Christianity, a Clear Case of History

FOREWORD

by Avon Malone

The faith of the Christian does not hang from a skyhook. Authentic faith is not a blind, irrational leap into the dark. God has revealed himself in the blood and bone of human history. Faith is a rational step into the light, resting on reliable evidence.

Ed C. Wharton, able teacher and adept writer, brings the historicity of Jesus Christ to life with his clear, cogent presentation of convincing historical evidence. In addition to the inspired records of his life and works in scripture, Mr. Wharton brings before his reader the testimony of ancient historians–Tacitus, Seutonius, Josephus, and others-as they bear record to the historical reality of Jesus.

From that solid base the case for his deity and Messiahship is convincingly developed. The central proposition of John's gospel is the theme that pervades this splended work "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:30, 31).

An excellent student and teacher of the biblical text, Ed Wharton has long had a consuming interest in Christian evidences. This book grows out of years of study in the field. It can be an immense help in equipping the reader "to give answer to every man … concerning the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). I commend this book and its able author in the hope that both might be widely used in the defense of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Avon Malone
Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts
October 1, 1991

FOREWORD

 

by The late Dr. Batsell Barrett Baxter

Pendulums have a way of swinging to extremes, and in our generation the pendulum is clearly swinging away from faith in God and respect for his inspired word. The trend is toward atheism or humanism.

The higher criticism so prominent in the nineteenth century and the liberalism of our own century have laid the foundation for the undermining of orthodox Christian faith. The Bible has been attacked and its credibility lessened by theologians and other religious leaders-the very men who should have defended its inspiration and authority.

While paying lip service to the moral and ethical principles found in the Bible, and while using the traditional religious words without their time-honored meanings, these men have been openly questioning the historicity and the authenticity of the Bible.

No wonder, with these views widely taught for a number of years, we are now reaping the fruit of such anti-religious influences. The man in the street, especially our youth, no longer respects the authority of the Bible. This drift away from faith in God is resulting in a widespread decline in ethics and morals and a general self-indulgence and license in regard to drinking, the use of drugs, sex and the like. Society is
becoming less and less spiritual and more and more secular and materialistic. There is a growing decline in all aspects of respect for authority, and sacred institutions, such as marriage, are breaking down. Crime is also rising alarmingly.

What can be done about a world rushing headlong to destruction? The answer lies in calling men back to faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ. Men must again respect the sacred Scriptures and desire to live righteously.

But how can so huge an undertaking be accomplished? Part of the answer lies in solid, thoughtful, faith-building writing such as we find in this present volume. All who read this book will be grateful to Ed Wharton for his fine presentation of firm evidence to support the authenticity of the Bible and the factuality of its record of history, as well as the authoritativeness of its moral and ethical principles.

It is refreshing to read such statements as, "Our purpose in this book is to point modern man back to the only real evidence there is for Christ-the evidence of the eyewitnesses themselves as it is preserved for us in the New Testament documents." The author demonstrates in a very convincing way that "the New Testament is not a compilation of mythical stories … (but) records the activities of real people and of actual events."

Among the twelve chapters which make up the book, the reader will find the opening chapter, "Jesus and History," very helpful, especially in its quoting of a number of extra-biblical sources concerning the actuality of Christ's existence. Valuable, too, are the two chapters dealing with the historical reliability of the New Testament. These are convincingly handled and are crucial to the believability of all of Christianity.

The four chapters on the resurrection of Christ are closely and convincingly reasoned from the accounts given in the New Testament. The reader is likely to discover new and important evidence among old and familiar passages.

The chapter on miracles condenses the evidences for the believability of miracles to a very small space-yet the case is convincingly made. The chapter on Christ's death has interesting, even new, points to consider. The book closes with further evidence on its central theme-the factual, historical nature of the evidences supporting the Christian religion. Also, in closing, the author shows how unbiblical is the modern tendency to base religious faith on subjective, emotional feelings.

All in all, the book serves a fine purpose. The chapters are well written in a clear, understandable style. More important, the evidence for Christian faith is solid. This is the kind of book that will help the pendulum, now swinging away from orthodox Christian faith, to reverse its direction-to return to that which is truth.

Ed Wharton is a man of much experience. He has preached the gospel of Christ for over three decades and has been a teacher of men who are preparing themselves to preach. He received his academic training from Abilene Christian University and Lubbock Christian College. He is married and has four children. The Whartons are a fine Christian family, a further evidence for the Christian faith in these times of general family failure. Christ's way is not only the true way in logic and reason; it also works.

Christianity: A Clear Case of History is a needed book. It will help many to find Christian faith and others to deepen their Christian faith.

The late Dr. Batsell Barrett Baxter
Onetime Chairman, Bible Department
David Lipscomb College
Nashville, Tennessee

PREFACE

 

It is very satisfying to witness a new interest in historical evidences for Christianity. Serious and inquiring people want to know if the Christian religion is hoax or history. This is apparent, not only from the new literature, but from a very personal vantage point. In my annual seminars in Europe and Asia, the most enthusiastic response-from all age levels and from non-Christian religions-results from teaching on the totally reliable history of the Christian faith exactly as presented in the New Testament. That includes evidence for Christ's miracles, his phenomenal death on the cross, his bodily resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles. In addition, there are hundreds of requests to our extension school for tapes of sermons and class lectures on the newly-developed course on historical Christian evidences. Our resident student body is composed of men and women from all walks of life, from college age to retirement age, and they come to us crying for a confirmation of the reality of Christianity.

It has been said that this is a "new approach" to proving the claims of the Bible, that we are pioneering a new course in the field of Christian evidence. But this is not the case. This kind of evidence for Christianity is nearly two thousand years old. It is precisely the approach which the apostles used to prove the resurrection claims for Christ. It is the approach of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in presenting reliable, verifiable, and convincing evidence. The New Testament writers made no arguments from science or philosophy for the divine nature of Jesus. Neither did they seek to convince men by their subjective feelings. But in the calm and objective style of men who knew from personal, eyewitness experience (as the apostles) and from painstaking research (by Luke) that what they were recording were the facts in the case, they wrote their accounts in the verifiable context of history for our serious consideration. Historical evidences for Christianity began with the apostles. This is their case for belief.

In point of fact, the case for belief in Jesus as the Son of God cannot be found in science or philosophy. It is a historical matter and must be investigated from the only historical sources in our possession-the New Testament writings. No observations on Jesus or the Christian system can be developed without that historical basis which the New Testament alone offers. It is essential, therefore, that the New Testament be received as a certified document of reliable history. The Christian religion is not simply a moral code; it is belief in Jesus as God who has the power to redeem us from sin, to raise the dead, and to judge the world for its ungodliness. The burden of proof for this extravagant claim lies squarely on the historic life and resurrection of Jesus as stated in the New Testament. The New Testament, then, must be viewed as a reliable record of facts in order to provide a credible ground of evidence for belief.

In this book, I have attempted to provide sufficient reasons (not all of them by any means) for accepting the New Testament as reliable history and to keep it from being theologically heavy. It is written for those who know little or nothing of the Bible, but who want to take a serious look at its claims. First, I have tried to make it clear that the New Testament is as reliable as any document of history. Then, by an appeal to those recorded facts of history, I have made an effort to systematically reproduce the logic of the apostles' own evidence for believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. By this means, we will rediscover the real power of the gospel in the first century and the reason behind the apostles' success in presenting it to a pagan world.

Christianity is not merely good advice for successful living. It is, as pointed out, belief in Jesus who will raise the dead to eternal judgment. Christianity is an altogether different way of believing and living because of Christ and his resurrection. And the proof of the Christian doctrine lies in the historic reality of his own life and resurrection. Any definition of Christianity which does not include these supernatural and redemptive aspects in a truly historical framework, reduces the death of Jesus to a meaningless sentiment, robs it of any real power to change men's lives, and makes it at best only another ethical system from the outdated past. Christianity's power to invade lives and turn them around is easily seen to rest on its historical reality exactly as it comes to us from the New Testament.

This is an effort to provide confidence in that reality and knowledge of the apostolic use of the evidence for Christ which is based on the facts of history. It is written with the hope that the full significance of what Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul preached and wrote-which is what we now call historical Christian evidences- will become common knowledge among those who seek to know the certainty of Christianity.

Edward C. Wharton
Sunset School of Preaching
Lubbock, Texas

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