The New Testament: 1st oral, then written

William Lane Craig explains that the Gospels were likely written at nearly the same time as Paul’s epistles (1 Corinthians 15 was penned in 55 AD).   The Book of Acts occurred in mid AD 60s (before James died and temple was destroyed in 70 AD).  Luke was written before Acts by the same author around 57 AD.  Mark’s Gospel was used by Luke, putting Mark even earlier.

The Gospels were spread orally before they were written.  But, because all those writing the Gospels were so closely connected to the events (not 30 years had passed since Jesus’ death), the authors were not writing oral traditions.  Instead, the 4 Gospel writers were doing oral histories — actually asking the many still-living eyewitnesses what had happened.  2 writers were apostles themselves, Matthew and John) and had witnessed many things first hand.

Jewish children were taught at home, school, and in the synagogue to memorize massive amounts of faithful information.  Memorization and faithful transmission was prioritized.  Jesus’ disciples surely utilized this skill.  No legend.  No mythology.  No telephone game.

Jeff organized scholarship to present a LDS perspective:

Reliability of the Gospels: direct vs. indirect evidence

About a week ago a fellow stated that there’s not a shred of evidence that Jesus lived.  When I laid out a general case to this overconfident skeptic, he insisted he was still correct.  After all, he said, there’s no direct evidence for Jesus.


I told fellow that, unfortunately, nobody live blogged the resurrection, took selfies w/ the Apostles, or otherwise documented the events in real time.

I explained, however, that the life of Jesus consists of some of the best attested events we have from the entire Greco-Roman world.  4 biographies (Gospels) record major life events & Paul (and a few others) wrote letters and provided additional witnesses of Jesus.

Initially, eyewitnesses passed on the events orally with great precision.  Jews (now Jewish Christians) were practiced in memorizing scriptures.  The teachings of Jesus were put to memory with little difficulty.

Later, within a few decades of Jesus’ death, the eyewitnesses’ accounts were recorded into the Gospels.  It’s incredible to have something so close to the actual events.

Historians rarely have documents so close the actual events, as they do with the early New Testament manuscripts.

Later Church fathers in the 1st and 2nd centuries — Polycarp, Papias, & others — reported knowing the Gospel writers.  The four Gospel writers are:  Matthew (apostle & writer for Hebrew audience), Mark (non-apostle, Greek interpreter for Peter), Luke (non-apostle, Paul’s representative), and John (apostle).

So, based on what many others wrote, we know those Gospel writers were actual people. Of course, Paul wrote letters while he still lived.

So, no shred of evidence for Jesus?  We’ve got an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historical witnesses — direct and indirect — of Jesus!

I thought this homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace, below explains why it’s extremely reasonable to believe that Jesus lived and that the Gospels are true.  

Wallace explains that  if you lack direct testimony (an eyewitness) — a very common phenomenon — you build a case on circumstantial evidence.  Virtually all his cases are won without direct evidence or eyewitnesses.

Judges instruct jurors that direct and indirect evidence are neither entitled to greater weight than the other.

Another concern of this homicide detective: witnesses lie.  They just do.   So, you test eyewitnesses to ensure they’re trustworthy.

Test witnesses:  1) Was witness there at the crime scene?  2) Can detective corroborate witness’ presence at the scene?  3) Is witness consistent over time?  4)  Is witness biased?   Judge instructs that we must trust witness if these 4 points are confirmed.

Watch and enjoy!

This principle of witnesses also applies to the 11+ witnesses in our dispensation.   Do they pass the above test?  With flying colors, they do!

Richard Bauckman discusses his book,  “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.”

Joseph Smith and the Recovery of Eternal Man

God is our father. More than an essence. He has a form and a body, though his influence is everywhere. God’s corporeality (having a body) was taught until the 4th and 5th centuries. We aren’t depraved creatures. We weren’t created out of nothing. Creedal statements about a triune deity were incorrect. These and other truths were restored. Joseph’s views are absolutely revolutionary when you consider what Christians believe(d).

“Joseph Smith returned modern Christianity to its origins.”


Critiques of agnostic Bart Ehrman: by evangelical Christian John Warwick Montgomery

Bart Ehrman is a widely known scholar of the New Testament.  He’s also made lots of money from producing many controversial and NY Times-bestselling books.   I’ve seen and checked out his books on CD at my local library.   I’ll share critiques of four of Ehrman’s recent books below.

In some discussions — if Jesus lived — I agree with Dr. Ehrman.   Virtually every historian, atheist and believing scholar, understands Jesus of Nazareth lived.  In other discussions — the New Testament was forged, for example, — I don’t agree with his interpretations.

John Warwick Montgomery is a believing Christian who criticizes Ehrman’s views on Jesus and his recent books “.  Montgomery explains that the New Testament writers are who they say they are, and that Jesus is who He said He was.

As a believing Latter-day Saint, I have certain disagreements with both sides in this debate.  That is, Montgomery defends classical Christianity and is an evangelical.  And Ehrman is an atheist.  But in this debate I agree almost completely with Dr. Montgomery, and appreciate his defense of early Christianity and the manuscripts.

Historian and Christian scholar, John Warwick Montgomery, reviews Bible critic Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

Historian and Christian scholar, John Warwick Montgomery, critiques Bible critic Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.

Historian and Christian scholar John Warwick Montgomery responds to atheist Bart Ehrman’s book Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior. This video is part of the John Warwick Montgomery vs Bart Ehrman playlist:…

Jesus: mythical or literal figure?

LDS Perspectives Podcast completes another fantastic interview:   The Historical Jesus – Thomas Wayment

Virtually all scholars of the ancient world believe Jesus lived.  Only a very small fraction of scholars believe in a mythical figure.   The leader of the mythical Jesus movement is fringe scholar Richard Carrier.

The video below shows Bart Ehrman — himself an agnostic, but a highly esteemed scholar of the New Testament and ancient world — explaining that Jesus lived.  Bart says that anyone who claims otherwise looks foolish.

Richard Dawkins — perhaps the most vocal atheist alive today and author of “The God Delusion” — admitted that Jesus lived in a debate w/ John Lennox.  Originally in his book, Dawkins fibbed, was somehow confused, or was trying to sell more books & hurt the Christian cause.  That is, Dawkins said Jesus wasn’t historic.

In a public debate (view below), however, John Lennox called Dawkins out on that false position that Jesus never actually lived.  Awkwardly and reluctantly, Dawkins changed his position and said that Jesus did in fact live.

This young fellow in the video below is a Muslim convert to Christianity who shared that many noted the life of Jesus and his followers outside the accounts found in the Bible.

Those that believe in a mythical Jesus usually mention supposed similarities between Jesus’ resurrection claims and Osiris myths.  The two lives, deaths, and afterlives — Jesus’ and Osiris’ — are hardly similar upon close inspection.

The mythicists claim that Jews copied the Egyptian myths and created a resurrection story that resembled that of Osiris.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  Not even close.  Modern mythicists are awful scholars making unsupported claims.

Watch Richard Bauckman discuss his book,  “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. ”

Consider watching the below video about Josephus’ Jesus writings.   Josephus lived from 37-100 AD and was a Roman-Jewish historian.  His 21-volume Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience.

These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of early Christianity.

“Doer of baffling deeds…. On the 3rd day He appeared to them alive.”  A few lines in Josephus’ writings are controversial, and may have been added by later scribes.  Yet, most scholars agree that Josephus penned several lines, mentioning Jesus.

More on Josephus’ Jesus writings here.

Cold case Christianity’s take on support for Jesus’ life from sources outside the Bible:


Joseph Smith & the Problem of Evil

I recently chatted with an BYU old friend about books on CD, podcasts, etc. he listens to for personal enrichment, education, passing time in the car, etc. He told me about a BYU speeches page. I looked it up, found the page listing “classic” speeches, & immediately recognized this one by David  L. Poulsen: “Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil”.  I was at BYU in 1999.  
Dr. Poulsen (now retired) was a distinguished philosopher. In this speech he shares how Joseph Smith uniquely resolved logical challenges that perplexed scholars and theologians for centuries.
Gotta be grateful for the restoration! We (far too frequently) take the truths for granted, in my opinion.

The Gold(en) Plates

The wonderful 3 Mormons:

BMC Studios and Stephen Smoot:

Jeff Lindsay shares this recent report of OT scripture on silver:

Latter-day Saints Q & A shares this:

Richard Bushman’s 2010 Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) presentation is entitled “The Gold Plates in Mormon Culture and Thought.”

Bushman also authored the widely-read biography of Joseph Smith, “Rough Stone Rolling”.  Bushman likely knows Joseph Smith better than any other living human — from an entire career of meticulous research — and is a faithful Latter-day Saint.

Another video about metals and golden plates in MesoAmerica.  Daniel Johnson shares about metal plates in the Old and New World:

The LDS Church made a pamphlet — Gold Plates Used Anciently — in 1963.  You can read the pamphlet here.   The pamphlets shows many photographs & lists the dozens of metal plates found throughout the world.

Brother Read Putnam wrote this article for the Improvement Era in 1966: “Were the Golden Plates made of Tumbaga?” Read it here.

The Bible: As Far As it is Translated Correctly

A great place to start:

Episode 69: Introduction to Higher Biblical Criticism – Philip Barlow

This LDS New Testament scholar sheds light on the 8th Article of Faith: “as long as it is translated correctly.” Simple, but powerful statement.

Though we don’t believe the Bible is inerrant or perfect (many Protestants do), we believe the earliest manuscripts are reliable.

Awesome video. We should all understand this topic!

Below is a great video by a Protestant scholar.  I like to get multiple points of view to better support my understanding.  Dan Wallace’s view on the New Testament manuscripts is similar to what LDS scholar, Dr. John Hall, says above.

The New Testament: Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then? Dr. Daniel Wallace is one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world today. In his Best Sermon Ever, he shares with Mars Hill important teaching on the origin of the New Testament and whether or not what we read in our Bible translations today is the same as what was written in the original manuscripts.

Balancing Religious Tensions – Mauro Properzi

Episode 32: Balancing Religious Tensions – Mauro Properzi

This fellow, BYU professor Mauro Properzi, discusses several things.  Several points I took away:

  •  Respect and appreciate other faiths.
  • Allow tension, but work against imbalance.
  • If we’re gonna compare (ourselves to other faiths), then let’s be fair.
  • Leave room to admire other faiths, something Mauro calls “holy envy”.
  • What it means to express that we’re the “true church.”
  • We are special people, but not that special!
  • Be clear, saying “yes” and “no” when discussing differences.
  • God loves all His children!
  • Welcome all the good that others have, & we’ll work to add to that which they bring to the LDS Church!

Great discussion right in line with the title of this blog!

Click here to listen to this LDS Perspectives Podcast, Episode 32.  If you haven’t subscribed to this podcast series consider doing so.   Laura Hales (today’s interviewer) and her team produce 1 podcast once a week for 45 minutes.