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The Resurrection with a Cold-Case Detective Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
March 25, 2021 8:43 pm

The Resurrection with a Cold-Case Detective Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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March 25, 2021 8:43 pm

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace joins Bill and Eric as he provides evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus. This information is crucial to understand because, without the resurrection, Christianity is no better than any other religion.


Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McAver, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM.

We've also been pleased to have with us this week J. Warner Wallace. Jim Wallace is a good friend of ours who has written a number of excellent books on apologetic issues. The one that's, I would say, more well-known would be Cold Case Christianity. Jim, would you agree with that? I mean, certainly that is a great book. Yeah, I think you're right. It probably is the most popular so far.

But hey, we're always hoping, right, all of us as authors, that the next book will be the most popular. There you go. Let me give our listeners a little bit of your background if they haven't been able to catch earlier shows. You are a Dateline, that's the TV program, Dateline featured cold case homicide detective. You continue to consult on cold case investigations while serving as a senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Colorado Springs. You're also an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, and Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as a faculty member at Summit Ministries at Manitou Springs, Colorado. We're looking at your booklet titled Alive, A Cold Case Approach to the Resurrection. And because Easter is coming up, and also as we mentioned earlier this week, we find that a lot of Latter-day Saints, when they find out that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true, and that Joseph Smith is not a true prophet of God, tend to jettison all religious faith, even though as Latter-day Saints, they claimed to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. And I've challenged a lot of former Mormons on that. When they tell me they're now atheists, I say, okay, so you're telling me that while you were a Latter-day Saint, you told people you were a Christian, and you told people you believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but yet what did you find since then that proved to you that he didn't rise from the dead?

And usually I can hear the crickets chirping after I ask that question, so that's why I think this is an important subject. And so today we're going to talk about a criticism that has been known as the Legend Theory. This is what you say in your booklet, Alive. You say, the disciples' observations were distorted later. Some unbelievers claim the original observations of the disciples were amplified and distorted as the legend of Jesus grew over time. These skeptics believe that Jesus may have been a wise teacher, but argue that the resurrection is a legendary and historically late exaggeration.

What's your response to that? Okay, so that's I think an important claim. Bart Ehrman, the skeptic, wrote a book called How Jesus Became God, where he kind of takes the same approach. Whatever early version of Jesus there was, it got distorted over time with 300 years between the events and let's say the Council of Laodicea, where we're trying to decide which of these canonical gospels is going to be in, what to do with the non-canonical gospels, things like that. So there's a lot of time in here in which you can make changes.

But here's what you can do to check that. We call this the chain of custody in criminal trials. We can simply ask, who handled the evidence from the point of the crime to the point of the trial? In this case, who handled the story of Jesus from the actual observations to the time in which it's finally codified in the New Testament canon? And if you look at that history, you can just pick an author, like say like John, he makes certain claims about Jesus, but he passed them on to somebody. We know who he passed them on to. He passed them on to Papias, Ignatius, and Polycarp. So those people now, we can find their writings. Now, they're not in the New Testament, but they are ancient manuscripts written to each other, written to local congregations. And we can ask the question, is the story as told by Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias, does it match John's?

I mean, we're now just one generation. These are the people who sat at the feet of the eyewitness. Do they, is the story simpler? Does that story, has they recorded? Is there no virgin conception?

Is there no walking on water? Is there no resurrection? In other words, are all the key important elements of Jesus still intact, or are they missing? Because if they're missing, then we could argue they were added later. Well, it turns out the very first students of the eyewitnesses say the exact same thing about Jesus that the eyewitnesses said, because they learned it from the eyewitnesses. This was not added later.

This was the story from the beginning. And we can check who their students are. Ignatius and Polycarp had a student named Araneus.

Araneus had a student named Hippolytus. You can go heel to toe from teacher to student through history and see if the story of Jesus is changing as you read the manuscripts of those people in the chain of custody. And what you're going to discover is that no one ever changes the story. You don't want to believe it's true? Okay, I can only present the evidence to you.

But the idea that it's changed over time is evidentially false. There's another theory, Jim, and there's actually several others, like the unknown tomb, the disciples didn't know where the tomb was, or they went to the wrong tomb. There's one other that is called the Jesus tomb and actually has some popularity today. And it was a documentary by James Cameron of Titanic Fane, who said that this tomb that he found in a neighborhood in Jerusalem very well could have been the tomb where Jesus was because they found an ossuary and there was the name of Jesus on the ossuary, which is a bone box. It sounds like we have proof that there was a bone box that had Jesus's bones in it. Well, a couple of things about that. Number one, how they determine is that box the box of Jesus of Nazareth? I wish it was that clear, right? What you have instead are some some etchings on the box that identify some names that are found in the Holy Family, right?

The problem, of course, is if you look at any research done on this, and a lot of research has been done on this. As a matter of fact, James Bauckham has written a book called Jesus and the Eyewitnesses in which he cites the work of Tal Ilan, who has studied biblical names, studied the names in the first century. What are the most popular names in the first century in the area around Jerusalem? And what you're going to discover is that Joseph, Mary and Jesus are amongst the top five or six most popular names in the region in the first century.

So I'm not going to be surprised that you're going to find burial sites in which all three of those names or two of the three are in place, because those were some of the most popular names. So the narrative in the New Testament is that whoever took them off the cross, went and prepared the body in the tomb, and then you're going to suggest that somehow, they would mistakenly go to the wrong tomb the next day. It's not as though you don't have a custody, like a chain of custody of the body of Jesus, that would take them to the tomb originally, and then bring them back to the same tomb the next day. It would also mean that the entire story is a lie. And that means it falls into the category we talked about this week, this idea that the entire story is just a lie, a conspiratorial lie.

You already know why I reject that idea. So there are several reasons why this notion that they are in the wrong tomb or we've got the wrong tomb identified or that this tomb that happens to have an empty box, and based on the names that are in the tomb, this is somehow going to be Jesus. Unfortunately, it'd be great if instead of being named Jesus, his name was Boulder Dash, because that would probably be the only Boulder Dash in Jerusalem in the first century.

But it turns out those are the most common names, so I don't know if we can use those really in a way to verify the claims that are made in that movie. We've talked about all of these theories that are not very good when it comes to the evidence. Why do you think the historical resurrection of Jesus is the best way to view what happened to the body of Jesus? Well, look, all explanations have strengths and weaknesses, and this is true for the atheist explanations. There are strengths and there are weaknesses.

I think the weaknesses outweigh the strengths. But you have a strength and a weakness with the Christian explanation too. I never suggested that the Christian explanation is all strength and no weakness.

The strength is that it actually describes the first pieces of evidence that we talked about earlier in the week the most robustly, and it accounts for all of the evidence, all of the claims. If it just happened the way that the New Testament described it, then okay, the claims in the New Testament make sense. But here's the weakness as an atheist that I had, and that was that it requires something supernatural to occur.

And there is the game changer for most people. In other words, it requires a supernatural resurrection. And there are a lot of people who would say, once you include something supernatural in a writing genre, you're no longer doing history, you're now doing mythology. Supernatural things don't occur.

So I'll give you an example of this. If the entire New Testament just told the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who's an ancient sage who preaches really great messages, he developed disciples, but he never did a single miracle, he was not born of a virgin, he didn't rise from the grave, would there be anyone in scholarship who would doubt the veracity of the historicity of Jesus, the manuscript evidence, he would be the most, as he is today, the most documented ancient in the history of ancients, and nobody would doubt a single claim about him if there were no supernatural claims, if it was just a natural version of Jesus. But then you add the miracles, and then you add the resurrection, and suddenly the same level of certainty you had before is in doubt, because you're making supernatural claims. And that was my problem as an atheist.

I rejected the supernatural out of hand. And how that changed for me was when I started to think about my own view of Big Bang cosmology, that the entire universe, all space, time, and matter, came into existence from nothing. That is still the standard cosmological model amongst astrophysicists and cosmologists. There are other options, of course, but that is still called the standard cosmological model, and I embraced it. But that model says, if we're in a universe that has a beginning in which all space, time, and matter came into being at the Big Bang, let's say, well then that means whatever caused the beginning of the universe by definition has to be outside of space, time, and matter.

And what do we also call space, time, and matter, acted on by physics and chemistry? We call that nature. If you're outside of space, time, and matter, you're outside of natural explanations. So for me to embrace a view of the universe, Big Bang cosmology, or standard cosmological model, I already had to embrace some form of extra-naturalism. And if that cause, outside of space, time, and matter, was a supernatural being rather than an impersonal force, then it seems to me that the biggest miracle recorded in scripture is not on the pages of the New Testament at all, it's in Genesis 1. And that every miracle on the pages of the New Testament are what I call small potato miracles.

If there's a God that can create everything from nothing, I'm guessing that walking on water is not a big deal, or rising from the grave is not a big deal. And so I asked myself, if I'm already ready and willing to embrace this form of cosmology, why am I rejecting anything extra-natural here? And that opened my eyes up a little bit to the fact that I held a bias. By the way, my belief in the standard cosmological model does not call me to live differently. But if I was to embrace this God of the New Testament, I would recognize the difference between me and God. And it would cause me to seek a Savior. And it would cause me to have to embrace some form of submission, that I am not the authority who gets to make every decision, determine what's right, what's wrong, what's good, what's bad. And I think that was really the movement I needed to make in my belief system.

But don't think for a second that I have to get there without reasoning from evidence, because it's not true. You can get to a surrendered faith in Christ as Savior by reasoning your way, given the evidence that God has provided us, both in special revelation and in the natural world. We see this in Psalm 19, right? The heavens declare the glory of God.

The sky is bookend the work of his hands. Paul tells us in Romans, you have no excuse. You know there's a creator simply from viewing the creation. So in the end, I wanted to do both of those things. I wanted to investigate special revelation, the book of scripture, and the natural revelation, the book of nature, to come to a conclusion. And that's why today I'm not a Mormon, but I am a Christian. You end your booklet with an excellent question for those who may still be skeptical after all the evidence you presented.

The question is, am I rejecting this because there isn't enough evidence, or am I rejecting this because I don't want there to be enough evidence? And I think that's a fair question to ask anybody who may have questions about the bodily resurrection of Christ. Jay Warner Wallace, Jim, thank you for being with us this week. And I certainly do appreciate all that you have given us through this series. And I hope people pick up the book, Alive!

A Cold Case Approach to the Resurrection. Thank you, Jim. Thanks so much for having both of you. I really appreciate your work, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. It's our pleasure, Jim. Have a great weekend. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research History, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-11 07:45:49 / 2023-12-11 07:52:03 / 6

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