“Enough,” “Uncle,” Too Much Evidence!

Looking back at the investigations I was involved with through the years, some cases had very little if any information to start out with. In working fugitive cases, you might get a little scrap of info here, or a little tidbit there as you began trying to track down that elusive fugitive. Oftentimes, it was intimidating working some of these cases because you had so little to work with and the stakes were so high (danger to the community). Fortunately most of the time, through employing tenacity, getting some breaks, and trusting your gut instinct, my partners and I were able to put these dangerous fugitives behind bars. However, not all of my cases had so little evidence to work with.

In tracking down and prosecuting non-compliant sex offenders who were on the lam and in violation of the Adam Walsh Act, there were several elements of the offense that had to be established before a successful prosecution could be made. One of these important elements that had to be established was that the sex offender was actually living at a residence where they had not registered with the local Sheriff’s office as a sex offender. On some occasions after catching up with them, there would be so much evidence against these non-compliant offenders for this one element that I would be privately humored at how deep a hole that the defendant had dug for himself. One case in particular humored me in this regard more than others because when I was getting ready to take the arrested offender before a local magistrate, I noticed that the defendant was actually wearing evidence on his shirt (the name of his business-that included his name- and a telephone number with the area code for where he was illegally living). The offender saw me smile as I looked at his shirt and took a picture of him wearing the shirt. He realized that he was wearing a piece of evidence and smiled himself. Before noticing the t-shirt evidence, I already had a strong case against him so this was just the cherry on top of all of the other evidence.

So why do I mention this here on my blog? Cases such as the one briefly described above rarely go to trial because of the overwhelming evidence arrayed against the defendant. Oftentimes, in gauging how strong a case is, one factor juries take into consideration when coming to a decision of guilt or innocence is the amount of evidence against a particular defendant. The more evidence on a crucial point of the investigation, the stronger the case will appear to a jury. Multiple witnesses testifying to basically the same thing about one of these essential elements is an example of the principle of corroboration or confirming evidence. The more evidence there is on one particular point, the stronger the evidence seems because of the multiple sources that say the same thing. Pieces of physical evidence from a crime scene can corroborate (confirm) the testimony of witnesses too.

In relating this principle to the New Testament or the life of Jesus, there is a “boatload” of corroborative evidence that confirms details of the New Testament. Not only does this evidence come from its pages, but also from outside writers, and archaeology too. I do not want to make this post much longer so I will list just some of this confirming evidence here:

  •  Even though there are minor differences with their accounts, the four Gospel authors give similar accounts albeit from different perspectives
  • The Pilate (Matthew 27:2) inscription located on a wall at Caesarea Maratima found in 1961
  • Remains of the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2) located in Jerusalem in 1888
  • The Erastus Inscription (Romans 16:23) found in Corinth
  • Ossuary of Caiaphas the High Priest (Matthew 26:3) found in 1990
  • Artifacts found that confirm Luke’s accounts such as the Delphi/Gallio Inscription (Acts 18:12-17)
  • Early church leaders write and confirm the existence of the Apostle John who they personally knew and use New Testament in their writings
  • The writings of secular historians about events or persons listed in the New Testament

This is just a partial listing of the  corroboration or confirmation of the New Testament accounts.   All of this confirming evidence for the NT makes me think about my suspect wearing the shirt with the evidence on it. There is so much evidence I want to say, “enough,”  or “uncle,” or “I give.” This abundant evidence tells me that the accounts of the New Testament are truthful in what they state and give great confirmation of what I already know intuitively from my relationship with the risen Jesus.

THE RESURRECTION AND THE HIROSHIMA BOMB?

I was reading on the historical aspect of the resurrection this week and I ran across some inspirational material coming from The History of Jesus Christ by R.L. Bruckberger, a noted Catholic priest, author, and chaplain of the French resistance in WW II.[1] Even though this book is old, it has some inspirational and common sense observations from someone who lived through the ebb and flow of major historical events such as WW II and the Kennedy assassination plot. In discussing the enormity of the resurrection as it relates to man universally and to the specific individuals who experienced it, he draws parallels between the Hiroshima Bomb, the assassination of JFK, and the liberation of Paris (which he personally observed). When discussing the Hiroshima bomb and the Resurrection, he writes (below) about Paul’s announcement of the historical resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:

And these three historical facts- the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead-had already taken on a significance that strangely transcends the temporal and special framework of their occurrence…[the Resurrection] had become an international event, more than international, universal. I mean that it affected the destiny of every person in the world… We should be less astonished than other generations at this explosion of significance-suddenly reaching to the confines of the known world-of a strictly localized historical event. Relatively few men were the agents or the witnesses of the bombing of Hiroshima: The significance of that event was no less sudden and universal. Every man, throughout the world, felt personally involved. Henceforth man knows that the end of the world and the end of humanity are possible, where as on the eve of Hiroshima he did not know. Henceforth man must live with that personal menace. In short the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was nothing but a historical fact, narrowly localized in time and space. But its significance became universal, even metaphysical.

The same thing is true of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a historical fact, localized in time and space, but its significance was immediately revealed as universal. Thenceforth every man knew that the resurrection of the dead was possible and the access to eternity was open to all body and soul. Thenceforth every man had to live with this hope…Yes, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ exploded into the world for the salvation of all, as the Hiroshima bomb exploded in the world for the menace to all (pp. 402-3).

He goes on to discuss the messy accounts of the Resurrection transmitted in the New Testament and states that this is exactly what one should expect from such a momentous event.   After being “struck by a meteor,” as it were, there should be a shock of sorts resulting  in differences in secondary/small details of the witnesses to it (the Gospel accounts) as well as disbelief (disciples). This is exactly what we see in the Gospel accounts! They all proclaim that Jesus arose from the dead yet the accounts differ in small details.  The enormity of the empty tomb, like the Hiroshima bomb, greatly impacted the small handful of those who witnessed it. The aftershock of the Resurrection still resonates through time to this very day with the enormity of its significance for us personally and for all of humanity.

[1] Bruckberger,R.L. (1965). The History of Jesus Christ. New York: The Viking Press

Circumstantial Evidence and the NT: Still Convincing Today

In a recent post about evidence relating to the New Testament (NT), I wrote about the similarity between evidence presented against suspects charged with criminal conspiracy.  Much of the evidence against these sorts of defendants is testimonial evidence given by those who joined with the defendant in a criminal enterprise.  In addition to this form of evidence, there is another type of evidence that is also used in the criminal justice system today that is evident throughout the pages of the New Testament as well.  Not only is there a lot of circumstantial evidence to support the claims of the New Testament coming from within the pages of the New Testament but also located outside of the New Testament as well.

The effectiveness of circumstantial evidence against criminal defendants is well established.  Also known as indirect evidence, circumstantial evidence can be very convincing indeed.   A definition coming from federal jury instructions of indirect evidence is “simply a chain of circumstances that indirectly proves a fact.[1]

An example of indirect evidence would be someone purchasing a life insurance policy for their spouse before the death of a spouse.  Another example would be finding a note/email where the above noted person is asking someone to assist them in their endeavor to “off” their spouse.  There have been many high profile media trials where circumstantial evidence was front and center.  One such trial that features this type of evidence was the federal government’s case against the Murrah building bombers back in 1994.  The FBI had developed Timothy McVeigh as a suspect mainly on circumstantial evidence to include the statements of persons observing McVeigh in a Ryder rent-a-truck, and a woman who stated that she heard McVeigh state that on April 19, “you’ll remember me for the rest of your life. [2]”  Other witnesses also heard McVeigh state similar things and were able to identify him from pictures provided to them.  In addition, there was physical evidence found linking McVeigh to the crime scene.  All of this indirect or circumstantial evidence (and a lot more) was instrumental in the development of the government’s case against McVeigh.

In relating indirect/circumstantial evidence to the New Testament accounts of Jesus, there are many instances of circumstantial evidence that support the truthfulness of the New Testament:

1. The apostles die for their faith (except John- they would die for their faith only if they believed it was true)

2. One of the main enemies of the early church, a Jew by the name of Saul of Tarsus, becomes a Christian and eventually becomes one of its main spokesman (he had an encounter with the risen Jesus)

3. A group of men who were dejected and without a leader suddenly become an energized team of evangelists (the apostles after the death of Jesus)

4. Many different people saw the risen Jesus at different places and times after his public execution by crucifixion

5. James, the half brother of Jesus, becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem

6. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, becomes a Christian and authors a book of the New Testament

7. Physical (archaeological) evidence that confirms locations and persons mentioned in the Bible

8. Numerous writings outside of the New Testament that confirm prominent characters within the New Testament

This is not an exhaustive list of the indirect evidence for  the reliability of the New Testament.  However, the above relevant, circumstantial evidence is strong support that the NT accounts of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are truthful accounts that happened in space and time.  This strong, circumstantial evidence is one reason that we can know that the words of Jesus are true, that Jesus Christ died in space/time,  and that Jesus Christ is alive today.  Because he lives even today, this has tremendous implications on how we relate to each other, and how we live our lives.  We can we find strength/guidance for living today and hope in knowing that we will be with him forever upon death.

1 Sixth Circuit Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/internet/crim_jury_insts.htm, Chapter 1 (accessed March 10, 2015).

2The Oklahoma City Bombing & The Trial of Timothy McVeigh
by Douglas O. Linder (2006) http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mcveigh/mcveighaccount.html