In my debates with non-Christians,when the issue arose
regarding the Jewish historian Josephus (37-c.100 AD)'s extrabiblical testimony to the historicity of Christianity (e.g. the Testimonium Flavianum), I would make the point that "it was not what Josephus said about Christianity that is as important ... but what Josephus didn't say ... " since "if Christianity had been historically false, then he would have been in the perfect position to blow the whistle on it, but he never did":
"Re: `none of the events written about in the New Testament have been verified by any outside sources'," Stephen E. Jones, July 7, 2005 ... The thing that AFAIK everyone misses about Josephus is that if Christianity had been historically false, then he, would have been in the perfect position to blow the whistle on it, but he never did. Josephus was born in Jerusalem, in 37 AD, i.e. 4-7 years after Jesus' death. He became a member of the Pharisees and survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Josephus would have experienced first-hand the growth of the early Church in Jerusalem (and later in Rome), and if anything was bogus about Christianity he could have easily said so (since Christianity then had no power to stop him or to retaliate), but he did not. Yet what he did say about Christianity (even ignoring the disputed parts of the Testimonium Flavianum) was amazingly neutral, if not supportive of Christianity (compared to what later Roman historians said). IOW, it was not what Josephus said about Christianity that is as important (which is not to say it is not important) but what Josephus didn't say of Christianity (if it was false).
But I have just realised in reading the late British Christian scholar F.F. Bruce (1910-1990)'s classic book, "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?" (5th ed., 1990), which after I bought it I found is freely available online (even if I had known I would still have bought it anyway), that an even better witness to the historical truth of Christianity is the Apostle Paul!
In a chapter, "The Importance of Paul's Evidence," Bruce noted that "the evidence which convinced such a man" as St. Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) of the out-and-out wrongness of his former course, and led him so decisively to abandon previously cherished beliefs for a movement which he had so vigorously opposed, must have been of a singularly impressive quality" (my emphasis):
"It is reasonable to believe that the evidence which convinced such a man of the out-and-out wrongness of his former course, and led him so decisively to abandon previously cherished beliefs for a movement which he had so vigorously opposed, must have been of a singularly impressive quality. The conversion of Paul has for long been regarded as a weighty evidence for the truth of Christianity. Many have endorsed the conclusion of the eighteenth-century statesman George, Lord Lyttelton, that `the conversion and apostleship of St. Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation' [Lyttelton, G., "Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul," London, 1748]" (Bruce, F.F., "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?," , Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, Fifth Edition, 1990, p.77).
Bruce had previously outlined Paul's background of: 1) "a Roman citizen of Jewish birth ... born somewhere about the commencement of the Christian era in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia, Asia Minor"; 2) "He received an education in Jerusalem under Gamaliel ... the greatest Rabbi of his day"; 3) Paul "attained distinction among his contemporaries by the diligence of his studies and the fervour with which he upheld the ancestral traditions of the Jewish nation"; 4) "he must have heard in the synagogue where the Cilician Jews met" the evidence for Christianity from Stephen (in fact Acts 7:1-59 gives an example), as well from the Christians he persecuted:
"THE earliest of the New Testament writings, as they have come down to us, are the letters written by the apostle Paul up to the time of his detention in Rome (c. AD 60-62). The earliest of our Gospels in its present form can certainly not, be dated earlier than AD 60, but from the hand of Paul we have ten Epistles written between 48 and 60. This man Paul was a Roman citizen of Jewish birth (his Jewish name was Saul), born somewhere about the commencement of the Christian era in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia, Asia Minor. His birthplace, `no mean city', as he said himself (Acts xxi. 39), was in those days an eminent centre of Greek culture, which did not fail to leave its mark on Paul, as may be seen in his speeches and letters. He received an education in Jerusalem under Gamaliel [Acts xxii. 3], the greatest Rabbi of his day and a leader of the party of the Pharisees. He rapidly attained distinction among his contemporaries by the diligence of his studies and the fervour with which he upheld the ancestral traditions of the Jewish nation [Gal. i. 13 f.]. He may even -though this is uncertain-have been a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the nation. This zeal for the law brought him into conflict with the early Jerusalem Christians, especially with those who belonged to the circle of Stephen, whose teaching he must have heard in the synagogue where the Cilician Jews met [Acts vi. 9] and who early realized, with exceptionally far-sighted comprehension: that the gospel cut at the roots of the traditional Jewish ceremonial law and cultus. At the stoning of Stephen, we find Paul playing a responsible part and giving his consent to his death, and thereafter proceeding to uproot the new movement which, in his eyes, stood revealed by Stephen's activity as a deadly threat to all that he counted dear in Judaism. [Acts vii. 58, viii. 1 ff., ix. 1 ff., xxii. 4, xxvi. 9 ff.; 1 Cor. xv. 9, etc] To use his own words, `Beyond all measure I persecuted the Church of God and harried it' (see Gal. i. 13)-until his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus convinced his mind and conscience of the reality of His resurrection, and therewith of the validity of the Christians' claims, whereupon he became the chief herald of the faith of which he formerly made havoc." (Bruce, Ibid., p.76. Emphasis original).
Although Paul was converted through an appearance of the risen Christ to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18), Bruce shows from Paul's writings that he had a detailed knowledge of "the facts of the life and ministry of Jesus":
"Here, however, we are chiefly concerned with the information we can derive from his Epistles. These were not written to record the facts of the life and ministry of Jesus; they were addressed to Christians, who already knew the gospel story. Yet in them we can find sufficient material to construct an outline of the early apostolic preaching about Jesus. While Paul insists on the divine pre-existence of Jesus, [Col. i. 15 ff.] yet he knows that He was none the less a real human being, [Gal. iv. 4] a descendant of Abraham [Rom. ix. 5] and David [Rom. i. 3]; who lived under the Jewish law [Gal. iv. 4]; who was betrayed, and on the night of His betrayal instituted a memorial meal of bread and wine [1 Cor. xi. 23 ff.]; who endured the Roman penalty of crucifixion, [Phil. ii. 8; 1 Cor. i. 23; Gal. iii. 13, vi. 14., etc.] although the responsibility for His death is laid at the door of the representatives of the Jewish nation [1 Thes. ii. 15]; who was buried, rose the third day, and was thereafter seen alive by many eyewitnesses on various occasions, including one occasion on which He was so seen by over five hundred at once, of wham the majority were alive nearly twenty-five years later. [1 Cor. xv. 4 ff.] In this summary of the evidence for the reality of Christ's resurrection, Paul shows a sound instinct for the necessity of marshalling personal testimony in support of what might well appear an incredible assertion." (Bruce, Ibid., pp.77-78).
"Paul knows of the Lord's apostles [Gal. i. 17 ff], of whom Peter and John are mentioned by name as `pillars' of the Jerusalem community [Gal. ii. 9], and of His brothers, of whom James is similarly mentioned [Gal. i. 19, ii. 9]. He knows that the Lord's brothers and apostles, including Peter, were married [1 Cor. ix. 5] -an incidental agreement with the Gospel story of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law [Mk. i. 30]. He quotes sayings of Jesus on occasion-e.g., His teaching on marriage and divorce [1 Cor. vii. 10 f], and on the right of gospel preachers to have their material needs supplied [1 Cor. ix. 14; 1 Tim. v. 18; cf. Lk. x. 7]; and the words He used at the institution of the Lord's Supper [1 Cor. xi. 23 ff.]." (Bruce, Ibid., p.78. Last reference added by me).
"Even where he does not quote the actual sayings of Jesus, he shows throughout his works how well acquainted he was with them. In particular, we ought to compare the ethical section of the Epistle to the Romans (xii. 1 to xv. 7), where Paul summarizes the practical implications of the gospel for the lives of believers, with the Sermon on the Mount, to see how thoroughly imbued the apostle was with the teaching of his Master. Besides, there and elsewhere Paul's chief argument in his ethical instruction is the example of Christ Himself. And the character of Christ as understood by Paul is in perfect agreement with His character as portrayed in the Gospels. When Paul speaks of `the meekness and gentleness of Christ' (2 Cor. x. 1), we remember our Lord's own words, `I am meek and lowly in heart' (Mt. xi. 29). The self-denying Christ of the Gospels is the one of whom Paul says, `Even Christ pleased not himself (Rom. xv. 3); and just as the Christ of the Gospels called on His followers to deny themselves (Mk. viii. 34), so the apostle insists that, after the example of Christ Himself, it is our Christian duty 'to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves' (Rom. xv. 1). He who said: `I am among you as the servant' (Lk. xxii. 27), and performed the menial task of washing His disciples' feet (Jn. xiii. 4. ff.), is He who, according to Paul, `took the form of a slave' (Phil. ii. 7). In a word, when Paul wishes to commend to his readers all those moral graces which adorn the Christ of the Gospels he does so in language like this : `Put on the Lord Jesus Christ' (Rom. xiii. 14.)." (Bruce, Ibid., pp.78-79).
The fact that "Paul was neither a companion of Christ in the days of His flesh nor of the original apostles" yet "Paul agrees with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in the four Gospels in particular":
"In short, the outline of the gospel story as we can trace it in the writings of Paul agrees with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in the four Gospels in particular. Paul himself is at pains to point out that the gospel which he preached was one and the same gospel as that preached by the other apostles [1 Cor. xv. 11] - a striking claim, considering that Paul was neither a companion of Christ in the days of His flesh nor of the original apostles, and that he vigorously asserts his complete independence of these ." (Bruce, Ibid., p.79).
means he could not be part of any claimed conspiracy among Jesus' disciples to steal His body and falsely claim that they had seen Him resurrected (which in fact was the official Jewish religious leaders' explanation Mt 28:11-15). No doubt Paul believed that explanation, until he himself had personally seen the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:3-8), whereupon he realised that the unthinkable was true: the Jewish religious establishment that he was a part of was wrong and the Christians he had been persecuting and killing were right: Jesus was the Messiah!
And attempts to explain away Paul's Damascus road experience as "epilepsy":
"We must remember too that temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is often accompanied by hyperreligiosity, and it is likely that St. Paul - arguably the creator of Christianity - suffered from epilepsy of some kind." (Zindler, F.R., "Why Is Religiosity So Hard To Cure?," American Atheist, Summer 1999, Vol. 37 No. 3)
apart from the fact that: 1. Paul's travelling companions saw the light, heard the sound but did not understand it, and they all (not just Paul) fell to the ground (which is Caravaggio's error above) - Acts 9:7; 22:9; 26:13-14; and 2. there being no evidence that Paul suffered from epilepsy-it being another ad hoc hypothesis to save atheism from falsification, fails because of the factual evidence for the truth of Christianity that Paul was aware of, both before, and after his conversion. The latter including "the fortnight" Paul and the apostle Peter "spent together in Jerusalem about AD 35 (Gal. i. 18)" in which "we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather"!:
"Though Paul had not been a follower of Jesus before the crucifixion, yet he must have made it his business after his conversion to learn as much about Him as he could ...What did Peter and Paul talk about during the fortnight they spent together in Jerusalem about AD 35 (Gal. i. 18)? As Professor Dodd puts it, `we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather.' [Dodd, C.H., "The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments," Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1936, p.26] It was a golden opportunity for Paul to learn the details of the story of Jesus from one whose knowledge of that story was unsurpassed." (Bruce, Ibid., p.79)
So even if there was evidence that Paul suffered from epilepsy (and again there is no such evidence), no epileptic would "have suffered the loss of all things" (Php 3:8. KJV), as Paul "a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee" (Php 3:4-6), who under the great rabbi "Gamaliel ... was thoroughly trained in the" Jewish "law" (Acts 22:3) did, on the basis of what he thought he saw in one of his epileptic seizures. Let alone one who "possessed a first class philosophical mind," as former atheist and leading philosopher, Antony Flew acknowledged of St Paul.
Lord Lyttelton (1709-1773) started off as a sceptic, "Fully persuaded that the Bible was an imposture" and "chose the Conversion of Paul" to "expose the cheat" of it, but "the result," despite him having been "full of prejudice" against Paul's conversion being true, was that Lyttelton was "converted by [his] efforts to overthrow the truth of Christianity"! (my emphasis):
"Like so many of the literary men of his time, George Lyttelton and his friend Gilbert West were led at first to reject the Christian religion. ... Fully persuaded that the Bible was an imposture, they were determined to expose the cheat. Lord Lyttelton chose the Conversion of Paul and Mr. West the Resurrection of Christ for the subject of hostile criticism. Both sat down to their respective tasks full of prejudice: but the result of their separate attempts was, that they were both converted by their efforts to overthrow the truth of Christianity. They came together, not as they expected, to exult over an imposture exposed to ridicule, but to lament over their own folly and to felicitate each other on their joint conviction that the Bible was the word of God. Their able inquiries have furnished two of the most valuable treatises in favor of revelation, one entitled `Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul' and the other `Observations on the Resurrection of Christ."' West's book was the first published. Lyttelton's work appeared at first anonymously in 1747, when he was thirty-eight years of age. The edition which lies before me contains seventy-eight compact pages. It is addressed in the form of a letter to Gilbert West. In the opening paragraph he says, `The conversion and apostleship of St. Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine revelation.'" (Campbell, J.L., "Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul by Lord Lyttelton," in Torrey, R.A., Dixon, A.C., et al., eds, "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth,", Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Reprinted, 1996, Vol. II., p.354).
That is, Lord Lyttelton, after considering "four propositions which ... exhaust all the possibilities," concluded that, Paul was not: "1. ... an impostor who said what he knew to be false.."; nor "2. ... an enthusiast" with "an overheated imagination"; nor was Paul "3. ... deceived by the fraud of others"; and therefore; what Paul "4. ... declared to be the cause of his conversion did all really happen" and "the Christian religion is proved to be a revelation from God" (my emphasis):
"Let us now turn to an examination of the book itself. Lyttelton naturally begins by bringing before us all the facts that we have in the New Testament regarding the conversion of St. Paul; the three accounts given in the Acts; what we have in Galatians, Philippians, Timothy, Corinthians, Colossians and in other places. (Acts 9:22-26 [should be Acts 9;22;26]; Gal. 1:11-16; Phil. 3:4-8; 1 Tim. 1:12,13; 1 Cor. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1, etc.) Then he lays down four propositions which he considers exhaust all the possibilities in the case. 1. Either Paul was `an impostor who said what he knew to be false, with an intent to deceive;' or 2. He was an enthusiast who imposed on himself by the force of `an overheated imagination ;' or 3. He was `deceived by the fraud of others;' or, finally, 4. What he declared to be the cause of his conversion did all really happen; `and, therefore the Christian religion is a divine revelation.' ... Our author considers that he has furnished sufficient evidence to show (1) that Paul was not an impostor deliberately proclaiming what he knew to be false with intent to deceive; (2) that he was not imposed upon by an overheated imagination, and (3) that he was not deceived by the fraud of others. Unless, therefore, we are prepared to lay aside the use of our understanding and all the rules of evidence by which facts are determined, we must accept the whole story of Paul's conversion as literally and historically true. We have therefore the supernatural, and the Christian religion is proved to be a revelation from God." (Campbell, Ibid., pp.353,365)
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
Exodus 3:7-15. 7The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." 11But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" 12And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." 13Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" 14God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 15God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.