Truth, Understanding, Insight

How do we know the Bible is true?

16th December 2012, hej


1) The Evidence to Proof for faith

How do we prove Jesus is our saviour?

How do we prove that what the Apostles wrote about is true?

The Bible says we are to prove things.

Despise not prophesies. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1Thessalonians 5:20-21)

How do we prove something?

There are some philosophers that may argue learnedly about whether things, including themselves, exist or not. If they are pinched, however they hurt just like you and I.

Proving things, is the same as knowing them as fact.

For example: How do we know that water boils at 100 degrees C? Very few people have tested it. If you have not tested it, is it indeed a fact? Does it cease to be a fact because you have not tested it? We know, or have faith because the people who told us about it could be trusted. We believe that some experts proved it by examining the evidence.

Another example: We are at the beach. We can know if the water is cold without going into it. How? We ask others and we believe their report, especially if more than 2 people agree. We may also see people come out of the water shivering. This is evidence. We can then know or have faith that the water is cold. We can see and hear enough evidence to prove it to ourselves enough that we won't actually test it ourselves.

A third example: If we are in a court, one of a jury, before leaving the room we must make a decision that will affect someone's life. This is something that is done by ordinary people every day of the year, without which society would not function. We would view evidence and make a decision, that we know is right. The result of our decision is that someone is proven guilty or innocent.

How do we prove the Bible?

The answer is that in exactly the same way we prove whether a person is guilty or innocent of a crime, we prove whether the Bible's accounts are true or not. There is a trial and witnesses are interviewed. A jury sits, but every person on the jury is required to make up their mind based on the evidence of people given in court.

We note this that, nobody on the Jury is allowed at the scene of a crime. If they were there at the time they are a witness, and not allowed on the jury. Our decision is all based on what evidence is heard in the courtroom. On this evidence people are proven guilty, or innocent and are put to death, or made free.

The Bible is the evidence given by witnesses of events. The New Testament in particular say it is the account of witnesses.

The claim of eye-witness

A fisherman named Peter, who could read and write Hebrew and Greek (living as he did in the Galilee), but still a fisherman, gave this following witness.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,

but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2Peter 1:16-19)

Peter says his whole message is based on something he knows to be true, as not only he saw, and heard it, but others with him (Matt 17:5, Mark 9:7 & Luke 9:35). He had seen much prophecy already fulfilled with his own eyes, and on that evidence, called it 'sure.'

With Peter on the mount according to all accounts, was another fisherman, named John. He was not from a poor family, as they hired servants (Mark 1:20) and he was known to the High Priest (John 18:15). His Greek is so exemplar it is used to teach ancient Greek today. He wrote of his eyewitness

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1John 1:1-3)

In this way John says the Word of life, or prophecy, was so fulfilled that he heard it, saw it and pondered it and even touched it.

It's up to us to look at the evidence of the witnesses and prove them.

    We ask

1. Are they covering up their weakness (some truth/some lie) Are they hiding something?

  1. Are they a reliable type of people?

  2. Are they telling white lies, are they imagining things?

  3. Is the whole a huge lie?

  4. Or is it the whole truth?

If we are in a courtroom, one of a jury, before leaving the room we must make a decision that will affect someone's life. This is something that is done by ordinary people every day of the year, without which society would not function.

In a court there is only 'guilty' or 'not guilty'. If you are on a jury and you can't make up your mind, you will be put under pressure to do so. There is only true or false. If something is 'half-true' it is false. If something is half-lie, it is a whole lie.

The decision regarding the Bible that we make affects our life, now... and in the future.

2) Witness One: Stephen

As a jury person in a courtroom all we have to go on is the words and a feel of who the witnesses are. Stephen was put on trial. One witness says:

“This man ceases not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.” (Acts 6:13-14)

This witness says Stephen is blasphemous.

Another witness for Stephen's character says:

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business..... And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost... (Acts 6:1-5)

This witness says Stephen was honest, and would not lie and would not blaspheme. In addition this witness says,

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. (Acts 6:8)

This witness indicates these wonders and miracles could not be doubted. We remember in a courtroom that we were not there, but we are listening to the evidence. Is this witness lying or is it the truth? Did Stephen do miracles? We keep it in the back of our mind.

Another witness comes forward and tells of Stephen disputing. This is true as this is the reason he is on trial.

Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. (Acts 6:9)

The witness for Stephen says

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. (Acts 6:10)

This witness for Stephen may be right as we know people don't attack others unless there is a reason. It's human nature to want to catch out someone you can't win an argument against. The reason that Stephen is on trial would be agreed. The Elders and Scribes of the city had been persuaded to catch him to put him on trial.

They stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council (trial), (Acts 6:12)

Let us remind ourselves of the accusation

For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. (Acts 6:14)

This question is really, 'Is Jesus the Messiah?' If Jesus is the Messiah then what Jesus says is right and true. (As an aside the temple ceased to exist in AD 70 exactly as Jesus predicted, even to the date. It appears no Christians who followed Jesus' advice and believed him died in the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.)

The Judge (in this case the high priest) stands up and asks Stephen:

“Are these things so?” (Acts 7:1)

This is Stephen's own defence. We can get a feel for who he is:

“Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show you. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from there, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein you now dwell. And he (God) gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. (Acts 7:2-5)

He is respectful. Though a Greek he knows his Hebrew history and identifies with them. He thinks God is real and can speak to humans. He is intelligent and able to draw in ideas from history. He is honest in that the says that promises were made but not kept at that time. The other witnesses though they hate Stephen don't disagree with this! To this point they all agree with him. He continues..

“And God spoke on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. (Acts 7:6-7)

Stephen says that it was a prophecy written into the history of Israel, that Israel would be in bondage in Egypt, and would be badly treated there. All there agreed that this prophecy was made and that it came to pass. Stephen continues.

“And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:8-10)

Stephen states a fact that is obvious today. All Jewish boys are circumcised on the 8th day (even on a Sabbath). Stephen also does not lie to make it sound nicer. He says the fathers of Israel (the ancestors of those putting him on trial) envied Joseph and harmed him. This was agreed as a fact by these people who had Stephen on trial as they let him continue.

So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem. But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. (Acts 7:15-25)

Stephen a Greek, is pulling no punches, he says the Jewish ancestors did not understand Moses was their deliverer. These adversaries of Stephen accept this assessment as unarguable! This is fact. Stephen continues.

And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Will you kill me, as thou did the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.

And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. Then said the Lord to him, Put off your shoes from your feet: for the place where you stand is holy ground. I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you into Egypt.

This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. (Acts 7:26-35)

Again Stephen hits a sore spot they cannot gainsay. This is the Jewish history. This is the history as we would see in a school text book, its not nice, its not admirable – it happens to have the weight of witnesses back then to have carried through the 1450 years since it happened. It is accepted as fact. Stephen is allowed to continue.

He brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall you hear. (Acts 7:36-37)

This is was a prophecy they were all familiar with. We know that before the New Testament was written there were copies of this prophecy. We have the Dead sea scrolls taking this text back before the year AD. All agreed, even those that hated Stephen that Moses had predicted a prophet would be sent by God who would be of the Jewish people. Stephen continues.

This is he, that was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon. (Acts 7:38-43)

Stephen is hitting very hard here and quoting the Jewish prophets to condemn the ancestors of these Jewish people who accused him. And we note that these other witnesses accept that what Stephen says is true, even though they hate him. This is a messy incident in the history of Israel where the people rebelled against Moses. The great Moses is shown as losing control totally. The text says their God condemned them. What other nation has it in their history that their God gave them to serve other gods for disobedience? But it was accepted as true in this court case. Stephen is allowed to continue.

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as said the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? said the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all these things? (Acts 7:44-50)

This is the heart of the issue, now this is the point of dispute. But note how Stephen respects the Tabernacle. He also says that Solomon built God a house. This says that he agrees with the people who are attacking him. So what's this trial all about? Stephen who is a Greek, says that a Jewish prophet said that God does not dwell in the temples made with hands! No wonder they hated him. He used their own scripture to say they had a wrong view! But they accept this as they cannot argue again this prophet. This prophet wrote before the years AD. A scroll dated before this is in a museum in Israel. This is the next part of the passage Stephen quotes, showing he know the Bible better than the people accusing him.

Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things has mine hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

With this context Stephen is saying to us that God wants people to serve him from their hearts, and to be humble. Even at this the crowd of people who hate Stephen accept what he says. They let him continue.

You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. (Acts 7:51-53)

Here Stephen says that those that hate him have killed “the Just One” whom they have murdered. Jesus has been crucified. All there agree on that. The question was Jesus the Messiah?

Do we believe Stephen?

At this point in the record we have of events it says that the crowd picked up stones and killed Stephen. Stephen has some last words.

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56)

The 'Son of man', is what Jesus called himself, he is also the 'Just One'. Stephen says he saw Jesus. Is he to be believed? We see what type of person he was. While they stone him he said,

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. (Acts 7:59-60)

This shows Stephen as a kind person who forgives people who hate him. But is this account to be believed?

3) Bible Witness Two: Saul

The record we have says the witnesses who hated Stephen, and stoned him, had a leader.

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (Acts 7:58)

Saul, who hated Stephen at this time, and all that Stephen stood for, was there and can verify whether the events as recorded in the scriptures are true or not. Does Saul verify this? Saul confesses this,

For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)

Saul says he gained a leadership position by persecuting those like Stephen.

Let us get to know Saul. Saul was a witness against Stephen. We can feel that he was zealous. In his own way, as zealous as Stephen. He says of himself (we note this was a verifiable fact of that time).

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Phillipians 3:5-7)

The tribe of Benjamin was the tribe from which the very first Jewish king came. In addition he was a free born Roman Citizen (Acts 22:28). We learn that Saul goes from persecuting the church to being its greatest preacher to the world, and in the process changes his name to Paul, not to hide who he is, for it is written in many places that Saul is Paul and, he freely confesses in many places he was a great persecutor before being converted.

This type of behaviour is remarkable. Very few people would give up their whole heritage and their personal promotion to leadership live a life of terrible pain and privation leading to death. For what? For an idea that Jesus came as the Messiah and rose from the dead? How does Saul say he was converted? Luke who wrote the Acts tells us this.

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecute thou me?

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”. And he trembling and astonished said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” And the Lord said unto him, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do”. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays, And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake”.(Acts 9:1-16)

This relates incidents that were verifiable by many people. Saul and the others with him (all no doubt to help him as he was a leader) heard this voice. Ananias, another witness, knows very well that Saul has the intent to harm him because he believed in Jesus. Yet Ananias is told that Saul will suffer for Jesus' name sake. Saul then does something amazing. He goes among the people for which there were many witnesses and,

straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. (Acts 9:20-22)

This was the very issue for which he personally consented to the stoning of Stephen.

Now Saul is another Stephen, just as zealous and nobody can argue against him. He develops enemies, most probably some of his former supporters. They hated him so much that Luke says,

After that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:23-25)

We note that only Saul is putting himself out there and arguing about this issue. While most other disciples of Jesus are keeping a low profile, Saul is causing a stir preaching.

His character is the same, but his witness is now changed. Let us hear his witness to us given in the evidence he writes himself.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1Corintians 15:3-11)

Saul says he is a witness that Jesus Christ died for our sins. He says that though he originally did not believe Cephas and the 12 Disciples, he now does. He said also that it was common knowledge that 500 people had seen Jesus alive after being dead at once, and he calls to witness that at the time he was writing his account it could be verified as there were people alive who could confirm this. Then Saul gives the reason why believed Cephas and the 12 and the 500 and James – that He himself had seen and heard Jesus. Saul, exactly like Stephen refers to the Old Testament scriptures as back up. Do we believe Saul? Does he sound like an honest person? We know he is zealous. Was he misguided? He continues his witness to us.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1Corinthians 15:3-21)

Here Saul (Paul) says he is a witness that Jesus rose from the dead and was the Messiah of the Old Testament- and we note this is some years later and he is still arguing about this very point: 'was Jesus resurrected or not?' Paul says he was a witness.

At this time Paul was little valued. We look back but at that time he was poor, suffering ill health, and working hard for his convictions totally selflessly. Do we believe this person? Is he a reliable witness?

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2Corinthians 11:23-27)

Saul is shown as confirming Stephen's witness though he was involved in killing Stephen. Can we believe Saul?

We have another witness for both of them. His name is Luke. Saul (Paul) wrote his own witness in his letters, many fragments of which go back to the years when people who could have known Saul (Paul) were still alive. We know Saul like Stephen dies for his beliefs, does this make him seem more truthful?

Saul (Paul) maintained this conviction he had seen the risen Jesus through years of hardship and imprisonment. Do we believe his evidence? But another witness can tell us of events. We do not need to rely on Saul's (Paul's) word.

4) Witness three: Luke

Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke begins his gospel record,

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order, most excellent Theophilus, That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Here Luke is saying that his history, for history it is, is the account of eyewitnesses and that Luke himself knew, and whom he trusted.

Luke knew Saul (Paul) very well as he travelled with him and saw him work. In the book of Acts Luke is himself an eyewitness. In his record he uses “we”. Sometimes Luke reports others witness, but here he is a an eyewitness.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. (Acts 16:9-15)

Luke believes that Paul had indeed seen a vision. And the result is confirmed in the conversion of Lydia who was a Hebrew proselyte (that is worshipped God). This is evidence to Luke that Paul is speaking the truth on other matters. In addition Luke witnesses the healing by Paul of a girl.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Acts 16:16-18)

This healing Luke and others witnessed was done in the name of Jesus Christ. In this name only they had power. Luke witnessed that Paul had power from God in the Name of Jesus Christ. Therefore Luke is witness who believed that Paul spoke the truth, as he witnesses to us that Paul had the power of God, so we can know Paul spoke always truth as the God of the Bible hates liars and false witnesses.

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Luke tells us of Paul's formal public witness giving evidence in his trial before King Agrippa, which would have been part of the Scribes writings as a historical event. It is rather long but worth considering in the evidence we consider as to whether we think Paul is reliable or not. We note the eyewitness of the actions.

Agrippa formally asks Paul to give his evidence,

“Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.”

Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:1-5)

Paul appeals to common knowledge and tells us of his past character. Paul is saying that he was a servant of God, and abided by the laws.

Unlike the trial of Stephen there are no people here that hate Paul. Agrippa was a neutral politician. He is allowed to continue.

And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:6-11)

Paul confesses things he did to put others in prison, confessing that he now speaks for the very thing he persecuted other people for doing. This also is fact and well known history as others can be consulted such as the Chief Priests.

The crux of Paul's argument to Agrippa is the question:

Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Paul continues his witness.

“Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecut. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:12-18)

Paul refers to other people to confirm the veracity of his experience. Then he recounts what he heard Jesus say. We may ask now again is Paul likely to be telling the truth, the whole truth? If Paul is telling the truth, then what Jesus says to him was really said, and, what Jesus says to him is true. Paul continues,

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:19-23)

Paul says lastly that he only did what he had done- and throughout the known world some of his fellow Jews wanted to kill him for it! - in obedience to Jesus. Was Paul mad? Luke says, Festus, (who was with Agrippa at the trial of Paul), thought this

And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24)

Does Paul sound to us mad? Do we know enough about the prophets to confirm they spoke of Messiah suffering for our sins ?(We can go to Isaiah 41, etc.) For Paul answers,

“I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believe thou the prophets? I know that thou believe.” (Acts 26:25-27)

Paul appeals to two things, one that Agrippa knows of the events in the city and was a witness himself and secondly that he knew Jewish belief. Here then we are given the witness of Agrippa, a man expert in the Jewish religion and who knew of the faith in God.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuade me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:28)

Agrippa knows Paul has a valid point. He tells us that Paul is not mad. Why might King Agrippa not want to be a Christian? Would it not affect his power? Agrippa is not a faithful servant of God, only an expert on what faithful people believe – and he sees Paul's point. Do we think Paul is a good witness and honest? Can we believe what he says?

Luke has one last eyewitness account of Paul's witness. This is Luke's record as he follows Paul who is bound in manacles for speaking out about Christ on his way to Rome.

Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them,

“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what you think: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. (Acts 28:14-24)

This is the end of Luke's witness or evidence regarding Saul (Paul). Is Luke reliable?

5) Fourth Witness: Archaeology

Luke is regarded as a reliable witness to history. We have this testimony- evidence – of modern historians and archaeologists.

From Sherwin-White and Ramsay respectively:

“In Acts or in that part of Acts which is concerned with the adventures of Paul in Asia Minor and Greece, one is aware all the time of the Hellenistic and Roman setting. The historical framework is exact. In terms of time and place the details are precise and correct. One walks the streets and market-places, the theatres and assemblies of first-century Ephesus or Thessalonica, Corinth or Philippi, with the author of Acts. ...The feel and tone of city life is the same as in the descriptions of Strabo and Dio of Prusa...In all these ways Acts takes us on a conducted tour of the Greco-Roman world. The detail is so interwoven with the narrative of the mission as to be inseparable. (RSRL, pp.120, 121)

In Ephesus Paul taught `in the school of Tyrannus'; in the city of Socrates he discussed moral questions in the market-place. How incongruous it would seem if the methods were transposed! But the narrative never makes a false step amid all the many details, as the scene changes from city to city; and that is the conclusive proof that it is a picture of real life”. (SPT, p. 238)

"The accounts of these trials in Acts is so technically correct that Roman historians since Mommsen have often judged them as the best illustration of Roman provincial jurisdiction in this particular period" (TC, p. 101). And in circumscribing our topic of the historicity of Acts from its presentation of judicial concerns he declared: "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming....any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken if for granted" (RSRL, p. 189).

6) Summing up of the reliability of the evidence

At a trial at the end the two parties sum up the evidence. We have to be the judge. How reliable are they?

Luke is agreed by all, even doubters of his message, to be a real person who lived at the time he said he did and was accurate in all historical matters. Therefore it is likely when he speaks of his own personal experience that he is speaking the truth. If someone habitually writes the truth, and is writing a factual history, it is an insult to them not to believe their own personal testimony! We would believe seemingly incredible accounts by decorated and sincere returned soldiers who survived in battle as historical fact. Luke was a proselyte to Judaism and had left his culture and had nothing to gain. We remember that in Luke's adopted culture that they knew their God hated liars.

Luke says he saw a girl (and others) healed by Paul in Jesus' name, There is no doubt in Luke's mind the girl was healed as Paul and Silas are put in prison for it. Luke shows this is evidence that God was with Paul and that Paul was telling the truth when he healed people in Jesus' name. Therefore, in Luke's opinion, there was no doubt that Jesus really had been raised and that he was expected Messiah.

Luke also gives witness that Paul, before he believed Jesus was the Messiah, did not believe the apostles who said they had seen Jesus alive, and was involved in stoning Stephen. Luke knew Paul and Paul witnessed that Luke's record of Stephen's testimony was accurate. In fact Paul, also a zealous person, becomes like Stephen, arguing publicly and speaking the same things as Stephen did and ending up in prison for it. There is no doubt Paul is a real historical person, and that he really wrote the letters that have his name on them.

Stephen, a Greek proselyte to Judaism, gave witness that Jesus was the Messiah based on the witness of those he knew personally, who had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, and the evidence in scriptures which said Messiah was to die.

We have two witnesses, Luke and Paul, who confirm what Stephen said and believed. There is no doubt Stephen was zealous and died for his beliefs. Guilt regarding Stephen was also possibly the reason Paul worked so hard to convert the world to believe what Stephen had preached, that Jesus had risen from the dead and was the Messiah who would save people from their sins.

Where we stand

We have the witnesses testimony. Based on the evidence given, we can prove whether the case for Jesus being raised is true or not. There is no half measure as a half lie is a whole lie. We remember they believed a witness who lies is an abomination to God. We don't trust people who lie to us even in things that don't matter. It is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or it is all a lie.

  1. Is it likely Luke's testimony is true or false?

  2. Is it likely Paul's testimony is true or false?

  3. Is it likely Stephen's testimony is true or false?

If true to all, as they sound like they would not lie: then

We have a proof. We would not convict them. We would set them free as truthful people who did not do wrong.

If we set them free, we must accept that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. We accept that he is the Messiah predicted of in the Old Testament. We then can know for sure that by associating with his name we can be saved from eternal death.

If we can believe the witnesses, we can believe in Jesus and have faith. Faith is conviction. We have made a conviction based on evidence. If we cannot make up our minds on this evidence, how can we decide on, or know, anything.

Topics: truth, evidence, faith

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