The Historicity of Joseph of Arimathea

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The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea is a very important event surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Joseph of Arimathea did not exist, then he obviously didn’t help bury Jesus. If this was the case, how would we know what happened to Jesus’ body after his death? How would we know if the empty tomb that was discovered by Jesus’ followers was the right one?

Using the “Indications of Authenticity” discussed here, there is a strong case to be made for the historicity of Joseph of Arimathea (JoA) and the burial account.

First, JoA has early, independent attestation. Second, the recorded details surrounding JoA fit perfectly with well-known historical facts about that time period (Historical Congruence).

Independent Attestation

The burial of Jesus by JoA has attestation in all four Gospels with each Gospel containing unique details (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42). Here is a breakdown of these details.

Four Gospels:

  • Burial took place near Sabbath/Preparation
  • JoA was from Arimathea
  • JoA asked Pilate for the body
  • JoA wrapped the body in linen
  • Stone was rolled in front of tomb

Three Gospels:

  • There were no other corpses in the tomb before Jesus (Matthew, Luke, John)
  • Tomb was cut out of the rock (Matthew, Mark, Luke)

Two Gospels:

  • JoA was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew, John)
  • JoA was a member of the council (Mark, Luke)
  • JoA was looking for the kingdom of God (Mark, Luke)

One Gospel:

  • JoA was rich (Matthew)
  • JoA owned and cut the tomb himself (Matthew)
  • JoA asked Pilate for the body with courage (Mark)
  • JoA bought the linen himself (Mark)
  • Arimathea was a Jewish town (Luke)
  • JoA feared the Jews (John)
  • JoA was helped by Nicodemus (John)
  • JoA and Nicodemus used spices for the burial (John)
  • The tomb was in a nearby garden (John)
  • Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb because of its proximity (John)

As far as ancient history is concerned, this is quite a lot of information and evidence as it stands. There is a lot of agreement between the accounts, none of the details conflict at face value, and there are very specific pieces of information (tomb was in a nearby garden, JoA approached Pilate with courage, etc.).

But wait, there’s more!

Historical Congruence

In his book The Son Rises, William Lane Craig points out several historical facts that align with what the Gospels tell us about JoA and Jesus’ burial. First, it was common practice to use linen and spices in the burial process. Second, the hurriedness of trying to get Jesus buried before sundown makes perfect sense with the Sabbath, a time when work was not allowed, looming near.

Third, the type of tomb described matches two common types of tombs from that time period that used a roll stone as a door. Lastly, since JoA was a prominent and rich person, he is the exact type of person that you would expect to own this type of tomb.

Final Considerations

I find the story of JoA to be very unlikely to be fabricated. If the disciples were going to make up someone, why say that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, a group of 71 well-known people in the Jewish community? It would have been very easy to disprove this back then.

Allow me to submit one last line of evidence. Jesus’ burial by JoA was prophesied in Isaiah 53:9 centuries before Jesus’ death:

“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death.”

The evidence for Joseph of Arimathea is quite strong indeed.

Ep. 126: What Are Your Spiritual Goals for 2019?

On this episode we take the show to Facebook Live!

Nate welcomes our Facebook Live listeners (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (12:38)
Worldview Analysis: Spiderman Into the Spiderverse (15:00)
Q&A: What Are Your Thoughts About the Gillette Commercial? (22:47)
What Are Your Spiritual Goals for 2019? (27:42)

Don’t miss out on our live episodes every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. PST on our Facebook page! Sign up for our unique newsletter that contains material only for subscribers at (www.clearlens.org)!

To download this episode, right-click here.

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

How to Use Apologetics for Your Family’s Growth

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woman and children sitting on a bench outside

Apologetics isn’t just for adults.

I first heard about apologetics as a young teenager, and it kept popping back into my life for several years afterward. My junior year of high school, I was hooked. It may seem like I started young, but I was wondering why I hadn’t heard of apologetics sooner.

If you have a family, or any interaction with kids and teenagers in your church, work, or even your neighborhood, you can have a huge impact on the lives of young people by sharing apologetics with them! Here’s how to use apologetics for your family’s growth.

1. Open the Doors of Communication About Faith

Begin with a conversation. Sit down with your family, preferably regularly, to discuss your faith. Do you usually have dinner or another meal together? That’s a great place to start.

Take time to talk over some basic tenets of your faith with your family. This is a crucial opportunity to establish a foundation of what you believe. Need some suggestions? Check out the statement of faith on your church’s website and think of how you could explain it to your children. Or read through this list.

Be sure to go beyond just talking about what you believe. Apologetics dives into the reasons why we believe what we do, and it’s never too early to start working through this with your family! If you’re reading through a statement of faith, look up the Scriptures cited and read them together. Try encouraging your kids to come up with some Scripture references before you list some, if appropriate to their level of maturity.

2. Ask Good Questions and Teach How to Search For Answers

If you’re a parent, chances are your kids ask you loads of questions every day. But it’s also important for you to ask your kids questions!

Just as with adults, questions provide excellent opportunities for kids to think hard. Tailor your questions to be relevant to your child’s current life situation and help them arrive at answers.

For example, you might ask a middle schooler, “Why do you think God allowed Adam and Eve to sin if He knew it would mess up the world?” Give them some time to think it over, and encourage them to include relevant Bible verses and real-world examples as they answer. You can suggest some as well.

For younger children who don’t have the skills or access to look up resources yet, consider asking a question like: “How do we know Jesus is God’s Son?”

Don’t expect your kids to have “perfect” answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get them thinking and talking through that thought process. And if they’re unsure, don’t just leave them stranded–work with them to find the best answer you can! This is a teaching and growing opportunity for everyone involved.

3. Share Conversations, Questions, and Doubts

I strongly encourage you to set aside time for this family discussion regularly. Create an intentional habit of sharing conversations or questions that came up in each family member’s day or week, and discuss how they responded. If they felt that they had a good answer but weren’t sure how to respond, share ideas for the future. If they were stumped by a question, spend time searching it out together. It’s important to involve your kids in the process of discovering the answers.

During these times, don’t be afraid to share your own questions and doubts in an appropriate way, especially if you have older kids or teenagers. By setting this precedent yourself, you establish an environment where your kids will feel more comfortable speaking up about their own uncertainties.


Your family is its own community filled with opportunities to learn and grow together. Take advantage of the ways apologetics offers to help your family grow in spiritual maturity. I hope you will consider these three elements of how to use apologetics for your family’s growth as a starting point in this area.

Ep. 125: 3 Steps to Asking Leading Questions

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On this episode:

Nate gives some ministry announcements (:29)
3 Steps to Asking Leading Questions (2:56)

*Recorded at Life Baptist Church in Las Vegas in 2018

We’d love to have Nate speak at your church! Shoot us an email at hello@clearlens.org for details.

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To download this episode, right-click here.

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

A Simple Christian Apology

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old cathedral, low angle shot up at the blue sky

There are six people living in my house. Well, there are six people and a dog, a puppy. Between teenage emotions, sibling rivalry, and rough-housing accidents, there are no shortages of apologies in our house. The thing about apologies is that they are typically over-simplified. They never include the all the details.

“He hit me first.” “She stole my doll.” “They won’t stay out of my room.”

The Browning House

There’s always more to the story, and apologies don’t cover it all. The reasons that support Christianity are typically the same: they are simple Christian apologies.

WHAT IS AN APOLOGY

An apology is a reason, or an account, for an action or belief[i]; it accounts for things that have already happened. King Charles the First once said, “Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused.”

Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused.”  

King Charles I

The original term, apologia, is the essence of a speech in one’s own defense. Christian apologists often cite 1 Peter 3:15 as the heart of Christian apologies. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGY[ii]

They are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ.

Augustine
  • Anselm of Canterbury[iii] – focused on rationalizing the knowability of God. Anselm’s work would develop into the Ontological Argument to logically necessity the realness (as opposed to abstractness) of God.

For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand. For I believe this: unless I believe, I will not understand.

Anselm of Canterbury
  • Thomas Aquinas – formulated the five proofs of God. It was Aquinas’ apology that proofs of God extend beyond simple reason. God can be inferred from such things as: nature of the world, causation, and contingency.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Thomas Aquinas

A SIMPLE CHRISTIAN APOLOGY

Just as most apologies focus on a single event and provide a reason for it, most Christian apologies focus on one specific aspect of God. But they rarely tell the whole story because they don’t cover every view (nor should they); they always fail in some regards. An atheist can easily dismiss the apology of Martyr with a wallow of self-arrogance: “You don’t need God to know good from bad.” Or, they can offer a counter-claim to Aquinas by sharing current scientific theories on abiogenesis or the Big Bang. Quaint rebuttals are, themselves, apologies.

CONCLUSION #1

Most arguments in support of Christianity are simple. These apologies are not meant to prove the intellect of the one who uses them, nor are they meant as a winsome maneuver to introduce someone to Jesus. Simple Christian apologies play a supportive role in conversation, not a starting role.

CONCLUSION #2

The reasons supporting Christianity have been around since before Jesus walked the Earth. Certainly, there are more than enough reasons to believe Christianity. Furthermore, there are no good reasons to believe anything else. Christianity is the only religion that offers an explanation and an apology for all aspects of our universe and life: origin, cosmos, desire, evil, order, logic, history, geology, sex, free-will, morality, marriage, justice, government, family, and more. No other religion or worldview does that. In fact, that may be the simplest Christian apology there is.

What do you think? Is it enough?
What apologies do you offer for, or against, Christianity?


[i] Meriam Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apology

[ii] A great starting point for more on this topic: https://bible.org/seriespage/2-brief-history-apologetics#P42_24041

[iii] https://www.anselm.edu/about/history-mission/who-was-saint-anselm

Ep. 124: “Best Of” A Clear Lens Podcast

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Happy New Year! On this episode:

Nate welcomes you to 2019 (:30)
Best of Nate’s intros (3:23)
Best of The Nate News (7:45)
Best of ACL Skits — including Donald Trump, Brock the Internet Atheist, Middle Aged Mutant Hindu Turtle, Chester Checkers, Rapture Rob, Batman Youth Pastor, and more (15:20)
Best of ACL Games — feat. Brian Godawa and Sammy Sala (53:41)
J Warner Wallace on God’s Crime Scene (01:11:49)
David Wood on Islam (01:18:04)
Craig Hazen on Mormonism (01:21:57)
Holly Ordway on Storytelling in Apologetics (01:35:15)
Clay Jones on the Problem of Evil (01:43:58)

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To download this episode, right-click here.

“Auld Lang Syne” by Amil Beckley
“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

You Should Seek Out Messages You Disagree With

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It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true – a mark of a good Christian communicator is exposure to ideas you don’t agree with.

As we’ve written before, and discussed on the podcast, if we want someone to respect what we have to say, we have to respect what they have to say. This requires more than listening when conversations happen to arise. It includes an all-encompassing attitude of listening to a diversity of ideas, and wanting to understand them.

I recently wrote about the practical value of imaginative apologetics. I argued that understanding good storytelling can make us better communicators and more effective apologists. In like manner, I will argue that understanding views we disagree with applies to how we approach story, not just conversation. Here are the benefits.

It Challenges Our Own Views

A friend and mentor I know frequently says “The truth fears no investigation.” It’s curious that Christians sometimes say things similar to this when it comes to particulars about Bible doctrine, but shy away when it comes to stories critiquing Christianity. It has too often been the approach of cultural Christianity to reject anything that runs contrary to our teaching. When The Da Vinci Code puts forward a particular understanding of the Gnostic gospels, for example, some cry to boycott.

And yet, if our views are correct, should we fear the challenge? There is a fine line between a story offering another interpretation and performing a hit job (The Golden Compass, for instance). But value can be found from examining the former. When engaging with The Da Vinci Code, one finds that the historical case for the church rejecting the Gnostic gospels is quite strong. And if we find points, arguments, or other story elements that lead us to see a flaw in our own positions, we should be encouraged as seekers of truth.

It Helps Us Understand Others

One of the reasons we frequently find ourselves in frustrating conversations is that we’re talking past each other. Often, we do this with the depth of knowledge of a single Wikipedia article, rather than taking the time to really understand someone’s view. Every person’s views are different and deserve our attention. However, being acquainted with other views on an ongoing basis helps exercise critical thinking skills, and helps us understand those views when they arise.

This is why I subscribe to Sam Harris’s podcast. It’s why, despite my traditional view on Hell, I watched a film with a positive view of universalism. Understanding where these people are coming from helps me understand how best to approach them.

It Helps Us Save the Baby without the Bathwater

It is sorely tempting to see the world in black and white. We sometimes tend to see stories or people as being on “the good side” or “the bad side.” I remember once as a child I was watching news coverage of a political issue, and I asked my parents, “Is he on our side?” What that question really meant was, “Do we like the letter next to his name?”

Humans are constantly looking to categorize people in order to shortcut thinking. This is something communications scholars call “cognitive shortcuts.” There’s nothing necessarily insidious about this; we do it subliminally as well as intentionally. But if we make an active effort to see the world less as a matter of our team versus theirs, it allows us to learn from “the other side.”

For instance, Martin Scorsese’s film Silence follows a pair of devout priests who journey into the hostile land of Japan. The film ends with a sympathetic look at the persecutors of Christianity, although the persecuted Christians are also portrayed as virtuous and brave. The main character, played by Andrew Garfield, continually struggles with seeing himself as Jesus, and that pride is his greatest weakness. It would be easy to write the film off as simply anti-Christian, but this approach demands more. Instead, we can appreciate the bravery of the persecuted Christians, and endorse the critique of one seeing himself as Jesus, without accepting the film’s final conclusion.

The benefits to seeking out arguments, ideas, stories, and messages we disagree with are valuable. It helps us to be better communicators, more empathic listeners, and more critical thinkers. And if more Christians did so, we might find ourselves in the midst of a more understanding, and more effective, Christian culture.

Ep. 123: No, Christmas Does Not Have Pagan Origins & The Real Saint Nick

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On this episode:

Nate makes a few announcements, including our biggest book giveaway yet (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene (4:42)
Nate and Gene play a Christmas movie trivia game (6:52)
No, Christmas Does Not Have Pagan Origins & The Real Saint Nick (16:55)

Articles mentioned on the show:

https://www.traditioninaction.org/religious/e031rp_PaganOrigins.html

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2971709/posts

https://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/the-real-saint-nicholas/

Sign up for our unique newsletter that contains material only for subscribers at (www.clearlens.org)! Also, if you get a chance, subscribe and rate us on iTunes! It’s quick and easy and helps us get our show out to more listeners.

Ep. 123: No, Christmas Does Not Have Pagan Origins & The Real Saint Nick

To download this episode, right-click here.

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

Ep. 122: Stealing from God with Frank Turek

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On this episode:

Nate gets you ready to have effective conversations for Christ this Christmas (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene (6:35)
Nate and Gene announce the first winner of our book giveaway: The Reason for God (8:34)
Stealing from God with Frank Turek (12:07)

Don’t forget to enter our series of free book giveaways by subscribing AND rating us on iTunes! It’s quick and easy and helps us get our show to more listeners. We will announce our third winner (of Disrupted Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble) on the next episode!

Sign up for our unique newsletter that contains material only for subscribers at (www.clearlens.org)!

Ep. 122: Stealing from God with Frank Turek

To download this episode, right-click here.

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

Preaching to the Choir: Why the Church Needs Apologetics

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woman sitting in a row of people holding book in her lap

As a young teenager, I was introduced to apologetics. I think it was a little like love at first sight. I was fascinated by this story woven from facts and logic that presented evidence for a Christian worldview. Immediately, I began to think of people I knew who needed to hear this information. I brainstormed ways to present the case to them as I furiously scribbled notes.

Apologetics, in my mind, meant going on the offensive. I was going to destroy arguments and topple secular ideas. Apologetics, then, was for “them.” 

Thankfully, in the days since then, I’ve grown wiser. Although at times I miss that youthful zeal, I now have a better understanding of what apologetics is and who it’s for. And it’s not just the unbeliever. All the fascinating facts you learn and the deep understanding you gain can be used to grow your own relationship with God.

Besides your personal growth, though, as a corporate whole the Church needs apologetics. Here’s why.

The Church Needs to Know What We Believe

Have you ever experienced a time when a debate was raging about some hot topic, you were hanging on the outside of the circle just listening, then someone turns to you and says, “Hey, what do you think?” 

And you completely freeze up. Totally caught off guard. 

The whole group twists to stare at you, awaiting your answer. You feel like a kid in school again, when the teacher calls on you at the worst possible moment. You feel trapped, and start wondering if there’s a way to trigger the smoke alarm without anyone knowing.

This is a majorly uncomfortable situation to be in, yet it’s all too common, isn’t it? If you ever venture outside your Christian circles (or even within them!), people with differing positions certainly ask you for your thoughts, opinions, or beliefs. How many times in the past 3 months have you found yourself caught off guard, unsure what your answer would be?

The Church needs apologetics because we need to diligently work to establish our foundation in the truth. It’s vital for our spiritual growth and our daily lives in this world.

The Church Needs to Know How What We Believe is Different

In today’s world, two extremes tend to be popular ways of viewing the truth. The first is to attempt to blend all religions, worldviews, and opinions into “one truth.” This often manifests in arguments that “we’re all basically saying/believing the same thing.” Another common perspective is to celebrate the diversity of each person’s unique truth, and validate them all as equal. We know that neither of these perspectives is accurate, but do we know how to explain difference? 

It’s not enough for us to know what we believe. We also must be well aware of how what we believe differs from what others believe. It’s even possible to start within the Christian faith. Do you know what your denomination believes that’s different from other denominations? If you’re non-denominational, this still applies! 

Turning to other worldviews and religions, how would you answer if someone asked you what the difference was between Christianity and New Age spirituality? Between Christianity and Mormonism? 

You don’t necessarily need to become an expert on world religions. You should, however, have a basic understanding of what others believe differently than you. The good news is, you don’t always have to break out the textbooks or resort to Google’s rabbit holes. Just ask a neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend! Or even that pesky person on Twitter. Practice asking great questions and active listening and you will learn much about what “the other side” believes. Then jot down some comparison notes. What are the differences at an underlying level? What does the other person believe about evil, hope, and justice? This will affect everything else they believe, do, and say. The Church needs apologetics to help us understand others’ situations and how their beliefs differ from our own.

The Church Needs to Know How to Communicate With the World

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: God left His Church in the world for a mission–to share the truth with others. Our primary means of sharing this truth is through communication, so it’s vital that we all seek to improve in this area. Having the foundational knowledge described above is essential, but once we have it (and indeed, while we’re developing it), we must apply it. 

Going beyond mere social skills, we the Church need to know how to navigate sticky situations that will arise and how to steer conversations to the truth. Recently, Christian media has been abuzz with differing reactions to singer Lauren Daigle’s response about homosexuality in an interview. My reactions were varied, but my takeaway is simple: Lauren needed to be better prepared to handle tough situations like this. She should’ve anticipated “trap” questions, just like Jesus dealt with constantly, and should’ve been planning how she would respond. We “ordinary people” should, as well.

In closing, I’ll share a brief personal example that encapsulates all three of these areas. Some frequent visitors on my college campus are a small group of radicals, who stand with provocative picket signs that say something about God hating all gays and “you’re going to hell.” They position themselves strategically in front of a busy building around lunch time, and yell, preach, and get into shouting matches with students. Students either ignore them completely, rushing by; stop and engage, by cursing and insulting the protesters; or they chat with other students about what’s going on. The third group provides an excellent opportunity for the Christian to communicate what he or she believes, how it’s different from the protesters, and in so doing, share the gospel. 

Opportunities like these can be prepared for, and each member of your church can encounter and take advantage of opportunities in their own lives. How is your church doing on training its members in this area? What could YOU do to help prepare others?

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Ep. 126: What Are Your Spiritual Goals for 2019?

On this episode we take the show to Facebook Live!Nate welcomes our Facebook Live listeners (:29)Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (12:38)Worldview Analysis:...