|Intro||Bibliography||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5|
|Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Appendix||Glossary|
When you work for Jesus you get some rather nice jobs: As my wife, Anni, and I write this book, we are sometimes facing the harbour and lagoon at Tauranga, New Zealand, where our daughter Anne and her New Zealand husband Nathan have a little home in Omokoroa, and sometimes we'll be at Chris and Shirley Dunstan's magnificent colonial farm house at Pyes Pa, on a hill top surrounded by the spectacular New Zealand version of rolling countryside. Chris is an agricultural industrialist, producing the latest brand of Zespri, golden kiwi fruit, so miles and miles of kiwi vines surround his house on all sides. Two of their sons are highly competitive cross-country motorcyclists and their father is never quite able to keep up with them! The family are keen to see the Christian churches in New Zealand engage with the kind of programmes likely to be effective in reaching out to the present generation.
It is the greatest privilege anyone can possibly have, to sit in such surroundings with the freedom to spend 4 months putting down the results of over 35 years of study into the stories and sayings of the most remarkable character who ever lived. This is a book about Jesus, whom today we know through the eye-witness reports of the disciples who played such an active part in his ministry. Today we see him in action through the work of his Holy Spirit in people's lives.
Unusually, the Bibliography is placed at the front of this book, because the excellent work of these brilliant Bible scholars deserves pride of place in any book about the New Testament. In particular, the research into the origins of the Codex by C. H. Roberts (available in a limited way in 1954), Dr. Kenneth Bailey at the University of Beirut, Dr. J. D. M. Derrett, Professor of Oriental Law at London University, and Right Revd. Dr. Tom Wright, the historian, combine to give us insights into the life and times of Jesus the Messiah that have never been available before.
In combining these various strands of research in this book, my intention is to make this exciting material available widely to the thousands of Christian workers in the third world and elsewhere, who may never otherwise have the opportunity to gain access to it. Many of the books I refer to are either out of print or so expensive that these resources would be unavailable to people in, for example, India, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russia, Uganda, and so on. We want to do all we can to assist these fine Christian men and women in their many pioneer situations around the world.
The title of this book, “FAITH AND FACT” refers to the unique nature of the Christian faith, based on the solid foundation rock of the eye-witness reports of many of those who walked the roads of Palestine with Jesus. Much of what was written about the Gospels in the 19th Century has now been disproved by the scholarly research outlined above. We must see the Gospels in a new light – rejecting in particular the idea that they were written late in the first Century, long after the destruction of Jerusalem.
The teaching of orthodox liberal theology (Glossary) to third world Bible college students has become a source of much confusion and doubt. The words “FAITH” and “FACT” are important and help us to realise that any understanding of Biblical faith must contain the prime idea that faith is always based on our actual experience of the work of the Living God in the world. In other words, Biblical faith is always based on solid evidence and reason, not superstition or blind hope.
Mrs. Wellard completely misunderstood this. In the 1950's I used to take her to church through our rural parish on the back of my motorcycle (she liked going fast round corners!). Probably in her seventies, she had never grasped the idea that faith is based on evidence and reason. “Oh, I wish I had your faith, Korky!” she used to say, meaning that, for her, the Christian message was simply too unbelievable: but really what was defeating her was ignorance. She did not learn much from our priest, who was a poor communicator, and whose theological training had been limited.
It is remarkable how the BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS can elude the minds of some of our greatest theological scholars!
I have a vivid memory of a broadcast on Radio 4 in the 1980's, at the time when the Right Reverend David Jenkins had been appointed Bishop of Durham by Archbishop Runcie; David Jenkins is a very sincere and delightful man but he does not appear to hold traditional Christian beliefs, so it is surprising that someone like him (who does not believe the Gospels to be historically accurate) could be ordained as a Minister in the Church of England, let alone be appointed Bishop. In the radio debate, there was a 30 minute discussion between him and Reverend John Stott, who had been Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, where I became a Christian and which has been regarded as the centre of evangelicalism in England.
Jenkins put forward his point of view (largely supported by liberal theologians) that the Gospels are fictional documents written between AD 90-180 by people who knew very little about Jesus, who had the information second or third hand. The suggestion was that the stories of Jesus we have were designed to meet the political needs inside the early church – a body of believers about whom we know very little after AD 70. According to Jenkins, this imaginary group of people was writing fictional accounts of the life of Christ for the benefit of an imaginary group of believers. It's a sort of double whammy! (In fact there is no 1st Century evidence that supports any of these ideas).
In the radio discussion, Jenkins said that Luke could not possibly have known the extraordinary detail contained in his birth narratives. Stott replied to the effect that it was perfectly straightforward, really – Luke went and asked Mary! She was still alive and definitely able to inform Luke – including the remarkable statements she made when she learned she was to be the mother of the Promised One, and the embarrassment of Joseph when he found the wife he hadn't known yet was already pregnant. These are not the sort of details one would expect to find in a fictional account aiming to enhance the reputation and background of Jesus.
Over the last 200 years, the emergence of the “scientific age” has led to the belief that it is now possible to have great certainty over a wide range of issues. This has led to the misunderstanding that the science which can be applied to the physical world can be similarly applied to written records, with some theologians referring to “the assured results of rigorous scientific examination”. You can't take a written record to a laboratory and apply an acid test! You can examine the original text carefully, but the scholar's own existing ideas will tend to influence or even over-rule his interpretation of the meaning. The human mind is like a computer: what goes in always determines what comes out.
Over the last 200 years liberal theology has been determined by the philosophical rules of logical positivism (Glossary) which lays down that any supernatural event not seen in the world today cannot possibly ever have happened. As the Jesus stories contain so much that is supernatural (God tends to be supernatural!) a large part of the evidence concerning the ministry of Jesus is excluded.
At its core, liberal theology is founded on disbelief.
We have before us as we write Professor Rudolf Bultmann's famous book “Theology of the New Testament”1Bultmann was a great scholar writing in the 1920's and 1930's whose books clearly set out the arguments for the late dating of the Gospels. His “History of the Synoptic Tradition ” (Blackwell 1972) was the ground-breaking work in this field and is regarded today as the foundation of much that we know as “orthodox liberal theology”. His books are beautifully reasoned, well written, clear and concise, and can only be regarded with the greatest admiration... unfortunately the conclusions he reaches cannot possibly be right.
Bultmann's material, based on 'form critical analysis', isan analytical study of individual stories and their composition. He produces interesting information on the way the evangelists told the Jesus stories, but he has drawn completely wrong conclusions from it. A large part of the reason for this is his apparent inability to understand how evangelists use stories in their preaching. The result of all his work was for one of his students, Günther Bornkamm, to conclude that almost nothing can now be known of the historical Jesus. I shall be saying quite a lot about 'form critical analysis' in the next chapter, so that students can understand how these conclusions were incorrectly drawn from it.
Carl Gustav Jung in his autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”2refers to his life in the Lutheran Church of the 1880's. His father was a priest and Jung paints a vivid picture of the austere, religious formalism of their ceremonies. Particularly awful was the experience of funerals and burials, through which he came to understand that “being with Jesus” meant being dropped into a deep hole in the ground and covered with earth. For him the Church came to be associated with darkness and sometimes terror. Between the ages of 8-10 Jung developed a strong and earnest desire to really know God. He looked forward very much to the formal confirmation classes with his father. In the meantime he had read a theological book by a scholar called Biedermann who, it seemed to him, did not seem to have any real experience of knowing God. The formalism of church services seemed to Jung to exclude God: the eagerly awaited classes with his father were a huge disappointment – his father asserted that he did not understand it all, and excluded any discussion on the Trinity, a concept in which Jung was particularly interested; his first communion – a huge event in which the village carpenter stood as his sponsor – was formal and devoid of any expression of interest by those taking part. The expected experience of God becoming real to him in some way did not occur, and after several days Jung realised that absolutely nothing had taken place. His profound respect for Jesus, whom he had read about in the Gospels, did not lead to any real understanding of the nature of faith. What was occurring in church seemed to him to be an affront to God and almost idolatrous. The unreality of it all was strengthened by the jocularity which sometimes took place after a funeral, which he found negated the sincerity of the service itself. Jung's experience of church seems to have been totally negative.
It is from this kind of church background that many of the 19th and 20th Century theologians emerged, many associated with the University of Tubingen in Germany. This was not conducive to an appreciation of the miraculous, or in many cases even an understanding of what it means to be converted. One must have sympathy for them. It is the kind of religious institutional background which does not tolerate much in the way of dissent or debate. It would have been extremely difficult for any evangelical patterns of church life to emerge, or indeed much in the way of teaching on the current activity of the Holy Spirit.
I very much value the freedom I have as a street preacher without formal ties to any particular theological label; I can write down the material as I find it, without the kind of concerns which, say, Bible college lecturers might have about what colleagues would think. It's the sort of freedom the Apostles had as they wrote their letters to the early fellowships and set down the accounts of the life of Christ as they saw it: without fear or favour, they preached courageously to pagan societies the message that Jesus had given them to preach. My freedom springs from being rejected as a candidate for ordination as a priest in the Church of England, which left me free to go into Christian work!
Theologians in teaching institutions like Tubingen would probably never have preached the Gospel to a crowd of pagans, never experienced the joy of seeing the Holy Spirit work in the hearts and minds of their hearers, and never experienced the power of God at work, knocking down barriers and shedding light in people's minds; they would probably never have seen a physical healing or experienced the excitement or the exhilaration of facing up to the sort of pagan hostility in cities like Ephesus and Philippi, which were held in the power of various sorts of religious belief. I have experienced this often – and therefore have a unique insight into the issues which faced the writers of the New Testament.
Religious orthodox fanatics in Eastern Europe have repeatedly threatened violence against us as we preach in their villages and towns. “Fanatic” is rather an emotive word, usually used by Christian missionaries working in some of these countries, but it is really the only adequate description to describe some of their antics. This is why from time to time we have needed the protection of someone like “Big Takis” an enormous young peach farmer from Macedonia with hands like bunches of bananas. Big Takis has once or twice peacefully encouraged groups of 7-8 young soldiers to stay and listen to the message rather than attempt to throw us out of town, which is what their religious leaders had sent them to do. Often the most sincere listeners have been migrant workers in the border countries of Greece, Bulgaria and Austria, who have stood around in large groups and demonstrated great interest as we have preached Jesus. I am encouraged to think that their religions will not always be able to keep them in darkness.
Jesus was a street preacher with a very urgent message for an entire population. The Apostles were the same. The New Testament contains exciting accounts of Paul's preaching in various places, in many of which I have preached to crowds of people myself – such vital, personal, street preaching is the background from which the New Testament flowed. Our modern religious institutions simply do not contain people with that sort of experience. They are theorists sitting on the sidelines, not really understanding the issues of front line ministry – and this really clouds their understanding of the New Testament documents.
One of the greatest privileges I have had has been to enjoy the support of some of the finest of God's missionary teams from whom I have learnt almost all I know about missionary evangelism:
Jim Reed died at the tragically early age of 45, but not before he had planted 11 churches in Madrid. Jim was a tremendous inspiration to me as I started the work of the OAC ministry in Spain in the early 1980's. He was a great enthusiast for standing up and preaching the Gospel to large crowds of people in the Spanish streets and in the parks. One of his converts, Farid Lozada, came to the Bristol School of Evangelism and Trinity Theological College in Bristol, and is now a tremendously successful missionary in his own country of Colombia in South America.
Dr. Al Nucciarone of Grace International Church, Vienna, is an absolutely wonderful and compelling street preacher who, with Robert and Mary Prokop of the Greater Grace World Mission, has developed open air preaching teams. These teams, professionally trained by Open Air Campaigners, are out on the streets of Vienna almost every evening through the summer, preaching to tens of thousands of people who would otherwise never hear the Gospel. Al's wife Billie was Personal Assistant to Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, a former missionary in Japan, when he was Principal of Columbia Bible College in America. I was able to have long discussions with him at a conference we attended in Dallas, Texas. Robertson's concern was that most missions involved in front line work are now largely occupied with caring ministries, and have almost no impact for the Gospel in the countries where they work. He was most interested that such great numbers of people can be reached so effectively on the streets.
Dr. Wayne Detzler (whose son Mark, a graduate of Trinity Theological College in Bristol, became our OAC Director for Italy) is a tremendous enthusiast for the public preaching of the Gospel on the streets. He regards our annual “Reach The City” street campaigns in Vienna as being the most exciting evangelistic effort in which he has ever participated. He and his wife, Margaret, have been a number of times to Vienna, and his involvement is particularly valuable as he brings such a depth of experience, having been Director of the Northern European section of Greater European Mission which runs most of Europe's pioneer Bible colleges, and a former Principal of Moorlands Bible College in Bournemouth, England.
Bill and Marion Baldwin, founders of the Greek Bible Institute in Athens, where the Open Air Campaigners' annual training seminars are run for their students, have played a major role in encouraging the ministry of street preaching, not only throughout Greece, but also in Bulgaria and Albania.
I mention these people because they represent the leading edge of Christian mission, certainly in Europe. Their enthusiasm and support has done a great deal for me as a street preacher, at a point in church history when Church leaders no longer regard the public preaching of the Gospel as an effective ministry, influenced by the unscriptural teachings of the modern Church Growth movement. This movement claims that structuring a church fellowship in a certain way will lead to the fellowship having an impact in the community without specific evangelistic activity. Such a concept is very appealing to a hard-working pastor and to a congregation shy of sharing its faith, or not trained to do so.
Proclamation evangelism (Glossary) although now unfashionable, is the essential core of any basic understanding of the Great Commission and indeed the Apostolic ministry . There are approximately 840 million people living in Europe alone, the vast majority totally unreached by the Gospel. The tiny number impacted by church growth methods is pathetically small – any idea that this is an adequate response to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is absurd.
It has become clear that we need to recover a clear understanding of the historical truth of our core Christian beliefs if the Church is once again to become prime mover in the battle to win the hearts and minds of men and women around the world for the Kingdom of God. It is in this battle in particular that the Church's current activities would appear to be almost totally irrelevant.
On Christmas Eve 2003 our daughter Rosie went down to Bristol Cathedral to attend a carol service and received a service sheet, which contained an explanatory statement that people are not nowadays expected to believe in the historical accuracy of the Christmas story. It stated that these accounts are not intended to be taken literally but rather as stories meant to teach us religious truths.
Over the last couple of years I have seen BBC TV programmes written by assorted religious cranks on various subjects. One such programme about the Star of Bethlehem totally confused Zoroastrian, Chaldean and Jewish mythology and portrayed the wise men as a bunch of Zoroastrian priests – the main message of the programme being “God is fine about all religions”.
On Christmas Day 2004 at 8.30 p.m. Dr. Robert Beckford (who describes himself as a professional theologian) presented an hour-long television programme. He asserted that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible since close study showed they had been written by a number of different secretaries. He said that lthough these documents purported to be written by Moses himself, he could not possibly have done so, as they contain the account of his death and burial. Dr. Beckford stated therefore these books “are not true”. He went on to say that the prophets and the historical books of the Old Testament were written for political purposes and that the Gospels, as accounts of Jesus' life, were very unsatisfactory and had been shown to have been written much later (by people who could not therefore have known the historical person of Jesus). To the man in the street, this kind of sweeping denial presents a devastating message. He is being told that “you don't have to worry, none of it is true after all...”
Such opinions display little or no understanding of “mediated revelation”(Glossary – the means by which God's message comes to us through writers who recorded their experience of Him). Beckford's point of view is one which very few serious Bible scholars would agree with, and is therefore unrepresentative and rather dishonest. Theologians with such extreme views would appear to be not very well read. One has great admiration for those who spend their lives as serious students of the Scriptures, and one can only be surprised at the conclusions some of them arrive at. Their sincerity and their evident generosity to those with whom they disagree means that it would be unfair to describe them as being brainwashed, but the great weight of liberal theological orthodoxy today acts as a tomb from which they find it hard to escape.
“The Enlightenment” began around 200 years ago. It was all about the emergence of great philosophers, logic, and reason. Many desired to escape from what they saw as the unreasonable limitations imposed by the Bible and Christianity on morals and freedom of action. Their pioneers, such as Reimarus(1694 -1768), and Lessing (who published Reimarus' writings in 1778) wrote with the intention of attacking the historical truth of the Gospels. Their aim seems to have been to destroy Christianity at its root by showing that it rested on historical distortion or fantasy. Schweizer (1906), Bultmann (1926) and Barth (1937) all sought to recover the real historical Jesus from what they saw as the myths of the miraculous events surrounding his life. Their starting point was one of fundamental disbelief in the supernatural: the proposition that accounts of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, for example, must therefore be additions to the historical record. Their books are attempts to discount all the evidence which happened to disagree with their original position. This is an approach which “breaks every rule of scientific historical analysis”3.
Professor J. A. T. Robinson was once a liberal theologian and wrote a book when he was Bishop of Woolwich4 in which he sought to relate the miraculous to modern church life as an Anglican, largely unsuccessfully. Happily he went on through further studies to become a conservative evangelical and in his new found faith engagingly described the great liberal theologians of the 19th Century as “like a bunch of drunks coming home in the early hours after a binge at the local pub, leaning heavily on each other, but having very little contact with the real world around them!” His book “Re-dating the New Testament” (SCM 1976) validated for me the belief I had always had, that the Gospels are the earliest Christian documents, and were written by those who were there. Apart from Luke and probably Mark (who was merely Peter's secretary and took down Peter's Gospel to dictation) the writers actually participated in the events described.
In succeeding chapters I will deal with the origins of Mark's Gospel, and subsequently with some of the accounts of the events in Jesus' life, showing how the original bystanders would have understood them.
Anni, and I are particularly grateful to Mike Pout of the Fellowship of the King in Bristol (which is the old University fellowship to which I now belong), who rashly offered to edit the material we produce – and to my friend Sami Fischer of Grace International Church, Vienna, who agreed to undertake the layout and design of the book. We have decided to release it initially on the Internet so that students can access it anywhere in the world free of charge. Most of our students tend to be in pioneer situations in Africa and Eastern Europe, without the finance necessary to purchase significant books. My book on street evangelism (available on www.korky.info) received about 30,000 hits in its first two years, which shows there is great interest in clear teaching on these fundamental issues.
Colleagues in Open Air Campaigners and associates in other mission organisations, as well as many of the students who have attended our courses, have been insistent over several years that we should produce this book – but I would stress that I write as a very grateful user of the wonderful material produced by others, and where I make statements of personal opinion, I will make this clear. The objective is principally to bring together different strands of information, supported by good evidence, to give a clearer overall picture of the life and times of Jesus, Saviour and Lord.
1 Bultmann, Rudolf (1974): Theology Of The New Testament. SCM
2 Jung, Carl Gustav (1963): Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins Routledge & Kegan Paul
4 Robinson, John A.T. (1967): But That I Can't Believe. London: Fontana