Thursday, January 4, 2018

Christian Legal and Historical Apologetics

If you don't know what Christian Apologetics is, please first go here and then come back to this article. 

This article is specifically about Christian Legal and Historical Apologetics. 

There are many different religions in the world, with their own set of sacred writings, some dating back several millennia. Much of their content however is noticeably mythological in nature, and in complete disharmony with historical facts. 

The Judeo-Christian faith however relies deeply on the historicity of its events.  The historical events of the Old and New Testaments do not have a mythological element to them, but are written as true histories, albeit histories rife with the supernatural intervention and orchestration of God.

The paranormal events in the Scriptures are embedded within the actual historical accounts, in contradistinction with archaic mythological religions, which are obviously mythological, and in which historicity has little value. 

It is for this reason that the historical nature of the Bible has been under such scrutiny by those who are averse to Christianity.  

The Christian Canon (which includes both the Old and New Testaments) presentation of its histories as being factual presents offers higher critical scholars a unique opportunity. 

If they can disprove the historicity of the Bible the Scriptures would be thus demonstrated to be as mythological as any other archaic religion. 

Whether these mythologies be Greek or Nordic, Aboriginal or Native American, Hindu or Buddhist, none of these mythologies are under scrutiny, because it is assumed that they are just what they are understood to be – mythological. 

The Judeo-Christian Canon however is not obviously mythological, but presents the reader with an impression that the authors really intended to convey historical facts, and how the God of the Bible interacts and intervenes in Bible History.

If the historicity of creation, the deluge of Noah, the existence of Moses, the Bible Kings of Israel and Judah, the actual existence of Jesus Christ and His apostles can be negated, the very foundation of the Bible as a factual and historical book is removed. 

If the historical accounts of the Bible cannot be trusted, then so also the soteriological accounts may not have to be trusted, and therefore the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ. 

The scrutiny under which the Bible finds itself however, should not be considered only as hostile to the Christian Faith.  On the contrary, it gives the Christian Apologist an opportunity to share his or her faith by answering this scrutiny rationally and systematically. 

What is Christian Legal Apologetics?

Christian Legal Apologetics is a branch of Christian Apologetics that affirms that the historic and central claims of Christianity can be verified when legal standards of weighing evidence are applied.  

An example of Legal Christian Apologists is Dr. Simon Greenleaf of the Harvard Law School. His works include “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” (1842). In his essay, “The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice” he wrote: 

“All that Christianity asks of men … is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other tings; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifter, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth”. 

We see then that Legal Apologetics does not shy away from scrutiny, but encourages it in order to verify the historical claims of the Bible

Tools of Legal Apologetics

Legal Apologetics uses the following tools:

1. The Legal Reconstruction Method

The Legal Reconstruction Method deals with the legal investigation of whether a certain thing has taken place or not.  This is done by using all data available surrounding the event, as well as the testimony of witnesses. All improbable and unestablished data is dismissed, and the scenario is “reconstructed” based on the undisputable evidence.

2. Sufficient and Total Proof in the Legal Method

When most people demand proof, they predominantly have scientific proof in mind. However, although the Legal Apologist includes scientific proof, he or she also includes other evidences to prove the veracity of a certain event in the Bible, so that the result is at the least sense sufficient, and in the most sense total.

Although “total proof” is difficult to establish, “sufficient proof” presented by the Legal Apologist may aid in removing barriers to the honest seeker of truth to come to the point of faith. 

Ultimately acceptance of Christianity hinges on faith, and not on the wisdom of men. Sufficient proof is an aid to bring the seeker to faith.

Tools of Historical Apologetics

While Legal Apologetics concerns itself primarily with the method of proving the veracity of Christianity by submitting it to scrutiny much like in a court of law, Historical Apologetics focuses on the historicity of a Biblical event.

Historical Apologetics uses the following tools:

1. Archeology

By confirming Biblical events with archeological finds, the veracity of Bible claims become more credible. 

Modern archaeology has its origins in the efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte’s mandate to the systematic study of the ancient monuments and artifacts of Egypt. Archeology initially was not a tool used to verify Biblical accounts, but was rather curiosity in the histories of ancient civilizations. 

Biblical Archeology is therefore a subset of General Archeology. 

2. Dating Techniques:

The age of an archaeological find aids in developing an accurate reconstruction of an archaic event. For example, the Shroud of Turin which was reported to be the burial cloth of Christ was proven to range from around 1,260 – 1,390AD by using carbon dating.  By using carbon dating, the shroud was ruled out as the burial cloth of Christ. The acceptance or rejection of the shroud proved nothing regarding the existence or non-existence of Christ Himself. However, dating techniques aids Legal and Historical Apologetics in other instances. 

3. Linguistic Studies:

Linguistic Studies concerns itself with the ancient languages in which the Bible was written, such as ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. 

(a) Biblical Languages: A History of Studies: 

The study of the Code of Hammurabi, the Nuzi Tablets, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the tablets found in Ebla near Syria and other scrolls such as those found at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt are examples of the abundance of written material found in Biblical lands.

(b) Value of Linguistic Studies: 

By studying languages of Bible times the Christian Legal and Historical Apologist can explain usages such as “sister” for wife used by Abraham, Isaac, Songs of Solomon, etc. Other examples of meanings of archaic words and concepts can be explained, such as Sarai’s adoption of Ishmael, Abraham’s servant Eliezer’s ritualistic covenant with Abraham, etc. 

Linguistic studies aid in evaluating the accuracy and authenticity of ancient manuscripts. 

Textual Criticism, for example, is an entire branch of science that concerns itself with the identification and removal of transcription errors in text.  With Textual Criticism errors, deletions and additions made by the copyists of the original manuscripts are removed, so that the original wording of the original manuscript may be established.

This is how criticism of the Book of Daniel was answered when critics pointed to an occasional Persian word and concluded that the book would rather have been written around 100BC, and not in 600BC. Robert Dick Wilson refuted these claims using linguistic studies.

The Christian Apologist should always point to Scripture at its original manuscript level. 

Archeology has discovered over 5,300 Greek Manuscripts, 10,000 Latin Manuscripts, 9,400 other early manuscripts, and yet another 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament. They are not the original manuscripts, but copies of the original. By comparing copies and considering their age, not only their quantity, the accurate text of the non-existent original manuscript is determined. 

When the Bible and other ancient books are put under this kind of scrutiny, the superiority of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments compared to other ancient writings become more evident.

The Application of Legal/Historical Tools

As the Bible increasingly became the target of scholars that are hostile to it, scrutinizing it with the intent of discrediting it, Legal and Historical Apologists emerged. This emergence did not only counter the attacks on its veracity and inerrancy, but also increased its reliability as it stood the withstood the test of criticism from historical and archeological perspectives.

1. Insights into History / Chronology:

Historical accounts are written in different chronologies in different cultures and times. This fact explains some chronological varieties in the Bible.

2. Insights into Culture, Customs and Manners:  

One needs only to look at the vast changes in American culture that have taken place in dress, speech and applications of tradition since 1776. Compared to modern times America of old seems to be a different country. This vast change over just under 250 years is a microscopic picture compared to the Bible that covers a history of 4,000 years, written by about 40 different authors over a period of 1,600 years by different people in different lands in different cultures. 

3. Insights into Languages and Meanings of words and phrases:

Even in the English language, the meanings of words change. For example, the word, “awful” at one time meant something positive (full of awe). However, in modern times the word, “awful” has a negative ring to it. Other examples are “incredible”, which used to mean something negative (without merit), but in modern times has a positive ring to it.

So too the meanings of the words used in the Bible have changed.  Bible criticism should not be limited to the English language, but an investigation should be launched into the original languages such as Hebrew, Chaldean, Aramaic and Greek. Furthermore, the meanings of those words in those times should be investigated, since they may not have meant the same as the same word in modern Hebrew or Greek.

4. Insights through reconstruction or investigation of Biblical histories or incidents: 

Though a person had not been there, an investigator can get a very reliable idea of what happened during the voyages of the Titanic or the first voyage to the North Pole, but using all the data available to reconstruct these occurrences. 

The same is true when Bible scholars perform similar reconstructions of Biblical events such as the siege of Jericho, the fall of the Persian Empire, and the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection narratives of the Gospels. 

Other Values of Historical Investigations:

1. A better understanding of Biblical Text or Transmission:

This will aid in explaining why the 66 books of the Canon were included in the Canon, and why the Apocryphal Books were rejected.

2. A Better Appreciation of the Reliability of the Scriptures:

Once the Bible’s veracity and inerrancy is established by Historical and Legal Investigations, the reader of the Bible will appreciate its reliability even more, which will aid in believing all the promises it contains as yes and amen in Christ Jesus.

3. A Better Appreciation of Prophecy:

Most prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled. By investigating the stunning accuracy of the time element involved with the prophecy by Daniel regarding the time of the Messiah (fulfilled in Jesus Christ) and yet other stunningly clear accuracies regarding the destruction of the temple in 70AD (prophesied by Jesus Christ), the Christian Apologist may give a powerful presentation to any critics as to the reliability of the Bible as per its divine origin.  Also, past fulfilled prophecies are a precursor to the future fulfillment of eschatological prophetic texts. 

So, what am I saying here? The bottom line is that Legal and Historical Scrutiny of the Bible does not impede, but rather aids in establishing the credibility of the Bible. The Bible can be trusted, and you can receive all the promises of God contained therein! Can I hear an "Amen?!"


Joel Hitchcock's books are available at https://joelhitchcock.blogspot.com/p/products.html

Apologetics, Christian Apologetics, Legal Apologetics, Can the Bible be trusted?, Is the Bible mythological?, How does the Bible compare with other ancient sacred texts?, Accuracy of the Bible, Errors in the Bible, Bible scrutiny, Textual Criticism of the Bible,


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