by Robert G. Witty
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Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, Dr. Witty proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this installment the author lays the foundation for the Reality of Jesus Test.
The unique evidences of the Old Testament (unity of theme, historical accuracy, prophetic fulfillment, character holiness) come to a mind-boggling climax in the New Testament's revelation about Jesus. Recorded in Luke 24:44 is Jesus' claim that He is the theme of the Old Testament, that He gives testimony to its historical reality, that He is the proof of its prophetic fulfillment, and that He is the personification of its holiness: "This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." In short, Jesus and the Old Testament stand or fall together.
Many religions include some personage who originates, personifies, or to some degree represents the quality of its message. For example, the names of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and Mary Baker Eddy identify specific religions or cults. While none of these religions ventures to risk being judged by the total quality of character and conduct of the associated personality, neither can any escape some degree of judgment on the personification test.
But the New Testament rests its claim for validity upon the person, character, work, promises, claims, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus originates and personifies the New Testament's full and final revelation of the God of the entire Bible.
No other religious writing, philosophy, or literature has ever conceived anything that compares with the New Testament revelation of the Word become flesh. Jesus told Philip, ". . . anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Colosse that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
What the Old Testament could express about the holiness of God only in words, the New Testament portrays in the person of Jesus: The New Testament reveals Jesus as a human being having the holy character of Almighty God-serving humanity in a ministry of perfect righteousness and redemptive love. The New Testament declares that Jesus demonstrated in His sinless life, His sacrificial death, and His triumphant resurrection the wondrous revelation that the holy God loves sinful man and offers free redemption to undeserving humanity-received by simply repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus as divine Savior.
In all of human history the Bible doctrine of redemption is unique. No other secular or sacred literature has conceived of God's gracious and redemptive holiness as portrayed in the Old Testament, and as exemplified in the New Testament by Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The New Testament portrays Jesus as the God-man, the one and only sufficient Mediator between the holy God and unholy man-the perfect Image of God, the perfect Example of holy manhood, and the perfect Redeemer of lost mankind.
The validity of this presentation of Jesus, therefore, becomes the supreme test for the validity of the Bible. If the personification of Jesus stands, the Bible stands; if the personification of Jesus crumbles, the validity of the Bible crumbles. The Bible's validity, therefore, hangs upon the validity of four facts in the New Testament portrayal of Jesus:
Fact One: The New Testament is the record of the life and influence of a person named Jesus who actually lived on earth as a historical figure.
Fact Two: The New Testament is the record of a person named Jesus who personified in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension the perfection of the Son of God.
Fact Three: The New Testament is the record of a person named Jesus who accepted worship as Deity from His contemporaries.
Fact Four: The New Testament is the record of a person named Jesus who claimed to be Deity as the Son of God.
Other religions and cults may refuse, reject, or fail the personification test. Not so with the Bible. The written Word and the Living Word must agree. The validity of the Bible depends on the validity of Jesus' historical and actual personification of God in character, conduct, and redemptive death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
The following installments will investigate these four decisive tests of the New Testament record.
Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.