus rose from the dead and appeared many times to his disciples.  He talked with them and ate with them.

Reliable Witnesses

Neither Muhammad nor Joseph Smith were men any father would want their daughter to live near.  They both claimed to receive revelations from God telling them they could marry as many women as they wanted, and in both cases this included women who had been married to another man.

The Apostles taught a very high standard of morality.  They are not portrayed as being perfectly sinless, but there is no record of them ever doing anything which would cast doubt on their character and integrity.  They were the type of men you would be glad to have as a neighbor.

There is more to being a reliable witness.  When weighing the testimony of a witness it is helpful to consider if the witness has any motivation to lie. In other words, if a witness is gaining something by their testimony, it is less reliable.  On the other hand, if a witness faces loss and suffering for their testimony, it is much more likely that they are telling the truth.

While Muhammad and Joseph Smith did both face opposition and controversy, as a result of their “prophecies” they became leaders with a lot of worldly power.  As mentioned, they also both gained many wives.  The Bible rightly warns against false religious leaders who are greedy (2 Peter 2:3) and who want to marry other men’s wives (2 Peter 2:14).

What about the Apostles?  Did they gain anything in this world from their testimony?  Far from it!  They were beaten, imprisoned, and most of them eventually killed because of the testimony about Jesus.  But they never stopped testifying and they never changed their story.

An Analogy

The claim that someone rose from the dead is a fantastic claim. I offer an analogy as to why I believe it.

To the east of our little town are a series of fields and farm roads where I like to walk with our dog, Sadie.  There are some places where we cannot go because there are marshes with lots of water, mud, and bogs.

Now, what if someone told me that out in the middle of a certain marshy area there was an angel next to a tree stump and on the tree stump was a pile of huge diamonds, each worth 100 million dollars.  The angel would allow each resident of our town who came to him to take one diamond.  Would I head out into the muddy marsh?  Of course, not.  The story is unbelievable.

But, what if the person who told me was a reliable person like my neighbors George, Sam, Dennis, and Calvin?  Because the claim was so incredible, I probably still would doubt it was true.

What if three of four of them all told me that they had been out there and seen it themselves?  I would probably think it was some kind of practical joke.  I still wouldn’t believe it.

But what if a group of ruffians came and threatened my neighbors who were telling this story.  When my neighbors kept telling the story, the ruffians beat up three of them and killed one of them.  When I visited the other three in the hospital, one who was a brother of the man killed, they all continued to insist that they had seen it themselves and that it was true.

I would be putting on a pair of duck waders and heading out into the marsh!

Eternal life is worth a lot more than 100 million dollars.  There are multiple, reliable, eyewitnesses who kept testifying to the resurrection of Jesus even after they were jailed, beaten, and some of them killed.  I’m a believer.  I’m following Jesus!

Final Note

Like all analogies and illustrations, the above analogy is far from perfect.  An angel guarding diamonds would be kind of silly.  A Savior dying for our sins is very serious.  Also, the multiple, reliable, eyewitnesses to the resurrection found in the New Testament are far from the only evidence that Christianity is true.  That’s why this is part 5 out of a whole series on “Why I Believe”.  And my series will contain only a tiny fraction of the evidence found in many books on this topic, and all the books in the world could not really contain all the evidence God has given (John 21:25).

This is part 5, you may find links to other blog posts in this "Why I Believe . . ." series below:

Blog Posts in the “Why I Believe Enough to Keep Following Jesus” Series

                 Note:  Part 2 includes a poem I wrote

Seeing Evidence of God in Creation

Seeing Evidence in the Bible

note:  Yes, I’m aware that part 6 is out of order.  That happened due to an article I read about scientific evidence for God that came out after I had written part 5

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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