As I was browsing the blogosphere the other day I came across a post by a certain atheist gentleman who does not believe that the Biblical depiction of Jesus’ life is reliable. In his post he said things like this: that there are almost no documents supporting the life of Jesus outside of the four gospels, and that there is little to no archaeological support either. Well, perhaps he’s simply unaware of the various references to Jesus in the writings of Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, Lucian... And perhaps he hasn’t heard of the work of Sir William Ramsay, an archaeologist and skeptic of the New Testament’s historicity who, through his archaeological work in Asia Minor came to the conclusion that books like Luke and Acts are entirely without fault historically.
Now you could invest a day or a week or even more researching all of these alleged ancient references and archaeological finds, and maybe you’d be convinced by the end of it. Here’s a good place to start if you’re interested. But few of us are likely to do that, I’m sure. And while I am certain that a diligent study would satisfy the skeptic, as it did Sir William Ramsay, it didn’t take any such study to convince me that the New Testament is true. How is it that I am personally convinced of the Bible?
The disciples walked and talked with Jesus, and they saw the miracles that He did. They emphasize the fact that they were eyewitnesses of the life of Christ when they wrote the New Testament documents. But they also acknowledge that we didn’t have that opportunity. Peter says...
We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19)
Peter refers to the fact that he was an eyewitness, but then he says there is “something more sure” than the fact that he was an eyewitness; “the prophetic word”. Now, often people will say that this refers to the Old Testament and its various predictions of Christ which were fulfilled. But to look for fulfilled prophecy in the gospels presupposes the reliability of the gospel account; the reliability of this eyewitness account. So that can’t really be “more sure”. Of course I absolutely affirm that the life of Christ did remarkably fulfill Old Testament prophecy, but I don’t think that’s what Peter is saying here. I think that Peter is referring to their very own letters and documents that make up the New Testament itself, which he describes as “the prophetic word”. This is not something that we should study one time to see how prophecy was fulfilled, but something we should pay attention to continually “until the day dawns and the morning star rises...” Peter is drawing attention to the prophetic nature of their own writings.
The New Testament makes prophetic utterances, certain “predictions” if you like, about what the Christian life is like as a result of faith. It tells us that when we put our faith in Christ we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that this will be evidence of the reality of Christ for us (Romans 8:16). The New Testament tells us that the Christian life will be characterised by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). And so it is in my own experience. When I first became a Christian I wouldn’t have noticed it, but as time went on I recognized this clearly as I compared my life “post conversion” to the life I led before I put my faith in Christ. The Bible tells us that a Christian will have victory over sin (1 John 3:9), and so I have found in my life that I have a hatred and aversion to sin I had not known before I put my faith in Christ. The Bible says that the Christian will be filled with love for others (1 John 3:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:9), and this too I have found; that since I put my faith in Christ I am filled with love for all people, “sinners and saints alike”, far more profoundly than I ever had before my conversion. Again, when I first put my faith in Christ I wouldn’t have known it, but I can look back now and compare my life before and after conversion, and say that my life has been consistently characterized this way after I was saved by grace. This may be subjective, but there are thousands upon thousands of Christians who will also testify the same thing. This is how I know that the Scriptures are true... because I can testify to the transformed life they very precisely foretell that I should be living.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11)