“Jesus of Testimony” – New Documentary Testifies to the Historicity of Jesus Christ

First below, I’ve posted the trailer (3:34) for this new documentary, and then the documentary (2:14:34) itself.

Jesus Of Testimony Trailer from Nesch Bros on Vimeo.

Jesus Of Testimony from Nesch Bros on Vimeo.

With Easter approaching, this is the time of year when public television and other networks provide documentaries and similar programming about Jesus of Nazareth.  Only problem is that these documentaries usually invitge unbelieving biblical scholars to be the experts.  Such liberal scholars usually have impressive degrees from schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.  While they might not come right out and say that they don’t believe in Jesus, that’s their obvious view – otherwise public television would never have considered them experts, right?

The good news is that the Nesch brothers (whom I otherwise don’t know) have pulled together an impressive set of believing Bible scholars and the result is this documentary:  Jesus of Testimony.  It’s a welcome antidote to the usual fare I’ve been describing, and I enthusiastically endorse it.

I do love this documentary and recommend it highly.  That said, I do have some caveats:

  1. This documentary may seem long and tedious for anyone not intensely interested in the subject matter.  Maybe you should break it up and watch one segment at a time.  Each section is certainly meaty enough.
  2. This documentary might be scratching where you’re not itching; if so, it may seem extra tedious.  This documentary will be most appreciated by 1) people who wonder if there is any scholarly support for the history we see recorded in the New Testament, and 2) people who long to hear from biblical scholars who aren’t hostile to the biblical text and biblical ideas.  If you don’t fall into either of these two categories, there’s no need to watch this film.
  3. I had difficulty with the video streaming.  Perhaps it was just my connection.  I eventually got to the end, but you may want to pay $5.99 for the download to avoid the hassle if it bothers you too much.
  4. This could be a great documentary to recommend to others who might be curious about historical scholarship about Jesus, but first be sure the warnings above don’t apply.  If someone has somehow been unaware of liberal bibical scholarship, why trouble them by bringing them into the argument?

The important point to remember is that this documentary is the other half of the scholarly polemic about Jesus.  Liberal scholars are about all the general public ever sees on broadcast television.  Therefore, if you wonder why these scholars phrase things and frame things the way they do, recognize that they have to coexist with their antagonistic academic colleagues.  Being a believer and a biblical scholar is almost as difficult a professional life as being a believer and a scientist.

The following breakdown of the documentary is taken from the film’s website.  Because the film lasts 2:14:34, I have inserted the starting point and duration time for each section so that you can go directly to a particular section that interests you more.  I also add some short commentary where I thought it might be helpful.  The film begins with a minute-and-a-half segment in which scholar Richard Bauckham lays out the false dichotomy which the film will dispel: that “the Christ of faith” is somehow different from “the Jesus of history.”  Bauckham seeks to replace both with the term “the Jesus of Testimony” – hence the name of the film.  From the film’s website:

A feature length film exploring the evidence for Jesus’ existence and the reliability of the New Testament gospels.

In Part 1: Lord or Legend [starts at 0:01:30; lasts 0:17:50], the historicity of Jesus Christ is demonstrated by the important non-Christian historical sources that are available to us today.  [The documentary starts not with the Bible, but with the evidence outside the Bible.  This makes a great beginning to the historical case.]

Part 2: Are the Gospels Reliable? [starts at 0:19:20; lasts 0:41:00] examines the historical reliability of the Gospels as eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus.  [This is the longest section, but the length is very appropriate and everything here is meaty.  You could actually divide this segment into two sections: the history of the Gospels through oral tradition and the history of the Gospel texts.  Both sections are worthy of the time they are given.  The focus on oral transmission of the life and teachings of Jesus lasts until 0:42:57, which is 23:37 into the segment – the remaining 17:23  is given over to the discussion about written transmission of that information.  The reasons for believing what the Gospels tell us – rooted in both a strong oral culture of the 1st Century and an exceedingly abundant chain of textual evidence since then – are quite strong.  To the point of the film, the testimony of Jesus is substantial; there is no valid reason to see a conflict between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.]

Part 3: Miracles [starts at 1:00:20; lasts 0:18:18] provides strong evidence that miracles happen today and happened in history.  [This segment could have been longer considering the fact that Craig Keener has published extensive research on miracles both ancient and modern.]

In Part 4: The Testimony of Prophecy [starts at 1:18:38; last 0:14:56], many of the Old Testament messianic prophecies are quoted along with their New Testament fulfillments which establish a solid confirmation of Jesus’ credentials as the Messiah.  [There were good graphics of the relevant Scriptures in this segment – that is, Old Testament prophecies matched with New Testament fulfillments.  However, they are not matched to the audio and so it’s hard to follow what’s written and what’s spoken at the same time.  Michael Brown – a Jewish believer and scholar – is used very effectively in this segment.]

In Part 5: The Resurrection – Fact or Fiction? [starts at 1:33:34; lasts 27:29] the case is presented for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  [The scholars talk a lot about crucifixion as well as resurrection; problems because of the Quran which says Jesus never really died.  Gary Habermas and Mike Licona have devoted practically their entire careers to establishing the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, so they make this segment particularly strong.]

Finally, Part 6: The Good News [starts at 2:01:03; lasts 0:11:57] concludes that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels, dependent on eyewitness testimony, is more plausible than the alternative hypotheses of its modern detractors and presents the Jesus’ message of the Gospel.  [Some of the scholars speak quite personally in this short section.  The music is helpful, and the effect is appropriately uplifting.]

Credits [start at 2:13:00; lasts 00:01:34]

As I’ve said, if you don’t enjoy listening to scholars talk, you could find the film quite tedious.  That said, the 11 scholars participating in the project bring great content to the screen.  I have read most of them in the past and recommend their work.  Moreover, the directors add useful narration and helpful graphics at key points.  Here are the scholars interviewed:

Richard Bauckham – New Testament scholar, author, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Craig Blomberg – New Testament scholar, author, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Greg Boyd – pastor of Woodland Hills Church, author, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition [co-author with Paul Eddy, listed below]

Michael Brown – PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, author, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus : Volume 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections [This is but one of five books in a series on Jewish objections; Brown is a Jew]

Paul Eddy – PhD from Marquette University, author, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition [co-author with Greg Boyd, listed above]

Steve Gregg – Bible teacher, radio talk show host, The Narrow Path

Gary Habermas – PhD in History and Philosophy of Religion, author, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ

Craig Keener – PhD in New Testament and Christian Origins, author, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts

Michael Licona – PhD in New Testament Studies, author, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach

Dan Wallace – PhD in New Testament Studies, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Ben Witherington – PhD from University of Durham, England, author, The Jesus Quest

More detail on each of these scholars can be found on the About page of the documentary’s website.

The Jesus of Testimony website (which includes the full documentary, available for online viewing without cost)

The Jesus of Testimony FaceBook page

ht: The Poached Egg (Ratio Christi)

How Do Eastern And Western Religions Differ? – Win Corduan on The One-Minute Apologist

What distinguishes Judaism and Christianity on the one hand from, say, Buddhism and Hinduism on the other?  It is the formers’ reliance on history and the latters’ detachment from it.

Thus those Christians who want to say that it doesn’t matter whether history actually occurred the way the Bible said it did (e.g. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood, the Exodus, the resurrection of Christ) are cutting their faith loose from the historical moorings that God has provided.  They would be making Christianity more of a philosophy than a faith.

Five proofs that the Old Testament is not mythology by Joel Furches

This is an excellent and substantive article, which begins:

While far from universally accepted, even the most strident critic must admit that the Christian New Testament has a great deal of historical relevance. It is correlated in numerous areas by contemporary first century writings and archeology such that even those who regard it as basically a religious text will still lean on it as a historic reference in some areas.

Not so with the Old Testament. A large portion of the contemporary world – academic and non – considers the Christian Old Testament/Hebrew Tanakh to be purely a work of fiction, borrowing heavily from Egyptian and Babylonian myths.

via Five proofs that the Old Testament is not mythology – Baltimore Christianity | Examiner.com.

h/t J. Warner Wallace (@jwarnerwallace)

“The Bible Among Myths” by John Oswalt Shows the Bible Is Not Myth

This book review is by G. Kyle Essary of the Apologetics 315 web site.   While John Walton and others have argued that Genesis was a reaction to ANE myths, Oswalt makes clear that Genesis was much more than that.

Excerpt:

John Oswalt, professor of OT Studies and Hebrew at Asbury Theological Seminary, has attempted to make this case recently in his book, The Bible Among the Myths. He builds on older work of G.E. Wright from Harvard University to make his case, contending that Wright’s work still stands as an efficient critique to the predominant view.[5] Since the data from the ANE hasn’t changed significantly in nearly 70 years.

What are the implications of these distinctions for Oswalt’s argument in regards to Christian apologetics? First, calling the Genesis narratives myth requires redefining the term in a way that devoids it of any value. Second, it means that the distinctions between the Bible and ANE myth are more relevant than the similarities. Oswalt shows that there are many similarities, but there is discontinuity in how these similar forms, ideas, etc. are used between the Hebrew Bible and ANE literature. He says, “it is not unique because it is not part of its world; neither is it unique because its writers were incapable of relating what they say to that world…rather, it is unique precisely because being a part of its world and using concepts and forms from its world, it can project a vision of reality diametrically opposite to the vision of that world.”

And there is this direct quote of Oswalt that is included in the review (I added the underlining):

The fact is that the Bible has a completely different understanding of existence and of the relations among the realms. As a result, it functions entirely differently. It’s telling does not actualize continuous divine reality out of the real invisible world into this visible reflection of that reality. Rather, it is a rehearsal of the non-repeatable acts of God in identifiable time and space in concert with human beings…whatever the Bible is, whether true or false, it is not myth.

Based on the review alone, I’d say that the book is unfortunately titled.  For if all one has been hearing from John Walton, Peter Enns, and others is that the Bible is a myth from a land and time of myths, the title alone would not arrest your attention as a challenge to that notion – even though reading the book would!

via Book Review: The Bible Among the Myths by John Oswalt – Apologetics 315.

(h/t The Poached Egg)

Psalms Where God Is Called the King

These are psalms wherein God or the Lord is referred to as King.  An example would be “You are my King, O God” (Psalm 44:4) or “The Lord is King forever and ever” (Psalm 10:16).  In addition to the psalm number, the verse number of the specific location of “king” is cited.

This list does not include allusions to God being the king – “For the kingdom is the Lord’s”  (Psalm 22:28; see also Psalm 145:11, 12, 13), nor “the Lord reigns” (Psalm 93:1), nor “Your throne” (Psalm 93:2).  Allusions like these would be entirely appropriate for studying this subject, but would take more time to search out than I have now.

This list can be compared and contrasted with a list of royal psalms (wherein God is mentioned along with a king).

5:2

10:16

24:7, 8, 9, 10

29:10

44:4

47:2, 6, 7

48:2

68:24

74:12

84:3

95:3

98:6

99:4

145:1

149:2

A List of Royal Psalms

The Jewish Study Bible, in its notes on Psalm 2defines “royal psalms” as “those concerning kings.”  It goes on to say that “None [of them] mentions a specific king by name, and their origin and uses remain obscure.”  It also gives a “possible list of royal psalms” which is reproduced below.  To the original list I have added italicized elements.  The first to be noticed is that I added the verse citations for any explicit reference to the “king” that appears in the psalm.  Some of the psalms do not make explicit reference to the king as “king,” and, because of this, do not show a verse citation.

Psalm 2:6

Psalm 18:50

Psalm 20:9

Psalm 21:1, 7

Psalm 45:1, 5, 11, 13, 14, 15

*Psalm 61:6

*Psalm 63:11

Psalm 72:1

Psalm 89:18

Psalm 101

Psalm 110

Psalm 132

Psalm 144

*These verses were not on the original list but are included here because they are psalms that include an explicit reference to a “king” who is not God.  I did not include psalms where merely a synonym or allusion to the king appeared (such as Psalm 28, where a reference to “His anointed” occurs in verse 8).  

The original list is from The Jewish Study Bible, ed. by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press (2004)  p. 1285

Herman Gunkel is a notable scholar of the Psalms.  For more on his classification (upon which the Jewish Study Bible‘s list would seem to be based), see this post.