The World Needs the Original Bible

August 1, 1994 


The advent of the modern era in producing English versions of the Bible began in 1881 with the publishing of the Revised Version in the United Kingdom. This was followed in the United States in 1901 with the American Standard Version (a much heralded version for its up-to-date language style with a supposed adherence to the Hebrew and Greek texts in its translation). These two modern translations and versions were intended to be improvements upon the King James Version of 1611 (with its several additions up to the end of the eighteenth century). Interestingly, in spite of these two introductory new versions, the King James Version still retained its superiority in the eyes of the general public as far as study and worship in the churches were concerned. Indeed, almost all scholarly research works which are presently used as aids to understand the meanings of the original Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words in the Bible still retain the King James Version of the late 1700's as the standard for their academic works.

It is my personal belief that God deliberately designated the King James Version as one of the finest efforts at presenting the word of God to modern man in the time of the Protestant Reformation. There are major deficiencies in the version of course (such as rendering the Hebrew word olam and the Greek word eon with a meaning of "everlasting" or "eternity" associated with them), but in understanding the nuances of Hebrew words (and showing the influence of Hebrew on the Greek of the New Testament), the King James translators were able to express themselves quite adequately. So good were they that the Jewish Publication Society in their new modern version of 1917 followed the King James so closely in translation that one has to call it a "Jewish King James Version." Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina has expressed to me personally that he is also impressed with the manner in which the King James translators rendered the Hebrew of the Old Testament into English. This does not mean that they were always correct in their renderings, but it does show that they had the right principles in mind in their endeavor to translate the Hebrew and the Greek into a modern English idiom.

In my view, it is no accident that all the basic scholarly works in the English language that relate to Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek linguistic studies of the Holy Scriptures still have the King James Version as their standard for reference. Examples of this are George Wigram's "Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance" (with his "A Handy Hebrew Concordance" in which he gives all the Hebrew grammatical forms) and the Wigram's "Englishman's Greek Concordance" which together give all the English usages in Scripture of the original Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words. These works are indispensable for the study of what the original words of the prophets and apostles meant in the Bible, and (as stated before) they are all based on the King James Version (afterward abbreviated as KJV).

A study of these research works would indicate to any student the need to adopt English words that can best describe the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible and to use them CONSISTENTLY (when it is possible to do so) throughout the whole of any modern version in English (or in any other language). Of course, as in any language, there are always exceptions to the rule in the meanings of words within certain contexts (and these can be explained), but it is better when possible to be CONSISTENT in the use of single English words to express single Hebrew or Greek words. This is known as the "Concordant Method of Translation." It is a proper method when used consistently. When one uses it, it is evident that the one main fault of the KJV is its variety of English words used to denote single Hebrew and Greek words. But with the use of Wigram's works which are mentioned above, it is possible for any student of average intelligence to discover (in the vast majority of cases) the precise meaning of any biblical word in its context in the Scriptures. This method was used by the Concordant Publishing Concern over the past eighty years in producing excellent translations of the original texts of the Old and New Testaments. (I will have more to say about their efforts as we proceed in this article.) Indeed, some of the most erudite lexicons of the biblical languages have utilized Wigram's works mentioned above in their evaluations of what the biblical words actually mean. You and I can do the same thing with those works (which are readily available today for anyone to buy). And again, Wigram used as his standard reference the KJV of the Bible. This is why that early version has become the basis for all scholarly work in the linguistics of the Bible in the English speaking world.

The reason why the comparison of the use of the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words in their biblical contexts is so important in comprehending what the texts of the Scripture actually mean is because the scholar and student alike can see how the prophets and apostles used words to convey their thoughts, not what some meaning based on certain alien or foreign language idioms might suggest. We must learn to stay with the meanings of the words as found in the Scripture if we hope to comprehend what the Bible is trying to tell us. Scholars should use this "Concordant Method." It is a proven procedure that all scholars and translators must heed if they hope to present what the words of Scripture actually mean. And indeed, any layman can check the renderings of any translator (without much fear of being wrong) if he or she will also use the "Concordant Method" by consulting the works of Wigram that are mentioned above. Of course, there are some words in the Old and New Testament that occur infrequently (or maybe only once) and it is perfectly proper to go to the writings of scholars who have used the Bible over the years and centuries (or even secular sources) to get hints at what the scriptures might mean by the use of any particular word. But the teaching derived from such usages must be consistent with the basic understanding of the writers of the Scripture in contexts which are simple to read.

As stated before, the scholarly standard for linguistic study of the Scripture in the English language is the King James Version. And for one's study purposes, there is a KJV version that is very helpful in aiding one in understanding the original words written by the prophets and the apostles. It is one of the finest versions of the KJV ever produced for the student of the original texts of the Holy Scriptures. It is the Thomas Newberry Version of 1886 which used the KJV as a basis. Its usefulness comes to the student because Newberry adopted an elaborate system of simple but understandable symbols associated with the words and phrases of the text which give an adequate understanding of the actual grammatical forms within the original languages. It is my view that every student of the Bible ought to have this KJV for his or her serious study of the divine scriptures. It is still being published by Kregel Publications of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its major fault is its lack of being exhaustive in its grammatical displays. In several crucial areas for a proper doctrinal understanding, we find that Newberry failed to provide his grammatical symbols to indicate what the real meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words signified. It also is faulty in not adhering to the original order of the books of the Scripture as shown in the manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, and it does not show the original divisions of the biblical books. Thankfully, this major fault will be remedied in the new version being produced by "The Original Bible Project." There is not a version on the market today that presents the biblical books in the arrangement of the manuscripts for both the Old and the New Testaments. It is a sad commentary on all the versions today (even those who adopt a "Concordant Method" for translating the Holy Scriptures) that there is a lapse in avoiding the manuscript order of the books and divisions of the Bible. Publishers have not heeded the teachings of the eminent textual scholars (especially for the New Testament) to return to the manuscript order of the biblical books. Publishers and translators of the Bible have been consistently content in retaining the erroneous order and arrangement that was devised by Jerome in the early fifth century when he brought out his Latin Vulgate Version for Christian people in the western part of the Roman Empire who only understood the Latin language and not the original Hebrew or Greek. And indeed, even Newberry in his otherwise excellent version continued to present his KJV in the erroneous fashion of Jerome and not the manuscripts. If Newberry had only followed the manuscripts with his order and arrangement of the biblical books, his version would have been a major boost toward understanding what the texts of the Scripture were trying to relate. But Newberry failed in this. As far as I know, only one translator (Ivan Panin) has in modern times retained the proper arrangement of the New Testament books. No modern version (and I mean not one version in the entirety of the publishing world) has presented both the Old and New Testaments in the proper order and arrangement of the books. This will be remedied, however, with the new version being produced by "The Original Bible P'roject."

Indeed, I have long hoped that a new version of Newberry's work would be done that would be totally and thoroughly exhaustive in the use of his ingenious symbolic signs and also that the books of the Bible would be placed back into their manuscript order and arrangement. This primary fault in Newberry's otherwise excellent and useful version could be remedied by publishing an updated version with every word and phrase grammatically explained. With it, all versions could then be checked by the layman (along with the works of Wigram mentioned above) as to their accuracy. This needs to be done one of these days because no one (not even Ernest L. Martin, perhaps I should say, most especially Ernest L. Martin) can be relied on to give a 1000/o accurate translation in every single text in the entirety of the Holy Scriptures. We all need checks and balances in such matters. I know that Dr. James Tabor certainly feels the same way as I do on this important matter. But let me say (unless someone misunderstands me) that the principles that are being used by Dr. Tabor and his assistants to produce "The Original Bible Project" are the very ones I have long advocated, and I anxiously await the publishing of this major and important work will be a major step in restoring the original Bible to the world.

As a matter of fact, there have been several versions in English that have led the way in producing some excellent translations, and I know that Dr. Tabor will give credit to the people who have been the pioneers in publishing versions to help people to understand the Scripture even better. One that I particularly hold in esteem is that which was devised and directed by A. E. Knoch called the "The Sacred Scriptures, the Concordant Version." I first met Mr. Knoch in 1955 at his East Los Angeles office when I was a freshman in college, and then later in 1960 when I returned from England to to study for my master’s degree at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. I was very impressed with the academic expertise of Mr. Knoch personally and with his translation work in particular. My own edition of "The Sacred Scriptures" was presented to me personally by Mr. Knoch. I have used it consistently in biblical studies ever since and it has proved itself in worth many times over what other works and translations have afforded to me.

This translation of Mr. Knoch's is especially good because he based his translating on the "Concordant Method" of rendering the Greek words (and later his Hebrew version) into single English words when at all possible. This allowed the student to see consistency throughout the version. Mr. Knoch was a master at using the English language and his understanding of the Greek was first class. But he got himself, and the integrity of the Version, into trouble with the academic world by reserving the outside column of his translation page for his personal comments involving doctrinal matters rather than staying with a simple explanation of what the words or any particular word in the text may have meant. What intensified the ire of his Protestant critics was his insistence that the New Testament taught the reconciliation of all human beings to Christ. They did not like his rendering (for example) of the Greek word eon as an indefinite period of time. The Protestants wanted the word in many cases to mean "everlasting" or "eternal." Of course, Mr. Knoch was correct in his rendering, but his critics began to clamor that his translation was intended for the sole purpose of teaching a universal reconciliation for mankind (which they did not believe) and they unkindly launched a vicious full frontal attack on the validity of the Version to vilify it in every way they could.

There was another major factor in the Greek about which the eminent Greek scholars of the Protestant world took him to task. This was Mr. Knoch's explanation of what the Greek aorist (often called a tense) in its verbal form actually meant. In simple terms, Mr. Knoch expressed his belief that the Greek aorist (which verbs are found in abundance in the New Testament) was to be rendered by the simple English present tense. This brought on the wrath of the Greek scholars of the Protestant world who reckoned his opinion to be absurd. While the word aorist means "without horizon" (that is, "without limits" as to space), the Christian scholars were more often than not assigning the meaning of the Greek aorist in its New Testament texts to a past tense rendering. In no way could they concede to Mr. Knoch's opinion that the simple present tense in English could explain the aorist in many cases. The past tense made sense to them.

I personally believe, though, that Mr. Knoch was right in a basic sense. But he could well have avoided the ire of many of his critics in the academic world if the word "tense" (which means "time" - or, to express a "time relationship" would not have been used by him in his explanation of the Greek aorist. What he should have done, in my view (and looking at the situation in hindsight) is to explain that even the English language itself has the aorist as a grammatical use in a profound way but that English grammarians are prone not to mention the use of the aorist in English. If the grammarians would do so, they would notice that almost invariably the English aorist is what we in English call the "present tense." Actually, though, the English aorist (or the Greek aorist) is not a present tense. After all, the present tense can easily be rendered in the Greek of the New Testament. The aorist in English or Greek is not the present tense.

Still, the first thing that must be understood is the fact that our modern English (and all major European languages) have the aorist embedded within their languages though it is usually disguised or camouflaged as a "present tense." But a problem emerges when grammarians try to identify it. This is because the word "tense" is used to describe the aorist. The aorist is not a tense! The word "tense" relates to "time," but the aorist is not in any way related to "time." It rather indicates an aspect of space, a state or a condition. And whereas "time" (a tense) refers to the past, present or future in its various forms, the aorist refers to space such as behind, where the speaker is, or in front of the speaker, yet even here (and this is most important to realize) the limits or the boundaries of this aspect of space are always undefined. The aorist is simply an indefinite aspect in relationship to space, to a state or to a condition which is being described.

This aorist aspect is found abundantly in English, but it is shown by utilizing words that sound and look like the "present tense," but in actual fact are NOT the "present tense" at all. The English aorist (unlike the Greek aorist which uses extra letters to show an aoristic aspect) uses words that appear to the eye to be the "present tense." But the words are not showing the "present tense." They are simple homonyms that are presenting the aorist state or condition (not tense, or time). In fact, the aorist (both in English and Greek) does not express any time relationships whatever and it is an anachronism to call the aorist a "tense." The aorist is simply without limits in regard to space, state or conditions. The aspect of time, let me repeat, is not associated with the aorist of itself either in the English or the Greek. Let me give some examples.

If a person says: "Tap water is liquid," it may appear that the English present tense (with the verb is) is being used in this sentence. But this is not the case at all. The verb "is" is a homonym usage for the aorist state (not tense, or time). It describes an aorist condition. Let's face it, as it is normally understood, all tap water is indeed liquid whether the phrase relates to the past, the present or the future. The aorist (even in its English usage) is giving a state or a condition, and has no relationship of itself to time (either past, present or future). And, using the word "is" in the statement that "tap water is a liquid," is NOT using the present tense in English. The present tense would be "tap water is being a liquid," which is not only awkward in its wording but it is also silly to say it that way. But the verb "is" in the above illustration is not in the present tense (though it outwardly appears to be). It is actually a usage of the English aorist (which is an aspect of space or a state without limits or boundaries).

The Doctor shows poor discernment. Who has ever said the present tense in his example is used? What is used in the Doctor’s example is the attributive use of the adjectival use of the noun “liquid”, “either past, present or future”. It is the ‘constative’ affirmation of something that “is”, and in that sense only, may be understood as being an Aorist. Whether present, past or future, the ‘constative’ affirmation shall always be of a ‘simultaneous’ and ‘statal’, or, ‘ingressional’ “state or a condition” – in other words, “a state or a conditionwith and within certain “limits or boundaries” (of time), or, having gone into and “"is"” within certain “limits or boundaries” (of time). The context may show whether this “state or conditionwith and within certain “limits or boundaries” or “state or conditionhaving gone into and within certain “limits or boundaries” (of time), “"is"with and within past, present or future, or, had gone into past, present or future “limits or boundaries” (of time).

Surely “"is" in the above illustration is not in the present tense”, nor “"is"” it the Aorist! It is a contradiction in terms to say, “The aorist is giving a state or a condition, and has no relationship of itself to time”, and the fact, is the very reason why the Perfect more often than not the Past Perfect, or the Present, gives expression to the _‘relative’_state or a condition” of the Aorist “aspect”.

To illustrate: “"Tap water is liquid"”, is always true; “It is evening” is not always true, but within its time- relationship / state / condition / limits / boundaries, is as always true as “"tap water is liquid"”, is always true. The Aorist is never used without at least an implied time-relationship – never indefinitely. Therefore one should rather understand “"is" in the above illustration” is a present or, is an Imperfect – indicating something ongoing, perpetual, depending on whether ongoing in the past or in the present or in the future.

Let us look at another example: '(The Rocky Mountains are in North America." Though it appears that the verb is in the English present tense, it is really a homonym that uses the same word as the present tense but means something entirely opposite - it is describing a state or a condition that can rest assured that in any normal usage of the above sentence, the Rocky Mountains would be in North America whether centuries ago, right now at the present, or in the foreseeable future. Anyone with common sense can see this principle. It is time that English grammar classes in schools, colleges and universities begin to show clearly that the aorist state or condition is as much in evidence in English - in a multitude of ways - as it is in Greek or other similar languages. The only difference is that in Greek there are letter forms attached to the verbs that clearly show them to be aorist, while in English we use the homonymic form of words that appear as though they are showing the present tense when they are not. In English and in Greek the aorist aspect shows indefinite boundaries as to space, state or condition. It has nothing to do with tense (or "time"). And, Mr. Knoch rightly stated in his lexicon that the aorist is the indefinite, not any specific time indication that so many western scholars have come to imagine.

To get over his point (which was basically correct in concept), what Mr. Knoch should have done, in my opinion, was first to show that the English is itself full of aorist expressions (which are normally rendered in words that appear to be present tense, but are not). He could then have proceeded to show that the Greek aorist is not a whit different than our English aorist state or condition, and that it is easy and proper to render the Greek aorist into an English aorist. The aorists are equal.

Now look at how understandable things can become when this is done. As an example, the translators of the KJV (and almost all modern translators) will take the aorist indicative to be a past tense in English, even though the very meaning of the word "aorist" demands that no time indications or limits be associated with it. Look at Romans 8:30 as translated by the KJV. "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Now, the verbs shown in bold letters are all in the Greek aorist. Notice how all the words by the King James translators are rendered in the English Past tense. While it may make doctrinal sense to say that God predestined us (in the past), that he called us (in the past), that he justified us (in the past), it is not true that God has glorified us (in the past). Indeed, our glorification will not come to us until the second advent (which is future). What the apostle Paul actually meant was that God foreordains, he calls, he makes righteous, and he glorifies (without reference to time). True, to foreordain something involves a time when the ordaining occurred, but the apostle Paul used the indefinite aspect which also shows that God may in the future foreordain others (in other worlds besides our own). Paul was showing that it is God who ordains, who calls, who makes righteous, and who glorifies people (no matter what the time is). This is like saying that tap water is liquid. It is liquid no matter what time it is being described. And the English verb describing this condition of water is not in the English present tense, it is in the English aorist which appears to be (as a homonym) like the English present. I plan to write a paper on this very subject one of these days showing extensively that the English language (in fact, with every modern European language) uses the aorist in everyday parlance and in most cases the grammarians are calling it a modified form of the present tense when it is not. The only difference between the Greek aorist and the English aorist is the fact that the Greek uses letter forms within their words to indicate the aorist and the English does not. English uses what appears to be the present tense, but it is not the present. But even the use of the "present" (as does Mr Knoch) for the aorist is not a farfetched procedure because even in the Testament we find that one writer speaking of the same event will place the verb in the present while the other places it in the aorist (see Luke 11:3 with Matthew 6:11; Luke 6:30 with Matthew 5:42; and Matthew 5:12 with Luke 6:23). Mr. Knoch could hardly be accused of inventing some newfangled grammatical usage when the apostles used either the present or the aorist to explain the same thing.

Even our modern English could easily adopt the Greek style of indicating the aorist by adding a letter to the form of the verb when an aorist state or condition is intended though it would be unnecessary to demand it. But as a suggestion, the letter "t" or the letters "st" could be added to a "to be" verb every time the speaker wants to use the aorist. Just as Jesus in Matthew 6:9 gave the model prayer in the KJV (using the old English) "Our Father which art in heaven," if we wish to indicate the aorist when no time relationships are intended by us, we could say: "The Rocky Mountains art in North America." That way all people would know precisely by the grammar that no time indications were intended because in this context the Rocky Mountains are always in North America whether one means a hundred years ago, now, or a week from now. [By the way, the word "art" in Matthew 6:9 where Christ said "Our Father which art in heaven" is supplied by the KJV translators. There is no verb in the Greek at all and no time indication was even intended by Christ in his phrase. All he said was: "Our Father in the heavens" without reference to time. Christ intended in this model prayer that the Father is always to be understood as being in the heavens no matter if we pray in the past, the present of in the future).

But back to our illustration. We could be certain we are not using the simple present tense if instead of "The sky is usually blue," we could say: The sky ist usually blue." The adding of the "t" would make it certain that no time indication was intended because under usual circumstances the sky is always blue. Of course, it is equally effective in modern English to leave the "is" as it is because it is automatically understood by all English readers that no time indication was meant when we say the sky is usually blue (because the sky is usually blue whether in the past, or in the present or in the future).

There are many, many examples of the aorist being used in English though it appears as the present tense in its verbal form. If someone asked you how you communicate with your parents, you might say "I write." As it appears in English grammar this would have to be reckoned as a form of the present tense with a special qualification. But it is not a present tense. It is an indefinite (aorist) aspect! The present tense would be "I am writing" -not "I write." After all, if you communicated with your parents last month (in the past), or right now present) or in the future, the clause "I write" applies to all periods of time without distinction. This clause is a clear aorist and if we wish to indicate it grammatically (as does the Greek), we could (as I suggested) add an "st" to the word "write" and say "I writest." From our modern point of view it would be absurd to do so because any reader would know precisely what you meant, though most - even many college graduates - would not state that the aorist was being used in English when it most certainly is).

I have taken considerable time in explaining this matter of the English aorist (and how the Greek aorist can be rendered into the English aorist quite easily), but this is an important point for students of the Bible because it involves not only verbal usage within the Greek New Testament but the aorist aspect is also used (though most grammars will not say it is) in numerous places in the Old Testament. Newberry explained the Hebrew verb as a "long" tense and a "short" tense, but the use of the word "tense" gives a wrong impression. It is better to explain the Hebrew verb as giving "aspects," not "tenses." I will have more to say on this in a future article. If you wish more information on this matter, see the introduction to Young's Literal Translation of the Bible and the Introductory notes to Newberry's Version.

As for Mr. Knoch's renderings of the Greek aorist by the English present tense, I feel he would not have been so castigated by the Protestant scholars of the Greek had he first shown that the English itself has the aorist aspect in many, many of its verbal forms but it is hidden from English view by its homonymical usage in what appears to be the present tense. The fact is, the word "tense" (which means "time" or to show a "time definition") should never be applied in association with the aorist aspect in grammar. The aorist (which is found in abundance in the New Testament and also in numerous ways in the Old Testament Hebrew) indicates a state, a space or a condition WITH-OUT LIMITS (without borders or lines of demarcation), though words in any context can provide an understandable "time aspect." But the aorist has nothing to do with time aspects of itself and should not be used as a time indication.

Indeed, there are words (normally nouns) in the Bible which denote within themselves an indefinite time, but the use of aorist is not such a grammatical usage. Indefinite time is found in words like olam in Hebrew or eon in Greek which have the aspect of time associate with them but without any definite verbal boundaries to distinguish the time aspect. The word olam and eon are practically synonyms with one another and they mean something close to "age" or "age-lasting" without any precise time limits of the age being given in the word itself. True, the words may indicate a particular time such as "Abraham's age," and the age must refer to the period of 175 years during which Abraham lived, but the meaning of the words themselves are still indefinite as to time.

In conclusion, what is needed is the Bible as it left the hands of the canonizers. It needs to be rendered in an English manner that all can understand and appreciate. To aid in the accomplishment of this essential task, I have just finished a new (and completely revised) book of researched entitled: "Restoring the Original Bible." This book is 512 pages long (with bibliography, index and notices of other books) and it is jam-packed with historical and biblical information which clearly shows that the original manuscript order of the biblical books is essential for modern man. Thankfully, "The Original Bible Project" is now producing such a version of the Bible. It will be a Bible that all can understand. Because of this, all of us should be behind this effort so that the world will be given an English version that everyone on earth can comprehend.

Ernest L. Martin



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Updated Information on the Crucifixion of Jesus

April 1, 1992 


Since the publication of my book "Secrets of Golgotha" in the Spring of 1988, there has been a steady flow of new information which shows that the crucifixion of Jesus took place on the Mount of Olives. Some of the evidence has come from other scholars who have seen the fact that Jesus was executed somewhere near the summit of Olivet. A great deal has also been arrived at by further research of my own. What is emerging is real evidence that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb located in Jerusalem are nowhere near the proper spot where the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus took place. This fact has revolutionary consequences associated with it. This is because the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox churches for the past 1660 years have generally accepted the area associated with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the crucifixion site. Even classical historians have thought the site has most of the historical credentials to justify its acceptance by the scholarly world. But this new evidence shows that the Constantinian Church is thoroughly wrong. The Bible and history plainly establish that the Mount of Olives is the real place of the crucifixion. This new Historical Report has further evidence to prove this conclusion.

Just over 118 years ago in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly (1873, 115; also 1870, 379-381) Dr. Hutchinson suggested that the crucifixion of Jesus must have taken place east of the Temple Mount -- which placed it on the Mount of Olives. Until the publication of my book "Secrets of Golgotha," that is the last scholarly indication I have found which suggests that the crucifixion happened on Olivet. Since A.D. 1873, the only candidates for the site have been the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was built west of the second wall of Jerusalem or at the Garden Tomb region north and east of the Damascus Gate. But my book shows from the New Testament and early Jewish records that the southern summit of the Mount of Olives near the altar "without the sanctuary" where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes (Ezekiel 43:21) has far greater credentials for being the site.

The first point to notice is that the burning of the Red Heifer and Jesus’ crucifixion were symbolically connected in a precise way by Christians who lived during the period of Herod’s Temple. The author of the Book of Hebrews (about AD. 61) stated that Jesus was a ‘sin offering" for the world and that his sin-atoning death epitomized the symbolic role of all the sin offerings sacrificed at the Temple (Hebrews 10:8-14). The major sin offerings were burnt to ashes at an altar region east of the Temple near the top of the Mount of Olives. Besides that, all of the ashes of the other sacrifices offered at the Altar of Burnt Offering in the Temple itself were deposited at the same altar east of the Temple on Olivet (Leviticus 4:12:6:11). The author of Hebrews also connected the ashes of the Red Heifer (which were mixed with pure spring water) with the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus which occurred at the precise time of his crucifixion (9:13,14). And particularly note this point. In the Letter of Barnabas (written by a person from Jerusalem about A.D.90), the author stated that the Red Heifer in Christian circles was reckoned as Jesus. "The calf is Jesus: the sinful men offering it are those who led him to the slaughter (8:2)." Remarkably, very few Christian historians have asked: "Where was this Red Heifer altar?"

As explained in my book "Secrets of Golgotha," the early Jewish records found in the Mishnah plainly state that the Red Heifer altar was located directly east of the Temple that existed in Jesus’ time and that it was just shy of the summit of the Mount of Olives (Middoth 1:3; 2:4; Yoma 7:2; along with the Talmud in Yoma 68a and Zebahim 105b). And here we find the author of the Letter of Barnabas directly stating that "the calf (heifer] is Jesus" and that "the sinful men offering it are those who led him [Jesusl to the slaughter" (8:2). It is well known in Jewish circles that the priests did indeed lead the heifer from the Temple on Mount Moriah eastward across a double tiered arched bridge (called the Bridge of the Red Heifer) to an altar just outside the camp near the summit of Olivet. This is where they sacrificed and burnt to ashes the Red Heifer. This first century identification of Jesus with the Red Heifer is clear proof that early Jewish Christians connected the sacrifice of the heifer on the summit of Olivet with the death of Jesus which took place in the same vicinity. But no sacrifices of the Temple were ever connected with the western area of the "Holy Sepulchre."

The following Is a review by Prof. W. H. C. Frend (one of the top ecclesiastical historians In the world) in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University, England, Vol.40, No.3, July 1989, p.449.

Secrets of Golgotha The forgotten history of Christ’s crucifixiom By Ernest L. Martin, Pp.280, incl.10 ills. Alhambra. Ca: ASK Publications, 1988, 0 945657 77 3. "Where was Golgotha? Critical opinion has decided to hesitate between two loci in Jerusalem, one the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the other a small hill north-east of Damascus Gate. The author points out the unsatisfactory nature of the evidence favouring the Holy Sepulchre site. It was arrived at by Constantine through dreams and visions and happened to coincide with the area of the Temple of Venus erected by the Emperor Hadrian after AD 135, a cult which he abominated. Even Eusebius thought it was a choice ‘contrary to expectation’ (Life of Constantine iii.28), but Helena’s successful archaeology on the site stilled criticism, and the great memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built 329-35, was the result.

The author examines in detail the New Testament narrative. If some may think that the rending or the temple veil and other accompaniments of the crucifixion (Matt. xxvii. 50-1) are taken too literally, other evidence supports an alternative site. If the huge veil described as 55 cubits high and 16 cubits wide was rent, this could be seen only from the east side or Jerusalem. Then, Johns vivid description of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion mentions the latter as being ‘near the Place (topos) of the City’ (John xix. 19-20) and topos was in this context synonymous with the temple. The writer of Hebrews indicates that the punishment was inflicted ’outside the camp’ (Hebr. xiii. 11) as required in Num. xix. 1-22, relating to sin offerings. A malefactor condemned to death was his own sin offering. Altogether, evidence points cumulatively to a hillock near the southern summit of the Mount of Olives as the place of execution, a place held in veneration by Christians until Constantine’s massive building programme in the city. For once, Jewish and Roman requirements had coincided, for Roman justice demanded the execution of criminals near the scene of their crime, and Jesus was believed to have based himself on the Mount of Olives during his ministry in Jerusalem.

It is all neatly tied up, with other interesting speculations, such as the possible priestly status of Judas Iscariot, and the reconstruction reads more convincingly than Constantine’s visions. However, though not ‘straining at a gnat’, one may feel that this concentrated and ably conducted single-issue inquiry could have been best pursued in an article. In a full-length book repetition of argument becomes tedious. A useful piece of scholarly research need not be prolix to be effective." 

W. H. C. Frend


While we moderns have wondered if we should use geographical features associated with the sin offerings as having literal geographical relationships to actual events in the life of Jesus, such usage were commonly applied by biblical writers. Matthew symbolically associated a prophecy about Israel coming out of Egypt with Jesus and his stay in Egypt. While "Israel" of the prophecy could only symbolically refer to Jesus, Jesus still had to have been literally in Egypt for the symbol to be applied in any sensible way. Also, the symbolic teaching of Rachel weeping in Ramah could only be applied to those in Bethlehem because that is where Rachel’s cenotaph was located. Also, Isaiah’s reference to the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali could only apply to Jesus because these lands were in Galilee where Jesus taught. Thus, the geography associated with the symbols must be literal even if the symbols are not.

As an example, note a further geographical reference in the Book of Hebrews associating the sin offerings of the Temple with the crucifixion of Jesus. The author stated that Jesus carried his reproach (the cross-piece for his crucifixion) to an altar located "outside the gate," even "outside the camp" (Hebrews 13:10-14). There was the literal altar on Olivet that matches the author’s illustration, Indeed, in this case the author used the Tabernacle of Moses as his standard of reference (the Jewish authorities did the same thing in the Mishnah about a century later). It is important to note that the Tabernacle only had eastern gates. By using the Tabernacle as a standard, this points to the "gate" through which Jesus went to his crucifixion as being the east gate in the outer wall surrounding the Temple. Interestingly, this eastern gate was the same gate through which the major sin offerings and the Red Heifer were taken to Olivet. The roadway through that eastern gate was designed specifically by the Jewish authorities to lead directly to the altar "outside the camp" where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes. Early Jewish Christians were keenly aware of these ritualistic connections of the sin offerings with the death of Jesus. Geographically, these historical and biblical texts about his crucifixion direct us to Olivet.

Furthermore, this Red Heifer altar was located just "outside the camp" which was at least 2000 cubits east of the Hall of the Sanhedrin then situated at the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple, located on the left side of the Altar of Burnt Offering (Middoth 5:4; Sanhedrin 11:2; Yoma 25a). Indeed, just before Jesus was crucified, he was actually condemned to be executed while he stood before the Sanhedrin in the Chamber of Hewn Stones on the Temple Mount (see Shabbath l5a and Rosh ha-Shanah 31a,b). Since it was then the Passover season, the chief priest (the president of the Sanhedrin who was Caiaphas) and his deputy (Annas, the Sagan) were required to be resident in their quarters within the precincts of the Temple. They were then living in their official "houses" which were located in the Temple compound itself (Middoth 5:4; Encyclopaedia Judaica iii.991). This is when the top priestly authorities left their own private houses (no doubt located on the aristocratic southwest hill of Jerusalem) and they took up residence within the Temple itself.

There were special times in the Jewish ecclesiastical year when residence within the Temple was essential for the High Priest and his deputy. For the seven days prior to offering the Red Heifer, the High Priest had to stay in his Temple "house" called the "House of Stone" (Parah 3:1). For the seven days prior to the Day of Atonement the High Priest had to reside within his "house" on the Temple Mount (Yoma 1:1). Though Josephus did not mention the Temple residency of the priests, he did state that such attendance at the Temple was a requirement for weekly Sabbaths, new moons and annual festivals (War V.230). Since Jesus was judged by the Jewish authorities at the Passover season, Caiaphas and Annas were not at their private homes during Jesus’ interrogation. Jesus was judged by the chief priests and condemned by the Sanhedrin while all parties were within the Temple enclosure. From the Christian point of view, this meant that Jesus was judged to die in his own Father’s House. He was sentenced to die "in the presence of God" who symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies.

After his judgment by the Sanhedrin on the Temple Mount, Jesus was then taken a short distance to the northwest part of the Temple courtyard where there was a stairway that led to Fort Antonia where Pilate was amongst his troops. Being at Antonia during Passover provided Pilate with a personal command over his resident army in order to properly control the festival crowds in Jerusalem, and especially those within the Temple precincts. After interrogating Jesus, Pilate washed his hands of the matter. Jesus was then led out of Fort Antonia and through the east gate of the Temple (which was also the east gate of Jerusalem) and taken over the two tiered arched bridge of the Kidron Valley to the summit of Olivet near where the Red Heifer was sacrificed -- a prominent area in Jerusalem.

This eastern area where Jesus was executed was famous for another reason. Jesus was actually crucified in the official area of Jerusalem that was designed for the execution of criminals and in the region that the Jewish authorities believed was the symbolic place where the whole world would one day be judged by God. This was the area directly east of the Temple but located "outside the camp" of Israel (Numbers 15:35). The limits of the camp were determined in the time of Jesus to be a radius of 2000 cubits (near 3000 feet) from the Court of the Sanhedrin in the Temple (Rosh ha-Shanah 2:5, see also Sanhedrin 1:5 and Shebuoth 2:2 for the authority of the Jewish Supreme Court to set the limits of the camp). This factor alone disqualifies the present sites of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb from being the place of Jesus’ crucifixion (even though outside the walls) because both sites were within the official region of the "camp."

The authorized place of execution for criminals in the time of Jesus had to be at least the Temple Mount, but it had to be in a place where the condemned could see the entrances to the Temple located in a westward direction. The biblical examples for judicial sentencing of people for their criminal acts in the time of Moses show they took place on the east side of the Sanctuary. Women accused of adultery were brought for judgment "before the Lord", that is, to the east entrance of the Sanctuary (Numbers 5:16-31). The two sons of Aaron were judged "before the Lord" on the east side of the Sanctuary (Leviticus 10:1-7). Korah and his Levites were also punished east of the Tabernacle (Numbers 16:41-50).

It was important for official judgments to be rendered and executed east of the Temple. This allowed the judgments to be made "in the presence of God," who figuratively faced east from his Sanctuary. Because of this, both the Sanhedrin and the lesser courts at Jerusalem in the time of Jesus were located in the Temple to the east of the Holy Place (Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, 299). It was reckoned that while God was symbolically sitting in the Holy of Holies, he could watch the proceedings going on in the law courts. God supposedly faced east while sitting on his Temple throne. Thus God in a figurative way had a panoramic view of all the ritualistic and judicial duties of his people which were being conducted east of the Sanctuary. This allowed all ceremonies (both religious and secular) to be done "in the presence of God." It is remarkable that many textbooks written by Christian theologians fail to mention the importance of this eastern area in this regard nor do they show the location of the altar "without the Sanctuary" (Ezekiel 43:2 1) where the Red Heifer was sacrificed and where the Day of Atonement sin offerings were burnt.

This eastern location was also significant in judicial matters involving capital crimes. Moses demanded that the place of executions had to be "outside the camp" (Numbers 15:35,36). All ritual sacrifices were offered east of the Sanctuary and in full view of God who figuratively dwelt in the Holy of Holies, and the prime sin offerings were burnt "outside the camp" at the summit of Olivet. And in Jewish practice, heinous criminals were required to be their own "sin offerings" in paying for their sins (without having the benefit of an animal sacrifice as a substitute) (Cohen, ibid., 317).

Since the major sin offerings were sacrificed near the summit of the Mount of Olives, this is why criminals were "sacrificed" as being their own sin offerings in the same vicinity. This is precisely the area where the later Jerusalem church believed Stephen was officially executed by the Sanhedrin (Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels, 185n.1). This was known by the Jews as "the Place of Stoning" (Sanhedrin 6:1,2,3,4). It was just "outside the camp" but in full view of the eastern entrances of the Temple. The Temple curtain in front of the Holy Place could easily be seen from this prospect and the New Testament shows that when the Temple curtain tore in two at the moment of Jesus’ death that the centurion and the others around the crucifixion site viewed that phenomenon taking place (see especially Luke 23:44-47 and Matthew 27:54). From outside the wails of Jerusalem the curtain could only be seen from an elevated site east of the Temple. The area of the "Holy Sepulchre" is disqualified because from there only the back parts of the Temple could be seen. Besides, Josephus shows that the site of the "Holy Sepulchre" was the spot of the Tomb of John Hyrcanus (a respected Jewish king of the Hasmoneans) and such a shrine would never have been selected by the Jewish authorities as a place to execute criminals. But the summit of Olivet is different. Everything fits perfectly.

The Bordeaux Pilgrim in AD. 333 said that at the southern summit of Olivet there was a small knoll or hillock (called in Latin a monticulus). In the time of David this region was known as "the Rosh" (that is, "the head") (II Samuel 15:30) and remarkably the Hebrew word "Golgotha" also means "head" or "skull." Such a usage shows that "Golgotha" (or "the Rosh") was a well known place at the summit of Olivet.

Golgotha was even reckoned among the Jews as being on a mountain. Professor James Tabor in his review of my research in "Secrets of Golgotha" (in the Society of Biblical Literature’s Critical Review of Books in Religion, vol.IV, 1991, pp.213-215) gives new information to sustain my thesis for Olivet: "An interesting support of Martin’s thesis, which he does note, is that the Hebrew text of Matthew known as Even Bohan refers to the place of crucifixion as Mount (har) of the Skull (see G. Howard, The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text [Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1988])." For Golgotha to have been reckoned as a mountain (har) in the Jerusalem area gives the Mount of Olives considerable credentials as being the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. Dr. Tabor, of the University of North Carolina, concludes his favorable review of my research by stating: "All in all Martin’s work is valuable, fascinating, and certainly pioneering. His hypothesis deserves attention from historians, New Testament scholars, and archaeologists."

There are numerous historical reasons for selecting Olivet as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. In the recently translated Temple Scroll, Yadin pointed out that all people bearing religious defilements which prevented them from entering the holy city or the Temple were directed to stay east of the ideal Sanctuary region mentioned in the scroll (Yadin 177). Evil and defiled people (sinners) were kept east of Jerusalem in order to prevent any "winds of evil" from flowing over the holy city from the west. This is one of the reasons the sin offering of the Red Heifer and those of the Day of Atonement (which were to atone for sins) were burnt to ashes in this eastern area "outside the camp" (Leviticus 4:21; 16:27). Yadin suggested that a part of this eastern region which had been put aside for defiled persons was even referred to in the New Testament (e.g. Mark 14:3).

Since all sin offerings were sacrificed (or "executed") east of the Holy Place of the Temple, and the most important ones were sacrificed further east at the Red Heifer altar on Olivet, this easterly region of the Temple became known as the place where God dealt with sin -- where all the sins of the world will be judged. This is one reason why the Kidron Valley separating the Temple from the Mount of Olives became known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the valley where "God judges"). Even to this day Jews, Muslims and Christians consider the summit and western slope of Olivet as the ordained place where God will judge all people m the world for their sins. Charles Warren in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible listed over fourteen Christian authorities (from the deaux Pilgrim onward) who attested to this belief (II.562). This is why it was important, from the Christian point of view, that Jesus died in this eastern region which was reckoned the judgment place for all mankind. For Jesus to be judged as dying for the sins of all mankind, Christians thought he had to be judged in the place where all mankind were designed to be judged for their sins.

Even Muslims (who inherited many traditional beliefs from the Jews and Christians) firmly believe that the summit and the western slope of the Mount of Olives is the judgment area for mankind. The Encyclopaedia Judaica has an interesting excerpt about this. "All the dead will congregate on the Mount of Olives and the angel Gabriel will move paradise to the right of Allah’s Throne and hell to its left. All mankind will cross a long bridge suspended from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount, which will be narrower than a hair, sharper than a sword, and darker than night. Along this bridge there will be seven arches and at each arch man will be asked to account for his actions" (IX col.1576). This is the Muslim account.

It is easy to see that this traditional Muslim belief is based on the geography of the Temple and the Red Heifer arched bridge over the Kidron Valley that existed in Jesus’ time. Indeed, the Hebrew word for the altar where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes is miphkad (see Ezekiel 43:21).This word means "muster" or the place where people "congregate" or "gather together." And in traditional teaching, it was at or near this site on Olivet where all mankind would "congregate" to be judged. This teaching can be seen in the New Testament itself. When the Son of Man returns with all his angels, he shall sit on his glorious throne and he will then "gather together" before him for judgment all the nations of the world. Those selected to be on his right hand will go into the Kingdom of God while those on his left will go into the fire of perdition (Matthew 25:31-46). The geographical features of this teaching of Jesus (from the Jewish point of view in the first century) shows Jesus sitting on his glorious throne (which was in the Sanctuary of the Temple) and all the nations were then depicted as gathering to western slope of the Mount of Olives to face him for judgment. This allowed them to be judged "in the presence of Jesus." The Book of Revelation also spoke of the wicked being tormented in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (Revelation 14:10). To be judged "in the presence of God" while he sits on his throne locates these individuals at the summit or on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Again, this is why, even to Christians, the region of the Kidron Valley became known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat -- the place for God’s judgment.

Conversely, the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well as the Garden Tomb are located west and north of the Temple. These sites were in no way areas of judgment, as was Olivet and its western slopes. These sites are further disqualified, though they were outside the western and northern walls of Jerusalem, because they were still located within the 2000 cubits’ zone of the "camp of Israel" as measured from the Sanhedrin located in the Temple.

In conclusion, Christians in Jerusalem as late as the early fourth century knew that Jesus was crucified and buried on the Mount of Olives. In fact, Eusebius (the first Christian historian) stated that the only area to which pre-Constantinian Christians paid any attention in the environs of Jerusalem was the Mount of Olives, and specifically to a cave near its summit (Proof of the Gospel, VI.18). The Acts of John also mentioned the importance of this cave a hundred years before Eusebius (Charlesworth 1.30 1). In another work (The Acts of Pilate), we find that it was described as both a cave and as a tomb in the same context (bk. XII,XIII). Even the tomb of Lazarus had been a cave before it was a tomb (John 11:38).

When one views the evidence carefully, it can be seen that pre-Constantinian Christians reckoned this cave on Olivet to be the ruins of the tomb of Jesus. Prior to Constantine, there is no evidence (either orthodox or heretical) that the later site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the western part of Jerusalem was in any way significant to Christians nor was the southwest hill important that came to be called "Sion" after the time of Constantine. Indeed, when Eusebius first heard in A.D. 326 that Constantine and his mother were selecting a Venus Shrine as the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, he stated that such was "contrary to all expectation" (Life of Constantine 111.28). At the dedication of the "Holy Sepulchre" in A.D.335, Eusebius requested Constantine to inform the assembled bishops his reasons for building that church, The reasons were "SECRET to us [Eusebius and the bishops], but known TO YOU ALONE. . .which caused YOU to RAISE UP this sacred edifice" (Oration of Eusebius, XVIII, emphasis mine). There were no historical documents or traditions which were retained by Christians at Jerusalem to support its legitimacy. It was selected because of the dreams, visions and supposed miraculous signs associated with Constantine and his advisors. The early church historian Sozomen felt that historical records were not necessary when visions and dreams presented the "real facts" to the Christian world (History 11.1).

Eusebius showed in his works written before A.D.326 that Jesus was actually crucified on what he called the symbolic "Mount Sion" for Christians. Three times in his Proof of the Gospel (I.4; VI.13; IX.14) he identified the Christian "Mount Sion" as being where Jesus spent most of his time when he was in the area of Jerusalem and that spot was on the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1; Luke 21:37; 22:39; John 18:2). Eusebius also said the Shekinah left Mount Moriah and went eastward to abide on this Christian "Mount Sion" that was located "adjacent to" or "opposite" Jerusalem and the Temple Mount -- an apt geographical description of the Mount of Olives (Proof of the Gospel, I.4; VI.18). To Eusebius, Olivet was where the New Covenant began when the Temple veil tore in two (VIII.2). Eusebius even stated that the Christian church was founded on Olivet (VI.18) and Jerome reiterated the same belief (Letter CVIII.12). And in his commentary on Isaiah (written before A.D.326), Eusebius made the plain statement that this new "Mount Sion" (Olivet) was actually the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (Isaiah 2:1-4; see Walker, Holy City, Holy Places?, pp.302,305), This makes the top of Olivet to be Calvary. For more details see my book "Secrets of Golgotha."

Ernest L. Martin

© 1976-2003 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge ~ ASK is supported by freewill contributions



A Major Proof of the Bible

January 1, 1974 

Expanded Internet Edition - Posted May 29, 2002 

Is the Holy Bible the Word of God? All of us need to know. A person’s very salvation can depend upon it.

Numerous books have been written supposedly to prove its validity. Some try to demonstrate it through prophecy, others through doctrine, and still others resort to pure emotionalism. Emotionalism is weak evidence. But while the other factors can help demonstrate the Bible’s credibility, there is one major proof that predominates over all others. It is the witness of Christ himself. If Christ can be proved, that is, if proof can be shown that he was who he said he was, that will go a long way in proving the Bible itself. Let us look at this important proof.

Are the Gospels Truthful?

We wish to stress the importance of Christ’s witness in the matter of the Old and New Testament canon. The central proof of the Bible is Christ. How do we know that the Christ of the Gospels is divine—that he is actually the Son of the Living God, and especially that he was resurrected from the dead?

If the Gospels are reliable, then no further proof should be needed. But are the Gospels and their witness true? Frankly, they need to be put to the test. There is nothing irreverent in this at all (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We need to apply to them the same basic rules to which scholars subject all other literature in order to prove its reliability.

There are four major rules for proving the credibility of documents. One, was the writer of the document an eyewitness to the events he records or was he at least a contemporary that lived in the same area of the events? Two, were there other independent witnesses to corroborate the evidence? Three, did those witnesses continue to maintain their testimonies until death—even to the jeopardy of their lives? Four, were there also hostile witnesses who would have reason not to believe the evidence but still say the events occurred? If all of these four factors are in solid evidence, then reliability becomes very acceptable. With the New Testament documents, we have all four evidences in a firm position for credibility.

Let us apply the first rule that the author must have been an eyewitness to the events.

The Gospel of Matthew, for example, was composed not much longer than a generation after the death of Christ, at a time when hundreds, if not thousands, of witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection were still alive. Matthew himself had lived through the events he describes. That is contemporaneity. And it guarantees to us reliable testimony. Let us see why.

Suppose a writer in the Year 1970 wrote that a major prophet less than forty years before had gone throughout New York State, working so many miracles that thousands followed him from place to place; and that in Times Square, on July 4, 1935, when huge crowds of people were present, that same prophet had been executed at the behest of the government and the people of New York.

If such a thing had happened back in 1935, there would still be many thousands of witnesses alive to attest to it.

But on the other hand, if such an event never happened, could any living historian, writer, or journalist invent such a fallacious story, send it to the people of New York City, tell them to depend on its veracity with their lives, and persuade them to believe it? Of course not!

But Matthew did not have to fabricate the life of Christ. According to ancient testimony, he wrote out his account and sent it to the people of Judea—the very people who had witnessed Christ’s activities—within forty years of His crucifixion. If these things really did not happen as Matthew said, then Matthew and the other Gospel writers were leaving themselves open to real and dangerous criticism.

The Jews of Judea, of all peoples, would have known whether thousands had followed Jesus around the country. They knew whether or not the people of Jerusalem had used pressure upon the Roman authorities to crucify Him. Yet many of them—especially those in Jerusalem—came to believe the Christian message. They even became willing to give their lives for its truth. This fact alone is strong critical reason for accepting Matthew’s Gospel as relating substantial truth.

Other Testimonies

The second rule involves the having of independent witnesses to corroborate the evidence of an author.

The execution of Jesus Christ was not done in a corner with just a few witnesses around to testify to it. On the contrary, Josephus tells us that at least two million people used to gather every year around Jerusalem at the Passover season (the time when Christ’s crucifixion took place) (Wars, 6. 9. 3).

The more people there were to witness the event the more difficult it would become to invent and falsify matters. Christ’s death and his subsequent rejection by his own disciples became a well-known matter. The fact of many witnesses is a substantial safeguard to the veracity of the written records.

Now notice the importance of this. Not only was Matthew’s Gospel written when many thousands who could witness to its truth were still alive, but nearly twenty one other New Testament books were composed before 68 C.E.—within thirty-seven years of Christ’s death. Our World War I ended just over fifty years ago, yet thousands upon thousands of witnesses are still alive to testify to that holocaust. In 68 C.E. there would have been thousands of persons still living who had witnessed those earlier events in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.

Actually, with twenty-one of the New Testament books written within 37 years of Christ’s activities, we can call all these books contemporary records. These documents were written when there were still many witnesses to the events.

The Witness of the Apostles

The third rule concerns continued belief—even until death. Could any believe that the Gospel writers were consistently lying (a vice which they utterly condemned), yet they were remarkably willing to give up their lives for the "lies" which they were propagating? It might be imagined that one or two might lie (I am speaking humanly), but that every one of the apostles plus hundreds of others were liars is untenable.

It is related in the Gospel of Mark—a Gospel which was inspired by Peter’s preaching—as can be demonstrated—that Peter and all the apostles fled as cowards from the crucifixion scene. They did not remain anywhere in the vicinity of the Jewish and Roman authorities. And while we may doubt that they rejoiced to record their own cowardly display, this defection and flight of Christ’s key men was not a hidden matter. Let us see how their defection becomes an amazing testimony to the truth of Christ’s resurrection three days later.

The Law commanded the whole Jewish nation to celebrate three seasons with great solemnity: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Almost invariably, the same people who journeyed to Jerusalem at Passover would be back there for the next festival. Therefore, Christ had directed his apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Feast of Pentecost. One reason was to have the same Passover crowd who earlier had been present at the crucifixion back in Jerusalem fifty days later.

This time, those multitudes were to witness something different. They were no longer to witness a cowardly flight of Christ’s disciples. This time the people in Jerusalem would observe a display of such power and conviction by those once-afraid disciples, that nothing could humanly account for it.

These disciples, who had been terrified of that same crowd just fifty days earlier, now stood in the midst of them, each man witnessing with assurance and dynamic conviction to Christ’s resurrection. None was fearful for his own personal life.

The Book of Acts makes this plain. And, should there be someone who would question the reliability of this document, it should be noted that the Book of Acts was written within forty years after the first Pentecost—an event which took place in the midst of thousands of people in Jerusalem. The Book of Acts, in regard to literary criticism, is a contemporary document—written at a time when thousands of witnesses were still alive. There can be no doubt that Luke’s record in Acts is definitely reliable.

What needs to be noticed is the change of attitude in Christ’s apostles in those fifty short days. These men no longer feared the Romans. They no longer feared the Jews. They no longer doubted Christ’s mission, nor the fact of his resurrection. All eleven of the original apostles were consistent in their teaching. Is it possible to believe that they were all lying? The understanding of basic human psychology suffices against our believing that eleven individual men could one after another deceptively tell a crowd they once feared that Christ was now alive from the dead. They were jeopardizing their lives before that crowd by preaching Christ’s resurrection.

The Church Begins

Historians agree that the Christian church began on that Pentecost Day in the First Century. It is also well known that the Christian message began to be preached not long afterward around the world. The growth of the Christian church gained strong momentum by the end of the First Century. Thousands upon thousands from all nationalities were beginning to accept the central truth of Christianity—the fact of the resurrection of Christ.

This rapid spread of belief in Christ’s resurrection can only be accounted for by the astounding enthusiasm that must have been manifested by the first propagators. Are we to imagine that the Christian message could have grown so quickly if the original witnesses to the resurrection showed no emotion nor real conviction in the matter?

Peter continued to live for at least thirty-five years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and so did many of the other apostles. Could the message have grown without all the apostles’ continued conviction in that resurrection? Of course not. One thing must be admitted if nothing else: the people were convinced that the apostles were convinced.

Paul tells us that not only were the original eleven apostles witnesses that Christ was resurrected, but also over five hundred others saw him as well (1 Corinthians 15:6). Paul put out the challenge to people in 55 C.E. to go to Jerusalem and look up some of those five hundred for themselves. Even after a period for reflection of twenty-four years (in 55 C.E.) there were many in Jerusalem who still believed that Christ rose from the dead. If what Paul wrote was a lie, then he was leaving himself wide open to censure.

The Apostle Paul

The fourth rule for reliability concerns hostile witnesses. Did those who wished not to believe the evidence—even though they were there when it happened—still admit that it was a fact? Paul, among others, was such a witness. What was his belief concerning Christ’s resurrection?

Paul himself figures very prominently in proving the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Since all scholars are prepared to accept at least ten of Paul’s Epistles to be genuine, let us bring him forth as a witness. The rules of literary criticism show him to be reliable, for Paul wrote at a time when many of his statements could easily have been checked for their accuracy and truth.

Now look at Paul. He was a chief, if not the chief, antagonist of the Church in its very beginnings. The High Priest (the top ecclesiastical man in the Judaic nation) had personally given Paul the responsibility for exterminating the Christian church. And Paul went about his task, according to his own words, with fanatic zeal. He could appropriately be called the Adolf Eichmann of his day in his effort to overthrow the Church.

In that first period, before Paul’s conversion, there was no one more convinced of the non-resurrection of Christ than he. No one was more determined to disprove it. Paul also had many of the elders in the Jewish nation behind him. All of them had "theological" arguments against Christ’s resurrection. The practical and logical evidences did not shake their "theological" minds.

At first, Paul was vehemently against the practical evidence. His mind was closed to any acceptance of it. He must have used every intellectual argument to dispute the possibility of the resurrection which thousands of humble, practical-minded Christians were accepting.

Yet, what was the final belief of Paul? This is where he becomes a vital witness to the truth of the resurrection miracle and the divinity of Christ.

Paul, according to his own later testimony, while on the road to Damascus with authority from the High Priest to apprehend Christians, had his mind changed. It was a miracle that did it, but in a single day, this man of lofty intellect came to believe the practical evidence. And when the practical side became evident, his well-trained mind finally came to accept the abundant "intellectual" proofs found in the Old Testament.

From that day forward, Paul never turned back. Until the day he was executed for his beliefs, he steadfastly maintained his faith in Christ and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Although it took a miracle to open his eyes, Paul finally became its chief exponent and propagator.

With Paul’s uncompromising acceptance, the proof of the resurrection becomes overwhelming. Here was a man who understood Judaic theology thoroughly. And not only was he trained in Judaism, but being born and reared in Tarsus of Asia Minor, the center of Stoic philosophy, he was well acquainted with the classical works of Gentiles. With the world’s knowledge in his mind—and most of it would have been very critical knowledge—he would have been one of the most unlikely persons to accept the resurrection of Christ. Yet he did accept the practical and intellectual proofs of this greatest of miracles.

He became so fervent in this belief that it was said he "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). Everyone who came in contact with Paul was certainly assured that he was convinced of this major proof of Christianity. Because of Paul’s firm conviction and that of the other apostles, the Roman world became convinced of the legitimacy of Christ’s resurrection in a short three hundred years.

Surely, all this provable history demonstrates that the evidence unanimously supports the fact of Christ’s resurrection. No wonder Christ gave the resurrection sign as a major sign to the world that He was the Messiah. This is the one event that is so provable, by all human standards, that it takes little faith to believe it.

What This Means Towards Proving the Bible

The foregoing evidence of Christ’s resurrection proves that Christ must have been representative of a power that we can only call the God of the Universe. He must have been divine. Once forced to that conclusion, we are also constrained, by sheer reason, to accept the validity of Christ’s statements.

Thus, when Christ defined for us that the Old Testament was composed of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44), His definition must be accepted. This is the exact division of the Old Testament that the Jews today accept as their official Scriptures. This means the Book of Esther (which many want to reject today) must be an inspired work because it occurs inside that Tripartite Division sanctioned by Christ. Esther is as inspired as Genesis or Isaiah.

Once Christ has been proved, then Joshua’s long day, the opening of the Red Sea and the creation of man must all be reckoned as having actually occurred. All of these events are in the Old Testament canon that Christ said was "the Scriptures" in Luke 24:45. All the books of that canon must be acknowledged as truthful once Christ has been proved.

Also, the twenty-seven books of the New Testament which witness to the truth of Christ’s resurrection must be acknowledged as containing essential truths.

The evidence of Christ and his divinity is not the only proof of the Bible, but it is the essential part.

Ernest L. Martin