How did Jesus deal with Skeptics?

Erik Manning looks at two New Testament stories that illustrate how Jesus dealt with skeptics. There are those who are genuinely curious and there are those who clearly are not. Jesus teaches us how to deal with both types of skeptics.

How did Jesus deal with Skeptics?

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How Can I Trust the Bible When it Was Used to Justify Slavery?

Brandon Cleaver writes a fantastic article at RZIM on slavery in the Old Testament and New Testament in contrast with American antebellum slavery. Properly understood, the Bible not only does not condone the brutal slavery of the antebellum South, but strongly prohibits such treatment of human beings made in the image of God.

How Can I Trust the Bible When it Was Used to Justify Slavery?

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The Theology of Genesis 1-11

The first eleven chapters of Genesis set the scene for the entire Biblical narrative. It would be hard to overstate the importance of rightly understanding these chapters. Kevin Hall provides a concise theological framework for reading and understanding these chapters.

The Theology of Genesis 1-11

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7 Apologetics Fails to Avoid

Here’s a blog by John Rasmussen that I read recently and greatly appreciated. The article details seven mistakes that we can easily make when speaking with skeptics and non-believers about our faith. I agree with just a bout all of them.

7 Apologetics Fails to Avoid

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Paul the Apologist

Erik Manning commentates on seven passages from the book of Acts that demonstrate Paul’s use of reason and argumentation in evangelism. When evangelizing Jews, Paul argues from the Scripture. When evangelizing Greeks, Paul finds common ground and of course still quotes the Scriptures.

7 Powerful passages from the Book of Acts that show that the Apostle Paul used evidence and Reason to turn the world upside down for Jesus

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10 Reasons to Accept the Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Fact

Brian Chilton from Bellator Christi lays out ten evidences in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection. The evidence for Jesus and his resurrection is well-attested.

10 Reasons to Accept the Resurrection

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“Everyone whom the Father gives” John 6:37

I love passages of Scripture that interpret themselves. Sometimes we will read something “difficult,” or hard to understand, but the Bible itself will provide us with the correct interpretation.

Perhaps, you have heard people say, “Let the Bible interpret the Bible.” The Bible Geek in me comes out when we find passages like this.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard John 6:37 ripped out of context and given a Calvinistic interpretation, while completely ignoring the fact that Jesus himself interprets this verse just a few verses later.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Jesus’ word for it. Let me show you what I mean.

“Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never throw out, because I have come down from heaven not that I should do my will, but the will of the one who sent me.”

John 6:37-38 | Lexham English Bible

No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 | Lexham English Bible

These verses are often interpreted to mean that God infallibly calls some people, as opposed to others, to come to Jesus, and they will be saved. In other words, it is impossible to come to Jesus, that is believe in Jesus (John 6:35), unless you are first infallibly called by God.

Usually, there is a strong emphasis on the word “draws” which can be interpreted as “drags”. Nobody comes willingly, they must be dragged, effectually called; in other words, caused.

Let’s ignore the obvious and horrible consequences of such a theology. The text is king. Whatever God’s word says, we shall stick with, even if we don’t like it.

There is one major problem with this interpretation: it completely ignores Jesus’ interpretation.

Jesus’ interpretation? Yes, Jesus himself explains what he meant by these words. We don’t need anyone to tell us, we can just read Jesus’ words.

One, two, skip a few, look down at verse 65.

And he said, “Because of this I said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by the Father.”

John 6:65 | Lexham English Bible

Jesus gives the reasoning himself. He says, “Because of this.” Because of what? The “this” is in reference to what he had just previously said. What did he just say?

“But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 

John 6:64 | Lexham English Bible

The important thing to notice here is that when Jesus says he knows that some of “you” do not believe, he is referring to his disciples. Jesus made the original statement in verse 37 in front of a larger crowd, however, he only gave the explanation to his disciples. This is something Jesus commonly does in John’s Gospel. He shares explicit information with his disciples only, often leaving the larger crowds “in the dark.”

So, although some of Jesus’ disciples were following him (redundant, I know), they did not actually believe. For this reason, Jesus said “No one can come to the Father unless it has been granted to him by the Father.”

Question: Why would God not grant some disciples, specifically Judas since he was the one “who would betray him,” to not come to, or believe in Jesus?

The Hour

Repeatedly throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of how his “hour had not yet come” (2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20).

What hour was he referring to? Again, the text tells us itself.

And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man will be glorified.

John 12:23 | Lexham English Bible

Now before the feast of Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, and having loved his own in the world, loved them to the end.

John 13:1 | Lexham English Bible

Jesus said these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he said, “Father, the hour has come! Glorify your Son, in order that your Son may glorify you—just as you have given him authority over all flesh, in order that he would give eternal life to them—everyone whom you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have glorified you on earth by completing the work that you have given me to do. And now, Father, you glorify me at your side with the glory that I had at your side before the world existed.

John 17:1-5 | Lexham English Bible

I included much more of John 17 because I find it especially helpful for interpreting John 6. John 17 brings together the theme of “Jesus’ hour” and “God’s giving of people to Jesus.”

Again, some read the verses in John 17 and say, “See, the text says “in order that he would give eternal life to them–everyone whom [God has] given him. God chooses who will have eternal life.”

Again, let the text interpret the text.

Who has God given to Jesus? The text literally says “just as you have given him authority over all flesh, in order that he would give eternal life to them.” (emphasis mine)

God has given everyone, all flesh, to Jesus. This is not a reference to the elect. It is a reference to “all flesh”. And Jesus has given eternal life to “all flesh.” Whether they accept it in faith, or not, is a different story, but it has been given. He is eternal life, the bread of life, and he has given himself to the world, all flesh.

Now, back to my original point with respect to John 6.

Why would God not allow some to come to Jesus, especially Judas? The hour of his death had not come.

Earlier in John 6 we read this:

Then Jesus, because he knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king, withdrew again up the mountain by himself alone.

John 6:15 | Lexham English Bible

Obviously, many people were misunderstanding what Jesus’ purpose was. If they had been allowed to come to Jesus, they would have attempted to make him king, which was not why he came. He came for “his hour.” He came for a cross, not a crown.

They had to be prevented.

Likewise, considering Jesus’ purpose in coming (the Cross), someone had to betray him and turn him over to be crucified. This was Judas, and it was done in accordance with the Scriptures (John 17:12).

For a temporary period of time, people were prevented from “coming to Jesus” so as to fulfill the purpose of Jesus coming into the world: Jesus getting to the cross and dying for the world’s sins.

In John 6, Jesus is specifically speaking to his disciples. When he says that not all of them have believed, and that is why he pointed out that God must grant them to come to him, we are told that Judas, or the one who would betray him, is specifically in mind.

There is no indication from the text that Jesus is teaching unconditional election, or effectual calling.

To further bolster this point, it should be pointed out that the word “draw” in John 6:44 is also used in John 12:32.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Now he said this to indicate by what sort of death he was going to die.)

John 12:32-33

So, if you think John 6:44 teaches that you must be “drawn” by God in order to believe in Jesus, and that this “drawing” is infallible, then in order to be consistent you must affirm that all people (John 12:32) have been drawn by God and since this drawing is infallible, everyone is saved (universalism).

However, there is a better option. One that is derived from the text itself and not a predetermined soteriological system.

In John 6, people were being prevented from coming to Jesus, so that God’s plan for him to get to the cross and die for the world’s sins would be fulfilled. However, after he accomplished this will, everyone would be “drawn,” or granted permission, to come to him.

This is good news for Christians. God is not drawing a select few to himself. He is drawing the whole world. He desires all to be saved, and we can take the Gospel around the world, to every individual, knowing that every individual is being drawn to the Son.

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If Jesus died for the world’s sins, why do people still go to hell?

Well, if you believe in a limited atonement, the answer is easy: Jesus didn’t die for the world’s sins, he only died for the elect.

However, if you have followed my writing, you’ll know that I am not a Calvinist and believe in an unlimited atonement, as even John Calvin did!

Consider the following verses:

For in this way God loved the world, so that he gave his one and only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.

John 3:16 | Lexham English Bible

And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 | Lexham English Bible

I believe these verses, among others, clearly teach that Jesus died for the sins of the world. I’m skipping the exegesis of these verses because that isn’t the focus of this article. I’m aware that people will disagree. We can discuss that another time.

So, here is the question: If Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for everyone’s sins, why isn’t everyone saved?

Believing Loyalty

If you trace the story of the Bible from cover to cover what you will find is a similar pattern: God makes something good, people sin and mess it up, and God saves the day. I may have skipped a few things.

Take the story of King David, to join in the cliche.

David is a long shot from the type of person you would expect to become King. He is the youngest of his brothers and nothing about him shouts “King!”

However, he is exactly the sort of person that God seems to like to use for his purposes. By the way, this should give us comfort. God likes to use “nobodies” so that he can get all the glory.

David clearly didn’t become king because of himself. God gets all the glory.

Anyway, David has an amazing story that leads to him, against all odds, becoming king. “Yay! God is amazing!”

What happens? David does something horrible. In fact, he does something unimaginable. He sleeps with one of his loyal soldiers’ wife and she becomes pregnant. To cover up his sin, David tells the soldier to go home from battle and lay with his wife. The soldier, out of service, refuses, and so David has him sent to the front lines where he will surely die. Effectively, David commits adultery (rape?) and murder.

Yeah, it’s awful.

David loses his child because of this. He cries out to God in repentance, and after all of this David is still called “a man after God’s own heart.”

Excuse me?

Yes, God still accepts David as his own.

Though David had personal failures, to say the least, God still forgave David and accepted him.

What this reveals to me is that what God really wants is believing loyalty.

David never chased after foreign gods, or rejected his God. In a sense, he turned his back on God, yes. But his sin did not keep him from God. He repented and turned back.


I quoted John 3:16 above. The next verse says:

For God did not send his Son into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. And this is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, in order that his deeds may be revealed, that they are done in God.

John 3:17-21 | Lexham English Bible

These verses reveal that “judgment” does not come upon someone for moral wrong doing, but rather unfaithfulness, or disloyalty. The one who does not believe is judged.

People go to hell not because they have made immoral choices, but because they have made a disloyal choice. Okay, that was a pretty good one-liner.

This understanding helps us to answer the original question. While Jesus died for the whole world’s sins, individuals still have to place their faith in Him for salvation.

Just like in the Old Testament, so in the New Testament. What God is after is believing loyalty.

The Sin of Unbelief

Isn’t unbelief a sin? If Jesus died for all sins, then didn’t he die for the sin of unbelief? If so, then everyone should be saved.

Still, no.

Unbelief is a sin. Rejecting God is a sin. And yes, Jesus died for this sin as well. The problem with the question, or objection, is that it assumes the benefits of Christ’s atoning death are immediately applied to everyone.

They aren’t. The benefits of Christ’s death–forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, etc.–are applied when a person believes, at the moment of faith (Ephesians 1:13).

In this way, Jesus’ death is sufficient for everyone. If everyone chose to believe, everyone’s sins would be forgive.

However, Jesus’ death is only efficient for those who believe. Anyone who does not believe is still in sin and under judgment. They are still guilty.

So, the key to answering this question does not have to do with the sufficiency or efficiency of Christ’s death, but the moment of application of the benefits of Christ’s death.

Eternal Punishment?

I would argue this also helps us answer another question. Why is the punishment for sin eternal?

Look back to the verses in John three quoted above. They are being judged for unbelief, not individual moral sin.

So, you might have a case if you were to say, “It doesn’t seem fair that God would send me to hell for cheating on my math test. Sure, it was wrong, but eternal damnation? Really?”

To be sure, I still don’t think you would have a case. However, this question is based on a miss understanding.

  1. It is unbelief that “sends someone to hell.”
  2. If that^ is true, then people send themselves to hell, not God.

God is essentially giving unbelievers what they want. If you reject God, God will give you an eternity away from him (a.k.a. hell).

As C.S. Lewis said: In the end, everyone gets what they want, except God. Unbelievers get an eternity away from him. Believers get an eternity with him. But God desires that everyone spend eternity with him, so he does not get what he wants.

Your sins have been paid, do you believe?

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Why is Sin so Bad?

Why is sin so bad?

We have a tendency to down play the seriousness of sin. In fact, I would say that a lot of people don’t see the need to repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus because they don’t see a need to repent.

We say things like, “Well, I’m not hurting anyone.” “It doesn’t affect you, so why do you care what I do?”

I think, at least partially, this comes from a political state-of-mind. With regard to policy, we more or less have adopted the standard of “If it doesn’t harm others, I should be able to do it under the law.”

This, however, is not the mindset we should adopt when thinking of sin. Breaking the law and sinning are two different, though related things. Breaking the law, under normal circumstances, is sinful, if that law is a just law. However, sin is not confined to mere disobedience to political laws. You probably know this, and this seems a bit trivial, but the mindset of “If I’m not hurting anyone, why is it so bad?” is so pervasive, this trivial difference seems worth pointing out.

What is Sin?

I find it helpful to think of sin as “missing the mark” which is indeed the definition of one term used for “sin” in the New Testament. I find this concept especially helpful when I approach the subject philosophically (I will turn to a Biblical view as well, calm down).

From a philosophical perspective, all human beings act with “the good” in mind. You cannot avoid this. Every action you take, you take because you deem it “good” and by “good” you mean “good for your human nature.”

When you take an action, you take it because you think it will fulfill, or perfect you as a human being. The question is: was your assessment correct? Will the action actually perfect you as a human being, or not?

In the case where an action is taken that does not perfect your human nature, but actually does violence to you as a human, this would be sin, or missing the mark. You thought this action would fulfill you, but you have “missed your mark.”

If you are thinking there is a selfish reason to behave morally, you are correct. Sin, missing the mark, taking an action that does violence to human nature, is actually bad for you.

Why does God care?

When we turn to the Bible we see that God creates humanity with a purpose: to multiply and fill the Earth with his “image”. As humanity spreads across the face of the Earth, they will consequently be spreading God’s “image” all over the globe because part of what it means to be human is to be an “image bearer.” In this way, God will be glorified throughout all the Earth by his willingly loyal vicegerents, or representatives.

God puts humanity on Earth to rule over it and in this way reflect him, or “image” him, that is what the word means. Being an “image bearer” is to reflect God and that is why he made us: to reflect him, which is a relational description. He wants to be in a willingly obedient relationship with beings that reflect him. That is what God wants from humanity.

The problem, in a word, is sin. We throw a wrench in all of this, when we, like Adam, willfully disobey God.

Hosea 6:7 says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” The Old Testament uses Adam’s transgression as an analogy to describe Israel’s faithlessness to the covenant they, as a nation, made with God.

By nature of being a human, you are in obligation to God. If you find that unfair, I don’t know what you could possibly mean. Would you rather not exist? By the way, you don’t have to obey your obligation to God. He has given you the freedom to do as you wish. You are not free from the consequences, but do as you please.

To return to the Genesis story, Adam usurps God’s wisdom in creation, obtains a “wisdom” of his own, and disobeys God. Essentially, his sin was reaching for wisdom outside of God’s provision and providence. The bait for getting Adam and Eve to do so was that they would become “like God.” They were basically giving God “the finger” and telling him that they would do things as they saw fit. As the Proverbs say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

The consequence of “dethroning” God and disobeying him is death. God told Adam he would surely die, he would return to the dust. Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, so that they would not live in such a guilty state forever by eating from the tree of life.

God does not want man to live in a state of guilt forever. But this is the state in which we find ourselves. As C.S. Lewis points out in his Mere Christianity, we all recognize that there is a transcendent moral law. This law is not relative, or subjective, but objective and absolute. We also recognize that when it comes to ourselves, at least, we like to make exceptions and break this law. We are law breakers and we feel the guilt of that. We ought not have broken this moral law. We also recognize the need for justice when it comes to law breakers.

So, here we find ourselves. This can all be deduced from a very simple understanding of moral philosophy, and yet aligns well with the Biblical picture, which was of course Lewis’ point.

Before turning to the guilt, I want to point out one more thing. This is why God’s commands are not a buzzkill, as so many like to think of them. Some people have this vision of God’s commands, especially and almost exclusively God’s commands concerning sexual ethics, as if God wants to limit the fun you can have. This is of course a childish caricature.

Some even take it a step further to say that God’s commands are tyrannical in nature, and therefore immoral. As much as I loved listening to the late Christopher Hitchens, he often described God this way, which only revealed the shallowness of his own thinking on this subject.

Once understanding why human beings were created, what sin is, and the consequences of sin, I’m sure you can easily deduce why God gives commands. God gives commands and warnings against sin because he does not want humanity to live in guilt and live in the consequence of sin. Sin brings with it destruction and death, and God does not want that for humanity. So, in his omniscience, and being the creator of human nature, he gives commands that are good for humanity and will lead to humanity’s flourishing. God’s commands are good because they bring about the flourishing of humanity when obeyed. We believe God to be good because he wills the good of man.

Now, back to our guilt. We exist in a state of having broken the moral law and we are aware of our guilt and the need for justice. The Bible tells us that the just penalty is death. Why? The offense is great because the one whom we have offended is infinitely holy. God is wholly other than us. His nature is not something with which we are familiar. There is no comparison. Saying “God is like x, y, or z” is to speak analogously and will always fail to even come close to understanding exactly what God is like. He is wholly other. That is what it means to be holy.

Sin, disobeying the moral law, is an offense to the moral law Giver. An atheist recently was trying to tell me that for God to pardon my sin against somebody else is immoral. What he was missing was this: it is God’s law that has been broken. And the author of this law isn’t just anybody. He is the ground of all being, the Creator of the universe, and perfectly holy, good, and just.

The punishment is steep because the offense is steep. And the offense is steep because the Offended is perfectly holy.

However, this catastrophe is not what God desires, not what he wants. In Ezekiel 18:32 God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone.” Later in Ezekiel 33:11 God says that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he wants everyone to repent, turn from sin and live. This assumes that the punishment for sin is death, and that if you repent of sin and turn to God, you will live.

The New Testament echoes this sentiment in 1 Timothy 2:4, “God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” He wants everyone to be saved from the curse of sin, namely death; and to have a knowledge of the truth, namely eternal life through Jesus.

Enter: The Solution

Through Jesus? Yes, this is the good news. The curse that has held man down since the time of Adam, has been lifted. In grand design, God sent his son to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). In Adam, the archetypal human, sin and death entered the world. In Jesus, the new archetypal human, sin and death were defeated. Where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed. He felt the curse of sin and death, and conquered it by rising from the dead.

In doing so, Jesus has “destroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and could set free these who through fear of death were subject to slavery throughout all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

We were slaves to death, living under the curse of sin, but Jesus through his death and resurrection has stolen the keys from our previous master and set us free. He became like us, human, in order to mediate between us and God, who of course he is. God became man in order to rescue man from the curse of sin, which is death.

One verse really summarizes all of this nicely. It is 1 Corinthians 15:22. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

But one must be “in Christ” in order to be made alive. How does one become “in Christ”? I’m glad you asked. Ephesians 1 tell us that “in Christ” we have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Later in the same chapter Paul says that in Christ “when you believed you were sealed with the promised Holy spirit” (1:13). So when do you become in Christ?  The moment you believe. Romans 10:9 says that “if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is what you must believe in order to be “in Christ” and once you are “in Christ” you will be made alive to live eternally in right relationship with your Creator, which was God’s plan for you from the beginning.

If you do not want this, you are free to reject. That is not what God wants, as he has made clear, but he leaves it your decision. You may reject him.

But rejecting God ends in death and destruction. Likewise, we can reason to this: If God created us for the purpose of being in relationship with him, we should expect that using our freewill to reject his purposes and live for something else will ultimately be less than satisfactory, or fulfilling. It is a matter of philosophical reasoning. God created humanity for purpose x. If humanity lives for purpose y, they won’t be fulfilled as humans.

So, ultimately, rejecting God and his purpose for your life will result in something less than satisfactory and fulfilling, and ultimately end in death. Yes, sin is very serious.

In summary, we should note a few things:

  1. To be human is to be an “imager of God.”
  2. If you use your free will to not image, or reflect God, you should expect to be less than satisfied, fulfilled, or perfected as a human being.
  3. You also have a moral obligation to live as an imager of God.
  4. If you use your free will to not image, or reflect God, you should expect to experience guilt for breaking God’s universal, moral law.
  5. The punishment for sin is death.
  6. In likeness with Adam, we have all sinned and all deserve to die.
  7. Jesus defeated sin and death by experiencing death and rising from the grave.
  8. We can join in Jesus’ victory by believing in his work and professing him as Lord.
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Arguments from Silence and Anonymous Gospels

An argument from silence is a logically fallacious argument that argues from the silence, or absence, of evidence.

For example:

“I cannot find my wallet, have you seen it?” I ask you.

You remain silent and shrug your shoulders.

“I knew you took it,” I say. “Where is it?”

I just reached a conclusion based on your silence. That is fallacious. Obviously, just because you are silent does not mean you took my wallet.

You see this fallacy pop up a lot with respect to historical investigation. Most recently, I argued that the claim “the Gospels were originally anonymous” is almost always founded upon arguments from silence.

The YouTube comment section lit up a bit with responses from numerous skeptics. Many sought to correct my ignorance. If only I was aware that I was in the minority, with respect to modern scholarship. If only I knew that there were Christians who “admitted” that the Gospels were anonymous.

I even had someone send me two articles to correct me which outline the majority scholarship consensus as to why they believe the Gospels were originally anonymous. Of course, I’ve read the consensus’ reasons, which is why I made the article and corresponding video in the first place.

To be a bit redundant let’s take a closer look at the arguments put forward by the majority position that the Gospels were originally anonymous.

The Argument

The argument is quite simple and easily boiled down to two major points. Which actually plays in its favor.

  1. The manuscripts that we have that attribute the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are 2nd century fragments and 4th century codexes.
  2. The earliest Christians quote the Gospels anonymously.
  3. Therefore, it is most likely that the titles were added later.

If you feel I have misrepresented, or that this is over-simplified, I’m sorry.

First, it should be pointed out that to claim “the titles were added later” would require you to compare the later manuscripts (with titles) to earlier manuscripts (without titles). However, no such earlier manuscripts (without titles) exist. That is why the entire argument is from silence. Every manuscript we do have includes the titles. So, if you were going to infer anything about the originals, it would be that they too would have the titles.

“If the earliest manuscripts included the titles, why did the earliest Christians quote the Gospels anonymously?”

To point out what should be obviously by now, this argument, or question, is based on what some early Christians did NOT say. You should be able to recognize by now that this too is an argument from silence.

Why didn’t the earliest Christians explicitly say who the Gospels were attributed to? Why didn’t they say a lot of things? Perhaps, it didn’t matter to them. Perhaps, they assumed everyone already knew.

Justin Martyr references the Gospels “anonymously” when he quotes them and calls the writings “the Memoirs of the Apostles.”

First of all, that isn’t anonymous, not formally at least. Martyr is insinuating that the Gospels are the memoirs of the Apostles, meaning they reflect the Apostles’ testimony. That isn’t exactly anonymous.

Secondly, perhaps it was more important to Martyr to point out whose testimony the Gospels reflected, than to point out who wrote them, or a single individual to whom they could be referenced. Perhaps, a lot of things. Perhaps, he didn’t really know and the earliest manuscripts really were anonymous. That is logically possible.

The point is this: you cannot infer from someone’s silence that the Gospels were originally anonymous because silence doesn’t mean anything. You cannot infer from someone’s silence anything!

You are arguing from something that does not exist.


I was reminded, as if I was unaware, that the consensus of scholarship is that the Gospels were originally anonymous.

I was also reminded, as if I was unaware, that even some Christian scholars “admit” the Gospels were originally anonymous.

Here’s my response: It doesn’t matter to me how many people make an argument from silence. Likewise, the religion of such people doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is good evidence and argumentation and that is all that should matter to you as well.

The problem with this argument isn’t the facts, or evidence. It is true that we would like to have earlier manuscripts, titles or no titles. So, what? I’d like video evidence. We have what we have. Arguing from what we do not have is fallacious.

It is also true that some early Christians don’t say exactly who wrote the Gospels when they quote them. So, what? What you would actually need, as I pointed out in the previous article, is contradictory attribution. If one early Christian said Matthew’s Gospel was written by Peter and another said it was written by Matthew, then we would have contradictory attribution, which would bolster the argument for anonymous originals. We have this kind of contradictory attribution with the book of Hebrews which is why we believe it to be anonymous in its original. People didn’t know who wrote it, so they attributed it differently.

With the Gospels, every early Christian who actually does name an author of the Gospels, names the same four – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – without contradiction. The silence of others means nothing.

Probabilistic Argument

“Well, we aren’t saying that their silence necessitates that they were originally anonymous. We are saying that based on these silences, they were most probably originally anonymous.”


The point is that you cannot infer anything from silence. Silence doesn’t move the probability one way or the other.


What you need to argue for anonymous originals of the Gospels is what we have for Hebrews: (1) an early anonymous manuscript, and (2) contradictory attribution.

As it is, we have neither for the Gospels. What we have are arguments from silence.

No matter how many scholars sign up for an argument from silence, no matter the religion of such people; nothing will change the fact that it is an argument from silence.

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