June 26, 2022

In this episode, Kurt speaks with Ted Wright on how we can know the Bible is a reliable collection of documents.

Listen to “Episode 136: Explore God – Is the Bible Reliable?” on Spreaker.

Kurt Jaros

Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.

There’s a lot to speak with you about today on our program as we continue our “explore God” series. This week we are talking about: is the Bible reliable? And before we get to that there are a few issues of society in which I want to speak and have addressed on our program.

First, what caught my attention this week was the number of tax refunds, or the how the number of complaints about tax refunds that people were getting, led to many people being disappointed that it wasn’t as much as in past years. And I wanted to help us think through what this means exactly. Sometimes when we’re so narrowed in on one thing, we forget the big picture. And that’s often the case with how we read the Bible. If we’re so narrowed in on one verse here or there, we forget the big picture, we’re not going to understand what that verse is actually saying; what it really means. So, how does that principle of interpretation apply to tax returns? Well, if you first you need to ask yourself, how much did the person pay in taxes? That’s the big picture. How much did you pay to Uncle Sam, to the federal government? And then how much did you get back? Well, if you got back a small amount, that might not be a big issue if you didn’t pay that much, or as much to the government. So, I think we need to look at the big picture here and realize, hey, maybe that’s the case. And very likely, I think that is what’s happening here, that people are paying fewer taxes, so they are going to get a smaller refund. And that’s generally a good thing. Now, if only the government would also say cut spending, and decrease the debt! Those are other big issues as part of the big picture that people need to be worried about. So if you’re on social media, or if you’re talking to people and they’re complaining about their smaller tax refund, maybe first ask them, “Well, how much did you pay? And how does that compare to last year?” So, gaining some right perspective is important.

Okay. Now, I want to introduce someone who has been on the podcast before but never in person. He’s here in studio in West Chicago, his name is Mark Lester, and you might remember him from his “check mark”, movie review website. Mark’s come on our program from time to time. And we’re in that season of the Oscar nominations. And so mark, I figured I’d let you take it away with your predictions of the who’s gonna win the categories. And maybe you can tell us who’s nominated for these positions as well.

Mark Lester

All right, thank you. Good morning, uh, afternoon. Sorry, afternoon, everyone. Um, yeah, there are, I won’t go through all of them, but there are a lot of factors going into a lot of these nominations, especially with the big one, best picture, having a lot of controversies. So, the nominees for those who don’t know are Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, the favorite, Greenbook, Roma, A Star Is Born, and Vice. And of all these movies… I’m still tossing and turning in my head as to which one I think will win. My personal favorite, out of all of them, is Roma. If you have Netflix, totally check it out. But I think it’s between that and Green Book, because Green Book is a very good feeling movie that, you know… It’s one that you’re like, you know, “I really like this one. That was good.” Well, good.

Kurt Jaros

What’s that movie about? Mark Greenberg?

Mark Lester

It’s the one that starred Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. It was based off the true story of this Italian American bouncer who takes a African American musician and basically accompanies him through concerts in the deep south during the early 1960’s. And it’s got very good performances and obviously it deals on racism and, you know, nice character development and very good performances. But there was a lot of controversy that they weren’t sure if it was entirely accurate. Then there were, of course, other weird sometimes political statements made by the director, Peter Farrelly. So that could hurt its chances. It’s also up for best actor for Mortgensen and supporting actor for Ali. I think right now my gut reaction is saying it could be Roma, but again, Greenbook can make a comeback at it. And there’s even some people saying the same for Black Panther, which, you know, would be historic and being the first superhero movie to ever win a Best Picture award; the first ever to be nominated.

Kurt Jaros

And you mentioned that there was some controversy. And I think some of its been surrounding Black Panthers nomination.

Mark Lester

There was there was some of it because… I still personally don’t understand the entire nomination process for Best Picture because it’s the one category you vote for differently versus other categories where you just see the five or however many nominees there are, versus Best Picture where you take all the nominees and you rank them basically. And they count the ranking somehow. So a movie that’s not anyone’s favorite pic could still end up being the best picture winner. So it’s really interesting and odd in that aspect as well. Um, I think there’s also controversy, of course, probably the most controversial one would be Bohemian Rhapsody, which, you know, for those who don’t know, is based off of the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen and stuff. And the main controversy surrounding that as its director, or almost lack thereof, director Bryan Singer, who was sometimes on set and sometimes wasn’t and then was just hit hard with all these sexual misconduct allegations. And basically, the producers and everyone involved just basically tried to distance themselves, understandably, as far away from him as possible. Um, that movie also brings up Best Actor, which is very, a very tough race. Rami Malik does a very, I thought, did a great job. He’s easily the best part of the movie, but I’m not sure he’s gonna win Best Actor. It’s really close between him and Christian Bale for Vice. And despite your political views and whatnot on Vice, it’s really hard to argue that Christian Bale isn’t one of the best actors we have. And he does an outstanding job. So, I’m really tossing and turning, but I’m thinking at the moment, it’ll be Rami Malik. Okay.

There are other awards that I think are very easy to predict: Best Actress: you do have some nominees that might possibly pull an upset, but I this is gonna be Glenn Close. Okay. I mean, you might make an argument that Lady Gaga could pull off an upset for A Star is Born, who was really outstanding, but I think they’re gonna reward her with Best Song, which I think is the easiest one to predict of the whole night, for her song, Shallow. Best Supporting Actor is more than likely going to go to Mahershala Ali again for Greenbook and Supporting Actress is again also kind of easy to predict; Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk. And also it makes me happy too because Best Animated Feature has one of my favorite movies of last year, which I’m happy to say I think has a great shot of winning and that was Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, which I thought was outstanding. And this is a movie for people who are like, Oh, I don’t like superhero movies, or I don’t like animated movies. It’s so wonderful. So funny. It has the best ending credit scene I’ve ever seen in any superhero movie. And I think it’s got a great shot of winning.

Kurt Jaros

Nice. How about for last bit, give us what you think is gonna be the biggest underdog.

Mark Lester

The biggest underdog I think of all of them, at least of all the best picture ones… I’m thinking Black Panther. It all depends because the voters in the academy are, they’re like changing their membership. They’ve changed it over the years to include more people to avoid another year where they’re like, oh, Oscars so white and stuff like that. Um, so that could be a possible Best Picture spoiler. But at the same time, so that would be my underdog pic. But again, I’m still not entirely seeing that being likely.

Kurt Jaros

Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, Hey, thank you for giving us an update on the movie front there. And for those that are interested, Mark is actually going to begin writing Movie Reviews over at Apologetics315.com. We’re looking forward to migrating some of his old content over there and the new material that he has, it’s a great way for folks that are interested in getting a quick summary of a plot. And then also some critical thoughts, both just from a cinematic front, but also theological front as well, how we, as Christians should understand film as art. Mark, of course, is of like mindedness with me that art shouldn’t be preachy, right? Sometimes Christian art, whatever that is, whatever that might be, it’s often done very poorly, and it preaches and it’s not art. Whereas, you know, to me, I think a band like U2, I mean, they’ve impacted the culture in ways that you know, even DC Talk could never have dreamed of. So, it’s just playing to certain audiences. But I think we should just make objectively beautiful art. And when we do so, I think that that will lead people to the transcendent God. So I look forward to the reviews that are forthcoming on Apologetics315.

Mark, thank you. Great. Thanks for coming on our program today. Thank you.

All right. Well, we are going to begin talking about the reliability of the Bible. And again, this is part of our explore God series, where we are asking the deep questions of life, and to help us work through issues of reliability of the Bible, I’ve invited Ted Wright onto the program. He is the founder of Epic Archaeology. He’s a freelance teacher, writer, researcher, and for over a decade, maybe two decades now, Ted, you have been a seminary professor, a Christian apologist and archaeologist. You’ve been on the History Channel, I think, maybe CNN as well. And most of all, I consider you a friend. So thank you for joining us on the program today, Ted.

Ted Wright

It’s great to be on Kirk. Thanks for having having me on again.

Kurt Jaros

Yes, yes. Now, I’m sure we are going to talk about archaeology. But some of the issues of reliability go beyond even archaeological matters. But first, let me just start it off with this. So I’ve asked you to come on the program today to talk about the reliability of the Bible. And you have spent some time again as a seminary professor and apologist and an archaeologist. So why do you think that the reliability of the Bible is important?

Ted Wright

Yeah, that question sort of gets right to the heart of the matter. We live in such a, you know, an age in which you know, you can’t trust the news and that kind of thing. So if you think about it, you know, what we’re what we’re saying as Christians is we’re saying that we actually believe that Jesus, this guy that lived 2000 years ago, that he literally rose from the dead. I mean, that’s a pretty, and we all believe that’s familiar to Christians, but you got to think of how that might sound to someone who is not a believer, or who’s not as familiar with that. I mean, we’re literally saying that not only did he rise again, but he’s literally God in the flesh, he’s God come down. So this kind of gets to what the Apostle Paul is talking about, and in First Corinthians chapter 15, he’s talking about the fact that if there is no resurrection, then our faith is futile. So, you know, the resurrection is the core miracle, it’s the core truth of the Christian faith. And if it didn’t happen, if it actually did not happen in history, then then we’re just all believing a bunch of fairy tales and lies. So then that means that reliability of the text becomes of a really great importance, because the four Gospels and of course, the New Testament, is really the primary place. Now today we’re talking about this, but there are other places that record contemporary accounts of some of the same things. But I would consider the New Testament as the primary source material for the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. So that’s why it’s important. Reliability is important because it really anchors the core truth of the Christian faith. What we’re saying is that we believe Jesus literally rose from the dead. So that’s my answer to your question.

Kurt Jaros

Yeah. So there is this connection between the reliability of the Bible and Christian belief. And I was, once again, attuned to this from a recent tweet. From Randall Rouser, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, he’s a Christian apologist. He calls himself a tentative apologist, here on Twitter. He puts out this survey, and there have been surveys done on this question before. He writes, “if the bones of Jesus were definitively identified in an archaeological dig, would you cease to be a Christian?” And the majority of people say yes, which I think is the right answer, actually. And I think First Corinthians 15 tells us that same thing if Jesus has not been resurrected. If he’s still dead, then our faiths in vain and we call God a liar. So, yes, we’d be done being Christian. Now maybe we become Jewish. But in terms of Christian theism, there is that connection between the reliability of the Bible and Christian belief. So different apologists approach defending Christianity, the Bible and the resurrection in different ways. But you have what’s called a classical, apologetic approach. Can you explain what that approach is?

Ted Wright

Yes, absolutely. Um, so the classical approach… There are apologists who focus primarily on the historical parts, and that’s what we do as well at Epic Archaeology. But I try to make the point that CS Lewis does, in fact, one of his most famous books, besides Mere Christianity, is his book called Miracles. And essentially, what Lewis is saying is that historical investigation really can’t give you, by itself, can’t give you the resurrection. So, in the classical approach, what we do is we present theistic arguments first, and I’m not gonna do that here. That’s, you know, there’s a lot of good arguments that God exists. But we begin with the premise or we begin to, you know, to make the foundational claim that there is a theistic transcendent, spaceless, timeless, immaterial being called God. So theism comes first, and with theism, then you get miracles. And why are miracles important? Well, because as we said earlier, the core truth of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Christ from the dead. So, as Lewis said, in his book Miracles, he says, but if we admit God, must we admit miracles? He said, indeed, you have no security against it. That’s the bargain. He also says, this is very, very enlightening, or a very interesting thing. And if it’s okay, if I read a couple of paragraphs, and I will, um, but it’s a very, very insightful thing that Lewis, i don’t see a lot of apologists quote this, but I think Lewis is absolutely right about this.

He says; “Immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous. Still less can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence, ‘according to the ordinary rules as to historical inquiry’, but the ordinary rules cannot be worked out until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us if they are possible, but immensely improbable, then only mathematical demonstration, demonstrative evidence will convince us. And since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred. If, on the other hand, miracles are not intrinsically improbable, than the existing evidence will be sufficient to convince us that quite a number of miracles have occurred. The result of our historical inquiries thus, depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even begin to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.” And I think he’s absolutely right.

So what he’s saying is that you can spend all the time you want arguing for the historical reliability of the Bible, but if we, if there is no God, and if God doesn’t exist, then the thing that the Bible is recording can’t be true logically. It can’t be true, I think, from a logical standpoint. Lewis is right. So, so I’d like to preface a discussion about historical reliability by being careful to make that distinction. This is another argument for another time and, you know, your listeners and, and other people who do a lot of reading, you know, there’s some great books out there from William Lane Craig and from John Lennox and you’ve had other guests on your show and Veracity Hill, you know, that have some really great arguments for God’s existence, intelligent design, any number of arguments.

So that’s foundational.

And it’s only after that point, then we begin to look at miracles. And let me just say a couple of quick things about miracles as we kind of get into this a little bit. And it’s actually, well, first, I want to give you a quote, this sort of, why do we spend so much time you know, or why does the classical approach spend so much time arguing for theism? Because it’s foundational, and here’s a very interesting admission from 1997. Richard Lewington is a scientist, he basically made this admission in the New York Review of Books in January of 1997. He said, he says this, listen: “It’s not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world. But on the contrary, we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” And that’s really, Richard Lewington. So, he’s admitting that there’s a philosophical bias against miracles. This is true not only for scientists, but also for archaeologists as well. So when an archaeologist or historian like Bart Ehrman, you know, as they’re looking into the text, if they’re already an atheist or an agnostic., any kind of historical investigation they do is going to be colored with their predisposition to this philosophical bias against miracles. So, I think from an apologetics standpoint, it’s really important. The classical approach, I think, from a logical standpoint, makes more sense to me. And again, I’ve got friends who have different views, so I’m not, you know, absolutely dogmatic about it. It’s just the view that I take.

And then the second thing I want to say about miracles is kind of: what is the function of a miracle in the Bible. You can spend a lot of time on this, but we’re not going to do that obviously, you know, but really, what’s the whole point of miracles? I mean, we go around saying that, you know, miracles happen every day. No, I mean, that’s the whole thing about David Hume’s critique about miracles, but, but in the Bible, miracles confirm the message. And you know, when you look at the Old Testament, and you look at Moses, you look at Elijah, and you look at other prophets, from from a biblical standpoint, the miracles confirm the person that’s speaking. And of course, Jesus, he is a prophet and more than a prophet. And he will, obviously confirm who he is by the miracle of the resurrection. So that’s sort of a little background preface to get us started and talking about the historical reliability of the Bible. So all that comes first. And then we get to the historical reliability part.

Kurt Jaros

Yeah. And it seems important to sort of lay that good foundation, because a lot of people will immediately dismiss the Bible, on the grounds that there are miracle claims, and well, we know miracles don’t happen. So it’s good to say, hey, look, let’s consider our philosophical assumptions that we have, and if miracles are even possible, then let’s take a look at the Bible. And let’s see what it has to say. And my thought is, well, if the Creator God makes this universe, having to do little miracles here and there, it’s a piece of cake. It’s just, yes, a cakewalk for him.

Ted Wright

Yeah. Fiction. A resurrection is, is nothing. Yeah. Because he, I mean, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth.” I mean, we’re here. I mean, the space time universe exists. So yeah, we’re living in a miracle as we say.

Kurt Jaros

Right. Right. So now, the resurrection is the the crux here for Christian belief. And so it’s one of the most important and first places where we learn about the resurrection. That’s the New Testament. And so this really highlights the importance that we placed to the credence we give to the New Testament. If the New Testament itself is hogwash, why would we believe in the resurrection?

Ted Wright

Do I have that right? That’s right. That’s exactly right. Because the New Testament is the place where we learn about it. So it becomes the important link in the chain. And I like the way our friend Jim Wallace, you know, Cold Case homicide detective, Jim talks about a chain of custody. Now he’s a detective and I’m an archaeologist. And so there’s a lot of crossover and similarity between the two disciplines of, you know, being a homicide detective and being an archaeologist because you’re looking at evidence, and you’re looking at trying to find out who did it.

Kurt Jaros

Right, right, who did it. And then, in your case, once something’s discovered from archaeology, you want to make sure it doesn’t get into bad hands, that it’s manipulated or damaged. So you need that chain of custody, so that we can have that secure knowledge of the artifact. That’s right.

Ted Wright

And in the case of the Bible, and Kurt, one of the things I would teach my students is that we’re talking about the resurrection and the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. And that was an event that happened 2000 years ago. So it is an event in history. But most people don’t think about ‘how do we know the past?’ So what I do, what I’d like to begin with is I’d like to begin with a discussion and a question for people listening. And my students are asking the same question. And that is asking, ‘Well, how do we know the past? Once an event happens, then how do we know it?’ And one student was like, well, I’ve never thought about that before. And so we will get into a discussion about what historians call primary sources. And there are three, now I’ve simplified them, there may be others, but they usually roughly fall into three categories. And the three categories are:

  1. eye witnesses
  2. historical records or text manuscripts.
  3. archaeological remains.

So we’ve got eyewitnesses, historical records and archaeological remains. And just an example, just a quick example of how that works. Just to kind of show you the three working together. A modern example would be like the sinking of the Titanic, which happened in 1912. April, I believe it was April of 1912, if my memory serves me correctly. I don’t think there are any eyewitnesses alive today. I think the last eyewitness passed away several years ago. But so nobody today doubts that the Titanic sank. I mean, nobody doubts that. But, so the question is, how do we know it? Well, we did have eyewitnesses, people who were there, people who did survive the sinking of the ship. They wrote diaries, they wrote in newspapers, paper articles and things like that. So they survived. They wrote these things down. So eyewitnesses survived, they were there, they were actually present at the sinking of the Titanic. So you can’t get any closer to the event and actually having been there. They wrote about it. And the third thing we’ve got is we actually have the ship. In 1987, the ship was discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, so we have eyewitnesses, historical records and archaeological remains. So one little angle on that, that will really help us to understand the New Testament: what do you do when the eyewitnesses are gone? I mean, what are you doing, you have two eyewitnesses, and they’re both their conflict, they’re showing conflicting evidence. With the Titanic in 1912, the people who, you know, talked about the sinking of the ship, there were a group that said this ship just sank. And there was another group that said the ship broke in half when it went down on the ocean floor. And there was one eyewitness who was a seven year old girl. And I’ve actually gotten, you can actually look her up on YouTube, I forget her name. But anyway, she said that she saw the ship break in half. So you’ve got one person that says this, the other person says that ‘Well, the only way you can know is to actually go to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and find the ship.’ And sure enough, in 1987, when Robert Ballard discovered the ship, the Titanic, he discovered that the ship had actually broken in half, thus confirming the eyewitness account of the person who says the ship broke in half. But here’s something too, here’s an observation about that. So the observation is that they were both right about the sinking of the ship. They both are in agreement about the main core that the ship sank. That’s what you’re gonna see with eyewitness accounts, you will see little differences here and there. But you will see that they agree on the core truth. And that’s similar to what we see with the New Testament as well.

Kurt Jaros

And that’s a great point you’ve made that some people will approach the Gospels and say that there are differences. There are differences in what happened. And as a result of those differences, they will just dismiss altogether. But that would be akin to the person dismissing the fact that the Titanic sunk on the basis that there’s conflicting eyewitness testimony. Exactly. But, as you said, both eyewitness testimonies agree the Titanic Think. So what can we learn about Jesus? And until further evidence comes to light about maybe certain differences in the gospels? You know, we should hold those differences, maybe more with an open hand, in the same way that people approach to the Titanic until they can go and see whether it broken. So.

Ted Wright

So that’s exactly right. Correct. And one of the thing that I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier, and that is that with the New Testament now, that’s a modern example of the Titanic, that was 1912, that was a 20th century. But when you’re talking about the Bible, you’re talking about 2000 years ago. For this event, the only thing that we have left for our knowledge of the past are the eyewitness accounts as they are placed in the historical text. And that’s the big $64,000 question: are the New Testament documents eyewitness accounts. So we’ve got now, we’ve got two areas in which we can investigate. We have the historical record. And we also have the archaeological remains. And you can compare and contrast what the text says with what we actually find in the ground. And what you can see is pretty remarkable stuff. So with the New Testament, eyewitnesses, there’s a couple of ways. I mean, there’s a whole discussion just about eyewitnesses. But let me just mention two, right here, just as we’re kind of, you know, touching on this today, and that is what with eyewitnesses. What you want ideally, as a historian, you want what’s called an early edit station. Preferably, you want an eyewitness who was at the event. So in the Titanic, the lady that wrote her diary, or whatever, with the Gospels, these were the apostles. And they actually claim when you read the New Testament, Peter says this, and we didn’t invent this. We were eyewitnesses of His Majesty, we saw him, right, we put hands in it. So they’re claiming themselves as eyewitness. And so you want eyewitnesses who were at the event. And also want not only an early edit station, you want multiple at a station. So you want not only one guy saying it, but you want multiple people saying, Yeah, so that’s sort of an internal way of thinking about a eyewitnesses

Kurt Jaros

You can have multiple people corroborating each other’s stories. So this is why Christian theism should be given much more weight than say, Mormonism where you just have one guy, Joseph Smith, saying that these things happened. And then you might with Joseph Smith, you might get other people that agree with him early. But they’re they didn’t experience it themselves. And so there’s a distinction there. That’s important. So you want early testimony and multiple attestations? Multiple folks corroborating the story? Yes, Ted.

Ted, we’ve got to take a break here. When we come back, I think we’ll get into manuscript evidence and other sorts of evidence in looking at the reliability of the Bible. But we’ve laid a good foundation here for how we should approach the text. And you know, look at our assumptions. And from a historical standpoint, why are some of those important? So those are important factors that we need to consider when we’re looking to the text. So well, we’ll take this break now. Stick with us. And we’ll come back with some great, wonderful evidence for the reliability of the Bible.

So Alright, well, we’re talking about the reliability of the Bible today. And we’ve got Ted Wright on the program. He’s the founder of Epic Archaeology, you can visit his website epicarchaeology.org. I’ve always had trouble with archaeology. They’re actually three vowels back to back to back an A an E and an O. Ted, now you’ve been a guest on a program before. We do have some newer questions for rapid questions, though. So I think maybe we should give that a shot and get to learn a little bit more about you. So when you’re ready, I will start the game clock. Okay, go for it. All right. I’ll start off with a couple of them first. Good old fashioned classic questions, so there’ll be easy.

Kurt Jaros

Taco Bell or KFC.

Ted Wright

KFC.

Kurt Jaros

Do you drink Dr. Pepper?

Ted Wright

No.

Kurt Jaros

Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?

Ted Wright

Oh, yes. Many times. Okay.

Kurt Jaros

Have you seen anything weird lately?

Ted Wright

Huh? Hard to say.

Kurt Jaros

What is what is on the walls of the room you are in?

Ted Wright

Awe, a picture of a map of Egypt. That was a made in 19 1844.

Kurt Jaros

Okay, what type of music do you dislike the most?

Ted Wright

Oh, probably country music.

Kurt Jaros

Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving?

Ted Wright

Skydiving.

Kurt Jaros

Who sent the last text message you received?

That would be you.

Kurt Jaros

You carry a donor card? Um, I do not.

Kurt Jaros

Let’s see… where were you on Valentine’s Day.

Ted Wright

I was working.

Kurt Jaros

Let’s see. Oh, the time is up. I’ll ask one more question here. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Ted Wright

Probably a night owl.

Kurt Jaros

Okay. Very nice. Thank you for playing that round of rapid questions. Skydiving you would do? I would assume because you’ve done skydiving before.

Ted Wright

Well, actually, I haven’t done skydiving. But I was in the Air Force and Air Force stuff very similar to that.

Kurt Jaros

Okay, so they didn’t make you actually jump out of planes?

Ted Wright

No, they did not make me.

Kurt Jaros

Okay, good.

Ted Wright

I did an aesthetic line jump once though. But I don’t know if that’s considered skydiving

Kurt Jaros

And what’s that?

Ted Wright

That’s where you jump out of the chute automatically deploys.

Kurt Jaros

Ah, okay. And it was out of a helicopter. So you have jumped out of a helicopter?

Ted Wright

Yes. Does that count?

Kurt Jaros

And the helicopter was up in the air?

Ted Wright

It was. Yeah, it was over the ocean.

Kurt Jaros

Oh my gosh. To me… I like my feet on the ground. I’m not even much of a water person. I like my feet on the ground.

Ted Wright

Oh, it was fun, Kurt, because we actually, this was down, many years ago, the air force base was near Miami. And we’re where we landed in the water was a hammerhead shark breeding area. Obviously, I survived.

Kurt Jaros

Oh, boy. Wow. All right. So fascinating, fascinating stories. I’m not sure why people would do that. All right, getting back to the topic of today’s program. And by the way, if you have questions, I’m keeping tabs on the the live feed here. And we did have someone pre-submit a question. They saw you were our guest today, they had a question for you, which I think I’ll be able to fit in when we get into archaeological discoveries.

We’re talking about the reliability of the Bible. And there are what’s called manuscript evidence. So this, this deals with the question of, in terms of reliability, is what we have today, what they wrote back then. And the manuscript evidence really helps us get very, extremely close to that time when we consider this was 2000 years ago. Tell us about the manuscript evidence.

Ted Wright

So just to kind of review what we’ve talked about so far, Kurt, we’ve talked about there are in understanding the past, in which we’re, we’re defending the premise, the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s the core truth of the Christian faith. And so where we learn about this primarily is the New Testament in the Gospels. And we know the past, in general, through eyewitnesses. We had had someone who was there, someone to see it happen, and then you have historical records. And then we have archaeological remains. So we’re talking about the New Testament manuscripts. And let me just say this, also, as we sort of make the case here, that the for the reliability of the Bible, it’s not any one thing. It’s a whole host of things. I would say it’s a constellation of things. It’s like, it’s a cumulative case. So it’s looking at all of the evidence altogether. But since we’re talking about manuscripts we talked about earlier, we’re talking about early testimony, and we do want early testimony in the New Testament manuscripts. It has incredibly early testimony. So, to give you an example, and this is often brought up, a lot of apologists will bring this up. I think I first read about it years ago when I read Josh McDowell’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict. But basically a comparison between the New Testament say and Homer, Homer’s Iliad, we believe was written around approximately 900 BC. The earliest copy that we have of Homer’s Iliad would be 400 BC. And so it’s an approximately 500 year gap between when the event happened and the first copies that we have. Another one would be Caesar, Julius Caesar in his book The Gallic Wars, which we know from other historical sources were approximately about 144 BC. We know Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. The earliest copy that we have is, is 900 AD. So we’re talking about 1000 years in between when Caesar did this, and the copies that we have, but nobody today doubts that Caesar lived and anything like that, or that Homer, of course, we know was a myth. But and then you have, you’ve got Plato and Aristotle and Tacitus. Another great story, which I’ll mention here in a moment, with these writers, there’s a 900 year time gap.

So just let’s talk about the New Testament. The New Testament was written somewhere in between, and scholars are debated as to whether or not you know, the timeframe, but I’m going to give a kind of a broad scale here. So somewhere between AD 50 and AD 100. So between 50 and 100 AD is the New Testament when it was written. Let me just say this to Paul, we know that Paul, we’re pretty sure that Paul’s letters, all his epistles, had to have been written before 70 AD. Well, why? Why is that? Well, because in 70 AD, when the Romans came into Jerusalem, they completely annihilated the temple, and in all Paul’s letters, he makes no mention of the destruction of the temple. Surely that big event, he would have mentioned it in his letters. So he makes no mention of this. So it means that Paul’s letters were written before 70 AD. So that’s why the time gap there is around 50 to 100. But we got three manuscripts, we got portions of manuscripts of books of the Gospels, that date to about 100-250 AD. We’ve got entire books that date to the same time. Historians call this the second century AD. And then we’ve got by 300 AD, we’ve got the entire New Testament in a manuscript. So currently, as it stands today, Kurt, with the manuscripts, the time span between when the event happened, the resurrection of approximately 33 AD, when that happened, and when the first copies that we have are 29 to 100 years after the event, that means that this is within the time frame of the eyewitnesses. So, the New Testament is, by and large, way beyond any other historical document with the manner of the manuscripts that we have, then also the timeframe between when the event happened and the first copies that we’ve got. So currently, we’ve got about 5800 Greek manuscripts, about 10,000 Latin manuscripts, about another 9000 Syriac and Coptic manuscripts copies. Coptic is Egyptian. And then we’ve got 36,000 patristic quotations, and I’m not sure if you had Dan Wallace on your program before…

Kurt Jaros

We had him on after the week after the news about the mark fragment came.

Ted Wright

Okay, great. Well, Dr. Wallace is the scholar to consult on this. And in one of his books, he said that… Well, actually, I think I’ve got another quote right here. He said this – I’ll just quote what this is in his book on the New Testament, Textual Criticism. He says it would be safe to say that we have altogether about 20,000 handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament in various languages, including Greek. If someone were to destroy all those manuscripts, we would not be left without a witness, because the Church Fathers wrote commentaries on the New Testament. Today, more than 1 million quotations by the Church Fathers of the New Testament have been recorded. And he says, if all other sources for our knowledge of the New Testament were destroyed, the patristic quotations alone would be sufficient for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament. So it’s just quite remarkable the amount of manuscripts that he said, I actually heard him say this in person in a lecture he gave in Texas several years ago. He says, today we don’t have a lack of evidence as Christians, but we have an embarrassment of riches in biblical manuscripts. So the New Testament is doing very, very well when it comes to manuscript evidence. So we’ve got early testimony, and we’ve got multiple attestation. This is a very, very strong accounting for the New Testament with manuscript evidence.

Kurt Jaros

When when we consider the events of classical antiquity, nd you look at the manuscript evidence, comparatively speaking, the evidence we have is the best in history.

Ted Wright

Yes, period. And that’s not an understatement. That is a fact that is that the fact in terms of the evidence, the manuscript evidence, it is the best in history.

Kurt Jaros

It’s the earliest compared to the dates and the number of manuscripts, simply the best compared to everything else we know.

Ted Wright

That’s exactly right.

Kurt Jaros

All right. So tell us about archaeological evidence. This is this is your wheelhouse.

Ted Wright

This is what I love. And it’s one thing to talk about reliability. It’s another thing to actually see it come out of the ground. And Kurt, one of the things that I’m in the past many years that I’ve studied archaeology, one of the things that surprised me the most, is that many archaeological discoveries that end up showing the historical reliability of the Bible, were made by people not setting out to prove the Bible. They were made sort of accidentally. But there are many, many of them. Well, just for starters, just approximately every New Testament, major New Testament city has been discovered, or is known about archaeologically. Historically, we know about. So the biblical writers, the New Testament writers, authors, were very familiar with what they’re writing about. They’re writing about actual events. And by the way, many of these cities were recorded first in the New Testament and then later discovered, so they were, you know, people were skeptical whether or not they actually existed. And then people actually go and find him. One of the biggest examples was not the city, but the people called the Hittites, and it was believed that they were just an invention. And then in the about the turn of the 20th century, they actually found an entire Hittite library, and a Hittite city called Ugaric.

Kurt Jaros

Jackpot.

Ted Wright

Absolutely.

Kurt Jaros

I mean, if you’re looking for evidence of the Hittites, and you find a library, I mean…

Ted Wright

You can study this if you wanted to get a doctorate. You could actually get your PhD in reading this language because it’s still by and large left undeciphered.

Kurt Jaros

Wow, that’s pretty neat.

Ted Wright

So, the New Testament and the Old Testament again and again is proved to be reliable historically. So let’s just talk about just the New Testament alone. We can talk about some pretty remarkable stuff. And that is we found so far we have every major New Testament city, which I mentioned earlier, every Roman official that’s mentioned in Paul’s letters and also in the gospels, we know about through archaeological evidence. One example in 1961, an archaeologist is digging in a place called Ceasaria on the coast of Israel. It’s a called Ceasaria Ameritimo. Ceasar’s city by the sea is what it was literally named. There’s a Ceasaria Philippi as well. But this city was gifted to Herod the Great by Octavian when he defeated Marc Anthony in the Battle of Actum in 31 BC. He basically gave Herod the city so he then gave it back to Caesar and called it Caesaria. So this Ceasaria was the city, the seaport of the Roman Empire, and the seed of the Roman government in Judea in the first century. So we know from the New Testament that Paul went to, Ceasaria, he actually was on trial in Ceasaria, and they’ve actually discovered archaeology and discovered the praetorium, which is the government building, and very likely the hall that Paul stood in. I’ve actually stood on that spot. Well, in 1961, Italian archaeologists were excavating in the amphitheatre at Ceasaria, and they discovered an inscription containing the name of Pontius Pilate. They were not even looking for it. And they just said, Oh, what does this say? They began to look at the Latin and they had several people look at and they said, Well, this is the Pilot that’s mentioned in the New Testament. And then just recently, just in the past few months, I think last year, actually, archaeologists digging and actually, it was excavated years ago, but it was a looked at in a warehouse. They actually found a signet ring, a Roman signet ring containing the name Pontius Pilate found in a place called Herodium, which is where Herod the Great was built, and, we know a lot about Herod through archaeology. And, and I would, I would say that if you really want to understand the cultural background, archaeological historical background and New Testament, then you have to look at a Herod’s impact in the New Testament, and not only just in the birth narrative, but also his shadow was sort of spread across the entire New Testament. We actually have a really good article on epic archaeology about Herod the Great so if you go to EpicArchaeology.org and click on blog, there’s actually a really pretty extensive article on the reign of Herod the Great. So here it is there.

We have also one of the most remarkable artifacts discovered in connection with a trial of Jesus; the ossuary or the coffin of Caiaphas. This is the high priest that presided over the trial of Jesus in the gospels when Jesus was brought on trial. They actually have discovered his ossuary. Someone will say, “Ted, well, how do you know it’s the same Caiaphas as the New Testament?” Well, from another source from Josephus, Josephus tells us that his name was Joseph ben Caiaphas, that this is the high priest over Jerusalem in the first century. And on this ossuary that they discovered in Jerusalem, it actually is a very ornate limestone box, and it says Joseph ben Caiaphas. Skeptics don’t even doubt that that is the same Caiaphas. And the most amazing thing, Kurt, is that his bones were actually still in the box. The box contained the bones of a 60 year old individual in his mid to late 60s. So this could very well be the bones of Caiaphas. But so we have that. And there’s just so many things.

We can spend days talking about this. But yeah, every every major testament city details very, very explicit details that are mentioned in the book of Luke, and also in the book of Acts, which are a twin set. There was a study done years ago, and I’ve got it right here and people have seen it. It’s kind of hard to see there, but it’s a book written by Roman historian named Collin Hemer, and it’s called The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. And Hemer, what he did was basically, he looked at the Roman, Greco-Roman references in the book of Luke and Acts and discovered 84 independently historically confirmed places, like, the locations of Roman cities, the seaports, everything is all there archaeologically. But in the book of Acts, it says that Paul landed in a place called “Putslowly” in Italy. And you can actually go there today to “Putslowly” and see the place, there’s a little church built, where the Apostle Paul landed. So you can actually get your Bible in one hand, and retrace the footsteps of Paul and find exactly everything there that the New Testament says. So all of this, all of this is archaeological evidence is further confirmation that the New Testament writers were people that were there, they were eyewitnesses. They wrote it, they experienced it, they saw it all happen. And it’s just a quite remarkable document.

Kurt Jaros 55:53

For me, when I was asking these deep questions of the faith in my life, Luke, Luke played a huge part, the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts, because he would make these historical reference markers. And I’m, I want to go through a few of them. Because this was so important to me. For example, chapter 18, verse two. “There, he met a Jew named akula, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla.” Well, why did they come from Italy, Luke writes, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. And this is a fact you can confirm. That’s just, to me, that’s just amazing. So that’s sort of one of those throwaway things. But other I mean, all these, like you said, Ted, these Roman officials, and their titles, right. So not just the names, but their titles of when they were in that position. And the same way that we might have a senator or representative, and sometimes people are representatives, and then they become senators. In that same way, you can get that title attached to the name. And that helps with the dating. So for me, Luke, as this historian, he, now back then, when they were doing history, there was sometimes flexibility and how they reported it. And and there’s a spectrum sometimes people that are more rigid approach, sometimes folks took a more fluid approach, and everything in between. With Luke, you do have these historical markers, these reference points throughout his works. And that was hugely important for me when I was assessing whether I thought the Bible was reliable. I came away reading Luke, and Acts thinking, “Oh, my gosh, this guy, he can’t possibly just making be making this stuff up.” If you want to be making this stuff up, you you make certain historical mistakes, you might not even mention these historical reference markers, because you don’t want people to, you know, doubted, or or double check what you’re saying. And so, Luke really cared for the veracity of the story of the gospel that was being told and preached and taught.

Ted Wright

So that’s, that’s excellent. It’s exactly right. And this that’s important to me, the names of these officials in their in their official titles are important because if the New Testament writers can get the details of that right, then they can also record accurate information about the core truth of the Christian faith. That is that Jesus has risen from the dead. But not only do we have these archaeological and historical manuscript evidence, one of the other components of this is we have extra biblical eyewitness testimony as well. And I know we’re about out of time, but let me mention one of them as we kind of wrap it up here. And that one is the Roman historian Tacitus.

Tacitus is basically a contemporary of the New Testament writers. So we’ve got a guy that’s writing at the same time that New Testament writers are recording. And, and I don’t know if you’ve had Gary on the show, Gary Habermas. But Gary, Gary wrote a great book years ago, I don’t know if it’s still published. It’s called The Verdict of History. And anyway, Gary writes about this, and I have an article on Tacitus as well. Tacitus is a very, very accurate historian. At least, you know, for the most part. And anyway, so from from just Tacitus; Tacitus is writing from Rome, and he’s recording about the Christians who lived in Rome in around the 60 AD timeframe. And so there are about 50 independent things that you can discover just from Tacitus about what the early Christians believed in. And I’ll just mention a few real quick here. Number one that Christians were named after their founder, Christus, which is Latin. He was put to death by a Roman procurator Pilate. Tacitus affirms this. This was during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, and in between 14 and 37 AD, his death ended the superstition for a short time. Well, you can imagine what that superstition was that, of course, he was risen. And then he says it broke out again, especially in Judea, where the teaching had its origin. So the origins of the idea about the resurrection, began in Judea. And then he says his followers carried this doctrine to Rome. There was a great fire that destroyed a large part of the city during the reign of Nero, the Emperor. Nero placed the blame on the Christians who lived in Rome. Christians were hated because of their abominations that was, as it was thought of. These Christians were arrested after pleading guilty, they were convicted of “hatred for mankind”. Isn’t that interesting? That sounds similar to what’s going on today with the persecution of Christians around the world, and sadly, increasingly in America. But the early Christians in Rome, were convicted of hatred for mankind, they were mocked, they were tortured. They were nailed to crosses and burn to death, burned at the stake. And because of this, people had compassion on the Christians. Tacitus therefore concluded that such punishments were not good for public good, but were simply to glut one man’s cruelty and that one man would be Nero. So we have the contemporary writers that are basically saying the exact same thing that the New Testament is saying, which lends for further credibility to the New Testament gospel reports.

Kurt Jaros

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I appreciate you bringing that home. The hatred of man, if it is reliable, what does that mean? Yes, Ted, we have run out of time. But I do want to ask you one last question. And hopefully you can keep it simple here. This question comes from Brian. And basically, he’s asking, there was a classicist by the last name Ramsey. And so maybe you could tell us about him. But Brian’s question is this: he’s wondering are Ramsey’s books out of date basically, because they are now written long ago, relatively?

Ted Wright

So this is William Ramsay, who is a classical historian back in the late 19th century, early 20th century. I think he’s, yeah, probably 19th century. And I think it ‘s probably early 20th century. Well, I’ve got several of his books. They are pretty good, actually, for a good foundation, but some of the details become a little bit dated. So I would still read Ramsey. In fact, many, many early apologists still quote Ramsey as well. Those books are still sold. But I would check out also, Collin hemer, his book called The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. It’s really, really good. And then also another, it’s a commentary and it’s huge. And it’s Craig Keener, his commentary, the book of Acts. Kurt, do you have that copy?

Kurt Jaros

You know, I’m not sure I do. I don’t think it would fit on anywhere on my bookshelf. Because it is so big. That’s the volumes that are like telephone books. Yeah. Yeah. But I think they’re bigger than telephone books. Do you think you’re right?

Ted Wright

But But Craig Keener, really, I think brings up to date, a lot of the historical references to the Gospels, to the book of Acts, but really kind of brings William Ramsay up to date on some of the historical and archaeological discoveries as they relate to the Apostle Paul and also to the New Testament. Right. But I think when Ramsey is great, we have William Ramsay. Yeah.

Kurt Jaros

Good. Yeah. Right. And that’s, that’s a great question from Brian, because you have this classicist decades ago, who wrote on what can be known from a historical archaeological perspective. And yet, even over the past 50 years, there have been new discoveries. And all of these discoveries have done nothing but confirm what is written in the text. None of these discoveries have ever gone against what the text has said. And that’s fascinating. Now, there might be some a quandary, say about Quirinius and the the census taken, but there hasn’t been an archeological discovery that has disconfirmed what’s stated. So there might be difficulties still, that haven’t yet been solved for us. But that doesn’t mean that what has come out of the ground has disproven the text. And that’s really important.

That’s exactly alright Ted, thank you so much for joining us on our program today. I look forward to the future and what what God has for Epic Archaeology and Defenders Media and all the great work you’re doing and I want to encourage our audience if you don’t yet support an apologetic ministry, consider supporting Ted’s epicarchaeology.org. It’s doing great work. And we need guys like him. Archaeology is so dry, literally, but and how the contents presented can also be dry. And so Ted really makes it exciting for people. So thank you.

Thank you for having me on.

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Seth Baker

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