I will contend that it is completely illogical to consider the New Testament to be a lie. There is no one item the “proves” this, but the weight of all the evidence below is over-whelming. I realize this does not prove the New Testament is true, but only that the authors were telling what they believed to be the truth. This does not eliminate the possibility they were deceived or mistaken, only that they were not lying.
I have divided my reasoning into two categories. The first category are those proofs that come from the text itself. This requires a careful reading of the New Testament like a good detective reading over the written testimony of a witness. The second category involves more surrounding circumstances, history and other writings.
Proofs Within The Text Itself
The conspiracy would have been immense and incredibly difficult to concoct and maintain.
You have 7 or 8 separate writers, and the one who wrote the most didn’t believe in Jesus till after he was dead. To make this work the group of men need to steal a body, destroy it, and develop an entire theology based upon that body not being there. If that were all, it would be conceivable. However, if you read the text it is not a simple theology written at the same time and in the same place. The writings are written by people at many different places in the world and many different times with no cell phones to help them “keep their story straight”. Yet the theology is consistent, deep, and highly philosophical. If you read it carefully and consider where and when each book was written I find it impossible to believe these 8 men could have created such a complex conspiracy and maintained it over a 60 or 70 year period scattered all across the known world.
The writers would never have the risen Jesus appear to women first.
This proof alone would lead a knowledgeable investigator to eliminate the possibility that the authors are lying. At the time this was written women were not allowed to testify in a court proceeding because they were considered totally unreliable as witnesses. A common complaint against the Bible made by non-believers is that God is a chauvinist. God is not, but the writers certainly appear to be. When you read the entire text of the New Testament it is apparent that the writers do not hold any of the women mentioned in any high regard and none of them have any lasting power or influence. The risen Jesus and empty tomb are the absolute bedrock of the New Testament and all Christianity. No one at that time concocting a lie about something so important, that they hoped would be taken seriously, would ever have Jesus first appear to women and then never mention the women again. There is not one logical reason for them to come up with that lie, not one.
The writers would not have any discrepancies in their stories.
Critics of the Bible also claim it is full of discrepancies and thus not dependable. I contend that is a proof that it is not a lie. If the authors got together and came up with this elaborate lie, and people were dying because they believed the lie, they would have all been extremely careful to get their stories straight. It is almost unanimously agreed that Mark’s gospel was written first and used as a source by the other authors. If my life depends on a conspiracy, and I have another witnesses’ written testimony in front of me, wouldn’t I make 100% sure my testimony aligns with the one I have in front of me? Apparently the authors were much more concerned about telling what they believed to be true than keeping a conspiracy alive.
By the way, the Bible has many discrepancies, but no contradictions. A discrepancy is when two or more stories appear to be different, but it is logically possible for them all to be true. A contradiction is a situation where the stories are mutually exclusive. An example is the story of the possessed men at the tombs. One author writes only about one man, another says there were two. Obviously if there are two, there is at least one, and no where does the former author say there was ONLY one man. Thus it is possible that both authors are correct. That is a discrepancy, but not a contradiction.
The writers would not have created a lie that made them look so bad.
Have you read the New Testament? Peter is temperamental and undependable. Paul kills Christians. All the disciples fled at the first sign of trouble. James and John are self-centered self-promoters. None of them can figure out the simplest parable. Timothy deserts his mentor. Best friends Barnabas and Paul get in a squabble and split. The church in Corinth has a son that has an affair with his father’s wife. None of them believe Jesus rose from the dead when an eye-witness told them.
So you are willing to believe that the writers of the New Testament came up with this complex conspiracy in an attempt to gather followers and save their necks from execution…and were willing to make themselves look so bad? No one would do that! Admit it, you wouldn’t do that. It is absurdity.
If the authors were just making up the words of Jesus, they would have had him say things that solved their immediate problems.
So if you think the New Testament is a big lie, then all the quotes from Jesus are just fabricated by the authors. In that case, obviously the authors have no problem putting words in the mouth of Jesus. Yet, when writing letters to both churches and individuals, the authors refrain from say things like “do this because Jesus said ….” It simply doesn’t happen. The authors struggle with serious problems, failures, complex situations without pulling the “Jesus said” card. Liars would use such authority to get their way. These men even go out of the way at times to say “this is my opinion, but Jesus has said nothing about this”.
Liars would never have created a religion that was so difficult to believe or follow.
Imagine you are invited by a friend to become part of a select group of people who are creating a big lie to form their own religion. You live in a part of the world where religion does equal power and money so you are interested. You also see people hanging on crosses regularly and you know the local religious leaders have a pretty cozy relationship with the Romans who are hanging the people on the crosses so you want to investigate this whole thing before you join in. You know you will need as many followers as you can get as quickly as possible to make it work. You go to a meeting and a guy tells you that the person you are going to ask all these new followers to believe in will require the following:
- You believe a dead guy came back to life.
- You believe you are guilty of such sins that you are going to hell and there is no way you can ever be good enough to go anywhere but hell.
- You have to believe you are so hopeless that this guy had to die in your place on this gruesome cross that should have been yours.
- All other gods are false, and you have to say that even if they are going to kill you over it.
- The most powerful people in the land just murdered your hero and you can’t be afraid to tell them that.
- It is a privilege to be persecuted (whipped, imprisoned etc. etc.) because you follow Jesus.
- The greatest of all is the servant of all.
- Love your enemies and turn the other cheek.
- It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to get to heaven.
- Blessed are the poor
- Blessed are the merciful
Seriously? Imagine you know for sure that Jesus is dead cause you stole his body. You know that there is no Jesus to help you or return or meet you when you die, you are just making the whole thing up. Your goal is to start a new religion for your own personal gain in a god-forsaken poverty stricken province and you need a bunch of followers… and this is the best you can come up with? Seriously?
The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament in a way never considered before Jesus. Liars would never imagine such a twist of belief. Truth is better than fiction.
Lets go with the really BIG lie theory. Jesus never even existed. EVERYTHING in the New Testament was a lie. We know the Old Testament had been around for many centuries and was studied in depth by the Jewish people before the New Testament was written. You and your buddies decide to create this fictional Jesus guy and you need him to fulfill the Old Testament. All the people who have studied the OT before you are predicting this conquering Messiah. Afterall, you want your God to be strong don’t you? So you go through the OT and you decide what prophecies you are going to have your character fulfill and this is what you come up with:
- “You know that story about that old guy Abraham taking a stack of wood and having his son Isaac carry the wood up a hill, then build an alter, and when Isaac asks where the sacrifice is Abraham says “God will provide the sacrifice”, and then Abraham almost kills his son (crazy old buzzard) but he stops and sacrifices a ram with its horns caught in a thorn bush instead. I know no one alive right now sees this story as prophetic but lets have our hero fulfill it anyway. Yeah, lets have our hero carry a cross of wood outside a city to a hill and the hero is the son of God (also crazy old man) and our hero is like the ram so lets put a crown of thorns on him. He will be the sacrifice that God is providing. Seriously, this will work guys.”
- “Oh yeah, you know the Psalm 22 about the guy getting the crap beaten out of him. Lets have our hero who we say is the son of God end up having all that stuff in the long miserable Psalm happen to him. Lets even go so far as to have our son of God yell ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ This is a great way to fulfill some Old Testament prophecy and get a bunch of followers.
How many more examples to you want? If you are going to tell a lie, wouldn’t you come up with one a lot more believable than that?
Proofs Outside The Text Itself, Other Sources, Culture and Reason
The stories were written while witnesses were still alive, and encourage the reader to ask the witnesses, yet there are no writings from the time that accuse the New Testament authors of concocting the entire story.
Some of Paul’s letters are dated as little as 10 years after the death of Jesus. Jesus died around 33 A.D. and the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple, but none of the books mentions it and the event would have been monumental to the authors, so the New Testament was almost surely written prior to 70 A.D. Most of the letters in the New Testament are written by Paul who was executed in Rome in 62 A.D. The book of Acts was written about Paul by Luke and never mentions his death so it was surely written prior to 62 A.D. In Acts Luke refers to his own gospel so the Gospel of Luke was likely written prior to 60 A.D. Most scholars believe Luke had Matthew as a source and Matthew had Mark as a source. Many of the other books in the New Testament were written prior to any of the Gospels. This all adds up to the majority, though not all, of the books in the New Testament were written with 25 years of Jesus’ death.
Why does that matter?
Because had the story been concocted there would have been MANY witnesses alive to counter the story. Yet there are no documents from the time claiming that Jesus didn’t live, or didn’t die. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even any stories from the time claiming the tomb was not empty! The enemies of Christianity claim the apostles stole the body of Jesus, but that serves as hostile confirmation that the tomb was empty. Several New Testament writers challenge the reader to ask the witnesses, daring them to counter their stories. Yet among all of this not one document from that time, even from the first 200 years after Jesus’ death, claims that Jesus didn’t live, die, and that the tomb was not empty. Considering the upheaval Christianity caused in the world, had Jesus not lived, died and his body left the tomb, there would have been massive writings accusing the the Gospel writers of invention.
Lies are told for personal gain, but the authors were destroyed by their writing.
Motive. What is the motive for an action? Every investigator of every crime knows to get the verdict they want they have to provide the motive. So what would motivate the New Testament authors to concoct this lie? Very shortly after Jesus’ death two disciples, Stephen and James were executed for preaching about Jesus. No one associated with the movement was rich or powerful. The gospels, as written, make it clear that Christianity is going to appeal to the poor and lowly. In their lifetime the road to Jerusalem was literally lined on both sides with the crosses of people who opposed Rome. Writing a lie that says all the Roman gods, including the emperor, were false would need some serious motivation.
Now you could say that the authors wrote so early that they didn’t realize the outcome would be negative till it was too late. That is possible, but then surely one of them would have come clean to save his life or the lives of people he cared about. All the authors of the New Testament but one were executed. Some of them, like Peter, watched their wives or family members executed. All of them had plenty of time to confess to the lie instead of die, but none of them did.
Ask yourself this: Which story had the greatest motivation, Jesus died, rose, and is the only God…or we made the whole thing up, this is where his body is?
Paul’s conversion after Jesus’ death makes no sense if he is part of the conspiracy.
This is closely linked to the motivation question. Paul (previously named Saul) was a prominent Pharisee. He had power and money. When he became a Christian he gave up all his power and status and personal belongings and became a traveling preacher living on whatever he could scavenge or earn. He was imprisoned and ship-wrecked multiple times. He was whipped many times. Finally he died in Rome.
If Paul was part of the conspiracy (no one wrote more of the New Testament then Paul), what in blazes would motivate him to take part in such a lie? Not only did he have nothing to gain, he lost everything. And some of Paul’s letters were the earliest written and they are the ones that challenge people to ask other eye witnesses the most. It is inconceivable that Paul doesn’t believe with all his heart every word he wrote.
Archeology has proven the authors to be extremely accurate historians. So is it logical to assume they were truthful and accurate about everything but Jesus?
The New Testament is constantly portrayed as being historically inaccurate without supporting evidence. People seem to just accept statements to that effect without qualification. But the evidence tells us the New Testament is very accurate historically. There are many papers and books showing hard evidence that the gospel writers were historically accurate. A short but good example is The Historical Accuracy of the Gospels by Patrick Zuckeran. Obviously entire books are written on the subject. What is interesting is relatively small number of books that try to prove the Gospels are inaccurate and, even more important, how these papers and books are full of accusations and theories, but little or no hard evidence. This post is far to short to detail the archeological proofs the the Bible’s accuracy. I think it is more worthwhile to quote an historian who spent many years trying to prove the Gospel of Luke was historically unreliable, Sir William Ramsey: “Luke is a historian of first rank…In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Why is this so important? This is best explained by another historian, FF Bruce who also studied the gospels in hope of dispelling them and eventually came to believe in them:
“A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means for testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know from happy experience that some people are habitually accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy.”
For many years numerous events in Luke’s gospel were questioned because they were substantial, but unconfirmed by other historians and archeology. Over the last 200 years most of these have been discovered and Luke has been found to be accurate. This has happened so often that in the last 20 years I cannot find any record of an archeological dig or historical investigation that is even attempting to prove Luke to be inaccurate. Now add to that the other gospels concur with Luke, and many of the epistles and letters in the Bible even quote from the gospels, the historical accuracy of the New Testament nothing short of amazing.
If a man is accurate in the details of history, is a plausible that all these men were able to weave a complete lie into the fabric of accurate history with such skill that you can’t separate the two within the text? Accurate writers are seldom liars.
The enemies of the New Testament writers confirmed the strongest tenet of Christianity, the empty tomb.
The apostles did not go far away to Rome or Athens to preach about the resurrection, they first went to the scene of the crime, Jerusalem. Christianity does not survive one minute in Jerusalem if the tomb is not empty. So what do the enemies of Christianity have to say about the empty tomb?
Josephus, the most quoted Jewish historian of the time despised Christianity but mentions the empty tomb, without disputing it, in several writings. Roman historians also reference the empty tomb as the cornerstone of Christianity but make no attempt to deny it. As a matter of fact, in my research I cannot find a single ancient document that even tries to assert that the tomb was not empty or that the body was not missing.
Evidence that is either confirmed or not denied by a hostile opponent is considered by historians to be one of the strongest evidences for truth in ancient writings.
The church in Corinth would have disputed Paul’s letters if he were lying.
The letters to the church in Corinth were written very early, between 53 and 56 A.D. That puts them between 20 and 25 years after Jesus death. There would have been many eyewitnesses to Jesus death and the empty tomb at the time these letters were written. The date and authorship of some of Paul’s letters is disputed, but not these. Even historians who are critical of the Bible agree that these letters were written by Paul in that time frame.
These letters are intensely critical and embarrassing to the church of Corinth. Read them for yourself. Paul bases his right to criticize them on the authority of Jesus. He spells out the gospel and the resurrection clearly. He talks about his own suffering for the gospel. If any of this were a lie the church at Corinth would have destroyed the letters and soundly renounced them. No organization would have put up with such scolding and embarrassment from someone who interlaced lies with his scolding and accusation.
But that is not what they did. The letters were preserved like treasures. They were copied and circulated widely. They were referenced and quoted by other authors of the time. There is no literature written within 200 years of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that is in any way critical of the letters or disputes the facts in the letters. Obviously the people of Corinth had no evidence that Paul was a lying conspirator, and they would have themselves been eyewitnesses to the historical events Paul relates.
Now it is time for you to choose. Were the New Testament writers liars, or were they telling what they believed to be the truth? To think they are liars you must believe:
- They created an immense conspiracy, maintained it for over 50 years, and kept it consistent even though the conspirators were spread throughout the world (without cell phones!).
- They chose to have Jesus appear first to women who were little more than property instead of to one or all of them.
- They purposefully put discrepancies in their stories even though their lives depended on it being believed.
- They created stories that made them look very bad, even though the liars needed followers.
- They made up the words of Jesus, but didn’t make up quotes that solved their immediate problems.
- They created a religion that was extremely difficult to believe or follow, often resulting in death to the believer.
- They came up with an entirely new way to fulfill the Old Testament requiring followers to believe something completely different from what they had been taught their entire life.
- Some how the witnesses to the events of the time didn’t feels the need to prove the writers were liars but did feel the need to hunt them down and kill them.
- The writers continued to tell their lies even though they were all persecuted and eventually killed for telling the lie and they could have saved themselves by admitting they were lying.
- Paul chose to be part of the conspiracy even though he was both rich and powerful before joining the conspiracy and lost everything he had by supporting the conspiracy.
- Archeology has proven the authors to be extremely accurate historians, but they were able to weave a huge lie so accurately into actual historical events, and the witnesses to those events didn’t refute the authors
- The enemies of the New Testament writers couldn’t produce the body and even confirmed that the tomb was empty.
- The church in Corinth would cherish and distribute letters severely scolding them even though they knew the author was lying.
Seriously, can anyone possible believe all that? I am not claiming that this proves the authors were 100% accurate, but this does prove, beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt, that the authors of the New Testament were writing what they believed was the truth.
Other Posts In This Series
- If I Were God: I would have made it impossible to think the New Testament was a lie.
- God Made It Clear That The New Testament Is Not A Lie
- The New Testament Is A Lie Because…# 2
- The New Testament is a lie because…# 1
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 1 – You Can’t Prove Anything
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 2 – Whether It Is A Lie Or Not Is Irrelevent.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 3 – Just because it isn’t a lie, doesn’t make it true
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 4 – The conspiracy would have been immense and incredibly difficult to concoct and maintain.
- Are The New Testament Writers Lying? : A Point By Point Discussion
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 5 – No liar would have had Jesus appear to women first.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 6 – The writers would not have any discrepancies in their stories.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 7 – The writers would not have made themselves look so bad.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 8 – The writers would use "Jesus said…" to solve their problems.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 9 – Liars would never have created a religion that was so difficult to believe or follow.
- Is The New Testament A Lie: Point 10 – Liars would never imagine such a twist of belief.