Category Archives: Apologetics

Mankind- Lower than the grass?

What follows is an amazing quote from renowned Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer, from his book, The God Who Is There. It is a perfect explanation of why the materialistic, anti-supernaturalistic worldview is an utter failure and most dismal of all possible worlds.

Imagine that a universe existed which was made up of only liquids and solids, and no free gases. A fish was swimming in this universe. This fish, quite naturally, was conformed to its environment, so that it was able to go on living. But let us suppose that by blind chance, as the evolutionists would have us believe, this fish developed lungs as it continued swimming in this universe without any gases. Now this fish would no longer be able to function and fulfill its position as a fish. Would it then be higher or lower in its new state with lungs? It would be lower, for it would drown. In the same way, if man has been kicked up by chance out of what is only impersonal, then those things that make him man- hope of purpose and significance, love, motions of morality and rationality, beauty and verbal communication- are ultimately unfulfillable and are thus meaningless. In such a situation, is man higher or lower? He would then be the lowest creature on the scale. The green moss on the rock is higher than he, for it can be fulfilled in the universe which exists. But if the world is what these men [naturalistic evolutionists] say it is, then man (not only individually but as a race), being unfulfillable, is dead. In this situation man should not walk on the grass, but respect it- for it is higher than he!

(From The Francis Schaeffer Trilogy, pp. 95-96)

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Who Were the Apostles: Combinational Approaches

So, by now, we’ve exhausted all the individual options for explaining the New Testament accounts (except one: that they were honest men telling the truth)!  Since the process of elimination means that the one possibility left standing must represent the truth, we are well justified in believing the Gospels. However, the skeptic still has one option left open. Many skeptics will attempt a combinational approach to explaining away the gospels, picking and choosing at will from the various explanations we’ve already discussed. There is really no limit to how many individual theories could be constructed in this way. Perhaps, for example, one will theorize that the apostles had some hallucinations for whatever reason, but they were vague and unclear, and then over time with the retelling they became more and more embellished by their followers. So this would be a combination of the hallucination theory and the legend hypothesis.

However, the simple problem with this method is this: stacking many leaky buckets does not make a good bucket that holds water. They will all just leak the same. In other words, since each element of the explanation fails to line up with the facts, the explanation as a whole fails. In the case of the hypothetical explanation I mentioned above, it fails mostly for all the same reason that the simple ‘legend hypothesis’ itself fails. The evidence contradicts the idea that the New Testament represents legendary development- hallucinations or not! In this way it becomes clear that adding together these failed explanations in creative combinations does nothing to further the case against the New Testament.

But I think we can say even more about this approach. In the field of philosophy, there is a universally-recognized principle of good reasoning known as Ockham’s Razor. This says that, “One should not multiply explanations beyond what is necessary to account for the event.” Or in other words, simple, elegant explanations are to be preferred when possible over complex, bloated ones. For example, if one finds a chair painted red, the simplest explanation would be, “Someone painted it red.” It would not be preferable to hypothesize that, “Someone painted it yellow, then removed the paint, then repainted it red,” since the evidence does not demand such a bloated explanation, and the simpler one will suffice. In the same way, by multiplying these explanations to create a bloated conglomeration, we violate Ockham’s Razor, since there is a simple and elegant explanation available to us: that the disciples were really telling the truth! The only reason people refuse to go this route is that they do not want that to be the truth. Their thinking is heavily biased against the supernatural, in most cases, because they’ve bought into the lie of naturalism. But, if the Bible is true, it’s the most relevant and important thing in the world! It has a huge bearing on all the most important questions we ask in life, and it affects how we live daily. People who are in rebellion against that truth will prefer any explanation, no matter how bloated it may be, to the simple one that requires them to bend the knee to Jesus Christ. Don’t be like those stubborn people. I invite you to join me in serving and worshiping our God and Savior Jesus Christ. God bless you.

Who Were the Apostles: Part IV B- Legends?

Argument 2:

1. Legendary material represents late fiction, and as such will not tend to be corroborated, either internally or externally, since the claims it makes are not based in reality.

2. The New Testament accounts are corroborated, both internally and externally. **

Result: The New Testament accounts are not legend.

** Support **

Internal Corroboration

– The gospels are internally corroborated by the fact that they display undesigned coincidences. This means that the gospel writers unintentionally create, through their various accounts, unanswered questions about the events. Only by comparing the separate accounts can we fill in the holes and answer these questions. This is a characteristic feature of independent eyewitness testimony. For this to be found in fictional accounts would be likely only if the authors were intentionally conspiring together to tell a subtle lie. This possibility has already been refuted in the previous post on conspiracy theories. Since the apostles were not conspirators, this is strong evidence that we have reliable independent eyewitness testimony. One of many examples of this is as follows:

Question: Matthew 8:16
Why did they wait until evening to bring those who needed healing?

Answer: Mark 1:21, Luke 4:31
Because it was the Sabbath.

For many more examples with detailed explanation, please read Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, specifically dealt with on pp. 183-191.

-The gospels reference names (both of people and places) with incredible precision and accuracy. If the gospels represented late legend, then they would have been written by people with an inaccurate and incomplete knowledge of the details and background specifics of the time and place. We do find this kind of sketchy, vague reporting in late forgeries like the Gnostic gospels. However, with the New Testament, names are gotten right for the time and place, and very specific, little-known place names are referenced with accuracy. This is strong indication that the writers were really present in the time and place they claim.

For more on this, read Cold Case Christianity pp. 191-195.

External Corroboration

– Secular historians and ancient non-believing writers corroborate some of the facts of the New Testament narrative. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that Jesus lived and was crucified by Pilate, and that his followers reported his resurrection afterward. Thallus, a Samaritan historian, attempts to explain the darkness during the Crucifixion as an eclipse of the sun. Tacitus, a Roman senator, recorded that Jesus lived and was crucified under Pilate, and that a “superstition” emerged around him afterward. Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher, references the fact that that Jesus lived and was the King of the Jews, and that he was executed by them. Phlegon, also an unbelieving historian, reluctantly admitted that Jesus lived and had supernatural powers to predict the future. Even the Jewish Talmud, which is thought to contain sayings that date back to the time of Christ, admits, again, from a hostile perspective, the fact that Christ lived, had “magical powers”, and was executed for religious reasons. Together, these provide a powerful collective corroboration for the core of the New Testament, making it extremely unlikely that these events were late forgeries and/or legends.

For the details on all these quotes, read Cold Case Christianity, pp.195-201.

– Archaeological finds corroborate the New Testament. One of many examples of this is the Pool of Bethesda. For some time, liberal critics denied the existence of this biblical place because it had not been found in Jerusalem. In 1888, however, the pool was found, proving the biblical reference to be accurate. Since this is only one of many examples,  please check the aforementioned book, pp. 201-205 for more details.

Who Were the Apostles: Part IV A- Legends?

The possible explanation of the gospels that they may represent legend, rather than history, is not new and it is probably the most popular opinion held among non-believers today. It is easy, when in a skeptical and superficial frame of mind, to simply wave one’s hand at the whole affair and believe these stories are just tall tales. Many anti-Christian skeptics like Bart Ehrman have compared the transmission of the narrative about Jesus to the “telephone game”, where the oral tradition is passed from one individual to another and with each telling it grows and morphs into something new. We will now investigate whether this is supported by the facts.

Argument 1:

1) Legends take time to develop, as individuals tell the story time and time again and gradually new elements are added and the story is slowly embellished; by the time all of this has occurred, the original eyewitnesses, or those who knew them, are no longer around to correct the false presentation. By contrast, the earlier a testimony can be dated in reference to the events themselves, the less likely it is to represent a legendary development.

2) The New Testament can be traced back to extremely close to the events themselves- well within living memory of the eyewitnesses of Christ. The very earliest Christians already possessed a belief in Jesus as God and that he rose from the dead.**

Result: The gospel accounts are not legends.

** Many lines of supporting evidence can be brought out in defense of 2).

– Internal evidence –

-The New Testament fails to mention at any point the destruction of the Jewish temple and city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, despite the fact that in many places it would have been highly relevant. Jesus predicted this would happen, and including the fact that it did happen would have confirmed his prediction. In fact, the book of Hebrews even mentions that the sacrifices are “continually offered every year” (10:1), displaying no indication that the temple had been destroyed causing the sacrifices to cease. This fact alone means all or most of the New Testament was likely completed prior to 70 A.D., well within living memory of the eyewitnesses themselves.

-The historian Luke details the lives of Paul and Peter in the book of Acts, yet he never mentions either of their deaths.  He also fails to mention the death of James. All of these would have very likely been included in the meticulous catalog of events that Luke pieced together surrounding the early church (which did include other accounts of martyrs for Christ)- unless they had not yet occurred. Paul was killed in A.D. 64, and Peter in 65. James was killed in 62. This means the book of Acts predated all these, and the gospel of Luke, which came before Acts, would have been even earlier still.

-Paul quotes from the gospel of Luke in 1 Corinthians, dated from A.D. 53-57, (“do this in remembrance of me”), meaning that at that time the gospel was already in circulation. This pushes Luke’s gospel back yet closer still to Jesus’ life. Paul also quotes Luke in 1 Timothy, which was dated around A.D. 63-64.

– Luke’s gospel, which Luke himself calls a compilation of previous records, repeatedly quotes Mark and Matthew word-for-word, showing that Mark and Matthew’s gospels were circulating prior to Luke’s. This step in the chain gets us extremely close to the original events, and fails to provide anywhere near enough time for legendary corruption and embellishment.

– At around A.D. 50 in the letter to the Romans, Paul calls Jesus the resurrected “Son of God”, indicating his deity. This is far too early to represent a complete embellishment and corruption of the original message of the apostles, and thus represents accurately what they themselves were teaching. Luke indicates to us in Acts that Paul met with the apostles and was given the “right hand of fellowship”- there was no disagreement between Paul and the disciples of Christ. They taught the same things about Christ.

– Paul’s writing contains evidence of the repetition of even earlier Christian creeds about Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul says “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…”, echoing the language of Jewish leaders who were transmitting oral traditions. The creed which follows likely represents teaching about Christ which predates even Paul’s own writings. In this creed, Paul affirms the resurrection of Christ and his appearance to the apostles and many others.

– External evidence –

-The disciples of the apostles, sometimes called the Early Church Fathers, who personally knew and learned from the original disciples of Christ, began writing in the late 1st century and early 2nd century. They already had a fully-developed doctrine of Jesus as God and held to his Resurrection.  This is strong corroboration of the testimony of the New Testament, since if the New Testament were a later forgery, it would not match the teachings of those men who were closest to the original disciples. Instead, the early church leaders (like Papias, Polycarp, Clement of Rome, The author of the Epistle of Barnabas, and Ignatius) quote extensively from the New Testament, as if it had already been in circulation at that time. What’s more, if the New Testament represented a late corruption of true Christian teaching, we would expect to hear rebuttals from the “true Christians” refuting this new heresy, just as they did with other heresies. We don’t find this. The writings of the “Early Church Fathers” corroborate, rather than contradict, the New Testament.

– Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor in the early 2nd century, wrote a series of letters to Emperor Trajan discussing the issue of Christianity. Even at this comparatively early date, he was able to say this:

“They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food.”

The deity of Christ is one of those supernatural elements that liberal critics like to allege was a late corruption of true Christian teaching. Yet here we see at the beginning of the 2nd century AD (only about a generation or two removed from Christ himself) we see external evidence of the actual deification of Christ (“sing … a hymn to Christ as to a god”). If that were a corruption, what in the world happened to the real Christians? How could the true teachings of Christ have been so completely supplanted with corrupted ones so quickly with no evidence of internal opposition coming from the disciples and their students? It’s simply not reasonable, and the idea should be rejected.

Who Were the Apostles: Part III- Lunatics?

The next on our list of options is that the apostles were being honest but were mentally unhinged in some way that resulted in their having delusions and/or hallucinations that account for the miraculous elements of their testimony. The thought is that the disciples were so grief-stricken at the death of Christ that it moved them to hallucinate his resurrection. This option, too, fails to hold up to scrutiny.

Argument 1:

1) The disciples, as we’ve already established, were not dishonest story-tellers or con men. They truly believed what they testified to was accurate, to the point of being willing to die rather than give up their conviction of what they witnessed.

2) Granting mass hallucinations on the part of the disciples post-crucifixion still does not explain why they attributed many miracles to Christ before the crucifixion. Surely they did not hallucinate both present events and past events, rewiring their own memories about Christ’s life.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 2:

1) Hallucinations are individual events, not group events. There are no known examples of large groups of people having exactly the same hallucination.

2) The apostles all reported the exact same story, so if they were hallucinating they must have all had the same hallucination. There are many scattered groups that are said to have witnessed Jesus over a period of time after his crucifixion. That they all just happened to witness the same thing is not a reasonable conclusion.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 3:

1) By their own admission, the apostles did not understand Jesus’ message about his resurrection until after it happened. This means they would not have been predisposed to have a false, wishful-thinking induced vision of Jesus come back from the dead.

2) The Jewish understanding of the day (and the apostles were Jews by both blood and culture) was that Messiah would come and conquer Israel’s enemies and immediately usher in the Kingdom of God. They saw only what they wanted to see in the prophecies, and conveniently ignored the prophecies (like Isaiah 53) that indicate Messiah would suffer and be humiliated. Since the apostles had this false expectation of Christ’s first coming, they were distraught and demoralized when Christ was crucified, rather than crowned king. Since the resurrection was contrary to their own understanding, it is unreasonable to think they all would have hallucinated this very thing and suddenly changed their whole way of thinking about Messiah.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 4:

1) Hallucinations are generally vague, fuzzy experiences, and not typically drawn out over long periods.

2) The apostles report the opposite: very specific, detailed experiences of Christ over a multi-week period of time.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 5:

1) Because of the nature of hallucination, people suffering from them can generally be convinced that their experience was not real by people who did not share the experience. They may even come to doubt it was real of their own accord.

2) People do not lay their lives on the line and eventually submit to torture and death for claims they are not really sure about.

3) The apostles did submit to torture and death without recanting, thus showing that they were in no way uncertain or doubtful about their experiences.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 6:

1) These hallucinations would have to have come about as a result of the intense personal desire to see Jesus alive, to the point of imagining it really happened.

2) Not everyone who experienced these sightings was disposed in any way to this, yet they record it nonetheless. Thomas was intensely skeptical and would not believe it when told by others. Paul, formerly Saul, was a radical anti-Christian pharisee who was killing and persecuting Christians actively at the time of his encounter with Christ. He couldn’t have been any further from desiring to see Jesus alive.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Argument 7:

1) If all the experiences of the risen Christ were delusions only, then Christ’s tomb could not really have been empty.

2) As noted in an earlier part, there were many powerful people in the area of Jerusalem who were highly hostile to the message of Christianity from the beginning.

3) Christianity as a religion got its earliest start in Jerusalem. If the tomb were not empty, it would have been easy for the enemies of Christianity to simply go and get the decomposing body of Christ to prove he had not risen from the dead- or at the very least point out that the boulder had not been moved and the tomb was not empty. That alone would have crushed the movement at its source, yet this did not happen.

Result: The apostles were not delusional.

Who Were the Apostles: Part II- Fools?

In the second part of this series we will look at the question of whether the apostles were fools and had been duped into believing a lie that Jesus had risen from the dead when he really hadn’t. This takes the form of two basic positions- either they were fooled  by an imposter claiming to be Jesus but who actually was a different person altogether, or Jesus “swooned” (fainted so as to appear dead) on the cross and later revived naturally. All of these arguments will assume the honesty of the apostles (they were not purposely lying and constructing false histories), since my previous post has already put to rest the idea that they were liars/conspirators.

-Imposter-

Argument 1:

1) People are overwhelmingly less likely to be fooled by an imposter if they knew the individual closely

2) No one knew Jesus more intimately than his inner circle of apostles

3) Therefore, no one would be less likely to be fooled by an imposter than the apostles themselves, especially the highly skeptical Thomas

Result: The apostles were not fooled by an imposter.

Argument 2:

1) An imposter would be a deliberate liar, and liars have motives

2) No conceivable motive exists for why a strange man would pretend to be Jesus and present himself to the grieving apostles as if he had risen from the dead, and then whisk himself away, never to be seen or heard from again

Result: The apostles were not fooled by an imposter.

Argument 3:

1) A Jesus imposter would have to be in league with other people who conspired to remove the real Jesus’ body from the tomb and hide it; this creates yet another conspiracy scenario, yet this time the conspirators are outsiders, not the apostles themselves

2) No conceivable explanation exists for who this shadowy group of outsiders might have been and why they would have conspired to attempt to fool the apostles into thinking that Jesus had risen, nor is there any actual evidence for this claim

Result: The apostles were not fooled by an imposter.

-Swoon Theory

Argument 4:

1) Roman soldiers were professionals at killing and crucifixion, and would have been held personally responsible and likely killed if they failed to kill the condemned man

2) Jesus was executed by Roman soldiers

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 5:

1) The apostles’ lives were radically changed by their belief that Jesus had risen and conquered death itself

2) Had Jesus miraculously managed to survive the crucifixion, he would have been in critical condition and a very unimpressive sight

3) Such a battered and beaten Jesus would not have had the radicalizing, life-changing effect on the apostles’ lives that they testify to

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 6:

1) Jesus, after the crucifixion, was laid in a tomb with a heavy boulder rolled over the entrance, sealing it

2) It would have been impossible for Jesus to escape this tomb from the inside even in good health, let alone after just having been crucified

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 7:

1) If Jesus had somehow survived the execution, he would not have lied about the reasons for this and claimed to have “conquered death” and “risen from the grave”

2) The apostles would have followed Jesus teachings just as they had before; there is no reason to suggest that they would have suddenly made a radical departure from Jesus’ own teachings just because he survived an execution attempt; if anything, this would only cause them to be even more loyal to him than before

3) These facts make no sense of why the Gospels are full of accounts of miracles, including Jesus’ miraculous resurrection and even ascension into heaven

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 8:

1) If Jesus had survived the crucifixion, he would have continued to live on in the area for years afterward

2) No historical accounts exist which would suggest he continued to live after the crucifixion

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 9:

1) If Jesus had survived the crucifixion, he would have continued to live on in the area for years afterward

2) Christianity as a religion began in Israel, where Jesus lived his whole life

3) One of the central teachings of Christianity is that Jesus is no longer on earth but has ascended to heaven to be at the Father’s right hand, but will one day come again

4) It would have been impossible for Christianity to get its start in the very place where Jesus continued to live as a regular man

Result: The apostles were not fooled by the fact that Jesus survived the execution.

Argument 10:

1) Saul/Paul was a highly religious, observant Pharisee who actively persecuted Christians prior to having a radical transformation, claiming to have seen the risen Christ personally

2) Neither the Swoon Theory nor the Imposter Theory explain why a radical opponent of Christianity would have a personal transformation after the fact and switch sides, being willing to suffer to the point of death for Jesus

Result: The apostles were not fools.

Who Were the Apostles: Part I- Conspirators?

I’m going to begin taking a rational, evidence-based approach to answering the question: “Who were the apostles?”
I believe the options are strictly limited to the following:  conspirators, fools, lunatics, legends, or honest Jewish men.
Let’s start with first option. Were they conspirators? They were not.

Argument 1:

1) Conspirators always have a personal motive

2) The apostles were not in a position to gain anything by opposing all the most powerful people around them (Pharisees and Romans)

3) The apostles had ample opportunity during the course of their lives to recognize that their conspiracy was failing to obtain any personal benefit and was only likely to get them killed

4) Thus, the apostles had no motive to create or sustain an elaborate conspiracy of the kind that the New Testament would have to represent (were it a conspiracy)

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Argument 2:

1) When separated and unable to communicate, conspirators tend to begin to contradict one another

2) The apostles were eventually separated and unable to communicate as they went out into the world spreading the Gospel

3) There is no record of the apostles contradicting one another and producing different “variant strains” of Christianity on their travels

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Argument 3:

1) Conspirators tend to crack when put under pressure and threat of harm

2) The apostles were eventually put to the most intense tests possible: they were tortured and killed for their testimonies

3) There is not a single record of any apostle cracking under pressure and renouncing their story and ‘ratting out’ the conspiracy

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Argument 4:

1) The false stories of conspirators are fiction and represent a form of lying

2) The nature of the message of the New Testament is totally incongruous with its being the product of liars and con men- it is nearly universally regarded (at least in the West) as the highest work of moral literature ever written, and clearly condemns the very thing that these men would have been doing themselves. Con men do not write great moral treatises that turn the world upside down and change peoples’ lives for the better.

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Argument 5:

1) If the New Testament is the work of conspirators, it represents their fictionalized version of history

2) People writing fictionalized history with a motive to deceive others will tend to write things that flatter themselves and make their position as strong and credible as possible

3) The Gospels contain many elements which are not favorable to the apostles themselves, and make their persuasive position weaker than it could theoretically have been. Examples of this include:

-Humiliating stories about how the apostles failed to understand the clear and obvious teachings of Jesus multiple times

-Instances of the apostles having weak or no faith, and even denying Jesus

– The fact that the first people to discover the empty tomb were women, even though the testimony of women was not regarded with credibility in the male-dominated culture of the ancient Middle East

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Argument 6:

1) Conspirators collude with one another to “get their stories straight”, and this results in a unified narrative of events free of messy apparent contradictions and seemingly inconsistent statements

2) The Gospels contain details which seem, on the surface, to be inconsistent with one another (they actually can be harmonized); this indicates that they are not the product of collusion but represent independent eyewitness testimonies

Result: The apostles were not conspirators.

Contradiction Claim Busted: The Circumcision of Timothy

From an online anti-Christian blogger:

  • In Acts 16:1-3, Paul has a disciple named Timothy, who was born from a Greek father, be circumcised “because of the Jews who lived in that area.” However, this goes against Paul’s own deceleration (Gal. 2:7) “of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised.” Likewise, in Gal. 2:1-3, Paul brings another Gentile disciple, Titus, to the Jewish community in Jerusalem, but particularly insists that Titus not be circumcised [9]. Likewise, in 1 Cor. 7:20, Paul states regarding circumcision, “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”

To understand this situation, which at first may seem puzzling, we need to consider the context of Timothy’s circumcision, and whether it really contradicts anything Paul taught. The context of Timothy’s circumcision is this: Paul was taking Timothy to evangelize the Jews. He knew that the Jews would not even listen to a person who wasn’t circumcised. This fits perfectly in line with what Paul writes here:

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

By contrast, what Paul wrote in Galatians was written to Gentile believers who were facing the threat of legalist heretics who were telling them they, as Gentiles, had to become as Jews under the ceremonial Law of Moses, including circumcision, in order to be saved. Paul wanted to make sure these believers understood how wrong that teaching was. Paul’s command that everyone should remain in the condition they were when they were called was in that context also: the context of salvation. Paul clearly taught that a Gentile has no need to get circumcised or put themselves under the Law of Moses in order to be saved; but that’s not what was going on in the case of Timothy. In Timothy’s case, it was a question of evangelism- and circumcising Timothy was done for that purpose only. This is not a contradiction.

Contradiction Claim Busted: The Travels of Paul

Alleged discrepancy, from an anti-Christian blogger :

“In Acts 9:26-28, Paul travels to Jerusalem after his conversion, where Barnabas introduces him to the other apostles. However, in Paul’s own writings (Gal. 1:16-19), Paul states that he “did not consult any human being” after his conversion and did not travel to Jerusalem until three years after the event, where he only met Peter and James.”

This is very easy to resolve- just read the texts in question. The claim that there is some kind of contradiction between the account in Acts and Paul’s account in Galatians is just vapid and ridiculous. Let’s read for ourselves what Paul says regarding his conversion:

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:11-24 ESV)

Okay, and next the account of Acts, which the author above claims represents a discrepancy- but wait, if you read the text, it doesn’t really start at verse 26 as the author claims. The account of Paul starts earlier than that- at the very beginning of the chapter.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest andasked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:1-30 ESV)

As you may have already noticed by now, this account does not actually conflict with Paul’s account. Paul says he didn’t immediately consult with anyone after his experience. The account of Acts confirms this, mentioning that he was in Damascus praying immediately afterward. So that allegation falls flat. What about the allegation that there is a discrepancy between the two concerning when Paul arrived in Jerusalem? Well, Paul gives the specific time period- three years- while the Acts account doesn’t give any specific figure, but just a vague statement of “after many days” and “when he had come to Jerusalem”. Where’s this supposed contradiction? It’s not there. What about the issue of whom he met with? Same story. Paul is specific, while Luke, writing in Acts, is more vague. Luke only says “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles…” That’s just a very vague, cursory statement, and in no way can be construed as a contradiction of Paul’s statement that he met only Peter and James. Simple stuff to get through, but this is what a person must do when confronted with the myriad of false allegations against the Bible that exist on the internet today.