Like Dr. Geisler, I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to be here. I always consider it a privlege to speak on subjects like the issue under discussion tonight, and I certainly want to thank those who arranged this event for asking me to be a part of it. At the same time, I think that I must also take just a moment to express my disappointment. I thought when I was first contacted about coming here that we were going to have a debate. Dr. Geisler insisted on the format that we are using. There will be one hour of speaking time, and how can anyone cover a subject like this in just one hour’s time? I begged him in correspondence to reconsider to increase the speaking time; he rejected that. I asked him to at least allow for a period of cross-examination where I could directly question him and he could directly question me, and he rejected that too and finally he wrote me a short note that said, "Do it the way that I have outlined or there will be no debate." I was very anxious to get him here, and since I’ve heard his speech, I think that I made the right decision. I was very anxious to get him here before an audience, and so I finally agreed to his conditions and so here we are tonight.
I think that if I make three counter arguments that I could answer everything that Dr. Geisler said and answer it satisfactorily. For a moment I was confused; I thought that he was, or that the subject was supposed to be a discussion of the accuracy of the New Testament records. Let’s assume that the New Testament was copied with one hundred percent accuracy. That would in no way prove that anything that was written in it was necessarily true.
The first major flaw that I would like to point out in Dr. Geisler’s position is that the story of Jesus is a story that was just too familiar by the time that it started being told and applied to this man Jesus of Nazareth. Long before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, virgin-born, miracle-working, crucified, resurrected, savior-gods were a dime a dozen. They flourished in most of the pagan religions that were believed by people who lived centuries, centuries, and centuries before Jesus allegedly lived. I could, if time permitted, and I think that perhaps that’s one reason why he did not want more speaking time; he did not want to have to deal with issues like these. I could take saviors like Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors like Tammuz, who presumably lived centuries and centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born of virgins, they worked miracles, they died, most of them through crucifixion, and they were resurrected from the dead, and their followers were zealous for them.
All of the things that he says about Jesus were said many, many, many years before this Jesus allegedly lived. Doesn’t that make you a bit suspicious, Dr. Geisler? If I should write a book, and after that book were published, someone should discover the plot, the major points of the plot, were the same as a book that had been written a thousand years ago, what would you suppose? Would you suppose that independently I had arrived at all of these major points of the plot, or would you assume that I somehow had known about that earlier work and that I had plagiarized? That’s a major problem that he’s going to have to deal with.
I’m going to mention the name of a church father. He made references to the early church leaders, so let me mention just one. Justin Martyr. You may never have heard that name, but I assure you that Dr. Geisler has heard it. Justin Martyr was a second-century so- called church father, and he wrote two apologies in which he tried to convince the pagans of his generation that it was logical to believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, born of a virgin, and [that] all the things that were being preached about him were believable. In his first apology, Volume I, chapter 22, page 69, in the Reeves edition. I hope that you wrote that down and if you can’t find the Reeves edition, you should be able to find another edition, and by looking at Volume I, chapter 22, you should be able to find this. In writing directly to the emperor of his generation, Justin Martyr said this:
"By declaring the logos, the first begotten of God, our master Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, without any human mixture, we (Christians) say no more in this than what you (pagans) say of those whom you style the sons of Jove."
Now do you understand what he is saying? He is saying to them, "Well, why do you think that it is so fantastic that we say that Jesus was born of a virgin when you yourself say that there are many sons of Jove?" [Jove] being a primary god that the pagans of that generation believed in. "For you need not be told what a parcel of sons the writers most in vogue among you assigned to Jove." In other words, I don’t need to tell you how many there are that your writers claim were the actual sons of Jove.
"As to the son of God called Jesus, should we allow him to be nothing more than man, yet the title of the son of God is very justifiable. Upon the account of his wisdom, considering that you (pagans) have your Mercury in worship under the title of the word a messenger of God. As to his, (that is Jesus Christ’s) being born of a virgin, you have your Perseus to balance that."
Now it’s true that Justin Martyr was talking about the virgin birth of Jesus, but he could have said this same thing about the miracles that Jesus allegedly performed. He could have said the same thing about his crucifixion, and he certainly could have said the same thing about his resurrection.
People, I want you to stop and think seriously for just a moment. I know how much emotionalism is involved in this, but please understand this. Crucified, resurrected savior-gods, who had been born of virgins, were a dime a dozen at this time. Matthew the 14th chapter, verse 1, go home and read it, and you’ll see that when Jesus began to do his mighty works, that Herod who had ordered prior to this the execution of John the Baptist, said, "Why, this is John the Baptist risen from the dead." Now I’m not trying to tell you that Herod necessarily said that, but the fact that whoever wrote this in the book of Matthew would have made a statement like that just goes to show how commonplace belief in the resurrection from the dead was at that time. Now let’s suppose that this year when the baseball season opens, that some player goes on a tear, a rookie that we’ve never heard of before, he goes on a home-run tear and he starts knocking home runs all over the place. Who is going to say, "Well, this is Babe Ruth risen from the dead?" Or let’s suppose that a dictator of a foreign country starts massacring his people. Is anyone going to say, "Well this is Adolph Hitler risen from the dead?" Certainly not, because we are more intelligent than that today.
Dr. Geisler has got to stand before this audience and he has to forget how accurate the scribes were when they copied the New Testament, and he has got to prove to us that when the New Testament says that Jesus was scourged, that that actually happened. He’s got to prove to us that when his side was pierced on the cross, that that actually happened. Where is his evidence that those things actually happened? Well, it’s in a book; it had 5,000 manuscripts or something like that circulating; what does that prove?
I brought with me a book [holding it up] that maybe some of you thought was a Bible. It isn’t the Bible; it’s the Book of Mormon. You may have seen it. Every issue that I have seen, and I was trying to make this point on the radio, either, uh, yesterday, and I was cut off before I could finish it. If you look in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, you will find a copy of the affidavit that was signed by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, the so-called three witnesses. They testified that they saw the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written, that they handled them with their hands, and that they saw Joseph Smith translating. They saw this with their own eyes. This is not hearsay evidence.
Dr. Geisler [gesturing towards Geisler], what did Mary Magdalene ever write? Do you have it? What did Joanna, one of the women who went with her to the tomb, ever write? Who was she, anyway? What did Salome ever write? Who are these 500 brethren that Jesus appeared to? Can you give us their names? Could you tell us where this happened? It’s hearsay evidence. Don’t you know what hearsay evidence is? Haven’t you ever heard Judge Wapner saying, "That’s hearsay evidence, it’s inadmissable"? That’s such a rudimentary fact that it’s known even in the People’s Court. Hearsay evidence [clapping hands for emphasis] is not admissible! But this [slapping Book of Mormon] isn’t hearsay. This is the direct testimony of the three witnesses. Underneath it is the direct testimony and the affidavit of the eight witnesses, who said that they also handled the plates. They just didn’t see the angel bring them down. Does Dr. Geisler believe that what’s written in this book [holding up the Book of Mormon] is true? No! Does he believe he direct testimony of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris? No! I assure you that he certainly does not believe it. But he believes the hearsay evidence of this Mary Magdalene. He believes the hearsay evidence of these 500 brethren. Hearsay evidence, my friends, is simply not admissible, and that is a point that he must deal with. Let’s not say we hope that he’ll deal with it. When he comes back before this audience and he does not deal with that, then we have every right to reject everything that he has said to us tonight.
The second flaw in Dr. Geisler’s theory is that it is an extraordinary claim. If he had come to us tonight and had said, "On the way here, I had a flat tire." I’d believe that, wouldn’t you? He looks like a pretty decent fellow. I wouldn’t have any, any reason at all not to believe him if he told us that he had a flat tire on his way to the debate tonight. People have flat tires all the time. But what if he came to us and said, "Yesterday I was driving along in my car and suddenly there was a bright light, it just flashed out of nowhere, and I felt myself being drawn out of my automobile, and suddenly I found myself aboard a flying saucer, and little alien creatures from another planet had me on the table, and they were examining me, and after they finished their examination, they beamed me back down in my car, and I continued my trip." How many in there would believe this? No, you wouldn’t believe it, because it is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If someone walked into this auditorium and said, "I saw Elvis Presley yesterday," would you believe it? Someone over here raised his hand. Who knows, maybe he’s seen Elvis Presley. But you know certainly that you would not believe this, because it would be an extraordinary claim. What if this person said, "Five hundred people were with me, and we saw Elvis Presley." Would you believe it? No, because it is an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Now I want to know what in the world is extraordinary about the fact that this story was written in a book that Dr. Geisler does not for one moment believe. Yet, you know, this book is far more recent than the one that he puts his faith in. This book isn’t even two centuries old. That one [gesturing at a Bible on his table] is over 2,000 years old, some of it. If someone makes an extraordinary claim today, he [Geisler] doesn’t believe it, but if somebody makes an extraordinary claim 2,000 years ago, he declares that he is a man who is inspired by God and that his testimony is reliable.
Another problem, and we’re running rapidly out of time. Another problem with this wonderful evidence that he has is that it is contradictory. Have you people ever read the resurrection accounts in the four gospels? If you haven’t, I urge you to do so. I beg you to go home tonight and read the 28th chapter of Matthew and see what Matthew said, read the 16th chapter of Mark and see what Mark said, read the 24th chapter of Luke and see what Luke said, read the 20th chapter of John and see what John said, and if you don’t see contradictions, then you’re not reading it carefully enough.
Let me give you one example of a glaring contradiction. This one is enough to completely discredit this reliable evidence that he was telling us about. Matthew, and also Mark and Luke, tell us Mary Magdalene went to the tomb the first day of the week, and while she was there she saw an angel, who had rolled the stone away. This angel announced that Jesus whom they were looking for was not there, that he had risen from the dead. According to Luke’s account, he said, "Don’t you remember that while he was with you, he told you that he would rise from the dead?" And Luke said when the angel said this to them, they then remembered the words of Jesus, that he would rise from the dead. But what does John tell us? By the way, Dr. Geisler, you are not going to [laughing derisively] try to tell us that was the apostle John? You are going to fly in the face of the best biblical scholarship in the world… but, anyway, the book of John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found that it was empty, she ran to Peter and the other disciple, and what did she say? Did she say, "An angel has told me that the Lord has risen from the dead?" No, she said, "They have stolen the Lord’s body, and I do not know where they have laid him." And yet she had, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, seen an angel that had told her he has risen from the dead. Luke said she remembered his promise that he would rise from the dead, but John says she ran to the apostles and said that they have stolen the body of the Lord, and we don’t know where he is, and we’re going to have to stop because my time is up, and I appreciate your attention. [applause]