Every year as the calendar approaches Easter, the weeks leading up to the superbowl of Christian holy days are filled with images of, stories on, questions raised about Jesus of Nazareth. Some of these stories will take take a historical look at the person of Jesus, using the New Testament of the Bible as the primary source for information. After experiencing the claims of the Gospel centered around Jesus, the reader is left pondering the implications of the story. Other media outlets will use extra-biblical evidence and raise questions over the validity of the Jesus story recorded in the Bible. Experience these articles, essays, and TV specials and you are left with the question, “What if it’s not true?” So where does one go from here? Is there more than a feeling, intuition, or personal experience that can support the claims of the Bible? Does a follower of Jesus have the support of historical evidence that yields unwavering confidence in Jesus’ life and mission? For support, we turn to men and women who have dedicated their vocational work to answering these questions.
Josh McDowell considered himself an agnostic. He truly believed that Christianity was worthless. However, when challenged to intellectually examine the claims of Christianity, Josh discovered compelling, overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Christian faith. His work has emerged as foundational in the conversations centered around faith. Reading his work, you will notice an impartiality towards the scholarly process, specifically in how he handles the search for and discovery of ancient extra-biblical texts. You can find his website here. For a compelling look at the manuscript reliability of the New Testament, see his essay here.
Dr. Dan Wallace is a contemporary of McDowell and often referenced in the field of assessing the reliability of ancient literary work. Wallace is the founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Wallace has spent the last 16 years photographing over 350,000 images of New Testament manuscripts, discovering more than 90 manuscripts in the process. He has made the works of antiquity available for viewing to the everyday person at no cost. View his compelling efforts here.
The reliability of the Bible has been, and will continue to be, challenged until Jesus returns and restores all things. Another challenge to living this life while we see dimly through a glass is the reading of Scripture in its proper place. Contrary to the belief of many, the Bible is not a rule book or a manual for living. Neither is it a science or history textbook where the reader is tasked with memorizing answers and applying knowledge via an end-of-unit assessment. There are elements of law, history, narrative, prose discourse, poetry and the arts present all throughout the story of Scripture. But at its core, the Bible is a story; a grand narrative written as Jewish meditation literature. This is not a literary genre that will have a dedicated shelf when perusing the aisles of your local bookstore. It takes work to understand the terms and conditions of this ancient form of writing. Jewish meditation literature invites a lifetime of reading and re-reading to immerse ourselves into the story. Ultimately, the authors of the Bible want me–the reader–to adopt their story as my story. As Tim Mackie of The Bible Project notes, as we read the story, the story begins to read us. We see ourselves in the human nature of characters in the story. We relate to their moments of failure, and find hope when they put their trust in a divine God who has mercy on their broken souls.
This is the story of of the Bible. And it offers a credible alternative to the story of the world, the cultural narrative, in which we are immersed every day. This was part of the plan: to be in but not part of. These two stories are going to be in constant conflict with each other and it calls for a conversion. It is an invitation to see and live in the world in the context of another story.