Hungarian leader Regent Horthy (Sir Ben Kingsley) sees that the Allies will eventually defeat Hitler’s National Socialist regime in Germany. So, he cuts ties with Germany. Because of his decision, Hungarian Jews are no longer protected and are seen as the enemy by the desperate Nazi soldiers.
Elek Cohen, a young energetic Jew, rushes from the city to his home village to make sure his family is all right. Upon arriving, he and all the other young men are forcibly sent to a labor camp. The Germans ruthlessly work the young men, killing anyone who becomes sick or is injured. When some Allies planes strike the compound, Elek and the prisoners have their chance to escape.
Once Elek gets back to his village, he finds out his entire family was relocated. Desperate to find them, he goes back to the city to see if he can find more information on where his family might be. In the city, Elek finds himself with a group of resisters who are forging passports for Jewish families so they can escape to Switzerland.
One day, a group of Jews are being led to a train for their impending execution. In an attempt to save them, Elek puts on a stolen Nazi officer uniform and uses his perfect German accent to order the soldiers to transfer the Jews to him. Miraculously, this works, and he is able to save many lives.
Reinvigorated to make a difference, Elek goes on dangerous missions posing as a German officer for the remainder of the war. The longer he goes, the more likely it becomes for him to be discovered. Along the way, he develops a relationship with Hannah, a young Jewish woman whose life he had saved.
WALKING WITH THE ENEMY is a very exciting World War II drama. The acting is powerful, and the sets and special effects are very impressive for an independent movie. The nature of the story makes it gritty and rough, but never gratuitous. The story moves quickly, but forgets to convey to the audience where they are taking it at times. Otherwise, however, the movie holds interest throughout.
WALKING WITH THE ENEMY has a very strong moral worldview with strong Christian elements. At the center of the story are Jews and Christians who risk their lives to save men, women and children. Inspirational and emotionally gripping, the movie is a testament to the impact one man can have against an evil empire. The violence, though not gratuitous, is still intense and warrants strong caution.
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher, and Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
Some Christians have launched several complaints and opposing viewpoints about the movie HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, which is based on a bestselling book about a little Christian boy who claimed he went to Heaven and met Jesus.
Some of these come from Christians we respect highly, and others come from people who are unfamiliar to us and seem to have no faith credentials whatsoever except a trail of anthropocentric booklets refuting many books, movies and people by using practically the same arguments while ignoring the text. In other words, these folks use the unbiblical method of eisegesis, rather than exegesis to attack books, movies and people. As a former L.S. Attorney in the US Attorney’s Office SDNY, who later was saved by God’s grace alone, these attacks do not follow the rules of evidence which derive from the Bible itself, which is the Word of God.
With all due respect, the complaints and opposition to the movie don’t make much sense.
To prove this, let’s examine the two major complaints being made against the movie.
Perhaps the biggest complaint is the notion that, instead of looking to a movie like HEAVEN IS FOR REAL to define and affirm our faith, we must look instead to the Bible.
Well, duh!!! Isn’t that true of practically any movie? The only exception to that rule would seem to be a movie that’s just a word-for-word recitation of parts of the Bible, such as the 2003 movie THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. Of course, even if a movie directly quotes the Bible, someone still could complain that the movie doesn’t have the right translation or the right interpretation.
That said, we agree with this point. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL should not be used as a substitute for Scripture. However, the movie never claims to be a substitute for the Bible. Nor does it ask us to ignore the Bible or ask us not to use it as the ultimate authority on the Christian faith. That doesn’t mean, however, that the movie can’t be used as an aid to Scripture or as an aid to faith and evangelism.
In fact, on that point alone, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL has a lot of good things going for it.
For example, it affirms the existence of an afterlife, including the existence of Heaven. Second, it focuses on God and Jesus. Third, it encourages us to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Fourth, it encourages us to display love and acts of kindness overtly here on earth, including in honor of the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus commanded His followers in the Bible to recite.
Fifth, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL portrays a real body of believers who ask each and every question the critics ask without coming to the fallacious conclusions of the critics. After all, the entire story of the movie is the members of the congregation and outsiders trying to figure out if Heaven is for real and if the four-year-old actually saw the things he could not have known which he said he saw. As such, the movie has more content about church than 99.99% of the many movies ever made. Instead of positing an untenable answer as the critics have too often done, the movie points to Jesus Christ, the Creator, and says that when we love Him and our neighbor, we see a glimpse of Heaven, and when we hate Him and our neighbor, we turn toward making life hell on earth.
Best of all, the movie ends on the fact that Jesus Christ is real and true.
The second major criticism leveled at HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is that, while the Bible has several people, including the Apostle Paul, say they went to Heaven, no one returns to talk about their experience in heaven.
While it’s true that Paul says in the Bible that he was taken up to Heaven but never goes into details about his experience, it’s not true that no one in the Bible ever goes to or comes from Heaven and returns to talk about it.
In the first place, Jesus Christ Himself, who repeatedly says He came from Heaven and from the Father, talks about both Heaven and Hell a lot. He also talks a lot about God the Father and says that, if you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen the Father. Finally, in the Bible, Jesus gives us many details about the afterlife – enough details to know that Heaven is a really wonderful place, and Hell is a very terrible and terrifying place. Jesus also talks abut God’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth and encourages His followers in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first the Kingdom [or rule] of God and His righteousness.” (Guess what? In its own way, using today’s vernacular, the HEAVEN IS FOR REAL movie does exactly the same thing! Imagine that!!!)
Secondly, the Apostle John says in the Book of Revelation that God gave him a vision of Heaven, and John describes that vision in very great detail in that book.
In other words, it’s simply not true that no one in the Bible ever goes to Heaven and comes to earth to talk about his trip!
Both Jesus and His “beloved” apostle, John, do exactly that.
As Christian scholar Gary Habermas has noted, near death experiences are, on the whole, a positive sign that there is indeed an afterlife, and that the biblical concepts of Heaven and Hell are not totally made-up fictions without scientific or philosophical foundation. As such, they refute atheism and scientific naturalism’s anti-supernatural bias.
That doesn’t mean near death experiences should be a substitute for biblical truth. However, nowhere does the movie HEAVEN IS FOR REAL claim that they are, or that it is.
Thus, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL actually re-affirms Christian, biblical faith. It doesn’t contradict it.
THE REAL WINNING EDGE is a valiant, youth-oriented series aimed at inspiring youth to achieve success through faith and values. Syndicated throughout the United States, each episode deals with several stories.
In Episode 524, the first story is about a positive rapper, Tyler Griffin. His father abandoned the family when Tyler was four months old. The family lived in a rundown area. At the age of 9, he got inspired by rap music. He soon did a song that was used as a commercial for a local politician. His positive rap brought him into contact with major acts such as the Newsboys. His goal is to honor God, and he sets a great example for children who are musically talented, especially forgiving his father for abandoning him.
The next featured person is an athlete, Crystal Kalogris. Crystal is a great BMX rider who overcame a serious injury to become a national champion. Her success is due to the support of church, prayer and determination.
Finally, the last story is about Jimmy Mosqueda, a talented motorsports engineer who first discovered his talents in high school. He has helped some of the leading racecar drivers succeed, and he finds his help in the Bible.
THE REAL WINNING EDGE has a very strong moral worldview with strong biblical principles. It has no negative content except for minor references to self-determination and self-improvement. Otherwise, it shows that success is best achieved through faith and values.
A couple members of the Newsboys Christian group and racecar driver Jeff Gordon are featured in Episode 524.
By Amy Swanson, Contributing Writer
A friend of mine shocked me recently when she pinpointed the exact moment when she “fell in love” with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane from HBO’s GAME OF THRONES. “He grabbed a man by the throat and lifted him off the ground with one hand and with the other hand reached into the man’s stomach and pulled out his guts!”
That’s nice. . . wait. . . what? When did that become romantic?
Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, women fell for the men in show business with nice eyes and a velvet voice like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra. As if that alone wasn’t intimidating enough, when did alluring take a turn for the dark and violent? How seriously should we take it?
Today, some of the best writing is on television. Rather than introduce, deepen and arc a character over the course of a two hour movie, television allows a beloved character to evolve or devolve over the course of many years. More like real life. Real life characters in impossible or unthinkable circumstances, that is.
Hollywood’s devolution into gritty realism has churned out several TV series with dark yet moral undertones. MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, GAME OF THRONES, THE WALKING DEAD, and THE BATES MOTEL, to name a few, tell morality stories by putting their characters in situations where all moral authority, save the divine, has been removed or the stakes are so high that morality seemingly no longer matters. With obstacles of authority removed we are now granted secret access into the true soul of a human being. If you don’t have to face immediate consequences for your actions, what would you do? Who are you versus who are you really?
These story themes can open up some great discussion about morality, redemption and human nature, but extreme caution must be exercised as we examine these complex characters in moral flux. We all love our anti-heroes and tragic villains, but, if we are going to practice wise discernment, we first need to understand why we like these characters as much as we do.
Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological condition usually associated with victims of prolonged kidnapping or domestic abuse. It is a form of traumatic bonding where emotional ties develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats or threatens the other. Moviegoers seek to empathize with characters in this exact kind of scenario. Therefore viewers are just as subject to succumbing to this moral confusion as the character in the movie.
The positive emotional connection occurs when after prolonged negative treatment the abuser makes a turn. He does something positive or the victim learns something they didn’t previously know that makes them pity him or see him in a different light. It doesn’t have to be much, no more than a bread crust of kindness after a feast of cruelty. The victim is so shocked by this crumb of mercy they erase all feelings of hatred for their abuser and replace them with feelings of compassion, admiration and sometimes even romantic or sexual attraction. Full on Stockholm Syndrome is a form of mental slavery that involves physical abuse, so to say that Hollywood is intentionally inflicting this abuse on America would be stretching the point. Still, the earmarks are there and should be taken into consideration.
In a world of positive and negative charge, human beings naturally gravitate towards the positive. Therefore, if we increase the psychological negative pressure, the positive charge seems more positive without actually being increased itself. This psychological sleight of hand makes it easier for the writer to employ the Save the Cat technique.
Factual or fictional, Stockholm Syndrome has its positive effects. It keeps the victim and the character alive. It shines a ray of hope into an otherwise dark character’s story. Perhaps, even someone such as this can be redeemed or even saved! The odds are usually an even 50/50 he could go either way so any moviegoer will wait with baited breath to see how his story turns out. This is positive.
However, there is also negative. If the character has to do something positive to turn our hearts towards him, he must then go back to doing something negative to keep us guessing. If extreme negative makes the positive seem more positive, then exaggerated positive makes the negative seem less negative. As Hollywood Stockholm Syndrome engages, we make excuses for bad behavior and pathetically justify human vices. This can ultimately lead to us rationalizing away the sin lurking inside us. The Culture-Wise Christian must know the difference between God’s sanctifying love and Stockholm Syndrome.
TRANSCENDENCE rises above the typical pyrotechnics of recent science fiction to deliver a very thought provoking look at science getting out of hand. Fairly clean, well made, and acted, it literally asks, “Do you want to make your own God?”
Johnny Depp plays Will Caster, a brilliant scientist pressing the frontiers of artificial intelligence. Rebecca Hall plays his fellow scientist wife, Evelyn, who loves the possibility of using artificial intelligence to cure cancer, end poverty, and clean up the environment. Their charmed life is shattered when some radicals who believe artificial intelligence is dangerous shoot Will. Will survives the shooting, but the bullet turns out to be highly radioactive.
As Will’s life slips away over a month’s time, Evelyn decides to try to save his mind by uploading it to a computer. She and their friend, Max, succeed, even when being attacked by radicals trying to stop them.
When Will’s uploaded to the Internet, his powers expand exponentially. He’s able to study the entire world’s surveillance cameras and alert the FBI to where the anti-technology people are hiding. He even discovers ways to regenerate severely injured bodies and give sight to a man born blind. However, there are drawbacks to such power. He knows everything about everyone. Also, those he has healed have super strength and live almost as his drones. In fact, he uses nano-technology to connect all of them to him through the Internet.
With Max’s help, the FBI decides to work with the anti-technology radicals to stop Will.
It’s actually refreshing to see a science fiction movie where a major threat to life on earth is not posed by Godzilla, evil Transformers, or any huge flying objects going around destroying cities. In an age when government agencies have access to every phone call or mouse click, and enemies can be taken out by soldiers at consoles controlling drones, this is a movie that will make you think. Do we want a cure to cancer if the price is programmed cells? Do we want more security if the price is the complete elimination of privacy?
Early in the movie, Will is asked if he wants to play God. This is a valid question. Will was working on “transcendence,” which he considered the use of supercomputers to add powers beyond the imagination to an uploaded human mind. Consider the similarity. God knows our every thought. God knows our motives. God made children who scrape their knees to regrow perfect skin. God made mankind capable of building artificial intelligence, atomic bombs, and surveillance cameras. We are living in a time when we expect technology to find astounding cures, but also to build ever more horrifying weapons. We live in an age where a small gift to a politically incorrect cause can cost you your job 15 years later. We live in an age where information gathered by the IRS and other government agencies can trigger politically motivated audits and prosecutions.
TRANCENDENCE does a wonderful job of causing viewers to think. How far do we want technology to go? What keeps it from being misused? Can it be stopped? Should it be stopped?
Those who obey God will use technology as God desires. Those who disobey God can misuse technology in frightening ways.
TRANSCENDENCE has a less than satisfying resolution, along with a couple possible plot holes, but the trip there is some of the best science fiction in years. It has less foul language and less violence than most of today’s science fiction movies. Not a single block of a major city gets blown to bits, but the world is radically changed.
By Carl Kozlowski, Contributing Writer
Ever notice how annoying people are getting with their connections to computers? Everywhere you turn, people have Bluetooths that attach to their ears or Google Glass devices that provide an instant video stream of what our eyes see to the World Wide Web. At what point, do we have to stop and say, “Enough’s enough?”
The new movie TRANSCENDENCE takes a powerful look at that dilemma, serving up frightening questions through the context of a thriller about a scientist named Dr. Will Caster, who is at the forefront of research into artificial intelligence (otherwise known as A.I.). As played by Johnny Depp in a rare role that doesn’t require absurd costumes or makeup, Caster seems to be a nice enough guy who just wants to continue mankind’s progress towards ever-greater scientific accomplishments.
However, there are protesters who fear that A.I. will enable computers to someday surpass the human mind and take control over their human masters. So, Caster finds himself shot by a radioactive bullet that will kill him over the course of a mere month. As he wastes away, leaving his wife and research partner to grieve and wonder what might have been both in their marriage and their life’s work, Caster suddenly arrives at a drastic idea.
He wants to see if he can upload his own mental and spiritual consciousness into the giant computer system that drives his work, just as he had managed to upload a monkey’s consciousness into earlier research. Figuring he has nothing left to lose, Caster attempts the experiment and finds that it succeeds. However, this creates a whole new set of problems when he realizes that his brilliant mind can now be immortalized. That sense of power sets him off on a dangerous path in which he tries to place whatever is good for himself ahead of what’s good for everyone in society.
Thus, TRANSCENDENCE sets a powerful string of moral quandaries presented to viewers. Could they manage to use the same powers for definite good, or would the temptation for greed, selfishness, and other forms of evil take over?
“I thought there was something beautiful to the idea of the film,” said the movie’s star, Johnny Depp, who recently appeared at a press junket for the movie that Movieguide® attended.
“I thought there was something very beautiful to [director Wally Pfister’s] idea, a certain disintegration to the character and watching him go out. There’s a progression to him being uploaded to the computer, and then once inside, he could become anything.”
At first, Will appears younger when his face appears onscreen to talk with his wife and other partners, as a measure of the perfect man he appears to become through his moment of transcendence. As anyone who follows the evolution of A.I. in the real world fears, such a moment could also lead to very dangerous consequences for mankind.
“[Director Wally Pfister] has spoken to a lot of high up scientists and scholars, so knowing that a great bit of the tech is active, actually happening, and the tech we’re talking about uploading the human consciousness to is probably not that far away,” Depp noted. “They’re all agreed about it happening, just a matter of when. A Caltech expert told me 30 years.
“It was terrifying to learn that scientists we spoke with felt that what we’re heading towards a crash with technology and that the next phase of our evolution will involve machines,” Depp added. “The questions I asked professors was, if we were able to take consciousness and the mind and transfer, would it include our emotions? They said yes, but whoever is doing the hard drive will have some effect on what carries over. It opens up a lot of fascinating questions.”
Interestingly, Depp doesn’t consider himself a tech wizard at all.
“Things go wrong all the time, especially between me and technology,” Depp said. “I’m too old school a brain to figure it out. Anything I have to attack with my thumbs for any period of time makes me feel stupid, so I try to avoid it as much as possible.”
One other aspect of Depp’s experience with TRANSCENDENCE also blew his mind. A recent trip to promote the movie in China gave him his first glimpse behind that most complex and contradictory of nations, giving him both good and bad things to mull over.
“It was amazing on a cultural level, with just constant information, with something new everywhere you looked, something interesting,” he said. “I found a real warmth in the people and quite a turnout wherever we went, but there were also a lot of strange things that went down that I’d rather not talk about because I value my life.
“But the strangest thing, amid all the foreign culture I’m being enlightened by, four little Chinese boys dressed in priest outfits come out on stage at an event,” Depp said. “Transcendence comes out written on their heads in four Chinese characters, they shaved one of them each onto the little boys’ heads and brought them onstage with me. Little boys brought on stage with the name of a movie shaved into their heads – yeah, it scared me a little.”
Depp also spoke at length about his next big role, portraying the colorful real-world mobster Whitey Bulger, who recently was arrested and convicted for an array of crimes, including murder, after decades on the lam. That role would represent another distinct turn away from the characters like Captain Jack Sparrow and Tonto whom he has relied on playing for the past decade, and towards a more mature style that perhaps reflects Depp turning 50 and becoming newly engaged to actress Amber Heard.
“There’s actually a lot of parallels between Whitey and Will Caster, because it’s about how people think they have the power to do anything,” Depp said. “It should be a little vague – is he losing it? You could make an analogy to a security guard who three weeks before was mowing lawns for a living but as soon as he puts a uniform on he’s the overzealous guard.
“Is there something lying dormant in the man? Does it appeal to him? Does it change him? You don’t know,” Depp said wryly. “Once Will’s in the computer, as he’s growing at a rapid pace – does any bad person think they’re doing bad? Historically most think they’re ok, but of course a few were off. By a lot! So when Will was dedicated to the cause and the feeling that he was God. Nothing on earth is more powerful than you.”
Just as Christian leaders and other moral and ethical teachers around the globe have had to reformulate their decisions on what constitutes a just war in an age of carpet-bombing possibilities, or what constitutes extraordinary care in an age when machines can take on more and more survival functions for people, these questions of computer power and where it is leading mankind will present many dilemmas in the coming years.
Ultimately, TRANSCENDENCE is just a thriller, albeit a thought-provoking one. Depp and his director, Wally Pfister, are not required to lead viewers to a definitive answer, just to open the door of possibilities and ask viewers to think long and hard about the road we are on in human society, and to remember to not lose sight of moral truths and biblical principles in the pursuit of faster, better, stronger modern comforts.
“We’re hoping to create ambiguity in this film,” Depp concluded. “If you’re able to do this [upload a dying person’s mind and emotions into a computer], is this the fair and right way to do it? Technology is reshaping itself radically every day. If you’re in that situation with a split second decision of promise to save [people], this movie asks would you do it, or is it too big a risk?”
TRANSCENDENCE opens nationwide Friday. Before you pay your money, please check out Movieguide®’s review of the movie here.
The Christian move wins again. This time the $12 million budgeted HEAVEN IS FOR REAL trounced the $100 million budgeted TRANSCENDENCE on Easter weekend. TRANSCENDENCE opening in over 1,000 more theaters and did about half the business. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL earned $21,500,000 while TRANSCENDENCE brought in only $11,150,000. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL averaged $8,895 per theater, TRANSCENDENCE $3,227.
This is the second shocking success in two months. GOD’S NOT DEAD with a budget of $2 million came in 10th in its fifth week in release and has now earned $48,327,000. It should soar past the $50 million mark this week.
The controversial NOAH movie, with a $125 million budget, came in ninth this weekend and has now made $93 million in the United States and $290,674,000 worldwide.
SON OF GOD, the reworked story of Jesus from THE BIBLE series that was such a hit on the History Channel, came in 19 in its eighth week of release and has almost made $60,000,000.
Next to come will be MOM’S NIGHT OUT on May 9, which, strangely enough, is being marketed as just a family comedy, playing down its Christian content.
There’s more to come after that. In years past it was a delight to get one or two profoundly Christian movies. This year has been amazing.
By Tom Snyder, Ph.D.
The first number one movie at the box office this March was SON OF GOD, which was developed from the last part of the History Channel’s blockbuster miniseries in 2013, THE BIBLE.
The movie tells the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, including the story of His death and resurrection, as told in the New Testament documents, especially the Gospel of John.
The question arises, however:
Can you trust what the Bible says about the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Passover, Good Friday and Easter stories in the Bible?
Top scholars, historians, and experts have repeatedly confirmed that the Bible is the most historically and intellectually reliable ancient text in the whole world, including the Bible’s account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and disciples who wrote the New Testament documents. Consider, for example, the work of numerous top scholars, historians and experts such as C.S. Lewis, Gary Habermas, F.F. Bruce, William Lane Craig, John A.T. Robinson, John Warwick Montgomery, Bruce Metzger, Simon Greenleaf, Stuart C. Hackett, J. Gresham Machen, Ronald Nash, Edwin Yamauchi, Craig Blomberg, John Wenham, Lee Strobel, Paul Maier, Michael R. Licona, and N.T. Wright.
These people are wonderfully astute thinkers, investigators and writers. They have refuted all of the important lies, half-truths, and silly comments against Jesus, Christianity and the Bible made by non-Christians and even by some allegedly former Christians.
Not only can you have complete faith in the New Testament documents and what they say about the virgin birth, divinity, crucifixion, resurrection, and teachings of Jesus Christ, but you can also rely on what they say about non-Christian places, people and events, such as the names and titles of Roman government officials. In fact, the New Testament writer Luke (the books of Luke and Acts), the medical companion of Paul, an apostle appointed by Jesus Christ Himself and accepted by Christ’s other major apostles, including Peter, specifically says in Luke 1:3 that he “carefully investigated everything” he writes in Luke and Acts to Theophilus and other assumed readers.
In a court of law, the burden of proof for denying the credibility of an eyewitness falls on those who wish to undermine that credibility. An eyewitness should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt “unless we have clear evidence to the contrary.”1 Since, however, the New Testament books make great demands on people and their lifestyles, it seems fair to ask what is the evidence to support the historical reliability of these ancient documents.
Historians use two standard tests for determining the reliability of an ancient document like the New Testament documents.
The first test is the bibliographic test. This test asks three questions: 1) How many copies and fragments of copies do we have of a particular document? 2) Are the copies basically the same, or do they show a wide variety of differences, indicating they have undergone an extensive amount of editing or redaction? 3) What is the time gap between the dates of the copies we have and the approximate date on which the document was probably written? The more copies we have, the less editing they have undergone, and the closer the time gap, the more accurate they seem to be and the more reliable the text of the document is.
Using this test, how does the New Testament stack up?
As biblical scholar John A.T. Robinson and other scholars attest, the New Testament books were probably written between 40 A.D. and 70 A.D., although some scholars believe the Apostle John wrote John and Revelation about 95 A.D. or so. The earliest complete copies we have, excluding small fragments, some of which are dated from about 44 A.D. to 130 A.D., can be dated between 300 and 400 A.D., or 260-360 years later. In total, however, we have more than 5,000 Greek copies and fragments, 10,000 Latin Vulgate copies and fragments, and 9,000 other versions of the New Testament dated between 40 and 1200 A.D. In comparison, we have only 643 manuscripts (copies and fragments) of Homer’s Iliad, written about 900 BC, with the earliest extant copy dated 400 BC, 500 years later. Also, we have only ten copies of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, written 58 to 50 BC, with the earliest copy dated 900 A.D., a gap of almost 1,000 years, and only 21 copies or fragments of the works of Tacitus, written about 100 A.D., with the earliest copy or fragment dated 1000 A.D., a span of 900 years.
According to New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, only 40 lines, or about 400 words, of the 20,000 lines in the New Testament documents are seriously in doubt. In contrast, Homer’s Iliad contains approximately 15,600 lines, but 764 lines have been questioned by scholars. As, Christian scholar and philosopher Norman L. Geisler writes, “The New Testament writings are superior to comparable ancient writings. The records for the New Testament are vastly more abundant, clearly more ancient, and considerably more accurate in their text.”2
Copies of manuscripts are not the only source of our knowledge about the New Testament documents, however.
Before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the writings of the Ante-Nicene church fathers contain about 32,000 citations of the New Testament text. “Virtually the entire New Testament could be reproduced from citations contained in the works of the early church fathers,” says Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland.3 Furthermore, although every church father does not quote every book of the New Testament, every book is quoted as authoritative and authentic by some important church father. This indicates that the New Testament writings were “recognized as apostolic [originating from Jesus Christ’s own appointed church leaders] from the very beginning.”4
There is no reason, therefore, to doubt the accuracy of the copies of the New Testament. The bibliographic test clearly shows that the text of the New Testament has not been significantly altered by the Christian church. We can trust that the translations we now have are as close to the original writings as possible.
The second test historians use to determine the reliability of an ancient document is the external test. In this test, historians look at what external sources say about the document.
We have already mentioned the testimony of the early church fathers with regard to the bibliographic test. Their testimony also satisfies the external test.
For instance, several second century fathers affirm that the book of John in the New Testament was written by the Apostle John. These writers include Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus of Antioch, and Tertullian of Carthage.
The testimony of Irenaeus is important “because he had been a student of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (martyred in 156 A.D. after being a Christian for 86 years), and Polycarp in turn had been a disciple of the Apostle John himself.”5 Not only does Irenaeus affirm the authorship of John’s gospel, he also reports that Matthew produced his gospel for the Jews, perhaps in Aramaic, while Peter and Paul were founding the Christian church in Rome (about 55 A.D.). Irenaeus also writes that Mark, Peter’s disciple, set down his gospel after Peter’s death, around 65 A.D., and that Paul’s friend Luke wrote his gospel sometime thereafter. In a letter to his colleague Florinus, quoted by church historian Eusebius, Irenaeus mentions how both he and Florinus had heard Polycarp talk about what John and other witnesses had told Polycarp about Jesus.
According to Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, writing between 130 and 140 A.D., the Apostle Matthew compiled a collection of Jesus’ sayings in Aramaic, which Papias says many people later translated into Greek. Papias also testifies that the Apostle John told Papias that Mark composed his gospel on the basis of information supplied by the Apostle Peter himself.
Finally, we have the Apostle Paul’s testimony in his own letters, which are among the earliest of all New Testament writings. Paul’s letter to the Galatians has been dated as early as 48 A.D. The dates of his other letters may be established as follows: 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 50 A.D.; 1 and 2 Corinthians, 54-56 A.D.; Romans, 57 A.D.; and Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians, around 60 A.D. Many scholars, including more liberal ones, believe that Paul’s description of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 can be traced back to an ancient catechism from the early to middle 30s A.D.! There are many other early creedal passages in the New Testament documents like this one from 1 Corinthians, such as Philippians 2:6-11 and John 1:1-18.
The New Testament documents are also consistent with the external evidence from ancient non-Christian sources. Even the Jewish Talmud contains references to Jesus Christ and five of the disciples. These references say Jesus was a sorcerer who led the people astray and who came to add things to the Jewish law. Eventually, they say, Jesus was executed on the eve of Passover for heresy and for misleading the Jewish people. Following his death, his disciples healed the sick in his name.6
Although portions of his text are in doubt, Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote about 90 A.D., mentions John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and James, the brother of Jesus. According to New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce, we have “very good reason for believing”7 that Josephus confirms the dates of Christ’s ministry, his reputation for practicing “wonders” of some kind, his kinship to James, his crucifixion by Pilate, his messianic claim, and the fact that his disciples believed Jesus rose physically from the dead.
Cornelius Tacitus, the “greatest Roman historian in the days of the Empire,”8 refers to Jesus Christ’s execution under Pilate and relates Roman Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians after the great fire ravaged Rome in 64 A.D. Also, writing in 112 A.D., C. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger), governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, wrote to Emperor Trajan asking for advice about how to deal with troublesome Christians. In his letter, Pliny reports that the Christians meet on a fixed day to pray to Christ as God and promise each other to follow certain moral standards. He also says they refuse to curse the name of Jesus. The evidence from Pliny, and others, clearly shows that the Early Christians did indeed worship Jesus Christ as God. This worship is confirmed by the writings of Ignatius, a major leader of the early Christian church.
The New Testament writings are themselves full of references to secular history in the first century. Archeological evidence confirms many of these references to historical events and persons and to political factions, geographical areas, social differences, etc. For instance, the Apostle John in his gospel displays accurate knowledge about buildings and landscapes in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside before 70 A.D. Luke, the author of the third gospel and the book of Acts, has been especially cited for his sense of the historical context in the first century A.D. His books contain many references to the imperial history of Rome and a detailed chronicle of the Herod family. Luke is also very accurate in his use of various official titles in the Roman Empire, no mean feat considering the fact they sometimes changed titles in a short period of time during switchovers in administrations. Also, according to one study Luke accurately shows knowledge of some “32 countries, 54 cities and nine islands.”9
Luke’s description of the founding and rise of the Christian church in Acts also matches what we know from other historical writings and archeology. Acts itself contains several instances where the apostles and various local churches receive reports from other Christians about efforts to spread the message of Jesus Christ. This habit of giving reports adds to the historical credibility of the New Testament accounts. Thus, as St. Paul notes in Chapter 26 of Acts, all these things were not done in a corner, they were common knowledge.
The writers of the New Testament, most of whom knew Jesus personally, had a strong motive to obey the warnings of the Roman and Jewish authorities to stop preaching about Jesus. Instead, these men did the opposite and risked their lives and physical well-being to preach the good news of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. They preached repeatedly and openly in the Jewish synagogues, leaving themselves vulnerable to the hostile Jewish religious leadership.
“The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies,” says historian John Warwick Montgomery, “which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so.”10 Yet they never hesitated to confront Jewish leaders, hostile pagan forces, and even the Roman authorities. They endured rejection, persecution, torture, and even death. If their testimony was full of holes, how could they have gotten away with such bad testimony? If the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not occur, how do we account for the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances by Jesus?
The Jews and pagans who opposed the apostles had the means, motive, and opportunity to completely refute the evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the content of His teachings, yet they never could shake the eyewitness testimony of the first Christian evangelists. These hostile witnesses failed to produce the kind of solid evidence that would overturn the first Christians’ testimony about Jesus Christ, including the meaning of Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, the eyewitnesses among Christ’s disciples passed the test of their own cross-examination with flying colors!
According to the New Testament documents, Jesus Christ proved his claim to be God by his bodily resurrection from the dead and gave his disciples “many convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3).” He appeared to more than 500 people at one time, most of whom were still living over 15 years later, when the Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). He also appeared to nonbelievers and hostile skeptics like his brother James, the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Thomas. He also gave special authority and power to all of his apostles, who themselves performed public miracles.
Finally, the New Testament writings are internally consistent. None of the documents deny the resurrection and most of them explicitly proclaim it. Although the documents contain passages that are difficult to interpret or create questions about the text, many books have been written which clear up these textual problems. Among the best ones are John W. Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House) and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).
Even if someone could prove there are unresolvable problems in the New Testament text, however, “they cannot be used as evidence to prove that the resurrection did not take place.”[i] Neither would they necessarily affect essential Christian teachings. For example, Greek historian Polybius and Roman historian Livy disagree over what route Hannibal took when he crossed the Alps, but both agree he arrived in Italy.
The fact is, the New Testament documents do agree with one another. They do not contradict each other. All of them teach the following: Jesus underwent a public execution. His death was certified by the Roman authorities. He was placed in a private tomb, the location of which was known. Jesus then appeared to his female disciples and to the male apostles. He commanded them to lead all people into repentance, belief and forgiveness of sins in the name of the Triune God (Matthew 28:18-20). The internal consistency of these documents in these matters is beyond reproach.
When all is said and done, the evidence for the historical reliability of the New Testament documents is in fact better than the evidence for Julius Caesar or any other historical figure in the ancient world.
“We are confronted with a hard core of historical fact,” writes F. F. Bruce: “(a) the tomb was really empty; (b) the Lord appeared to various individuals and groups of disciples both in Judea and Galilee; (c) the Jewish authorities could not disprove the disciples’ claim that He had risen from the dead.”12 Adds Bruce Metzger, “The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. Nothing in history is more certain than that the disciples believed that, after being crucified, dead, and buried, Christ rose again from the tomb on the third day, and that at intervals thereafter he met and conversed with them.”13
Though Dr. Metzger wrote these words in the early 1980s, recent scholars taking a fresh look at all the evidence still agree with him. As Michael R. Licona notes in his excellent, comprehensive examination, published in 2010, The Resurrection of Jesus, “There is superb evidence that the earliest Christians understood that Jesus’ corpse had been raised and transformed, and that is what Paul and the original disciples believed they had seen.”14 Licona says it’s also significant that external, non-biblical sources have confirmed that the First Century Church’s first persecutor, Paul, was converted after seeing the risen Christ, and that his skeptical brother, James, also became a martyred believer after seeing the resurrected Jesus.15
Thus, we can have complete trust and faith not only in what the Bible teaches us about Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection, and in the basic story presented by “The Nativity Story” movie and countless other media representations, such as the 2013 Bible miniseries on Cable TV and the recent movie, “Son of God.”
Christianity is the only religion that can be verified objectively by historical evidence, including external historical sources. The New Testament’s depiction of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ does not violate the basic laws of logic. It fits the facts. Turn away from sin and evil. Submit your heart, mind, and strength to the Triune God, by the power of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.
As the Apostle John writes in John 1:14, “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Jesus Christ died for your sins. Turn away from your sins, confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will indeed be baptized and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and receive eternal life.
1. Bob Passantino, “Contend Earnestly for the Faith: How Far Can We Trust the Bible?” (Costa Mesa, CA: Answers in Action).
2. Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 308.
3. J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 136.
4. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 108.
5. John Warwick Montgomery, Where Is History Going? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1969), 48.
6. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Madison, Wisconsin: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 100-102.
7. Bruce, 112.
8. Bruce, 117.
9. Lee Strobel, The Case for the Resurrection: A First century Reporter Investigates the Story of the Cross. (Grand Rapids: Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 12.
10. Montgomery, 51.
11. Bruce M. Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content, 2nd edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983), 127f.
12. Bruce, 65.
13. Metzger, 126.
14. Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 621.
15. Strobel, 48-49.
For more information about the New Testament, see the following:
Bruce, F. F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Madison, Wisconsin: InterVarsity Press, 1987.
Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008.
Geisler, Norman L. Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.
Habermas, Gary. The Verdict of History: Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Uses of the Old Testament in the New. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985.
Machen, J. Gresham. The Origin of Paul’s Religion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947.
McDowell, Josh, and Bill Wilson. He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1988.
Montgomery, John Warwick. Human Rights & Human Dignity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 131-160.
Montgomery, John Warwick. Where Is History Going? Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1969.
Moreland, J. P. Moreland. Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987.
Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Vol. 1 and 2. New York: Doubleday, 1991 and 1994.
Metzger, Bruce M. The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content, 2nd edition. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983.
Nash, Ronald H. Christianity and the Hellenistic World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.
Nash, Ronald H. Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.
Thiede, Carsten Peter, and Matthew D’Ancona. Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence About the Origin of the Gospels. New York: Doubleday, 1996.
Thiede, Carsten Peter. Jesus, Man or Myth? United Kingdom: Lion, 2005.
Wenham, John. Christ and the Bible. London: Tyndale Press, 2009.
Wenham, John. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
Wilkins, Michael J., and J. P. Moreland. Jesus Under Fire. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
Note: For even more info, there are some other great Christian apologetics websites with other valuable resource materials, including William Lane Craig’s www.reasonablefaith.org, www.equip.org, www.apologeticsinfo.org, www.answers.org, and www.theculturewatch.com.
HAUNTED HOUSE 2 is an abhorrent, unfunny comedy horror movie spoofing many of the previous year’s horror movies.
Malcolm Johnson is a young African American man running from his demon possessed girlfriend Kisha who was in the first movie. When Malcolm, his cousin and Kisha are in a car accident, it looks as if Kisha died, giving him the opportunity to be done with her. Malcolm and his cousin leave the scene of the accident.
One year later, Malcolm is beginning to live with his new girlfriend Megan and her two children; teenage rebel Becky and her younger brother. As they settle, Malcolm begins to notice strange things around the house. He discovers that a demon haunts the house along with a creepy doll. To make things worse, his ex-girlfriend Kisha isn’t dead and continues to haunt him.
As he videotapes his findings and tries to investigate the paranormal occurrences with the help of a meth-cooking professor, Malcolm becomes even more erratic in his behavior (as if that was possible). Also, the foul-mouthed “Father Doug” shows up at the end to help perform an exorcism in a very offensive scene.
A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 is extremely crude and pointless. Marlon Wayans who wrote and starred in the movie shows his own incompetence as a comedian by constantly resorting to unoriginal jokes, stereotypes, and sexual gags. Nearly every plot point is directly taken from other movies, especially the climactic scene that, in an unfunny way, spoofs last year’s THE CONJURING.
This empty, lewd, offensive movie will find most audiences, media wise or not, rethinking their decision to see it. The constant foul language and extremely crude humor is accompanied by strong drug references and very strong Anti-Christian elements mocking the church, clergy, and the Holy Trinity, and making light of the supernatural and the occult.