I am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler: A Festschrift in His Honor


I Am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler:

A Festschrift in His Honor

Edited by Terry L. Miethe

Pickwick Publishers | 2016

480 pages

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Preface by Ravi Zacharias · xi

Introduction by Terry L. Miethe · xiii

Tributes to Norman L. Geisler

Thanks for the Memories by William E. Nix · xxi

A Tribute to Norman L. Geisler by Patty Tunnicliffe · xxiii

A Personal Story by John Ankerberg · xxvii

Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Personal Reflections on a Favorite Professor

by Timothy Paul Erdel · xxix

A Tribute to Dr. Norman L. Geisler by Mark M. Hanna · xxxii

Personal Experience with Norm by Grant C. Richison · xxxiv

Biographical Reflections about Norm Geisler by Winfried Corduan · xxxv

Norma Turbulenta: “Stormin’ Norman” by Donald T. Williams · xxxvii


chapter 1: Using Apologetics in Contemporary Evangelism by David Geisler · 1

chapter 2: Distinctive Elements of a Judaeo-Christian Worldview by William E. Nix · 22

chapter 3: Our Faith Seeks Their Understanding: Evangelistic-Apologetics & Effective Communication by Ramesh Richard · 57

Biblical Studies

chapter 4: Beware the Impact of Historical Critical Ideologies on Current Evangelical New Testament Studies by F. David Farnell · 76

chapter 5: Building Babel: Genesis 11:1–9 by Thomas Howe · 99

chapter 6: The Task of Bible Exposition by Elliott Johnson · 122

chapter 7: God’s Ultimate Purpose for Creation by Grant C. Richison · 135

chapter 8: Text Versus Word: C. S. Lewis’s View of Inspiration and the Inerrancy of Scripture by Donald T. Williams · 152


chapter 9: Some Features of Finite Being in St. Thomas Aquinas by Winfried Corduan · 169

chapter 10: Unamuno and Quine: A Meta-Philosophical Parable Concerning Faith, Reason, and Truth by Timothy Paul Erdel · 192

chapter 11: Open Theism, Analogy, and Religious Language by Joseph M. Holden · 204

chapter 12: Defending the Handmaid: How Theology Needs Philosophy by Richard G. Howe · 233

chapter 13: Aristotle: God & The Life of Contemplation, or What is Philosophy & Why is it Important? by Terry L. Miethe · 257

chapter 14: The Enlightenment, John Locke & Scottish Common Sense Realism by Terry L. Miethe · 281


chapter 15: Big Data, Big Brother, and Transhumanism by J. Kerby Anderson · 297

chapter 16: Using Expository Preaching to Address Ethical Issues in Our Day by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. · 307

chapter 17: Moral Absolutes and Moral Worth: A Proposal for Christian Ethics Inspired by Norman Geisler by Richard A. Knopp · 317

chapter 18: A Christian Response to Homosexuality by Patty Tunnicliffe · 346

Other Religions & Cults

chapter 19: Why They Blow Themselves Up: Understanding Islamic Suicide Bombers from a Christian Perspective by John Christian · 370

chapter 20: A Theological and Apologetical Assessment of Positive Confession Theology by Ron Rhodes · 382

Norman L. Geisler’s Impact

chapter 21: The Impact of Norman Geisler on Christian Higher Education by Wayne Detzler · 400

chapter 22: A Detroit Yankee in King Cotton’s Court: Love Expressed in the Thought and Writings of Norman Geisler by Paige Patterson · 417

Tabula Gratulatoria: Testimonials to Dr. Geisler’s Impact on our Time · 427

“Geislerisms” · 431

About Norman L. Geisler · 433


Book Review: Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate (2016)

Book Review of Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate

Christopher T. Haun[1]

[Click here >> Book Review – Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate to open this review as a PDF file.]


Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate
Publisher: Wipf & Stock
Date: 2016
General Editor: F. David Farnell
Contributors: F. David Farnell, Norman L. Geisler, Joseph P. Holden, William C. Roach, Phil Fernandes, Robert Wilkin, Paige Patterson, Shawn Nelson, Christopher T. Haun
PAGES: 563


$85.00 (Hardcover), $64.00 (Paperback)[2]

Kindle: $15.00 at Amazon.com


In Kurosawa’s classic film The Seven Samurai, desperate farmers convince veteran warriors to help defend their village and harvest from raiding bandits. Six ronin and one apprentice accept the challenge. After fortifying the village and giving the farmers a crash course in asymmetric warfare, the seven samurai lead the defense when the marauders return. Some of this story line and imagery came to mind as I read Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate (VIID) because first and foremost it is a defense.

Twenty-eight of its thirty-two chapters are written by six veteran scholars (holding PhDs in various fields). Four of its chapters are written by two MDiv candidates. In every chapter the authors are, as the preface says, “earnestly contending for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s people.” Every one of its meaty pages defends the traditional, conservative evangelical views of inspiration, inerrancy, and hermeneutics from the destructive use of biblical criticism. By extension they are defending all the propositions in and doctrines derived from the Bible.

VIID is an anthology of some of the best and most recent articles on topics of inerrancy, hermeneutic, and the quest for the historical Jesus. While it does weave in some of the history of the main clashes in the battle for the Bible in the twentieth century—such as the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, Barth and Neo-Orthodoxy, Fuller, Ladd, Rogers, McKim, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), ETS and Robert Gundry—it doesn’t linger on them. Mainly it offers fresh and intelligent responses to the newest wave of challenges to the Bible offered by evangelicals in books like The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP, 2010), The Lost World of Scripture (IVP, 2013), Ten Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship (Baker, 2013), Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Zondervan, 2013), Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Brazos, 2014), Lost World of Adam and Eve (IVP, 2015), Peter: False Disciple and Apostate According to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans, 2015), and I (Still) Believe (Zondervan, 2015).

Here is a sampling of the many thought-provoking questions which are discussed: How much emphasis should genre be given when doing interpretation? What is the nature of historical narratives? How do hermeneutics and inerrancy interrelate? Are the ideas of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy still important and relevant? What do the three living framers of the Chicago statements (Sproul, Packer, and Geisler) say about the new hermeneutic and the redefinitions of inerrancy? How do we deal with difficult passages in the Bible? What did the framers of the ICBI statements really mean? Where should one turn to get clarification about the Chicago Statements? Are the academic institutions of the evangelical world failing to learn the lessons of the past? Was the Apostle Matthew an Apostate? Which view has continuity with the early church fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformers, the writers of the 12-volume The Fundamentals, and the old Princetonians? Is inerrancy just for Calvinists? How early were the gospels really written? Is inerrancy just a peripheral doctrine? Is inerrancy derived from inductive and/or deductive logic? Was Matthew really the only one to mention the raising of the saints in Matthew 27? What do the Church fathers say about Matthew 27? Did any ancient Romans detect the influence of Roman historiography in Matthew 27? Should inerrancy be used as a litmus test of orthodoxy? Are the tools of biblical criticism really neutral? Does purpose or intention determine meaning? What does “truth” really mean? Is an intentionalist view of truth an alternative to the correspondence view of truth? Why did Bart Ehrman drift from fundamentalism to liberalism? What was the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention? Is there a resurgence of neo-evangelicalism? How does postmodernism fit into all this? Should the story of Adam and Eve be taken literally? Should organizations enforce their doctrinal statements amongst their own members? Does every scholarly evangelical organization lose its grip on inerrancy by the third generation? Should apologists defend both the Faith and the Bible? Should evangelicals send their budding scholars to earn PhDs at schools that specialize in biblical criticism?

VIID is provocative. The most controversial thing about the book is probably its willingness to name the names of many influential men. I’m not just talking about the old rascals like Bacon, Barth, Bart D. Ehrman, Bultmann, Darwin, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Lessing, Perrin, Reimarus, Schweitzer, Spinoza, Strauss, Tillich, Troeltsch, and von Harnack. VIID does mention them. But if focuses more on the also names the names of present and recent scholars, publishers, and bloggers: Ben Meyer, Birger Gerhadsson, Bruce Waltke, Carlos Bovell, Charles Talbert, Christopher Ansberry, Christopher Hays, Christian Smith, Clark Pinnock, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Craig Keener, D. Brent Sandy, Daniel P. Fuller, Daniel Harlow, Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock, David Capes, David E. Garland, Donald Hagner, Donald K. McKim, Douglas Moo, Edwin Yamauchi, E. P. Sanders, Ernst Wendland, Gary R. Habermas, George Eldon Ladd, Gerd Theissen, Grant R. Osborne, Gregory A. Boyd, H. C. Kee, Heath Thomas, I. Howard Marshall, J. Merrick, J. P. Holding, Jack B. Rogers, James Barr, James Bruckner, James Charlesworth, James Crossley, James D. G. Dunn, Jeremy Evans, James Hamilton, Joel N. Lohr, Joel Watts, John Byron, John R. Franke, John Schneider, John H. Walton, Justin Taylor, Ken Schenck, Kenton Sparks, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Lee McDonald, Leith Anderson, Leon Morris, Martin Soskice, Matthew Montonini, Michael F. Bird, Michael Green, Michael R. Licona, Moises Silva, Murray Harris, N.T. Wright, Nick Peters, Nijya Gupta, Paul Copan, Paul Jewett, Peter E. Enns, Paul Ricouer, Peter H. Davids, Phillip Long, Richard Burridge, Richard Horsley, Robert H. Gundry, Robert W. Yarborough, Robert Webb, Scot McKnight, Stephen M. Garrett, Thomas Schreiner, Tremper Longman III, W. David Beck, Walter Liefield, William Lane Craig, William Warren, and William Webb. (I probably missed a few!) Many of these men are held in high esteem in by many evangelicals. And yet VIID says that each of these men have in some way and to some degree challenged the parameters delineated by the ICBI in The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI, 1978) and The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (CSBH, 1983).

Standing in the watchman tradition of books like The Battle for the Bible (Lindsell, 1976), The Bible in the Balance (Lindsell, 1979), The Jesus Crisis (Thomas and Farnell, 1998), The Jesus Quest (Geisler and Farnell, 2014), and Defending Inerrancy (Geisler and Roach, 2011), an exposé of this scope runs the risk of being accused of fratricide, libel, divisiveness, disunity, faction creating, quarrelsomeness, malice, and nastiness. But really all of its authors do a remarkable job of contending without being contentious. None of the pages were stuck together with drops of venom. With a passionate concern they succeeded in “not be[ing] quarrelsome but . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Ti. 2:4) and in “not regard[ing] him as an enemy but warn[ing] him as a brother” (2 Th. 3:15).

There is merit in the maxim “attack the idea, not the man who holds it.” Perhaps the Apostle Paul anticipated this question when he wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Co. 10:5). Ultimately the good fight of faith is not against people but against opinions and thoughts. But then must the defense always preclude the naming of names? As much as we might all prefer to avoid pointing fingers, it seems unavoidable at times. When specific professors are saying specific things to specific audiences, the defense cannot be sufficiently meaningful (certainly not in any actionable sense) unless specific names are named and their actual words are exposed and evaluated.

Also, in the act of naming names of men spreading ideas they deem corrosive to the orthodox faith, these watchmen are following apostolic precedents. The Apostle John named Cain as the old rascal who should not be imitated (1 Jn. 3:2) and named Diotrephes as the noteworthy contemporary antagonist inside the network of first-century churches. He described Diotrephes as one who does not properly recognize apostolic authority, who spoke “wicked nonsense” against them, and who should not be followed (3 Jn. 9-12). Similarly the Apostle Paul named Jannes and Jambres as the old rascals who will serve as patterns for many in these last days (2 Ti. 3:1-9). He also generalized that “all who are in Asia have turned away from me” and singled out Phygelus and Hermogenes as noteworthy examples (2 Ti. 1:15). Similarly he warned about Demas—a man who had been one of Paul’s coworkers and companions—because he preferred the world (2 Ti. 4:10). Paul also wanted church leaders to be wary of “Alexander the coppersmith” who “did me great harm” and “strongly opposed our message” (2 Ti. 4:14-15). He urged Timothy to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths . . . which promote speculations rather than . . . a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These “certain persons” had “wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers. . . without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Ti. 13-7). He named three of them by name (“among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander” and “among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus”). These were men who also were operating inside the first-century network of apostolic churches. They were insiders who had “made shipwreck of their faith” and “swerved from the truth.” They were “upsetting the faith of some” with “irreverent babble” that will “lead people into more and more ungodliness” and “spread like gangrene” (1 Ti. 1:19-20; 2 Ti. 2:16-18). Similarly the authors of VIID are attempting to warn the Bible-believing world that many of the professors at evangelical schools (who generally earned their PhDs from prestigious post-protestant, anti-evangelical schools) are leading evangelicals away from evangelical orthodoxy through the use of unorthodox methodology.

VIID also runs the risk of being accused of trying to stymie the progress of biblical scholarship, of trying to keep us stuck in the past, of interfering with the grand quest to “follow the truth wherever it leads,” and of thus being overall anti-intellectual and anti-scholarly. But VIID is an intellectual and scholarly attempt to discourage the use of corrosive literary criticism while encouraging healthy biblical scholarship. The authors urge considering of lessons of the past which show how the higher critical path leads not to pinnacles of illumination, enlightenment, and progress but to precipices of doubt. The application of feminist criticism, form criticism, genre criticism, historical criticism, Marxist criticism, midrash criticism, mythological criticism, New Criticism, new historical criticism, post-colonial criticism, post-structuralist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, redaction criticism, rhetorical criticism, sociological criticism, source criticism, and whatever the next flavor of literary criticism that becomes vogue among secular scholars in the next decade all have one thing in common: They are critical and revolutionary by nature. Progress is made by challenging traditions and creating new knowledge with new wisdom. VIID insists that when evangelical scholars use secular literary criticism in their biblical criticism, it will ultimately lead to the same doctrinal graveyard that the neo-orthodox and liberal/modernist scholars filled in former decades with their use of higher criticism. The speculations produced during the exercise of critical methodologies is invariably given precedence over the plain meanings in the text of the Bible, once again the word of God is nullified for the sake of human traditions.

The neo-evangelical revolution is also changing the field of historical-evidential Christian apologetics. More than once VIID touches upon the rising tendency among evangelical biblical scholars to meet the historical critics on their own turf. They often create scholarly defenses for the big things—such as the general historical reliability of the gospels and the historical likelihood of the resurrection of Jesus—while being overly willing to amputate some of the seemingly less defensible and more dispensable propositions in the Bible. This innovative (non-classical) approach seems to be creating a division between those satisfied with defending a historical, creedal, and “mere” Christianity and those who would also defend the Bible in whole and part.

Some of VIID’s chapters are derived from articles originally posted at DefendingInerrancy.com, a website that has had more than 200,000 visits, 55,000 Facebook likes, and 48,000 signatures on its petition in support of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. These statistics suggest that the latest battle for the Bible has not been lost yet. In The Magnificent Seven, a western adaptation of The Seven Samurai, the plot is further complicated by the ongoing question of whether the villagers will allow the bandits to continue to fleece them or whether they will really rise up and join the veterans in the fight. What will the villagers in the evangelical village do about neo-evangelical and neo-orthodox scholarship that is robbing them of their doctrinal heritage? To borrow a phrase from the oaths sworn by those seeking either citizenship or high office in the United States, will we defend our constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic?” Will we fight the good fight of faith not just against the siegeworks erected outside the city walls but also against those that have been smuggled inside the walls? Or will we watch the undermined walls collapse mysteriously around us and wonder how our harvest was plundered again? For those fighting the good fight of faith, Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate deserves consideration.


Chapter by Chapter

The book begins with a one-page tribute to Dr. Norman Geisler by the other contributors for his decades of defending and commending the faith. Indeed he is “worthy of a double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). The two-page foreword by Dr. Paige Patterson sets the tone well with a call to continued vigilance. Patterson also provides excellent insights into the history of the inerrancy debate. He was part of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and remembers it well. The two-page preface acknowledges the debt to the ICBI and adds another dimension to the history of the debate. The first 115 pages are devoted to defining inerrancy. The remaining pages are devoted to defending it.

The first chapter is titled “The Historic Documents of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.” It is 17 pages long and is largely a condensed adaptation of the book Explaining Biblical Inerrancy (Bastion Books, 2012). Geisler begins by pointing out that he is currently one of the last three living framers of the three statements produced by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. He writes to “dispel some contemporary misinterpretations of what the ICBI framers meant by inerrancy” and to set the record straight. He enumerates the four fundamental documents of the ICBI (all four of which are collected in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy) and the other important books produced by the ICBI. He explains why the ICBI view of inerrancy is important. He explains the four main areas where scholars on the more liberal end of the evangelical spectrum (and usually holding membership in the Evangelical Theological Society and signing agreement with CSBI) have ignored, misunderstood, or otherwise challenged the CSBI: (1) the meaning of “truth,” (2) the function of genre, (3) the nature of historical narratives, (4) the relationship between hermeneutics and inerrancy. He very ably bolsters these four areas. He also gives a subtle challenge to the Evangelical Theological Society to enforce their doctrinal statement among its members. This chapter also includes all the articles of affirmation and denial from the CSBI and CSBH. This may then be the first time these two statements have ever been put together in their entirely and placed into a printed book. This was an unbeatable choice for a first chapter. This is something everyone in the ETS and EPS should come to grips with. Those who appreciate this chapter will enjoy its expansion in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy.

Chapter two is titled “What Is Inerrancy and Why Should We Care?” It is only four pages long and is written by Geisler and Shawn Nelson. It begins with a brief explanation of the three “in’s”: Inspiration, Infallibility, and Inerrancy. It gives four reasons why inerrancy is important and ultimately an essential—not peripheral—doctrine. Pointing to CSBI as the standard for describing what inerrancy is and is not, it proceeds to explain that the historical view of inerrancy is under attack right now. It gives a focus on the new wave of challenges to CSBI that arguably began in 2010 with various published and spoken statements by apologist Michael Licona.

Chapter three is also by Nelson and is titled “A Voice from a New Generation: What’s at Stake?” Nelson makes it clear the attack upon inerrancy by Michael Licona in 2010 exposed a much bigger problem. Several highly esteemed scholars from the ETS (Craig Blomberg, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Daniel Wallace, J.P. Moreland, W. David Beck, Jeremy Evans, Craig Keener, Douglas Moo, Heath Thomas, William Warren, and Edwin Yamauchi) publically voiced their support for Licona’s right to trump both CSBI and CSBH with form criticism and historical criticism. And this despite very clear statements in both ICBI statements on inerrancy (CSBI and CSBH) that guard against the exact type of maneuver Licona was using. Nelson gives a helpful tour of the historical views of biblical inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. He cites Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Pseudo-Barnabas, Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril, Jerome, and Augustine. He also gives a helpful and concise tour of how the thought of Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, and Darwin led to a growing popularity of biblical errancy. He distinguishes between Evangelical, Liberal, and Neo-Evangelical views. He projects that the erosion of inerrancy will lead to further doubt and uses the regress of Bart Erhman as an example we should learn from. He makes additional arguments for the importance of an uncompromising view of inerrancy and ends with recommendations for staunching the decay.

Chapter four is written by F. David Farnell and titled, “Evangelical Mentoring: The Danger from Within.” With a shepherd’s heart and a scholar’s eye, Farnell starts by contrasting faithful mentoring with radical mentoring. A considerable amount of Jesus’ earthly ministry was in opposition with those who had interpretations of the Bible that made null the Word of God null. These men were disciples in a tradition and they were making disciples in that tradition. Jesus chose disciples like Peter and Paul to carry on his traditions and make disciples. Paul was a mentor to reliable men like Timothy and Titus. These men were to be mentors to other faithful men who could teach others. Farnell reminds us that some traditions attempt to stay faithful to the apostolic tradition and to the scriptures while other traditions do not represent them faithfully. In a way, it all comes down to mentoring. Against this backdrop he explains his concerns over some of the eighteen professors showcased in the 2015 book titled I Still Believe. He focuses upon the testimonies of Donald Hagner, Bruce Waltke, James Dunn, and Scot McKnight. He’s left questioning whether many of the professors—the teachers of the future teachers—in many evangelical institutions are passing on doubts rather than faith to the students who have been entrusted to them.

Chapter five is a review by Geisler of the 2013 book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (FVBI). He begins by pointing out three serious problems with the approach of this book. Having five views in dialogue for inerrancy suggests that inerrancy is “up for grabs” when it really is not. There are not five views. There are ultimately two views. Either the Bible contains errors and contradictions or it does not. Also, of the five authors, only one is an actual inerrantist; the other four are varying degrees of errantists. The deck seems stacked. And since the book was to discuss the CSBI, why were none of the three living framers of the CSBI (Sproul, Packer, or Geisler) asked to participate in a dialogue? His review is 39 meaty pages in length. It’s daunting to try to summarize it. He points out that the Evangelical Theological Society officially adopted the CSBI as its definition of inerrancy. He provides five reasons for the importance and fundamental position of inerrancy. He notes that some of the authors of FVBI misunderstand “truth” and some of them wrongly assume purpose determines meaning. Propositional revelation, accommodation, lack of precision, the role of extra-biblica data, the role of hermeneutics, and the role of extra-biblical genre, pluralism, conventionalism, and foundationalism are all discussed. Geisler nails the coffin lid shut on the question of whether Licona’s views can be harmonized with CSBI and CSBH by pointing out that all three of the remaining framers of the Chicago statements (Sproul, Packer, and Geisler) have confirmed that they cannot. The story of ETS and Robert Gundry is retold. Examples of dealing with bible difficulties (what some of the authors of FBVI would call contradictions) in the OT and NT are given. Geisler also answers the errantists charges against inerrantists of being unbiblical, unhistorical, using the slippery slope argument, being parochial, unethical, divisive, and unloving. Reading this chapter reminded me that Geisler deserves the tribute that the book begins with.

Chapter six is by Dr. William Roach and is titled “The 2015 Shepherds’ Conference on Inerrancy.” John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary hosted a conference on inerrancy in March 2015. They reaffirmed the importance of holding to total inerrancy and to defining it as the CSBI did. This seven page article reports positively on that conference.

Chapter seven is a fascinating interview William Roach conducted with Paige Patterson. They discuss the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention and how their seminaries were rescued from errantism. It discusses what interplay there was between it and the ICBI.

In chapter eight Geisler answers the question of whether one has to be a Calvinist to believe in inerrancy. Many of the leaders of the later ICBI inerrancy movement were

strong Calvinists but most of the signers of the ICBI statements on inerrancy identified as moderate Calvinists, Cal-minians, Arminians, Wesleyans, “or some other label.” Geisler establishes continuity with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Warfield, Hodge, Wesley, and other Wesleyans. He shows how they upheld inerrancy. He concludes, “Inerrancy is neither a late nor a denominational doctrine. It is not provincial but universal. It is the foundation for every group that names the name of Christ. . .”

Chapter nine is where Geisler reexamines the relationship between inerrancy and hermeneutics. He is tackling the claim that is made by those who defend the attacks against CSBI and CSBH by saying, “Leave him alone. It’s just a matter of interpretation, not of inerrancy.” This could be the most important chapter of the book as it tackles what may be the thing that evangelicals have had the hardest time understanding. Today many evangelicals can try to claim to be inerrantists and to agree with CSBI while promoting hermeneutical gymnastics to trump inerrancy. Yet it was clear to the wise leaders of the ICBI that after producing the CSBI still had to proceed to create the CSBH. What good is it to reinforce the front door while leaving the backdoor unlocked? Geisler discusses how this played out with the controversies surrounding Jack Rodgers, Robert Gundry, Paul Jewett, and Michael Licona. He challenges various assumptions: inspiration and interpretation are separate matters, allegorical interpretation, truth is not correspondence to facts, biblical narratives are not necessarily historical, hermeneutic is neutral, and more.

In chapter ten Geisler responds to William Lane Craig’s advocacy of limited inerrancy based on inductive logic and his argument against unlimited inerrancy as based on deductive logic. Naturally Geisler begins with the question of whether inerrancy has an inductive or deductive basis. Explaining the “false disjunction,” the chapter quickly becomes a delight for those of us who appreciate logic. He then proceeds to tackle Craig’s claims that only the author’s intentions (and not all affirmations) are inerrant, that only essential matters are inerrant but not peripheral matters, and that extra-biblical genre determines the meaning of biblical texts. He discusses the question of genre and explains how inerrancy is an essential doctrine. He discusses Licona’s errors. He contrasts the evangelical and neo-evangelical views of inerrancy and reminds that the ETS adopted CSBI in 2006 as its definition of inerrancy. Geisler also makes the important correction that Kenneth Kantzer, the professor Craig claims to have learned the doctrine of inerrancy from, was actually a committed follower of the Warfield-Hodge view of total inerrancy. Kantzer would have been “clearly opposed to the Craig-Licona view of limited inerrancy.” He also reminds Craig that Packer, Sproul, and Geisler have all confirmed that Licona’s view of Mt 27 (which Craig also essentially holds) is not compatible at all with CSBI or CSBH. He concludes saying, “Thus evangelicalism is the rightful owner of unlimited inerrancy, and those professed evangelicals who modify it or limit it to redemptive matters are, at best, the rightful owners of the term Neo-Evangelical.”

Chapter eleven is by Farnell and is titled “Early Twentieth Century Challenges to Inerrancy.” Encouraging us to learn from history in order to not repeat its mistakes, Farnell compares what was happening in the early twentieth century (with the fundamentalist-modernist controversy) and what is happening here in the early twenty-first century (with the evangelical-neoevangelical controversy). The parallels seem uncanny. He explains how and why the The Fundamentals was produced and “left as a testimony by the faithful to the early twentieth-century church’s experience of the attack on orthodox Protestant beliefs, conducted aggressively by higher criticism, liberal theology, Catholicism. . . , socialism, Modernism, atheism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Millennial Dawn, Spiritualism, and evolutionism that had infiltrated its ranks and subsequently caused great damage within the church with regard to its vitality and theology. Above all, they left it as a warning to future generations in hopes of preventing a similar occurrence among God’s people in the future.” Farnell points out that after the divinity schools fell to modernism new schools like Westminster Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Fuller Seminary were planted to serve as bastions of conservative, biblical doctrine, inerrancy, and the fundamentals of the faith.

In chapter twelve, Farnell picks up where he left off in chapter 11. He discusses the challenges (or crisis) in the twenty-first century caused largely by fundamentalist or evangelical scholars seeking the respect of mainline academia. Many of the young scholars were sent to Ivy League, British, or Continental European schools to earn their PhDs. Many schools began to hire professors who were from these schools that were dominated by theological liberalism. With them came the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. He explains how Fuller Seminary drifted away from evangelical views about the Bible and became rather neo-evangelical. He discusses Ladd, Lindsell, Rogers, McKim, Woodbridge, Gundry, Barr, ICBI, ETS, Blomberg, Silva, Geisler, The Jesus Crisis, Bock, Webb, Osborne, The Jesus Quest, the third quest for the historical Jesus, Perrin, Ladd, Roach, Defending Inerrancy, Sparks, McCall, Thompson, Yarbrough, Linnemann, Gundry, more Blomberg, Dan Wallace, Bill Craig, Hagner, Ehrman, and more. This provides an excellent history which filled in many gaps for me. It shows that critical scholarship is still going today where it went in the past.

Chapter thirteen is titled “The Resurgence of Neo-Evangelicalism: Craig Blomberg’s Latest Book and the Future of Evangelical Theology.” Here William Roach provides a concise but helpful historical backdrop of the controversies over inerrancy. He is primarily critiquing Craig Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe the Bible? But he also weaves in some other recent works by neo-evangelicals who advocate errantism. He corrects some inaccuracies and confirms that Blomberg is yet another scholar who is “now willing to move beyond the vision and legacy of classic evangelicalism and the ICBI.” In his critique of Blomberg’s ideas he also weaves in many other related bits with mastery of the subject matter.

In chapter fourteen Phil Fernandez describes how the battle for the Bible has begun again. He begins by saying, “This chapter is not meant to divide brothers in Christ. Rather, it is a call to honesty. Those who call themselves evangelicals must truly be evangelicals. . . . If we sign a doctrinal statement, we must actually believe what we affirmed in that statement. We should not have the liberty to redefine the doctrines addressed in that statement. . . . this chapter should not be understood as an attack on Christian brothers. Rather, it is an indictment on the present state of evangelical scholarship itself.” He explains how the battle for the Bible raged in the 1970s and how it led to the ICBI. He discusses the reason for Robert Gundry being asked to leave the ETS and how the ETS did not vote Clark Pinnock out. He also sees a revival of the battle for the Bible starting with Mike Licona in 2010. He discusses the problems of genre and historiography in a way that harmonizes well with the other chapters but which also remains distinct. One thing that stood out to me was the way Phil tied in the minimal facts case for the resurrection. He says, it “is a great way to defend the resurrection. But, we must never allow the minimal facts case to evolve into a minimal facts evangelicalism or a minimal facts New Testament scholarship.” He challenges the ETS to enforce and even enlarge their doctrinal statement.

Chapter fifteen considers the question of whether or not biblical inerrancy as a “litmus test” of evangelical orthodoxy. This was written by Christopher Haun in response to a blog post written by Daniel Wallace. Wallace had pointed out that Carl F. H. Henry remained averse to setting biblical inerrancy as the litmus test of orthodoxy. Haun attempts to show how Wallace is partially right and partially wrong. He clarifies Henry’s position using several quotes by Henry himself and some by Ronald Nash.

Farnell is asking “Can We Still Believe Critical Evangelical Scholars?” in chapter sixteen. He reminds us of how vibrant Christianity had been in the 18th and 19th centuries and then asks how so many churches and cathedrals are boarded up now. How did British and Scottish universities become spiritually dead? And why do American evangelicals still go there to get their PhDs?  He explains that the change was internal. He explains a few forces of change and talks about why things were different in the United States. One of the differences is that two wealthy laymen paid for a project that would produce the twelve volume set of The Fundamentals between 1910 and 1917. Three million of those volumes were distributed. As schools like Princeton succumbed to the forces of apostasy, schools like Westminster Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary were started. He compares the similarities between the 20th and 21st century scenes and encourages us to learn the lessons of the past. He discusses some of the harmful ideas of Ladd, Blomberg, Hagner, and more.

In chapter seventeen Farnell discusses “The ‘Magic’ of Historical Criticism.” This is a 59 page essay.

In chapters 18 and 19, Farnell gives a “Critical Evaluation of Robert H. Gundry’s Westmont College Lecture, ‘Peter: False Disciple and Apostate according to Saint Matthew’”

In chapter 20 Geisler and Farnell provide “A Critical Review of Donald Hagner’s ‘Ten Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship’”

Chapter 21. Geisler sets the record straight on “On Licona Muddying the Waters of the Chicago Statements of Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.”


Chapter 22. Geisler sets the record straight on “The Early Church Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27:51–54.”

Chapter 23. Geisler reviews Craig Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe in the Bible? He shows how Blomberg’s views contradict, misunderstand, and attack the ICBI view on inerrancy. He responds to Blomberg’s Defense of Robert Gundry, Murray Harris, Mike Licona

Chapter 24 | ICBI Inerrancy Is Not for the Birds | Joseph Holden responds to the “current trend among evangelical New Testament scholars to utilize or approve of genre criticism (e.g., Craig Blomberg, Michael Licona, Darrell Bock, Michael Bird, Carlos Bovell, Kevin Vanhoozer, et al.) to dehistoricize the biblical text appears to stem from an aversion to the correspondence view of truth.”

Chapter 25. Contemporary Evangelical NT Genre Criticism Opening Pandora’s Box? Joseph M. Holden

Chapter 26 | Book Review: Craig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe the Bible? |Joseph M. Holden

Chapter 27 | Book Review: The Lost World of Adam and Eve | Norman L. Geisler

Chapter 28 | An Exposition and Refutation of the Key Presuppositions of Contemporary Jesus Research | Phil Fernandes

Chapter 29 | Redating the Gospels | Phil Fernandes

Chapter 30 | Misinterpreting J. I. Packer on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics | William C. Roach and Norman L. Geisler

Chapter 31 | Can We Still Trust New Testament Professors? | Bob Wilkin

Chapter 32 | Christopher T. Haun explores the question of whether ancient Romans detected the influence of Roman historiography in Matthew 27:45–54 or not. He puts the theory that Roman historians influenced Matthew’s way of reporting history to the test by examining thirty case studies where ancient Romans referred to one or more of the events in Matthew 27:45–54. Did any of the ancients interpret these events less than literally? He also revisits the three case studies that Licona cited in The Resurrection of Jesus.

Epilogue | Historical Criticism vs. Grammatico-Historical: Quo Vadis Evangelicals? | F. David Farnell

Appendix: Statements on the Importance of Inerrancy from Prominent Christian Leaders

[1] Christopher T. Haun is a Master’s Degree candidate at Veritas Evangelical Seminary and an editorial associate at Bastion Books. This book review was written for the April 2016 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.

[2] To purchase at a 40% discount, use “inerrant” as a coupon code upon checkout at http://wipfandstock.com/vital-issues-in-the-inerrancy-debate.html. Also available at http://www.amazon.com/Vital-Issues-Inerrancy-Debate-Farnell/dp/149823724X

A Note on the Percent of Accuracy of the New Testament Text

A Note on the Percent of Accuracy of the New Testament Text

by Norman L. Geisler


Some have challenged the accuracy of the New Testament (NT) manuscripts based on a statement in our book A General Introduction to the Bible that inadvertently attributed to Bruce Metzer the figure that the NT is copied with 99.5 percent accuracy. However, this is an inconsequential criticism for several reasons. First, NT textual authorities Westcott and Hort estimated that only about one-sixtieth rise above “trivialities” and can be called “substantial variations.” In short, the NT is 98.33 percent pure. Second, Greek expert Ezra Abbott said about 19/20 (95 percent) of the readings are “various” rather than “rival” readings, and about 19/20 (95 percent) of the rest make no appreciable difference in the sense of the passage. Thus the text is 99.75 percent accurate. Third, noted NT Greek scholar A. T. Robertson said the real concern is with about a “thousandth part of the entire text.” So, the reconstructed text of the New Testament is 99.9% free from real concern.

Philip Schaff estimated that of the thousands of variations in all the manuscripts known in his day, only 50 were of real significance and of these not one affected “an article of faith.” Even agnostic NT critic Bart Ehrman admits that “In fact, most of the changes found in early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology. Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes pure and simple-slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort of another” (Misquoting Jesus, 55).

Famous British manuscript expert Sir Frederick Kenyon summed up the matter well when he declared that: “The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down substantially as they were written has now been removed.Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology, 288).

Consider the following message:


Notice that even with the error in the text, 100% of the message comes through.

Consider also this message with two lines and two errors.





Here we are even more sure of the message with two errors in it. In fact, the more errors like this, the more sure one is of the message since every new line brings a confirmation of every letter except one. The NT has about 5700 manuscripts. which provides hundreds, in some cases even thousands of confirmations, of every line in the NT.

As a matter of fact, there can be a high percent of divergence in letters and yet a 100% identity of message. Consider the following lines:



Y’ALL HAVE WON $10,000,000


Notice that of the 27 letters and numbers in line two only 7 in line three are the same. That is little more than 25% identity of letters and numbers, yet the message is 100% the same. They differ in form, but they are identical in content. The same is true of all the basic teachings of the NT.


Is Jesus’ Hometown (Nazareth) a Myth?

Is Jesus’ Hometown (Nazareth) a Myth?

Joseph M. Holden, Ph.D.


For the past 2000 years first-century Nazareth was unquestionably considered the historic hometown of Jesus. The gospels make it abundantly clear that Jesus was “of Nazareth” (Jn. 1:45; Jn 19:19; Mk. 1:24; Lk. 18:27). However, Rene Salm has challenged the historical Nazareth in his The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus (American Atheist Press, 2008). According to his view, ancient Nazareth did not emerge prior to A.D. 70, and the settlement of Nazareth did not exist earlier than the second-century A.D. long after Christ’s crucifixion. To substantiate these claims, Salm appeals to, among other things: 1) late dating Roman and Byzantine artifacts (e.g oil lamps), 2) the Gospel of Luke which tells us that Jesus’ hometown was Capernaum, not Nazareth, 3) “problematic” biblical passages (e.g. Mt. 2:23, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” ESV) that have no prophetic reference in the Jewish Scriptures, and 4) that Josephus and the Jewish Talmud do not mention Nazareth in their lists of Galilean cities. However, there are several reasons why Salm’s argument against Nazareth should be rejected.

First, there has been little archaeological work completed in the Nazareth area since most of the ancient city lies under the modern city of Nazareth (ca. 60,000 population). The sparse materials and current cumulative data should not be stretched into Nazareth’s non-existence since the alleged absence of material data and the presence of later Roman and Byzantine evidence is not “contradictory” evidence that disproves Nazareth’s first-century existence. Such a conclusion is tantamount to arguing that since we have not found the Ark of the Covenant or Noah’s Ark that the temple never existed or that the flood never occurred. In other words, this sort of thinking commits the logical fallacy of arguing from silence! Besides, the archaeological data from excavations in the Nazareth area demonstrate that Nazareth was a small (60 acre) agricultural village, had a population of about 300-500 people, had several rolling-stone tombs in the vicinity (like the tomb of Jesus) used up until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and a third-century A.D. Jewish synagogue which was probably built over the top of an earlier synagogue that was familiar to Jesus. To be sure, it is not uncommon for a later synagogue to be built over an earlier synagogue structure as was accomplished at Capernaum. In addition, an assortment of pottery has been found in the Nazareth area dating from 900 B.C. to A.D. 640, suggesting the area was occupied at various times over a 1500-year period. Among these finds, there is no evidence that contradicts the view that Nazareth was a small historic village during the time of Jesus. Even if there was no material data uncovered at Nazareth from the early first-century A.D., it does not eliminate Nazareth as a historical city. Why? Salm seems to forget that Nazareth was a small village (about 3 miles south of the thriving city of Sepphoris) with a small population. Further, it is not uncommon that Nazareth’s location moved somewhat over time. It is unrealistic to expect such a small agricultural village to leave massive amounts of material behind as do large cities like Beth Shan and Jerusalem. To demand such evidence from Nazareth would be unrealistic. In fact, it is not uncommon for small villages to just disappear over time since later Roman and modern building projects have been known to erase traces of earlier settlements altogether. Current archaeology has not yet revealed the exact place of first-century Nazareth. This is hardly proof that Nazareth did not exist! The same is true of other small villages like Chorazin, whose archaeological data is mostly Byzantine. Though Chorazin could be located nearby the current location. We must be reminded that only 1% of the archaeological sites have been excavated, and to treat the Galilee region (or the Nazareth area) as “fully excavated” is misguided and incorrect since much more is yet to be learned. The jury is still out on the matter of first-century Nazareth’s exact location.

Second, Salm appears to be arguing against traditions and common lay assumptions, as well as the current Nazareth Village that has been reconstructed, and has not offered any material evidence that disproves first-century Nazareth’s existence. At best his arguments demonstrate that we don’t know the exact location of Nazareth, and that certain archaeological reports conflict on occasion, or that some overzealous Christians have overstated their case for Nazareth at times. However, none of this demonstrates that Nazareth is a myth. It only serves to show us that interpretations may conflict at times as is the case in all discipline that call for human interpretation (e.g. science, theology, etc). In fact, I don’t know of any reputable archaeologist today that is dogmatically certain of the exact location of Nazareth. As for the current Nazareth Village constructed for tourists to gain an understanding of first-century life in Jesus’ hometown, it seems to offer a accurate snapshot of what Nazareth was like without making the claim that the location of the current Nazareth Village was the exact same location of Jesus’ hometown.  Illustrations of terraced farming, replica synagogue, meals, carpenter’s workshop, and models dressed in authentic apparel offer a helpful and realistic portrait of life in Jesus’ Nazareth. Unlike the examples offered in the Nazareth Village tour which are grounded in real origin science (archaeology) and historic narrative descriptions, Salm’s argument against Nazareth is without positive archaeological or historical grounding whatsoever.

Third, the location of Sepphoris in relation to Nazareth is consistent with the social and economic milieu of Jesus’ day. Sepphoris, rebuilt in 4 B.C. by the Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Antipas, was located about an hour’s walk from modern day Nazareth. This is strong evidence that villages like Nazareth settled within a short distance from this major hub, implying they were not “isolated” from the rest of the Galilee. The labor force (masons and carpenters) most likely could not afford, or did not need, to live in big opulent cities so they settled in nearby villages. Since Joseph and Jesus were masons/carpenters, with no indication that they were wealthy, it would make sense that they settled close by Sepphoris. For example, the small southern California cities of Temecula and Murrieta are affordable bedroom communities that feed the labor force of Los Angeles and San Diego! Though we must not take this to mean that Nazareth was a remote and isolated stop on the way to the city. There is evidence of first-century agricultural infrastructure in Nazareth such as grape and olive presses, farming, vinyards, some stone masonry, the sparse remains of a home (mud, stone, wood, and vegetation), and a nearby highway system connecting the port city of Caesarea Maritima to Tiberias. [1] All of these remains imply a self-sustaining first-century community intricately connected with the rest of northern Israel.

Fourth, Salm mistakenly rejects Matthew 2:23 due to its lack of specific reference among the prophetic books of the Old Testament for several reasons. First, Matthew did not say a single prophet made the statement, but rather it was of the prophets (plural). Meaning that Matthew was not quoting any specific prophet but was instead referring to the general consensus among the prophets that Jesus would be called a “Nazarene.” The fulfillment of this title can be understood in several ways. For example, the prophets said the Messiah would be despised and rejected (Isa. 53:3; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10) much like the way Nazareth was despised during the early first-century (Jn. 1:46; 7:41, 52); 2) though Jesus never took the vow of the Nazarite (the word is spelled differently than Nazareth), He fulfilled it by perfectly keeping the Law by separating Himself to the Lord which was the essence of the Nazarite vow (Num. 6:2; Judg. 13:5); 3) others have indicated that the Hebrew word netzer (meaning “branch”) is the word from which Nazareth was named (since it sounds similar). Several prophets mentioned the “Branch” as being a title of the Messiah (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12). The best solution is to accept Matthew’s statement at face value, namely, Matthew saw the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when Jesus and his family took residence in Nazareth (Mt. 21:11); 4) John records Phillip’s identification of “Jesus of Nazareth” as the fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets wrote (Jn. 1:45). Nathanial affirms its despised reputation and assumes Nazareth is a historical village when he replies, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46, ESV).

Fifth, Salm ignores the numerous independent statements in the New Testament that identify Jesus with Nazareth. First, at his crucifixion Pontius Pilate placed a government-authorized sign (titulus) above Jesus’ head that read, “Jesus of Nazareth…” (Jn. 19:19). It is worthy of note that the religious leaders did not dispute truthfulness of Jesus’ hometown (“Nazareth”) written on the placard when they petitioned Pilate to change the writing, but only challenged His claim to be “the King of the Jews” (Jn. 19:20-22)! Second, Jesus was rejected at the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk. 4:16-30). It is inconsistent to affirm the historicity of Jesus and the synagogue and yet assign Nazareth to myth since it is so often associated with the historical Jesus as it is here.  Third, the New Testament writers often referred to “Jesus of Nazareth” (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 18:27) and those among His early church were identified as the “Nazarene sect” (Acts 24:5). Fourth, even the man with an unclean demon acknowledged that Jesus was “of Nazareth” (Lk. 4:33-34). This would have been the perfect opportunity for the demon to challenge the moral character of Jesus by catching Him in a lie about his hometown. Instead, the demon is forced to confirm the truth about His holiness, deity, authority, identity, and place of residence (Lk. 4:34). Never is Jesus identified with any other city such as “Jesus of Caesarea”, “Jesus of Capernaum”, “Jesus of Bethlehem”, or “Jesus of Jerusalem”, only “Jesus of Nazareth”. To conclude otherwise is to overlook the strong and obvious textual connection between Jesus and his hometown of Nazareth.

Sixth, the absence of historical notation among early literature (Josephus and Talmud) does not prove that Nazareth is a myth. Lack of identification does not mean lack of existence, it’s a logical fallacy to argue from silence! For many years, the Babylonian king, Belshazzar, mentioned in Daniel 5 was considered by critics to be a mythical interpolation in the text since he was missing from all Babylonian king lists. However, he was later discovered on the Nabonidus Cylinder to be the son and co-regent of Babylonian king, Nabonidus. Therefore, sound logic and previous experience must limit Salm’s claim of Nazareth’s omission in previous lists to: “the lack of notation in early writers is consistent with the view that Nazareth is a myth.” There are plausible reasons why Nazareth is not found in Josephus and the Talmud’s list of Galilean locations. First, it is possible that Josephus and the Talmud omit it because the lists are not intended to be exhaustive. Second, it may be because Nazareth (due to its despised reputation and size) was such an insignificant village at the time it warranted no mention. Third, by the time Josephus wrote his list of Galilean cities Nazareth may have been known by another name or was not occupied in the late first-century A.D. What is more, Jewish religious leaders may have refrained from listing Nazareth out of disdain for Jesus and His claims to be the Messiah. None of these reasons preclude Nazareth from being the historic village of Jesus.

Seventh, Salm’s theory forgets that Old and New Testament writers always layered their narratives over real geographical locations. Never have we discovered otherwise. Luke is a prime example of exact geographical descriptions to aid his foreign readers in understanding the geography of Palestine. In 1:26, Luke identifies the location as “a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” It is strange hermeneutical practice to accept the historicity of the Galilee region (as Salm apparently does) and reject the existence of Nazareth located within it.  Each time Nazareth and Jesus are mentioned they are so often coupled together in a non-mythical tone. Salm often asserts that instead of Nazareth being Jesus’ hometown, the Scriptures place Jesus in his home at Capernaum. However, this notion is fraught with problems, the most crucial of them is that Salm, being either unaware or by simply ignoring, the same grammatical coupling is associated with Capernaum as well, “Capernaum, a city of Galilee” (Lk. 4:31). Moreover, Matthew 4:12-17 clearly describes that Jesus “leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali” to begin His ministry. Salm is correct when he says that Jesus lived in Capernaum, but this is only true after he left Nazareth (Lk. 3:23 cf. Lk. 4:14-37). It makes no sense (hermeneutically or logically) to assert that Jesus left a mythical city (Nazareth) to live in a historical one (Capernaum)!

Eighth, Salm’s theory favors the interpretations of liberal biblical scholarship without questioning their philosophical assumptions or methodology and does not seriously interact with conservative evangelical scholarship on the matter. Most notable is Salm’s unwarranted rejection of the reliability of the biblical text. There is simply no reason to reject the integrity of the Gospel records that are supported by credible eyewitnesses and thousands of early manuscripts. [2] Salm admits that the purpose ofThe Myth of Nazareth is only the foundational step in deconstructing classical Christianity in order to offer a “new account” of Christian origins that will rely heavily on “investigating suppressed evidence of Gnostic, Judean, and Essene roots of Christianity.” To replace credible and ancient eyewitness testimony with modern critical scholarship that is 2000 years removed from the events recorded in the biblical text is not only unwise, it is bad scholarship on any level!

Salm’s argument against Nazareth can only succeed if he brings to light archaeological evidence that contradicts the biblical testimony of first-century Nazareth. However, thus far it appears he has only revealed his bias against the reliability of the Scriptures and inerrancy, offered arguments from silence, employed minimalist New Testament interpretation, offered a critique of over-stated dogmatic claims by some Christians, and the conflicting interpretations of archaeological data. None of these warrant a change of mind from what has been generally accepted for nearly 2000 years – namely, that Nazareth is the historical town of Jesus.


Copyright by Joseph M. Holden 2012. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 13-14. See Bellarmino Bagatti, Excavations in Nazareth: Vol. 1, From the Beginning till the XII Century (2 Vols). (Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum 17. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1969), 174-218.

[2] See Bruce M. Metzger, The Transmission of the New Testament Text: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration; Norman Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Revised & Expanded) 2012; and Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden, A Popular Survey of Archaeology and the Bible – Harvest House, 2013; Norman Geisler and Frank Turek,I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist).




Joseph Holden, Ph.D.

President of Veritas Evangelical Seminary

and co-author of the forthcoming book,

The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible

The James Ossuary: The Earliest Witness to Jesus and His Family?

[click here to open as a PDF file: The James Ossuary – Dr. Joseph Holden]

The James Ossuary:

The Earliest Witness to Jesus and His Family?


Joseph M. Holden, Ph.D.


One of the earliest and most important discoveries relating to the historicity of Jesus and members of his family is the limestone bone-box (called an ossuary) made known to the public in October, 2002. Ossuaries were used by Israel from about the second-century B.C. until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Over ten thousand such ossuaries have been discovered but only about one hundred contain inscriptions. Of these, only two have an identification similar to the one etched in the now famous and somewhat controversial “James Ossuary.” The entire Aramaic inscription reads, “Jacob (James), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” (Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua).

If, in fact, the inscription in its entirety is recognized as authentic (which we believe to be the case), we have clear first-century A.D. testimony of Jesus, his father Joseph, and brother James. James (Ya’akov) is given in the Gospel accounts as a brother of Jesus (Mt. 13:55), but he is also one of the most important figures in the New Testament. The book of Acts reveals that he was the pastor of the Jerusalem church, moderator of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, and penned the epistle of James. James is also spoken of a number of times in the writings of Josephus. He was put to death by certain Jewish leaders in A.D. 62, so if the James Ossuary is the one in which his bones were placed, then the dating of the bone-box would be approximately A.D. 62-63, allowing time for the reburial of the bones after the decomposition of the flesh, according to Jewish practices.

In December 2004, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the State of Israel brought an indictment against antiquities dealer and owner of the James Ossuary, Oded Golan, claiming that the second part of the inscription, the portion which reads “brother of Jesus” to be a forgery. This indictment seems to have come to nothing after five years of court proceedings that concluded in March 2010 with 116 hearings, 138 witnesses, 52 expert witnesses, over 400 exhibits, and more than 12,000 pages of court transcripts! According to Golan’s written summary of the trial (supported by the 474 page Hebrew language opinion handed down by Jerusalem District Court Judge Aharon Farkash on March 14, 2012), many high-level scholars with expertise in ancient epigraphy, paleography, bio-geology, and other crucial disciplines relating to examining the inscription have testified that there is no reason to doubt that the “brother of Jesus” was engraved by the same hand in the first-century A.D. In view of this, it is very likely that we may have a very early and important historical witness to Jesus and His family. A summary of the arguments for and against the authenticity of the inscription is listed below.


Arguments against its authenticity

  1. The ossuary was not discovered in situ, within a secure archaeological context, but rather obtained through the antiquities trade.
  2. Though the bone-box itself and the first half of the inscription are not contested, arguments that the second half of the inscription (brother of Jesus) was recently engraved (forged) and was not completed by the same hand have been posited due to the absence of natural occurring patina. (Patina is a thin layer of biogenic material expected to be present on most, if not all, ancient artifacts to some degree. It is caused by the continuous secretions and activities of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, and yeast on the stone and inside some of its grooves. If the same consistency of patina is equally distributed on the ossuary and found within the engraved grooves, it would suggest the authenticity of the inscription. The absence of patina within the disputed portion of the inscription would suggest a forgery or modern engraving of letters.)
  3. The foundation of the IAA’s case against Oded Golan was based on an eyewitness (Joe Zias, an anthropologist formerly employed by the IAA) that claimed to have previously seen the ossuary without the “brother of Jesus” portion of the inscription.


Arguments for its authenticity

  1. The size of the ossuary indicates that the bones belonged to an adult male, thus being consistent with James.
  2. In 2004, while the ossuary was in IAA possession, the police (Mazap) made a silicon impression (cast) of the inscription that contaminated and mutilated the inscription. When the silicon was removed it also removed the natural occurring patina, but despite this action traces of the patina were still present in several of the letter grooves, indicating that the inscription is indeed ancient.
  3. The name on the ossuary (James) reveals that the person was a male.
  4. Ossuaries were only used by Jews only in the area of Jerusalem and from the end of the first-century B.C. until A.D. 70, the same time period that Josephus tells of the death of James at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.
  5. Of all those ossuaries bearing an inscription almost all speak of the deceased occupant’s father, but occasionally has the person’s brother, sister, or other close relative, if that person was well-known. The rare presence of a sibling’s name (Jesus) would indicate that Jesus was a very prominent figure.
  6. Specialist and archaeologist, Prof. Kloner, dates the ossuary to between A.D. 45 – 70, and is thus consistent with the death of James in A.D. 62 according to Josephus.
  7. Though the names Joseph, James, and Jesus are common names in the first-century, the combination of “James, son of Joseph” is rare and unique to this ossuary, meaning that it is highly probable that the bone-box belongs to James, Jesus’ brother even without the second half of the inscription mentioning this.
  8. Prof. Camil Fuchs, head of the Statistic department at Tel Aviv University researched deceased males in Jerusalem in the first-century A.D. He concluded based on conservative estimates a growing Jerusalem population estimate (between A.D. 6-70), minus all women, minus children who will not reach manhood by time of James’ death, minus non-Jews, and considering the fame of Jesus as a brother to warrant the inscription, time of death, and literacy, that with 95% assurance there existed at the time in Jerusalem 1.71 people named James with a father Joseph and brother named Jesus!
  9. Golan affirms that he purchased the ossuary from an antiquities dealer who said it was found in the Silwan (Kidron Valley area) in Jerusalem. James the Just, pastor of the Jerusalem church and half-brother of Jesus was stoned and thrown from the pinnacle of the temple according to Josephus. According to Christian tradition, he was buried in a rock-cut tomb in the Kidron Valley, and one year later, in accordance with Jewish tradition, his bones were interned in an ossuary.
  10. Expert witnesses have confirmed that the inscription in its totality was inscribed by the same hand in the first-century, though this was a much disputed item (especially by Yuval Goren and Avner Ayalon) until experts were put under oath at trial.
  11. Experts have confirmed the presence of microbial patina on the ossuary and both parts of the inscription “James, the son of Joseph” and “brother of Jesus,” demonstrating the unity and antiquity of the inscription. In addition, this patina is generally deemed ancient, without the possibility of it occurring naturally in less than 50-100 years, making a recent forgery impossible. The world’s leading expert in bio-geology and the patination process, Wolfgang Krumbeim of Oldenburg University in Germany, affirmed the patina on the ossuary and inscription most likely reflects a development process of thousands of years. He added that there is no known process of accelerating the development of patina. In addition, he concluded that the patina covering the inscription letters are no less authentic than the patina covering the surface of the ossuary (which the IAA says is authentic). Other researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto confirmed that the patina within the letter grooves is consistent with the patina on the surface of the ossuary, thus legitimizing the entire inscription’s antiquity.
  12. According to expert paleographers (Andre Lemaire and Ada Yardeni) who authenticated (and dated) the inscription based on the shape and stance of the letters, the Aramaic is fully consistent with first-century style and practice. No credible challenge to their findings has yet to be published.
  13. Adding the words, “brother of Jesus” is exceptional among the ossuaries found in Jerusalem. During the trial, it was revealed that what eyewitness (Joe Zias, who does not read Aramaic) thought he saw (i.e. James Ossuary) was actually a different (but similar) ossuary with three Aramaic inscribed names (Joseph, Judah, Hadas) known as the “Joseph Ossuary”. Prior to rendering the final verdict by Judge Farkash, apparently Zias said to Hershel Shanks that he was “joking” when told that the “brother of Jesus” portion of the inscription was missing from the ossuary!


So extensive and strong is the support for the authenticity of the ossuary and its inscription, according to Golan, Dan Bahat (the prosecutor), said in his closing arguments that the State would probably dismiss the charges that the ossuary inscription is a forgery. In fact, many of the IAA witnesses who initially claimed that the inscription was a forgery appeared to have changed their minds after closer analysis and scientific testing. What is more, many prosecution witnesses (witnesses for the IAA/State who argue that the inscription is a forgery) confirmed the authenticity of the inscription based upon careful analysis of the patina and the engraved inscription. The following chart offers a survey of several expert witnesses and their conclusions about the ossuary inscription.


Expert Witness/Opinions Regarding the Authenticity of the James Ossuary


Person Expertise Comments
Andre Lemaire Epigrapher, ancient Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions. Has no doubt that the entire inscription was ancient and inscribed in a single event. No reason to believe the contrary.
Ada Yardeni Paleographer, researcher, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Examined the inscription in 2002 and concluded that the entire inscription is of ancient origin, and inscribed by a single individual. She also stated, “If this is a forgery, I quit.”
Hagai Misgav Member of the IAA Committee, expert in Hebrew and Aramaic ossuary inscriptions. Found no indication of forgery in the inscription.
Shmuel Ahituv Member of the 2003 IAA Writing Committee to examine the authenticity of the inscription and expert on Hebrew inscriptions. Found no indication that the inscription is a forgery or is modern. The text and paleography make it difficult to rule out the authenticity of the inscription.
Yosef Naveh Professor, prosecution witness No indication the inscription is a forgery.
Y.L. Rahmani Archaeologist, has published the corpus of IAA ossuary inscriptions in IAA’s possession. After examining the inscription, found no indication that the inscription (or any part of it) was a forgery.
Dr. Esther Eshel Prosecution witness She cannot rule out the possibility that the entire inscription may be ancient
Roni Reich Jerusalem professor, archaeologist, and researcher Ossuary inscription is ancient, no reason to doubt its authenticity, and most likely comes from the late second temple period.
Gabriel Barkay Jerusalem archaeologist and professor Ossuary is ancient and found no scientific evidence to doubt its authenticity.
Gideon Avni IAA “Writing Committee” appointed to examine the paleography and inscription in 2003. Never testified against the authenticity of the inscription.
Orna Cohen Senior antiquities conservator for the IAA and Israeli museums, archaeologist, chemist, and specialist in the conservation of ancient stone items. Based on her careful analysis of the patina within the letter grooves under various light conditions, she concluded with certainty the phrase “brother of Jesus” had been engraved in ancient times.
Wolfgang Krumbein One of the world’s leading experts (Oldenburg University, Germany) on the patination process, stone patina, geology, and bio-geology. Analyzed samples of patina taken from the ossuary letter grooves, and concluded that this patina would require 50-100 years to develop, and most likely reflect a development process of thousands of years. The patina in the letter grooves was consistent with the patina on the surface of the ossuary, whose antiquity has not been contested.
Shimon Ilani

Amnon Rosenfeld

Experts in Archaeometry (scientific testing of archaeological artifacts) at the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem After examination of the inscription in 2002, they identified natural bio-patina in all the letter grooves, thus demonstrating the inscription occurred prior to the scratches and patina forming. They have no doubt about the ancient origin of the entire inscription.
James Harrell University of Toledo (OH), Expert in geology and stone of the ancient world Found no indication that any part of the inscription was forged.
Dan Rahimi Royal Ontario Museum of Toronto Museum researchers tested the patina and found natural patina in the letter grooves under a granular substance that is consistent with detergent used by the IAA to formerly clean the ossuary.
Yuval Goren Expert in petrography of potsherds and clay/silt, former member of IAA, and prosecution witness Though Goren initially had submitted an opinion on the ossuary at the IAA’s request in 2003 in which he denied any presence of natural patina in the letter grooves, he later contradicted this by reversing his finds. Later in 2007, after a reexamination of the inscription, he admitted to finding natural patina in the second half of the inscription.
Avnor Ayalon Geo-chemist of the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem and prosecution witness He proposed to examine isotopic composition of the oxygen and carbon in carbonate patina, and compare it to the same found in stalactite caves in Jerusalem. Similar isotopic values would prove the carbonate patina on the ossuary may be natural, but a dissimilar value would demonstrate it is not natural and most likely a forgery. However, Ayalon’s model has been demonstrated by others to be based on false assumptions and deemed inappropriate for examining ancient artifacts.
Elisabetta Boaretto Expert in Carbon 14 dating, prosecution witness Found no evidence to support that the inscription is forged or new. Only signed the IAA petition against Golan because Goren (who later reversed his opinion) and Ayalon (whose model was subsequently shown to be mistaken) had previously asserted that they had found no patina, not due to her own analysis of the inscription.
Jacques Neguer Chemist for the IAA and prosecution witness Asserted the inscription had been cleaned (with detergent) in the past, but cannot determine whether it was a forgery.
Israel Police Forensic Department (Mazap) Forensics Letters in the first half of the inscription (which are not contested), were engraved by the same individual who engraved the second half of the inscription.
Gerald B. Richards Adjunct professor of forensic science at George Washington University, and senior consultant to the FBI Conducted scientific tests of Oded Golan’s photos (including infra-red and ultra-violet tests) of the ossuary, proving that the inscription had been engraved prior to 2002 since the photography (Kodak) paper used was discontinued in the 1980s. The indictment against Golan had claimed Golan had forged the inscription around 2002. This claim is now impossible to sustain.
Dan Bahat State prosecutor in the case Announced that the State would most likely dismiss the charges involving the ossuary and retract its claim that the ossuary inscription was a forgery had the bill of indictment not involved other charges.


Golan summarizes the outcome of extensive scientific tests performed on the ossuary and its inscription when he writes,


Neither the prosecution nor the IAA presented even a single witness who was an expert on ancient stone items, or patina on antiquities and who ruled out the authenticity of the inscription or any part of it. On the contrary, the findings of all the tests, including those of prosecution witnesses Goren and Ayalon, support the argument that the entire inscription is ancient, the inscription was engraved by a single person, and that several letter grooves contains traces of detergent/s that covers the natural varnish patina that developed there over centuries, and was partially cleaned (mainly the first section), many years ago.


The apologetic and historical implications following from this ossuary are far-reaching since it informs us that: 1) James, Joseph, and Jesus have historical corroboration as individuals and a family in the first-century; 2) early Christians, like James, may have been buried according to Jewish custom; 3) Aramaic was used by early Christians; and that 4) early Christianity emerged from its Jewish roots, making it extremely difficult to divorce Christianity from its Jewishness. As such, the inscription’s primary apologetic value rests in the notion that after the most intense interdisciplinary expert scrutiny according to the rules of law, the James Ossuary is destined to be the most authenticated/scrutinized artifact in history. We now can appreciate the ossuary as an authentic artifact that provides the earliest direct archaeological link to Jesus and his family!


Copyright © 2012 Joseph M. Holden. All rights reserved

Dr. Holden is the President of Veritas Evangelical Seminary and the author/coauthor of The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible: Discoveries that Confirm the Reliability of the Scriptures, Living Loud: Defending your Faith, and Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate.