Can you trust the biblical record?

Our Christian origins

CAN we trust the New Testament record about Jesus and Christian origins?

Some recent books and movies, such as “The Gospel of Judas” and “The Da Vinci Code”, have raised fresh doubts about the integrity of Christian foundations as found in the gospels by suggesting that there were other records which were suppressed by powerful authorities.

The Rev Dr Ben Witherington, III, will address these and related issues during the Aldersgate Seminar, “What Have They Done with Jesus?”, on Saturday, May 24, from 9 am to 12 noon at Wesley Methodist Church. Organised by The Methodist Church in Singapore, the Aldersgate Seminar is part of the Aldersgate Convention 2008 to be held at Wesley MC from May 19 to 24.

In addition to the Aldersgate Seminar, the Rev Dr Witherington is offering three evening talks, from Wednesday, May 21 to Friday May 23, starting at 7.45 pm each evening, and a seminar for pastors and seminarians on Thursday morning from 9 am to 12 noon. He will also be preaching at the Aldersgate Service on Saturday, May 24 at 7.30 pm.

There will also be two evening talks in Mandarin by the Rev Dr Ezra Kok, Principal of Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, on May 19 and 20 at 7.45 pm.

The Rev Dr Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminar in the United States, is a popular international speaker and author. He has also appeared on numerous documentaries and keeps a vigorous blog site.

The seminar title comes from his recent book, What Have They Done with Jesus? Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History – Why We Can Trust the Bible, published in 2006.

“Readers should beware of shocking new claims about Jesus or his earliest followers based on flimsy evidence,” writes the author.

The seminar will discuss how and why these claims have been made and how the church should respond.

Contemporary authors have cited various ancient writings, such as the Gnostic literature, dating from the 2nd century and later, to prove unorthodox positions, such as that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. However, the Rev Dr Witherington writes that these Gnostic texts were written too late to be considered as serious evidence for the historical Jesus.

Rather, he affirms that the best sources are the eyewitnesses attested in the New Testament documents themselves – Peter, Paul, Mary (mother of Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the beloved disciple (the author of the Gospel of John), and Jesus’ brother, James. Hence, the book details historical profiles of each of these persons to show the veracity of their testimonies within the New Testament.

The Aldersgate Seminar is open to the general public. However, registration is required, at $15 per person. Early bird registration for $10 is on until April 22. Group registrations of 10 or more people will also be charged at $10 per person. Registration forms are available in Methodist churches, online or at the Methodist Centre, 70 Barker Road, tel: 6478-4780, 6478-4781, or 6478-4782. You may also use the form printed on this page.

More information can be found online at

The Rev George Martzen is Minister Attached to the Bishop’s Office.