John 1:50b-51 - What's in a Name?

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John 1:50–51 (ESV) — 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, there are 10 names or descriptions for Jesus.

Here are nine of them:
The Word. Verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word.”
God. Verse 1: “And the Word was God.”
Light. Verse 9: “The true light … was coming into the world.”
Jesus Christ. Verse 17: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Lamb of God. Verse 29: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Rabbi. Verse 38: “And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), where are you staying?”
Messiah. Verse 41: “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).”
Son of God. Verse 49: “You are the Son of God!”
King of Israel. Verse 49: “You are the King of Israel!”

Some of these we have discussed at length – the Word; was God; the Light; and the Lamb of God.
• The rest we have discussed but only briefly.

However, it is the 10th name that we will discuss at length today.


In John’s Gospel thus far, John has described Jesus in his words and in the words of John the Baptist.
• But in the last verse of chapter 1, John lets Jesus tell us who He is.
• And given that Jesus is the main arc of the entire OT, it makes sense that Jesus refers back to the OT to find His preferred description.

Jesus uses Jacob’s Vision:
Genesis 28:12–19 (ESV) — 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!” 18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Jesus and the Ladder:
Genesis 28:12 (ESV) — 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it [D.A. Carson states the “more likely rendering is “on him”]!
John 1:51 (ESV) — 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
• Clearly, Jesus is the “ladder” that definitively links the OT to the NT.
• And one can’t help but think that it also says something about Nathanael, Jacob and believers in general one day sharing in seeing the fulfillment of this vision.
• But most significantly, Jesus words reveal that He is in fact the ladder between Heaven and Earth.
• The significance of this is best captured by John Piper when he says, “Jesus is the decisive, final connection between heaven and earth…When we move heavenward, we move on the Son of Man. When God moves earthward, he moves on the Son of Man.

Jesus and Bethel:
Genesis 28:16-19 (ESV) — 16-19 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Further Examples of significance of Bethel for God and Jacob:
• Genesis 31:13 (ESV) — 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’ ”
• Genesis 35:1 (ESV) — 1 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
• Genesis 35:3 (ESV) — 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
• Genesis 35:7 (ESV) — 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
• Genesis 35:15 (ESV) — 15 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

Jesus is Bethel.
• He is the “house of God”.
• He is the “altar”.
• He is the place where God has “revealed himself” to us.
• He is where God has “spoken” with us.
• Or to put it another way, Jesus “is the place where God is present. Heaven has opened, and Jesus has appeared. And from now on, Jesus will be the place where God appears most clearly among men, and where men find their way into fellowship with God. There are no holy geographic places any more designated by God as his meeting place with man. Jesus is that meeting place” – John Piper.
     o Cross reference John 2:19-22.

POI - The rest of the NT is in agreement with the truths discussed above:
• John 3:13 (ESV) — 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
• 1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV) — 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
• Hebrews 8:6 (ESV) — 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.

Jesus Uses Daniel’s Vision:
Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV) — 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Jesus and the Son of Man:
Daniel 7:13 (ESV) — 13 “…there came one like a son of man…”
John 1:51 (ESV) — 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
• Only Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man in the Gospels and He does so about 80 times.
• This description name used by Jesus is still not fully understood and realized.

Why is it significant and what is its meaning?
• D.A. Carson (and others) argue that its significance and meaning lie precisely in its ambiguity.
     o “Jesus could take it up and use it without fear of being misunderstood because of doubtful associations in his hearers’ minds. Titles like ‘the King of Israel’ and ‘the King of the Jews’, while appropriate at a certain level, were so loaded with political messianism that they could not be adopted without restraint and appropriate caveats. ‘Son of Man’, on the other hand, lay ready to hand as an expression that could be filled with precisely the right content…[and Jesus] himself shapes its content” – D.A. Carson.
• So the “you will see” in verse 51 is Jesus giving Nathanael and the rest of the disciples an invitation to see how Jesus will “fill out its content” and give it meaning through
     o “the entire gamut of the action of the Son of Man for the kingdom of God: from the heaven that became open at his baptism, the blessings of the saving sovereignty [that] will be poured out through him in the signs he performs, the revelation of his word, the life that he lives, the death and resurrection that he accomplishes…till the goal is attained when the Son of Man welcomes the redeemed to the Father’s house” – John Beasley-Murray.
• So “the full articulation of ‘the Son of Man’ demanded all of Jesus’ ministry, including his life, resurrection and exaltation. Precisely parallel to this development, it will take John the rest of his book to ‘unpack’ the significance of the title” – D.A. Carson.

Lesson for Us:
With respect to John 1:51, James Boice points out that any good explanation of Jesus’ words needs to address at least 4 things: (1) the reference to the future you shall see; (2) the fact that the heavens will open; (3) the reference to angels ascending and descending upon Jesus; and (4) the title given by Jesus to himself, ‘the Son of Man.’”
• Our lesson today has really only dealt with points (1), (3) and (4).
What explanation reconciles all (4) points together?
• According to Boice, only 1 thing can account for all (4) points together.
     o Jesus “was not talking about anything that took place during the lifetime of Nathanael. Nor was he talking about anything that took place either in the lifetime of Philip or Andrew or any of the other disciples or even of you and me. He was talking about something that is still future, that is still to come. In other words, although no one has seen the fulfillment of this verse yet, all will one day see it when Jesus Christ returns” – James Boice.
     o What a sight this will be!
     o Does this contradict D.A. Carson’s explanation?


John 1:43-50 - Two Ways to Come to Belief?

John 1:43–50a (ESV) — 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?


John 1:45 (ESV) — 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Concerning Philip and his remarkable claim about Jesus:
• It is unclear if Philip had any encounters with Jesus prior to this event.
• He may have known Andrew and Peter (all born in Bethsaida) and had some associations with John the Baptist.
• But what is for certain is that Jesus was looking for him and “found” him.
     o John 6:37 (ESV) — 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
• Now Philip’s claim is an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18:
• Deuteronomy 18:15 (ESV) — 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
• Deuteronomy 18:18 (ESV) — 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Nathanael’s response demonstrates his skepticism toward Philip’s claim:
• And interestingly, his response is informed by the current views of the Messiah.
• John 1:46 (ESV) — 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
• Nathanael’s response was based “apparently on the scriptural lore that neither the awaited prophet or nor the Messiah would have Galilean origins” – AYBD.

An example of the pervasiveness of this “scriptural lore” is found in John 7:40-44:
• John 7:40–44 (ESV) — 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

Philip countered Nathanael’s speculation with simple, yet profound words:
• John 1:46b (ESV) — 46b Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
• Nathanael obliged Philip’s request; he had no reasonable reason not to.
• And as any honest skeptic should be, Nathanael was perhaps skeptical of his own skepticism.

Whatever the reason, Nathanael went with Philip to meet Jesus and it was an encounter that would change his life.
• BTW – Philip the Apostle is not Philip the Evangelist in the Acts.
• And Nathanael (a personal Hebrew name) is the most likely the same as Bartholomew (a patronymic name).

John 1:47–49 (ESV) — 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
• This is a remarkable encounter between an unbeliever and Jesus.
• With respect to the relationship between Scripture and the supernatural to salvation, it is unlike most other encounters in the Gospels.
• A comparison between Nathanael’s encounter and these other examples in Scripture will tell us something about the relationship between evidence and belief.

3 examples (and there are more) that appear to be at odds with our text today:
• John 5:46-47 (ESV) — 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
     o Prior to 46 and 47 above, Jesus had just revealed and taught how he came “in my Father’s name”.
     o They rejected Him and he told them that the one on whom they had set there hope, Moses, would be their accuser before the Father.
     o Why would Moses be their accuser – if you believed Moses you would believe Jesus.
• John 12:37–38 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
     o Prior to 37 and 38 above, the crowd whom Jesus was teaching had just heard “a voice from heaven” speak of Jesus and yet “they still did not believe in him”.
• Luke 16:29–31 (ESV) — 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
     o Prior to 29-31 above, the Rich Man had been sent to hell.
     o From hell, He asked Abraham to send a supernatural sign to his brothers so that they might believe.
     o Abraham responds that they would not because they don’t believe what they do have.

These verses seem to indicate that if Scriptural revelation is not enough for you then supernatural revelation will not be enough either.
• Hundreds if not thousands who witnessed Jesus’ supernatural power rejected Jesus.
• Yet, Nathanael, who was skeptical that Jesus was the Messiah of the Scriptural revelation, believed in Jesus based on a supernatural encounter with Jesus.
What was different about Nathanael’s encounter that caused him to believe?
• It can’t have been the nature of the supernatural power he witnessed because his was fairly tame compared to the healings and feedings Jesus did before the crowds.
• In other words, it appears the supernatural was not what really made the difference.

Maybe it was the fact that Nathanael was such a dedicated student of Scripture.
• Jesus described him as “under the fig tree” when Jesus “saw” him.
     o “In rabbinic tradition, fig trees were frequently cited as appropriate locales for teachers to discuss the meaning of the scriptures with their students” – AYBD.
     o In other words, Nathanael was presumably a dedicated student of Scripture.
• Jesus also alluded to Jacob’s vision as found in Genesis 28:12.
     o This is only useful if Nathanael was acquainted with the passage and the implication Jesus was making.
• Nathanael’s response to Jesus as “Son of God” and “King of Israel”.
     o These phrases are allusions to OT references to the Messiah (Psalm 2:7 and Zeph 3:15, respectively).
     o Possession of this knowledge further demonstrates his familiarity of Scripture.

Unfortunately, as steeped in Scripture as Nathanael seemed to be, it is fairly clear that knowledge of Scripture does not lead to salvation any more than witnessing the supernatural power of Jesus does.
• One need only look at the Pharisees, Sadducees, and temple Priests that rejected Jesus.
• It seems that something else was at play.

So we are still left with the question how was Nathanael’s encounter different than the others?
• Perhaps Jesus’ words provide the clues for us.

John 1:47 (ESV) — 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
What in the world does this mean?
• It has to do with the nature of his heart.
• “Nathanael may have been blunt in his criticism of Nazareth, but he was an Israelite without duplicitous motives who was willing to examine for himself the claims being made about Jesus” – D.A. Carson.
     o In other words, as we hinted at earlier, as a skeptic, he rightly was open to the idea that skepticism of his own beliefs is just as warranted as skepticism of Philip’s claim about Jesus.
• In fact, according to D.A Carson, Jesus’ words are even more specific as to the disposition of Nathanael’s heart.
• Carson argues that Jesus statement is an allusion to Jacob after his wrestling match with God in Gen 32:22-32.
• Jacob at first had a heart problem – he stole Esau’s birthright via deception.
• However, later Jacob wrestled with God and received a new name (and presumably a new heart) – Israel.
• Jesus was telling Nathanael that he had the heart of “Israel” not the deceitful heart of “Jacob”.
• This allusion is further supported by Jesus’ reference to Jacob’s vision in verse 51.

So what is the answer to our question concerning the difference in Nathanael’s encounter with supernatural evidence and the “crowds” or the Rich Man’s brothers?
• Jesus’ own words reveal that the difference was not the kind (Scriptural or supernatural) of evidence or even the quality of evidence.
• The difference was that Nathanael had a different kind of heart than the “crowds” or the Rich Man’s brothers.
• And for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, Scripture and the supernatural are always making themselves available to persuade.
• It is also clear, however, that Nathanael’s knowledge of Scripture did provide him with the ability to flesh out his new found faith in a way he could make sense of.
o John 1:49 (ESV) — 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

And what about the relationship between evidence and belief, what can we learn about it?
• John 1:50 (ESV) — 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?...”
• With this statement Jesus seems to be acknowledging a difference between coming to belief in Christ based on the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit alone responding to the Gospel (John 6:44, John 1:13, 1 Pet. 1:3, Eph 2:8-9, etc.), and a combination of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit and outside evidence (shortly we will see He calls this type of person “slow of heart”).
• Jesus’ words also echo this sentiment in the following verses:
     o John 4:48 (ESV) — 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
     o John 14:11 (ESV) — 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
     o John 12:10–11 (ESV) — 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
     o John 20:29 (ESV) — 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Nathanael was one of those who responded in faith to a combination of the outside evidence and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.
• D.A. Carson notes that Nathanael’s faith was “grounded upon a miracle, and such a foundation can be insecure, though certainly better than nothing”.
• Jesus describes this type of person elsewhere in Scripture.
• Luke 24:25 & 31 (ESV) — 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! …31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
• John 10:38 (ESV) — 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Lesson for Us:
So can external evidence lead one to belief?
• It appears the answer is yes, if the person confronted with the evidence has a heart so disposed or inclined.
• In other words, a heart prepared by God and given eyes to see and ears to hear the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.
• It is for this reason we speak the Gospel and seek to persuade with Scripture and apologetics; we don’t know who is so inclined and how they are inclined (internal or internal+external).
     o “The Spirit of God condescends to use it [evidence plus the gospel] in bringing certain people to Himself” – William Lane Craig.
• This also helps us make sense of Paul’s attempt to persuade in Acts 17:4; 18:4; 19:8; 19:26; 26:28; 28:23.
     o Some had hearts that responded to the Gospel alone (internal testimony of the Holy Spirit).
     o Some were “slow of heart” that responded to the Gospel plus Paul’s OT arguments for the Messiah, etc.

This relationship between external evidence and belief simply provide yet another reason that we are called to give account for our beliefs by Peter.
• As W.L. Craig puts it, we know why we believe, but we must be able to show why we believe.

John 20:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Why Can We Rely on the Bible - Part IV & V

**Since this lesson I have written a 30 page document on the Reliability of Scripture which I used to teach a Deeper Life class in my church - Click Here for Info


We have seen that Scripture contains the words the original writers wrote based on the manuscript evidence; that those words are God’s words; that the NT writers believed Scripture and saw it as authoritative; and that Jesus also believed Scripture and saw it as authoritative.
• And now we are faced with the obvious question – Are there objective reasons to believe Scripture and treat it as it demands to be treated?

I need us to be realistic at this point.
• As mentioned in previous lessons, born again believers (those with ears to hear and eyes to see) need no further reason to believe Scripture beyond the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
• This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit to be a True and Uncorrupted testimony originating with God the Father as seen in our “chain of evidence” discussion.
• However, there do exist other valid reasons to believe Scripture.
• And though these reasons can’t definitively prove the Bible to a fallen world, they can be used apologetically, especially when taken together.
• And for the believer, they can be used to buoy our faith, give us confidence and remove worldly barriers that may cloud our thoughts and hinder our obedience.

Having said that, let us explore some of those reasons.

Fulfilled Prophecy:
• According to Walter Kaiser, J. Barton Payne “itemized 127 messianic prophecies involving an amazing more than three thousand verses”.
• To get an idea of these fulfilled prophecies, see the Prophecy Chart.
• Obviously, when prophecies pronounced 400+ years before Jesus find their fulfillment in Jesus they warrant our consideration.
• BTW – we aren’t even considering here the fulfilled prophecies unrelated to Jesus.

Historical and Archeological:
From the beginning of the existence of the NT documents, investigations were made as to their authenticity.
• According to F.F. Bruce, Papias (a Church father) wrote the following around AD 130-140:
    o “If ever a person came my way who had been a companion of the elders, I would inquire about the saying of the elders – what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples; and what things Aristion and the elder John, the disciple of the Lord, say. For I did not suppose that what I could get from books was of such great value to me as the utterance of a living and abiding voice”.

And archeological evidence has strengthened the reliability of Scripture.
• In the book of Romans (written in Corinth) Paul tells the Romans that “Erastus the City Treasurer greets you”.
    o In 1929 a pavement stone was found with an engraving that stated, “Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense".
    o F.F. Bruce states that “it is most probable that the donor is identical with the Erastus who is mentioned by Paul”.
• F.F. Bruce also discusses many more archeological finds which confirm Paul’s words concerning the existence of a Corinthian synagogue; the Corinthian meat market; the town of Lystra’s fascination with Zeus and Hermes (in Acts the Lystran’s thought Paul and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus); etc.
• And for more examples please refer to the Archeological Handouts.

Mishnah and the Talmud:
• The Mishnah was the Jewish code of laws and the Talmud were rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah.
• “These references do at least show that there was not the slightest doubt of the historical character of Jesus” – F.F. Bruce.
• In them Jesus is described as “a transgressor in Israel, who practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people. His disciples, of whom five are named, healed the sick in his name” – F.F. Bruce.

The writings of Josephus:
• Even earlier than the Talmuds are the writings of Josephus.
    o From Josephus we get confirmation of the existence of Pilate, Felix, Festus, Caiaphas, Ananias; confirmation of Gamaliel’s words in Acts concerning Judas the Galilean; the Jerusalem famine in Acts 11:28 ; the death of Herod Agrippa I from Acts 12; a record of the death of both John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus “the so-called Christ”; etc.
• There is also evidence that Josephus confirmed the following concerning Jesus Christ.
    o “We have therefore very good reason for believing that Josephus did make reference to Jesus, bearing witness to (a) His date, (b) His reputation as a wonderworker, (c) his being the brother of James, (d) His crucifixion under Pilate at the information of the Jewish rulers, (e) His messianic claim, (f) His being the founder of ‘the tribe of Christians’, and probably (g) the belief in His rising from the dead” – F.F. Bruce.

Various Gentile writers:
• Julius Africanus writing about AD 221 when referring to the writings of Thallus who wrote about 52 AD stated, “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).
    o “From this reference in Julius Africanus it has been inferred (a) that the gospel tradition, or at least the traditional story of the passion, was known in Rome in non-Christian circles toward the middle of the first century; and (b) that the enemies of Christianity tried to refute the Christian tradition by giving a naturalistic interpretation to the facts which it reported” – F.F. Bruce.
• The British Museum contains a letter written by a Syrian after AD 73 that mentions the death of Christ.
    o It states, “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?
    o And goes on to say that as a result of the death of Jesus, “the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion”.
• The Roman historian Tacitus writing around AD 110 when speaking of the burning of Rome by Nero says, “Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class of men…whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor…
• F.F. Bruce details many more examples which we don’t have time for here.

Given the evidence contained in both Jewish and Gentile writings as outlined above, F.F. Bruce says, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar”.
• Acts 26:26 (ESV) — 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.

General Revelation:
• Romans 1:19–23 (ESV) — 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The Resurrection:
As Scripture declares, if Christ’s resurrection was an historical event, we have reason to believe in Scripture.
• John 2:22 (ESV) — 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
• 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
• Relevant to this point is the historical evidence for the resurrection as argued by N.T. Wright, Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig.


Given all that we have learned about the reliability and authority of Scripture (even in Jesus’ life) and that there are very good reasons to believe it:
Do we treat Scripture as it demands to be treated?
And, as considered already, are we as immersed in Scripture as Jesus and the NT writers?

Examples of how it demands to be treated:
• Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
• Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

In Acts, we have yet another example of these admonitions in action.

Acts 17:11 (ESV) — 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
• Here, most likely, Paul was teaching that Jesus was the Christ and used the Old Testament to make his case.
• He commended the Bereans for exhibiting the “noble” trait of searching Scripture to verify the truth of his words for themselves.
• Given this example, it goes without saying, then, that we are also to search Scripture to verify the very words we speak to ourselves through our feelings, emotions and prayer life!
• We must make the Biblical case to ourselves.
• Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Another Consideration:
A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how to make much of God.
• Share Him
• Serve Him
• Search Him

Given our lesson today, we have a decision to make.
• If we have the words written by the NT writers
• If those Words espouse to be the very Word of God
• If Jesus viewed them as believable and authoritative
• And If we have more than sufficient evidence to believe all these things to be true
Are we making much of God by Searching Him in Scripture thereby making His words “a joy and the delight of [our] heart[s]”?

And finally, if everything we have discussed with during the course of this series is true, it follows that any apparent contradiction within the Bible can be legitimately harmonized.
• This is exactly what we will do in our next lesson when dealing with John 1:35-42.

An important implication of this truth:
• Scripture can be tainted, even by the Christian.
• When we begin to look to the world around us to inform us of what is “right” or “true” or “just” we corrupt the chain of evidence and taint Scripture.
• Colossians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
• Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
• Mark 7:8-9 (ESV) — 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
• We must remember that it is Scripture that is inerrant, not the words of men and the world.
• “The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audience—except God” – John Piper.