Tag Archives: J. Warner Wallace

Why Are You a Believer? A Review of J. Warner Wallace’s Forensic Faith

J. Warner Wallace is a  cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author.  Wallace has written two books defending the truth claims of Christianity: Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene.

Cold-Case Christianity provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the New Testament gospels. In God’s Crime Scene, Wallace investigates eight pieces of evidence in the universe to make the case for God’s existence.

But having written these two helpful books, Wallace came to realize, as he spoke in churches across America,  that many of the Christians attending his presentations doubted the need for Christian evidences in the first place.

When Wallace asks audiences why they are Christians, he typically gets these answers:

“I was raised in the church” / “My parents were Christians” / “I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember”

“I’ve had an experience that convinced me” / “The Holy Spirit confirmed it for me” / “God demonstrated His existence to me”

“I was changed by Jesus” / “I used to be [fill in your choice of immoral lifestyle], and God changed my life”

“Because I just know the Bible is true” / “Because God called me to believe”

But why, he wondered, does nobody ever answer the question with “I am a Christian because it is true“? After all, isn’t that the primary reason we should believe anything?

But many of the Christians Wallace encountered seemed to set aside their Christian beliefs as somehow privileged, as exempt from evidential considerations. This approach to Christian belief, however, is just not acceptable.

Wallace writes:

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity.  When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning.

The famed writer C. S. Lewis, all the way back in 1939, wrote the following words about Christianity:

If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against the cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.

Is the church anti-intellectual today when it comes to defending her core truth claims? This has certainly been my experience while teaching Christian apologetics for the last 14 years. Wallace concurs:

I’m not the only one to notice how anti-intellectual the church is today. Atheist activist and philosophy professor Peter Boghossian wrote a book in 2013 entitled A Manual for Creating AtheistsIt was published around the same time my first book, Cold-Case Christianity, hit the bookshelves. Boghossian describes his book as “the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith—but for talking them out of it.” He hopes to teach atheists “to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.” In a YouTube video promoting the approach, Boghossian made an interesting observation: Christians fail to process truth claims rationally; instead of assessing the evidence and drawing the most reasonable inference, they typically rely on personal experience, emotional response, and “blind faith.” For this reason, he encourages atheists to engage Christians not on the evidence but on the way Christians evaluate truth claims in the first place.

Is Boghossian wrong in his assessment of Christians? Wallace thinks not.

Sadly, my own experience in the church confirms what Boghossian has described. Boghossian, and others like him, believe they need only show Christians how to examine evidence and the rest will take care of itself. Confident of the evidence supporting their view, they can’t imagine Christianity will survive a forensic investigation in the “age of reason.” But as someone who has examined the evidence of God’s existence and the reliability of the New Testament documents as a detective, I hold a similar, although opposite, view. If Christians will simply learn how to approach their beliefs evidentially and take the same forensic approach detectives take when examining an event from the past, the rest will take care of itself. I’m confident the claims of Christianity are supported by the evidence, and I believe a forensic faith will comfortably survive in the age of reason. Boghossian and I are engaged in a race of sorts. Both of us understand the importance of the evidence, and we are trying to reach the same group of accidental Christians. The only question is who will reach them first.

Mature Christians who have walked with the Lord for many decades may dismiss all this talk of evidence and apologetics. They just don’t need it. Their experiences of Christianity are unshakable and no skeptic is going to change their mind. To that Christian, though, I ask: What about the young? What about the students? What about the teenagers and twenty-somethings? Do we just abandon them?

Wallace cites disturbing survey results about young people in our churches:

Most teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their religious beliefs and practices. They typically cannot defend what they believe. Young, uninformed believers also reject important Christian claims.

63 percent of teenage Christians don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God;

51 percent don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead;

68 percent don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real Being.

Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people aged 15 to 30 will leave the church for at least a season, and most will never return.

Only 33 percent of young, churched Christians said the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

If current trends related to the belief systems and practices of young people continue, church attendance will decline by 50 percent in the next decade.

College professors are nearly five times more likely to be professing atheists or agnostics than people in the general population. The vast majority of university professors reject the Bible as “the actual word of God.”

When surveyed, the largest segment of young, ex-Christian respondents said they left Christianity because they had intellectual doubt, skepticism, and unanswered questions.

So what do we do about this? Wallace answers:

If properly equipped, [young people] could actually grow in their faith and confidence, even in the midst of strong opposition. You and I have the opportunity to reach the young people we love. . . if we are willing to embrace the mission. Our children, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, are in the right place; they believe something true. If they’ve come to understand their own need for a Savior and have repented and placed their trust in Jesus alone for their salvation, they are saved for eternity. But if they haven’t taken the time to study why Christianity is true, . . . they will be ill-equipped to answer objections and less than persuasive with a group that requires far more evidence than ever before. We have to change the course of the church in order to meet this challenge, and the church is much more like an ocean liner than a jet ski. We cannot turn it on a dime. Instead, we must make small course corrections—one degree here and one degree there. Forensic Faith is my effort to come alongside the church as a tugboat and shift the direction of our ocean liner one degree at a time.

Wallace is right and I hope you will read his book so that we can all get this ocean liner turned together.

#8 Post of 2015 – A Review of ‘God’s Crime Scene’

Normally, I don’t review books in the traditional sense. Instead I prefer to excerpt portions from the books I read and highlight them to you, my audience (I’ll probably still do that later on with this book). However, Jim Wallace was kind enough to send me a pre-publication copy of his new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universeand I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it over my summer vacation, so here goes!

Jim is a translator. He takes the sometimes complex arguments of academics and he translates them into a simpler form for his audience. This a crucial task for the Christian church, because without translators the vast majority of people will never understand what academics are saying about the Christian worldview. We need to know what the academics are saying because they are doing the research that either corroborates or rebuts the claims of Christianity.

There are two things, I think, that make Jim an especially effective translator. First, he has a knack for developing analogies and illustrations that communicate the complex ideas of Christian apologetics. Second, Jim is masterful at bringing his cold-case detective experience to bear on apologetics arguments. He demonstrated both of these talents in his first book, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, which analyzed the historical reliability of the New Testament documents.

The idea behind his second book, God’s Crime Scene, is that we are investigating the “crime scene” of the observable universe and we are trying to determine if the cause of the observable universe operated from inside of it or from outside of it. Wallace compares this investigation to that of a detective who arrives at a death scene where a dead body has been discovered. The detective must figure out whether the death was caused by the elements inside the death scene (e.g., disease, accident) or whether the cause of death was outside the death scene (e.g., murderer).

Wallace takes the reader through eight different pieces of evidence that must be analyzed at the “crime scene.” These evidences are : 1) the origin of the universe, 2) the fine tuning of the universe, 3) the origin of life, 4) the apparent design of life, 5) consciousness, 6) objective morality, 7) free will, and 8) evil. A chapter is dedicated to each of these.

Wallace not only steps the reader through the evidence in each chapter, but he teaches us how to think about the evidence, using his decades of experience as a detective and as a participant in numerous criminal trials. The task of any jury is to listen to the evidence and arguments made by both the prosecution and defense, to weigh what each side has presented, and then to render a decision about which side has presented the truth about what really happened.

In the same way, we are called to sit on a jury where the prosecution argues that the eight pieces of evidence lead to a theistic creator-God who exists outside the observable universe, and the defense argues that the eight pieces of evidence can be explained by the forces of nature contained inside the observable universe.

As an apologist who has been studying the evidences for Christianity for over a decade, all eight evidences that Wallace presents are familiar territory to me. He has certainly done his homework (extensive citations of scholars on both sides) and updated bits and pieces of the evidences and arguments, but this book is not primarily intended for someone like me.

Just as Lee Strobel brought the evidences for Christianity to a generation of people who had never heard of apologetics (yours truly included) using his background as a journalist, J. Warner Wallace is bringing the evidences for Christianity to yet another generation using his background as a cold-case detective.

Here’s to J. Warner Wallace and all the other translators. You’re doing essential work for the kingdom!

Have Computer Simulations Proven Darwinian Evolution? Part 2

As we continue to look at computer simulations of Darwinian evolution, we come to our second major problem: even with intelligent intervention by the programmers of these simulations, they mostly fail to produce irreducibly complex systems. J. Warner Wallace resumes his analysis in God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe:

Even with the help of intelligent programmers and designers, many of these simulations fail to achieve their goal of creating the kind of complexity we see in the bacterial flagellum. Irreducibly complex structures, as first described by Michael Behe, are highly improbable systems in which the removal of a single structural element renders the system inoperable. In addition, these efficient systems are “composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function” of the system. These individual parts are also complex in their own right. The simplest building blocks in Behe’s examples are typically single proteins (which, in and of themselves, are very complex).

Many of the computer simulations we’ve described fail to produce truly irreducible structures, truly complex building pieces, or integrated systems with well-matched, interacting parts. The Ev project, for example, produced systems capable of operating when a binding site was removed. As a result, the system is not truly irreducible like the biological examples described by Behe. Adrian Thompson’s digital experiment suffers the same flaw; it also produced circuits capable of operating when some of their parts were removed and, therefore, cannot be used as a model for producing irreducible complexity.

Many of the simulations produced only trivially complex structures (on the level of an amino acid rather than a protein) and were incapable of producing the component sophistication seen in irreducibly complex biological systems. The Avida and Ev projects and Sadedin’s geometric model fall into this category. Finally, most of the computer simulations were unable to define the roles of each part in the context of the whole. This is important because “well-matched, interacting parts” can’t be evaluated unless we first know the role of each part. For this reason, computer simulations fail to address a key attribute of irreducible complexity.

In summary, computer simulations of Darwinian evolution have smuggled intelligent intervention into their models and still cannot produce the kinds of complex biological systems that are found in plants and animals. So, is Dawkins right about computer simulations proving the effectiveness of Darwinian evolution? Not really, no.

If the intelligent design movement has proven anything, it’s that biological organisms are loaded with complex, specified information. Complex, specified information only comes from intelligent agents, but Darwinian evolution does not allow for intelligent agents. Therefore, no computer simulation which accurately models Darwinian evolution will ever succeed.

Have Computer Simulations Proven Darwinian Evolution? Part 1

I remember years ago watching a documentary starring Richard Dawkins. In the documentary, Dawkins spent a lot of time demonstrating how computer simulations have shown that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection are capable of generating complex biological organisms. No intelligence was required, argued Dawkins, only the blind evolutionary process. Being a former design engineer who used computer simulations every day of my career, I was immediately skeptical of Dawkins’ use of simulations to “prove” Darwinian evolution works.

J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, presents evidence and arguments that confirm that the simulations used by Darwinian proponents do not, in fact, prove that random mutation and natural selection can build complex biological organisms.

Wallace begins with an introduction to some of the more famous Darwinian simulations:

A number of scientists and researchers have attempted to demonstrate the power evolution has to create irreducibly complex systems (and the appearance of design) by designing sophisticated digital simulations driven by elaborate computer programs. Research of this nature has been ongoing for many years. The Avida project claimed to explore the “evolutionary origin of complex features.” The Ev project attempted to provide an evolutionary explanation for the regions in DNA and RNA (binding sites) where chemical bonds are formed with other molecules. Theoretical biologist Suzanne Sadedin also formulated a geometric model for irreducible complexity and then claimed to have created a simulation to achieve such complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent. The work of Adrian Thompson is also cited by skeptics who claim Thompson’s digital experiment to evolve frequency-discerning circuits is evidence irreducible complexity can be achieved by evolutionary processes.

Wallace asks, “Do computer simulations demonstrate evolution is capable of producing irreducibly complex biological structures? While skeptics often cite these efforts, they fail to account for irreducible complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent.”

The first problem is that many of these simulations smuggle in an intelligent designer from the beginning.

Many efforts to create a computer simulation mimicking the evolutionary process are flawed from the onset because they incorporate the involvement of an intelligent designer from their very inception. The Avida programmers “‘stacked the deck’ by studying the evolution of a complex feature that could be built on simpler functions that were also useful.” Sadedin’s geometric model was designed in advance to allow for the easy growth of large geometric shapes. Both Avida and the geometric models do not create true Darwinian processes because they are explicitly and intelligently designed to assist the evolution of an irreducibly complex system.

In other words, these models of Darwinian evolution contain built-in information that helps the simulation produce more impressive results, but this is clearly cheating. Darwinian evolution in the real world doesn’t have this information built into it.

In part 2, we’ll look at the second major problem with these computer simulations: even with intelligent intervention by the programmers of these simulations, they mostly fail to produce irreducibly complex systems.

Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 2

We continue with J. Warner Wallace’s analysis of multiverse theories in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe.

The second reason multiverse theories fail to explain the origin of fine tuning is that rather than explaining the origin of fine tuning, the multiverse theory requires fine tuning to first exist.

If there is a multiverse vacuum capable of such creative activity, it would be reasonable for us to ask how the physics of such an environment could be so fine-tuned to create a life-permitting universe. As Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne observed, any proposed multiverse mechanism “needs to have a certain form rather than innumerable possible other forms, and probably constants too that need fine-tuning in the narrow sense … if that diversity of universes is to result.” Eternal inflation, for example, requires a precise relationship between cosmological constants of gravity and the other forces of quantum physics. In other words, the vacuums proposed in multiverse models are equally fine-tuned.

Third, multiverse theories rely on speculative notions of time.

Theorists who propose a preexisting vacuum must account for the nature of time in this setting. All descriptions of this vacuum describe it as temporal (with bubble universes emerging or quantum events occurring over time). But the Standard Cosmological Model (as we described it in the prior chapter) indicates time, as we know it, began with our universe. Multiverse explanations must provide an account for the temporal nature of the vacuum lying at the core of their theory.

Fourth, multiverse theories result in absurdities.

Like string theory models, multiverse proposals result in a number of interesting (and disturbing) absurdities. If there are an infinite number of universes in the multiverse collection, and there exists a remote chance one of them could have a set of laws like ours (and a history similar to our own), we must accept (given the infinite size of the multiverse) an infinite number of universes resembling ours. In fact, if there’s a small chance any of these similar universes might have precisely the same history as our own (with someone exactly like you reading this book at this very moment), there are an infinite number of universes precisely the same as ours in every possible way.

The absurdity of this proposal has been noted by a number of physicists and philosophers. Multiverse models describe an ensemble of universes both identical and slightly different from our own. As Alan Guth admitted, “There is a universe where Elvis is still alive.” The incredulity of such a proposal seems a high price to pay to accommodate a theory yet unproven by the evidence. As Paul Davies said, “The very notion that there could be not just one, but an infinity of identical copies of you, leading identical lives (and infinitely many others leading similar but not identical lives) is deeply unsettling.”

Worse yet, if the multiverse model is true, we may not even be living in a “real” universe at all. If there is even a small chance our universe is simply a Matrix-like simulation (and this possibility certainly exists), the infinite number of universes assures there are also an infinite number of such “computer simulation” universes. While this probably seems absurd (and it ought to), it is the zany, inevitable consequence of multiverse theories.

While multiverse theories fail to explain fine tuning, one thing they concede is that the fine tuning in our universe must have been caused by something outside of our universe. There is nothing inside our universe that could have done the job, and this is a major concession. As Christian theists, we agree that something or Someone outside the universe is the cause of its fine tuning.

Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 1

J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, investigates the causes of the fine tuning of our universe. One of the most popular explanations is that there exists multiple universes (the multiverse) and ours is just lucky enough to have the fine tuning that permits life.

Wallace presents the multiverse theory as an explanation for fine tuning as follows:

Multiverse explanations, however, point once again to an external causal agent: a mechanism capable of creating an incredibly large number of universes, each with its own set of physical laws. Most of these universes in the multiverse collection are incapable of permitting life. Our universe, however, through “a series of cosmic accidents,” just happens to support our existence.

Multiverse theories overcome the incredible odds against life (and explain the appearance of fine-tuning) by increasing the chances of such a life-permitting universe. Multiverse theorists have proposed the creation of multiverses through a number of mechanisms, most commonly by way of “eternal inflation,” or “quantum tunneling.” Some physicists suggest the existence of an eternal, primordial vacuum (as we discussed in the last chapter).

According to proponents of eternal inflation models, if an infinitely old vacuum has been experiencing inflation, and the tiny bubble universes we described have emerged, each bubble universe might have its own characteristics and physical laws. Other physicists (such as Alex Vilenkin) propose “quantum tunneling from nothing” to explain the existence of an ensemble of universes without eternal inflation. In these quantum tunneling models, diverse universes pop into existence, because in “quantum mechanics the behavior of physical objects is inherently unpredictable and some quantum processes have no cause at all.”

In both eternal inflation and quantum tunneling models, the universes (some older than others) emerging from the vacuum coexist within the larger multiverse. In each of these proposals (eternal inflation, quantum tunneling, and even string theory models), the existence of a vast array of universes makes one like ours an inevitability.

Given a vast array of universes, one of them was bound to support life, goes the argument. The different forms of the multiverse theory each attempt to describe the mechanism for the creation of all these universes, but the outcome is the same: a massive number of universes.

But do these multiverse theories truly explain the fine tuning of our universe? Wallace thinks not. First, he argues that the multiverse theory lacks evidential confirmation.

Like string theory or M-theory proposals, multiverse models lack observational or experimental evidence. Scientists can’t access other universes in the multiverse because they are separated within the vacuum by too great a distance (and according to these theories, this distance is growing).  As a result, many scientists, especially string theorists, are suspicious about the existence of a multiverse. Some call it a “fantasy”; others call it “intellectually bankrupt” or a “cheap way out.” Lacking evidential support, many physicists see the multiverse theory as deficient when compared to efforts to find unity within the laws of physics.

But eternal inflation models face an even greater barrier. Our expert witness Alexander Vilenkin has already testified (along with Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Audrey Mithani) against the possibility of an eternal, uncaused, expanding vacuum. According to these experts, if inflation (expansion) has been occurring in this vacuum, it must have had a beginning and therefore cannot be eternal.

In part 2, we will look at 3 more reasons multiverse theories fail to adequately explain the origins of fine tuning.

Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 6

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 6, we conclude J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as written in his book Cold-Case Christianity. In the previous 5 posts, we have seen 11 pieces of evidence with which Wallace builds his case.  Now it is time to see what we can conclude from the evidence. Here is Wallace:

First we’ve got to account for the suspicious absence of several key historical events in the New Testament record: the destruction of the temple, the siege of Jerusalem, and the deaths of Peter, Paul, and James. These omissions can be reasonably explained if the book of Acts (the biblical text that ought to describe these events) was written prior to AD 61– 62. These events are missing from the accounts because they hadn’t happened yet.

The absence of these key events leads us to think that Acts was written before AD 62, and certainly before AD 70. Given the dating of Acts, what does that mean for Luke?

We know from the introductory lines of the book of Acts that Luke’s gospel was written prior to Acts, but we must use the remaining circumstantial evidence to try to determine how much prior. The fact that Paul echoed the description of Jesus that was offered by the gospel writers is certainly consistent with the fact that he was aware of the claims of the Gospels, and his quotations from Luke’s gospel in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians reasonably confirm the early existence of Luke’s account, placing it well before AD 53– 57. Paul was able to quote Luke’s gospel and refer to it as scripture because it was already written, circulating at this time, and broadly accepted. Paul’s readers recognized this to be true as they read Paul’s letters.

So the Gospel of Luke is mostly likely before AD 53-57 because Paul’s letters were quoting from Luke, and we have good evidence for the early dating of Paul’s letters. If Luke was early, then what about Mark?

Luke told us that he was gathering data from “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1: 2). As a result he either referred to or quoted directly from over five hundred verses that are found in either the gospel of Mark or the gospel of Matthew. It is reasonable to infer that these accounts were in existence prior to Luke’s investigation. If this is the case, Mark’s gospel would date much earlier than Luke’s, and can be sensibly placed in either the late 40s or very early 50s. This then explains some of the characteristics we see in Mark’s gospel. There appears to be a sense of urgency in the gospel, similar to the crime broadcasts that are made by responding officers, and Mark appears to be protecting key players in the account as if they were still alive at the time of his writing.

Because of the evidence, Wallace offers dates of AD 45-50 for Mark, AD 50-53 for Luke, and AD 57-60 for Acts. Thus Wallace writes:

The reasonable inference from the circumstantial evidence is that the Gospels were written very early in history, at a time when the original eyewitnesses and gospel writers were still alive and could testify to what they had seen. This is why Mark was careful not to identify key players and Paul could reasonably point to five hundred living eyewitnesses who could still testify to their observations of Jesus’s resurrection. While skeptics would like to claim that the Gospels were written well after the alleged life of the apostles and much closer to the councils that affirmed them, the evidence indicates something quite different.

Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 5

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 5, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as written in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The eleventh piece of evidence is that Mark seems to be protecting key players. Wallace explains:

In my years as an investigator, there have been many times when a witness carefully chose his or her words to avoid dragging someone else into the case. This was particularly true when working gang cases. There were a number of times when a witness had the courage to come forward with information, but was less than forthcoming about the identity of others who might have seen something similar. Driven by the fear that these additional witnesses might be in a position of jeopardy, the witness would mention them in his or her account but refuse to specifically identify them. Most of the time the witnesses were simply trying to protect someone who they thought was defenseless and vulnerable.

I experienced just the opposite in some of my cold-case investigations. When re-interviewing witnesses who spoke to investigators years earlier, I found that they were now willing to provide me with the identities of people whom they previously refused to identify. Sometimes this was because they developed some animosity toward these people over the years; this was especially true when boyfriends and girlfriends broke up and were eventually willing to talk about each other. Sometimes it was a matter of diminishing fear; when the suspect in a case died, it wasn’t unusual to have people come forward and identify themselves simply because they were no longer afraid to do so.

Many careful readers of Mark’s gospel have observed that there are a number of unidentified people described in his account. These anonymous characters are often in key positions in the narrative, yet Mark chose to leave them unnamed. For example, Mark’s description of the activity in the garden of Gethsemane includes the report that “one of those who stood by [the arrest of Jesus] drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear” (Mark 14: 47). Mark chose to leave both the attacker and the man attacked unnamed in his description, even though John identified both (Peter as the attacker and Malchus as the person being attacked) in his gospel account. Similarly, Mark failed to identify the woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper (Mark 14: 3– 9), even though John told us that it was Mary (the sister of Martha), who poured the perfume on Jesus’s head.

While skeptics have offered a number of explanations for these variations (arguing, for example, that they may simply be late embellishments in an effort to craft the growing mythology of the Gospels), something much simpler might be at work. If Mark, like some of the witnesses in my gang cases, was interested in protecting the identity of Peter (as Malchus’s attacker) and Mary (whose anointing may have been interpreted as a proclamation of Jesus’s kingly position as the Messiah), it makes sense that he might leave them unnamed so that the Jewish leadership would not be able to easily target them. In fact, Mark never even described Jesus’s raising of Mary’s brother, Lazarus.

This also makes sense if Mark was trying to protect Lazarus’s identity in the earliest years of the Christian movement, given that the resurrection of Lazarus was of critical concern to the Jewish leaders and prompted them to search for Jesus in their plot to kill him. If Mark wrote his gospel early, while Mary, Lazarus, Peter, and Malchus were still alive, it is reasonable that Mark might have wanted to leave them unnamed or simply omit the accounts that included them in the first place. Scholars generally acknowledge John’s gospel as the final addition to the New Testament collection of gospel accounts. It was most likely written at a time when Peter, Malchus, and Mary were already dead. John, like some of the witnesses in my cold cases, had the liberty to identify these important people; they were no longer in harm’s way.

In part 6, we will conclude this series and summarize why all the evidence leads to an early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.

Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 4, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as written in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The ninth piece of evidence is that Luke quoted Mark (and Matthew) repeatedly. Wallace explains:

Luke, when writing his own gospel, readily admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus. Instead, Luke described himself as a historian, collecting the statements from the eyewitnesses who were present at the time:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1: 1– 4)

As a result, Luke often repeated or quoted entire passages that were offered previously by either Mark (350 verses from Mark appear in Luke’s gospel) or Matthew (250 verses from Matthew appear in Luke’s account).  These passages were inserted into Luke’s gospel as though they were simply copied over from the other accounts. It’s reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Mark’s account was already recognized, accepted, and available to Luke prior to his authorship of the gospel.

The tenth piece of evidence is that Mark’s Gospel appears to be an early “crime broadcast.”

Mark’s gospel bears a striking resemblance to a “crime broadcast.” When first-responding officers arrive at the scene of a crime, they quickly gather the details related to the crime and the description of the suspect, then “clear the air” with the radio dispatchers so they can broadcast these details to other officers who may be in the area.

This first crime broadcast is brief and focused on the essential elements. There will be time later to add additional details, sort out the order of events, and write lengthy reports. This first broadcast is driven by the immediacy of the moment; we’ve got to get the essentials out to our partners because the suspects in this case may still be trying to flee the area. . . .

Although Mark’s gospel contains the important details of Jesus’s life and ministry, it is brief, less ordered than the other gospels, and filled with “action” verbs and adjectives. There is a sense of urgency about it. This is what we might expect, if it was, in fact, an early account of Jesus’s ministry, written with a sense of urgency. It is clear that the eyewitnesses felt this urgency and believed that Jesus would return very soon.

Paul wrote that “salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom. 13: 11), and James said, “The coming of the Lord is near” (James 5: 8). Peter, Mark’s mentor and companion, agreed that “the end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4: 7). Surely Mark wrote with this same sense of urgency as he penned Peter’s experiences in his own gospel.

Mark’s account takes on the role of “crime broadcast,” delivering the essential details without regard for composition or stylistic prose. Papias confirmed this in his statement about Mark’s efforts:

“Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”

In part 5, we will present Wallace’s 11th and final piece of evidence for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.

Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 3, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as elucidated in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The seventh piece of evidence is that Paul reinforced the claims of the Gospel writers. Wallace explains:

While some modern critics challenge the authorship of Paul’s pastoral letters, even the most skeptical scholars agree that Paul is the author of the letters written to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians. These letters are dated between AD 48 and AD 60. The letter to the Romans (typically dated at AD 50) reveals something important. Paul began the letter by proclaiming that Jesus is the resurrected “Son of God.” Throughout the letter, Paul accepted the view of Jesus that the gospel eyewitnesses described in their own accounts.

Just seventeen years after the resurrection, Jesus was described as divine. He is God incarnate, just as the gospel eyewitnesses described in their own accounts. In fact, Paul’s outline of Jesus’s life matches that of the Gospels. In [1 Corinthians 15:3-8] (written from AD 53 to 57), Paul summarized the gospel message and reinforced the fact that the apostles described the eyewitness accounts to him. . . .

In his letter to the Galatians (also written in the mid-50s), Paul described his interaction with these apostles (Peter and James) and said that their meeting occurred at least fourteen years prior to the writing of his letter. [See Gal 1:15-19 and Gal 2:1]

This means that Paul saw the risen Christ and learned about the gospel accounts from the eyewitnesses (Peter and James) within five years of the crucifixion (most scholars place Paul’s conversion from AD 33 to 36, and he visited Peter and James within three years of his conversion, according to Gal. 1: 19). This is why Paul was able to tell the Corinthians that there were still “more than five hundred brethren” who could confirm the resurrection accounts (1 Cor. 15: 6). That’s a gutsy claim to make in AD 53– 57, when his readers could easily have accepted his challenge and called him out as a liar if the claim was untrue.

The eighth piece of evidence is that Paul quoted Luke’s Gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.

Paul also seems to have been familiar with the gospel of Luke when he wrote to the Corinthian church (nearly ten years earlier than his letter to Timothy). Notice the similarity between Paul’s description of the Lord’s Supper and Luke’s gospel:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.'” (1 Cor. 11: 23– 25)

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.'” (Luke 22: 19– 20)

Paul appears to be quoting Luke’s gospel— the only gospel that has Jesus saying that the disciples are to ‘do this in remembrance of Me.’ If Paul is trying to use a description of the meal that was already well known at the time, this account must have been circulating for a period of time prior to Paul’s letter.

Stay tuned for part 4 of this important series, where J. Warner Wallace continues to build his case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.