Isn’t the New Testament just propaganda, written to promote a new religion? The New Testament writers did have an agenda. John, one of Jesus’ first followers, said matter of factly, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life” (John 20:31, NLT). Far from hiding his agenda, he and the other New Testament writers stated it conclusively.
But having an agenda doesn’t mean that what they wrote was untrue. In fact, the first Christians fre- quently reminded their listeners or readers how easy it would be to confirm, or discredit, the things they said, boldly inviting further investigation. This was done within a few years of the events themselves, when their opponents could have effectively debunked the new religion if their claims were false.
Peter said, “God raised [Jesus] from the dead, and we all are witnesses of this” (Acts 2:32, NLT) and, on another occasion, “God raised [Jesus] to life. And we are witnesses of this fact!” (Acts 3:15, NLT).
Paul told a synagogue full of fellow Jews that after his resurrection, Jesus “appeared over a period of many days to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem—these are his witnesses to the people of Israel” (Acts 13:31).
William Lillie, Chair of the Department of Biblical Study at the University of Aberdeen, said of Paul’s citation (in 1 Corinthians 15) of the resurrected Christ appearing to more than 500 people, “What gives a special authority to the list [of witnesses] as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, ‘If you do not believe me, you can ask them.’”
Moreover, the men making these assertions—Paul, Peter, and others—knew that their controversial claims would almost certainly result in persecution, imprisonment, exile, even execution. And yet they stuck to their story, despite the consequences.
As Lee Strobel has written, “People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false…While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt…If they weren’t absolutely certain, they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be tortured to death [for a lie].”
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