Book Plunge: Beyond The Quest For The Historical Jesus

What do I think of Thomas Brodie’s book published by Sheffield Phoenix? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Thomas Brodie is the rare mythicist who doesn’t refer to Richard Carrier as the Alpha and Omega of Biblical scholarship and doesn’t resort to the dying and rising gods ideology. Still, even by mythicist standards, his work is, well, bizarre. Brodie at times goes to lengths that even Carrier would not go to. I was asked to read this by someone who is at least open to mythicism if not a full-fledged mythicist to get my thoughts on it.

It’s not a shock that Brodie has a really fundamentalist background. Early on page 4, he tells of hearing an older Dominican say that the words in the Gospels are not the exact words of Jesus and how when Brodie heard that, his heart sank. Why? All you’d need to do is compare the exact same story in the Gospels and know we get paraphrases often. It’s moderns who are obsessed with exact terminology. On top of that, Jesus likely spoke in Aramaic so His words are already a translation.

Throughout the book, Brodie gets put in positions by students and others where he has no idea what to say and has to go back and look for some answers. Nothing wrong with looking of course, but it looks like Brodie takes the most simplistic approach he can and there’s not much evidence he really wrestles with both sides of an issue. It could be because he has an exalted view of himself. He writes about how he scores high on intuition on Myers-Briggs and so he intuits these connections in his work that everyone else just misses. It never occurs to Brodie apparently that maybe he intuits nonsense and everyone else can just see it. No. The reason that Brodie’s work gets rejected cannot be him after all.

Brodie’s main idea rests on imitation. He especially clings to the Elijah-Elisha narrative. Brodie says that the stories in the Gospels often look like the Elijah-Elisha narrative or they look like other Old Testament books. So let’s review the chain and we will see it makes perfect sense.

We don’t have the exact words of Jesus.
The stories in the Gospels bear similarities to Old Testament stories, particularly the Elijah-Elisha narrative.
Therefore, Jesus never existed.

Makes perfect sense. Right?

Often times, it’s easy to see that his parallels are contrived and Brodie will do any amount of pushing to force them onto the Gospels. Now someone could say “Well even if he does that with the Gospels, he has to deal with Paul too.” No problem. Paul didn’t exist. Paul is a myth and the opponents he wrote about are also myths and the epistles are all just these letters written for, well, that’s a good question. It’s really unclear in the book why anyone went through with this elaborate scheme.

Dealing with the extra-Biblical references for Jesus doesn’t go much better for Brodie. Early on on page 25, he says that some of these were always recognized as weak. It would be nice to know who always recognized these as weak and why, but Brodie never answers the question for us.

When he gets to why he rejects them, he pretty much only focuses on Josephus and Tacitus and even then, it’s lacking. All he needs to say for Josephus is that Josephus got his information from Scripture somehow and then Tacitus got his from Christians so neither one of these is to be trusted. Even if true, this assumes that Brodie’s prior  hypothesis is true.

What is most odd to me about the whole thing is that instead of admitting the existence of one person, Brodie has to have this school in Judaism that comes together and writes these epistles and Gospels with a story they know is not historically true. The existence of one person is seen as doubtful, but an entire school we have no evidence for is not. Brodie has this school in Judaism that has ideas that are practically New Age about God being in each of us and reaching out to us and somehow, this Jewish school at the time of Jesus embraced all of this.

Note that these Jewish thinkers had to be some of the worst writers in history in pulling this off. After all, it wasn’t until about 1900 years later that someone finally came up with what it was that was really being said. It’s amazing to think that to avoid the historical existence of Jesus, Brodie has to come up with a school we have no evidence for and a plot we have no evidence for and a New Agey school of Judaism that we have no evidence for.

Brodie’s book is really grasping at straws. In Acts 26:24, Festus says to Paul that he’s gone crazy and his learning has driven him out of his mind. After reading this, I think these words would more accurately describe Thomas Brodie.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Historical Reliability of The New Testament

What do I think of Craig Blomberg’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Craig Blomberg has recently written a rather large tome on the reliability of the New Testament and it is one that is definitely in-depth. There is hardly a major issue of New Testament studies that you won’t find here. Blomberg has extensive footnotes as he wrestles with most issues that are alive today in discussion.

Want to know about the Gospels and who wrote them? It’s there. When were they written? It’s there. What about the epistles? There. What about forgery in the epistles? Blomberg has you covered. There’s even a section on Revelation. Why? Because much of Revelation does fit into a historical setting. (This could also be an area I disagree with Blomberg some on as he prefers what he calls a Preterist-Futurist approach. I prefer just an Orthodox Preterist approach. I’m pleased to see he rightly condemns neohymenaeanism.

Blomberg also writes on issues related to textual criticism and the canon. How do we know that the New Testament has been handed down accurately? Even if it has been, there were a lot of other books that could have gone into the canon. Right? Wasn’t this just a decision made at Nicea? (I would also go against Blomberg here saying that this largely comes from Dan Brown. Brown popularized it, but this claim was going on long before Dan Brown.)

If you want to know about those other accounts, there’s a section on them too. Like I said, Blomberg is thorough. It’s hard to think of a way that he could be more meticulous than this.

The final section is on miracles and the resurrection. Again, this is one area where I would disagree on the use of the term supernatural. I have a hard time with this because it is never clearly defined and I think it in fact gives the atheist a free pass with thinking that the natural doesn’t really need an explanation. While it’s not in his area, Blomberg starts off by pointing to others who have written on the existence of God (And I do wish he’d mentioned the Thomistic arguments, in my opinion, the best.) and then goes on to make the case for miracles largely using the work of Craig Keener.

The positives of this volume are that despite it being large, it is also easy to understand. A layman will get a lot out of this volume. If the reader only wants to know about one area, say the synoptic Gospels, for instance, no problem. Just go there. If you want to know about the formation of the canon, no problem. Just go there.

A work like this is also a good response to people who immediately decide there is no evidence for anything in the New Testament. Sadly, few of them will ever bother to pick up a work like this and will instead run to internet sites that already agree with them. Those who do manage to work their way through Blomberg’s book will be blessed for it.

If you want a go-to book on the reliability of the New Testament as a whole, this is the one to go to. In New Testament courses on apologetics even at a Seminary’s level, Blomberg’s book should be a staple for a long time to come. He has also said he will be having a theology book coming out next. We eagerly look forward to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Story of Reality

What do I think of Greg Koukl’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A story is the highest mark
For the world is a story and every part of it.
And there is nothing that can touch the world,
Or any part of it,
That is not a story. — G.K. Chesterton.

I want to thank Greg Koukl for having Zondervan get in touch with me and send me a copy of his book. Greg is a fine apologist to have on our side and I enjoy his writing. I have heard him speak enough that he’s one of those writers that I can easily picture him reading the book as it were and hear his voice with it.

His writing is very persuasive and this is the big draw I think. Koukl writes in layman terminology and he is someone who you can tell he’s being as honest with you as he can be. When he talks for instance about the language of Heaven not being appealing to him, he means it. He admits this isn’t the fault of Scripture but of his sensitivities.

Koukl is trying to tell a story. It’s the story of reality. He wants you to know that this is not just a story. This isn’t some fairy tale dream. This is an accurate retelling of what the world is really like. It’s also not just the Christian’s story. This is really everyone’s story, no matter what their worldview, because reality belongs to everyone.

He goes through the parts of God, man, Jesus, cross, resurrection. This is a step by step guide, but you won’t find it filled down with hard to understand terminology. The book is entirely friendly to the layman. It would be an ideal book for small groups to use.

Koukl’s way of telling the story is as I have indicated, down to Earth. When you read a work by Koukl, it’s like you’re really there having a conversation with the author. You could easily picture that the book was written just for you. I think even if you were a non-Christian, you would not find this book threatening. Koukl doesn’t hold back and doesn’t disguise his motives. When he talks about Hell for instance, he says that some readers might think he’s trying to scare them. They’re right. He is. He doesn’t deny that.

While I liked all of this, it’s time to get to some points that I would like to see changed for future additions.

The first is that the God section was way too short. Not only that, there wasn’t really much about God in it. I agree that the atheist objection of “Who created God?” doesn’t understand God, but nowadays, people will say “If you can believe in an eternal God, why can’t I go with an eternal universe? At least we know it’s there.” I think we need to show why God is not something like this.

I also don’t think Israel was mentioned once and if it was, there was nothing in-depth about Israel. Too often in our story of the Bible, we go straight from the fall to Jesus and yet, I think all that stuff in the middle about Israel is important. I would like to see how they fit into Koukl’s telling of the story.

Finally, Koukl is right that in approaching the Bible, we need to think like a Middle Eastern Jew, and I think much of the book needs to also be able to have an Eastern audience in mind. When we write about the Bible, we tell the story in guilt and innocence. Jesus’s original audience and Eastern audiences today would understand it in honor and shame. I wonder if Koukl would tell the story for that people in that way also. I think it would only deepen the story.

Still, this is a great book for evangelism. Give it to a non-Christian friend and let them discuss it. Perhaps Koukl should consider a study guide for small groups to use, maybe even something downloadable from STR.

I enjoyed the book and I give it my endorsement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

What do I think of Emanuel Tov’s book published by Fortress Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I was recently reading through Asher Norman’s book Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus, I came across a claim of his about the Old Testament with no backing. In critiquing the textual criticism of the New Testament, he says that after Israel was established in 1948, several scrolls from all over were brought and aside from some in Yemen, they were all accurate. I knew enough about textual criticism to know a statement like this had to be bogus, but I wanted to find a good source.

My thanks then goes to Daniel Wallace first off for answering my question by referring me to Rick Taylor. Taylor told me to get Emanuel Tov’s book on the topic. I went and ordered it and it certainly is the resource to use. While I do think the Old Testament is reliable, had Norman read a book like this, he might not have been so ready to compare the New and the Old Testament like this.

A few brief statements at the start should suffice.

The Biblical text has been transmitted in many ancient and medieval sources which are known to us from modern editions in different languages: We now have manuscripts (MSS) in Hebrew and other languages from the Middle Ages and ancient times as well as fragments of leather and papyrus scrolls two thousand years old or more. These sources shed light on and witness to the biblical text, hence their name “textual witnesses.” All of these textual witnesses differ from each other to a greater or lesser extent. p. 2 Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2nd edition 1992, 2001.

More importantly, the Masoretes, and before them the soferim, acted in a relatively late stage of the development of the biblical text, and before they had put their meticulous principles into practice, the text already contained corruptions and had been tampered with during that earlier period when scribes did not yet treat the text with such reverence. Therefore, paradoxo, the soferim and Masoretes carefully preserved a text that was already corrupted. ibid. p. 9

The term Masoretic Text is imprecise for another reason too, for m is not attested in any one single source. Rather, m is an abstract unit reflected in various sources which differ from each other in many details. Moreover, it is difficult to know whether there ever existed a single text which served as the archetype of m. ibid. p. 22-23.

All these differences within the m group point to a certain amount of textual variation at an early stage of the development of m, in contrast with its later unity. ibid. p. 27.

Tov in this work goes into great detail on the history of the text and the many resources we have on the text such as the Masoretic text, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. He points out that there have been some changes that have taken place and I would think a lot of these are for innocent reasons. The exception might be the Samaritan Pentateuch which was designed to displace mainstream Jewish ideas.

Our manuscript tradition also only goes back so far, but we can be sure that when it was taken seriously, it was quite serious. The Masoretes were indeed very skilled at passing on the text. I should point out however that if you know Hebrew, which I do not, you are quite likely to get more out of this text than otherwise.

Tov’s work is quite thorough yet even as a non-specialist in Old Testament textual criticism, it was amazing how much of the material in there is still quite reliable. There weren’t any massive areas of doubt presented. I think we have better for the New Testament, but the Old is still quite good.

If you want to learn about the textual criticism of the Old Testament and the manuscripts we have, this is the one to read. It is a massive tour de force. We can be thankful for Tov for providing it for us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Last King Of Israel

What do I think of Michael Chung’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Michael Chung has written a book that is more of a devotional book based on the passion of Christ. I’ll grant that this isn’t the kind of work I normally read, but Chung is a professor at Houston Baptist University. That is a school I hold in high esteem and I find the professors there are all of incredibly high caliber.

Chung in this book goes through selected events in the life of Christ and what we can learn about them. The material is easy to approach and at the same time, scholarly, as he has a profuse use of footnotes. I would have liked to have seen more of an apologetic approach, but this isn’t that kind of book, although he does have two such sections at the end in the appendices. Both of these are quite interesting to look at, including one on the question of the character of Jesus in relation to the cursed fig tree.

Chung’s material will be good also for small groups that are going through the passion week of Scripture. (As I write this, Easter is approaching, which would be quite appropriate for studying this material.) Each section contains basic information along with the application that is to be followed and then, in turn, is followed by questions.

The questions are good and thought-provoking and are meant to make the reader enter into the life of Jesus and apply His message to our lives. It is striking to see what it is like for the perfect human being to live in what was no doubt the most stressful and awful week of His life. Is this not a message that we need to hear in the church today in dealing with many of our own problems?

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the title of the book, though to be fair I know that authors don’t always get to pick the titles of their books. Jesus is indeed the last king of Israel (And I would argue the current king), but what does that mean? Chung’s book really didn’t say much on that. It would be good to see what it meant for Jesus to be the King of Israel and what would it mean for us today to see Jesus as our King? Scripture profusely describes Jesus as the Messiah and yet we hardly ever seem to take into consideration what that means.

Still, Chung’s book does have a good balance. It looks at the life of Jesus in the passion, but it doesn’t do so in a dumbed down way. Jesus is engaged with as the serious historical figure that He is, but there is more about how that matters to us. One final suggestion is I would like to have made sure that the way we live our lives is like the way Jesus did. The cultures are quite different coming from a culture more focused on internal feeling to Jesus who lived in a culture focused more on external pressure. There could be gaps here that I think need to be addressed.

Despite that, if you have a small group, this could be a good study for Easter. I recommend it in that regard.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Syrian Christ

What do I think of Abraham Rihbany’s book published by Bridges Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, we have the context group of scholars. These are scholars looking into the culture of Christ and seeing how someone from a more honor-shame society would see Jesus? This is an area I have had a strong interest in and one that greatly impacts how you read the Biblical text.

Before our modern look, there was Ribhany. Ribhany wrote to tell us about how he looked at the life of Christ growing up in Syria. The book is over 100 years old now and yet many of the insights are still right there. Ribhany writes with the utmost passion and love of Christ and seeks to explain Him to our culture today.

Along the way, it’s not just Jesus that is explained, but many other aspects of Syrian culture. Of course, the culture has changed since the time of Ribhany no doubt in many ways, but many ideas would still apply and we can be thankful for the scholars doing the work today. Our great danger in the world of Biblical studies today is that we will be tempted to read our own culture into the Bible and fill in the “gaps” that we see with our own cultural ideas.

When we read Psalms that call for death and destruction on the enemy, we can be aghast. For the Syrian, this makes sense. Ribhany says that the people over there will say a lot and do a little. After some time of trash talking and such, the combatants have often released their emotions so much that there is no need to take them out on each other physically. Over here, we tend to think it’s best to control one’s emotions and not share them out in public. This certainly is not an idea we get from Jesus, who could clean out the temple, curse a fig tree, and weep openly when his friend Lazarus died.

The relationship of women is something else as well. In that culture, women are put in arranged marriages and women do tend to stay at home and take care of the house, but there is for Ribhany no idea that Syrian women envy American women. They can be just as happy in their marriages as we are here. The idea of women being silent in churches is also not something hurtful to them. It has an idea that the woman does not have to look ignorant out in public and can honor her spouse that way. What many of us read with disgust could be just throwing our own culture onto the text and assuming that our culture is superior. It’s odd that in accusing others of bigotry, we cold be the real bigots.

The book is an old book, but like I said, much of it can seem new today. It would be worth going and picking up a copy of this classic just to see how matters are different for the Syrian mind and even if some matters have changed, there can be no doubt that Jesus lived in a vastly different culture than we do. Perhaps we should start trying to understand that culture and how Jesus fits into it before finding out how to fit the life of Jesus into our culture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Life We Never Expected

What do I think of Andrew and Rachel Wilson’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Andrew and Rachel Wilson are just living their lives. It’s the way that most people would expect. You grow up, go to school, graduate, get married, and then the next step is having children. You bring those children home and watch them grow up and then get married and have their own children and their own careers and such.

Well, that is the way the story is normally supposed to go.

Yet often times, life doesn’t follow the script we’ve written out.

The Wilsons had two kids and both of them were born with autism. On my reading of the book, the autism seemed severe, but then they said there are changes so I do not know for sure where they are now, but at the time of writing, it was a time of stress. Andrew and Rachel often found themselves at their wit’s end.

For me, this is something that’s near and personal to my heart. It’s not because I’m a parent, but because I have Aspergers and not only do I have it, but my wife has it as well. Stories about autism are always important to me and I am all about raising awareness for those on the spectrum.

The book itself has five sections that are also divided into five sections. The subdivisions of each section are weeping, worshiping, waiting, witnessing, and breathe. The Wilsons go through each on their journey. The chapter heading will also tell you which one it is that is writing the chapter, with one chapter being a friend interviewing them.

The book will not tell you much on how to raise autistic children. My guess is the Wilsons are learning on the journey and don’t want to give that advice as if they have it all together. Instead, it’s about the internal struggles that take place and especially when Andrew is on board, about dealing with the theological ramifications of what is going on.

Still, the Wilsons are indeed thankful for their children. They have a unique joy and appreciation for them even though there are many times the children are exceptionally stressful to them. This isn’t the life that they expected, but perhaps it is the life that they needed and were meant for. We cannot say that for sure this side of eternity, but who knows?

I would have liked to have seen something more about autism for people who do not know much about it. It’s also important to point out that there are levels on the spectrum. My wife and I are both quite high functioning for instance and I know many other people on the spectrum who are, such as Hugh Ross and Stephen Bedard. The spectrum is wide and contains them all, but all of them are also contained by another spectrum. That is the spectrum of people who are made in the image of God and that He loves.

The Wilsons’s book is a good and short read and I think would be quite helpful to parents going through this. In fact, if your child has any major disability, this could be a good read. The Wilsons are thoroughly Christian in their treatment and both humorous and sensitive.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Buried Hope Or Risen Savior?

What do I think of this book edited by Charles Quarles and published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For the most part, the Talpoit Tomb theory that this book is dedicated to answering is done and gone. It was a flash in the pan that got the attention of sensationalists, but not the attention of the leading scholars. Unfortunately, it also shows that this is where we’re at. On both sides of the aisle, people want to go to the press immediately with a “finding” that they have and present themselves as a scholar even if they’re not (Joseph Atwill anyone?) and not let their work be peer-reviewed and tested. So it was with Talpoit with the only scholar I know of coming to its defense being James Tabor.

Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from a work like this even if the theory it’s meant to debunk has already been thoroughly debunked. Charles Quarles has put together an elite team to deal with specific questions of the tomb theory. The first one is Steven Ortiz. In his chapter, he deals with how archaeology is done. It really isn’t done the same way Indiana Jones does it. It actually can be described as a rather mundane practice in many ways, though the conclusions are no doubt fascinating. Ortiz also recommends that findings be kept in their historical context and be subject to peer review.

Craig Evans gives a look on burial in the time of Jesus. His writing is mainly about the use of ossuaries which were boxes the bones of the loved ones were kept in. He points out that Jesus was indeed given a proper burial, but it sure wasn’t an honorable one. This is an important fact to point out as it increases the likelihood of the accuracy of the burial narratives. A shameful burial would not be made up.

Another issue with the ossuaries is the names on them. Who better to deal with this from the Christian side than Richard Bauckham? He goes into detail on studies of names in the time of Jesus and how common the names on the boxes would be. The problem is this chapter can get very technical and it’s easy to get lost in.

By far, the most technical chapter is the next one by William Dembski and Robert  J. Marks II. Those names might seem out of place in a book on the NT, but they’re there because they’re dealing with the probability claim as one statistician said the odds are 1 in 600 that the Talpoit Tomb is NOT the tomb of Jesus. Dembski and Marks look at this claim and apply their own mathematical approach that argues otherwise. This is the most technical chapter in the book and you would need a good knowledge of probability theory I think to understand it.

Gary Habermas comes next and gives us the basic case for the resurrection of Jesus and how Talpoit fails to explain the data that we have. Of course, he’s not saying Talpoit is wrong because Jesus rose from the dead. He’s saying it’s wrong because we have data agreed to by NT scholars that Talpoit is not capable of explaining.

But would it matter even if it was the burial place of Jesus? Couldn’t Jesus just have risen spiritually and we would all be fine even if His bones were found? Mike Licona takes this one arguing that a spiritual resurrection is not allowed when we look at the writings of Paul, our earliest source on the resurrection.

Finally, Darrell Bock wraps it all up as he reviews every chapter and tells us what he thinks we should learn from them. The read overall is not a lengthy one, but it will be an informative one. Even though the theory as I said is discarded for the most part now, we can look at something like this as a way of knowing how to examine such theories and learn something about the relevant fields in the meanwhile.

The tomb theory is done and gone, but the information in response lives on. Such is the way things seem to go. That which is meant to be a death knell to Christianity usually shows itself to make that which it wants to destroy even stronger.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Their Hollow Inheritance

What do I think of Michoel Drazin’s book published by G.M. Publications? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

After I got done reviewing Asher Norman’s book, I decided to look into Michoel Drazin’s. This is because Norman refers to Drazin as his authority on Buddha and Krishna and how Jesus is a copy of those. I also have a rule with a book save perhaps Kindle books that usually, I go and scan the bibliography. This book was published in 1990 and as these photos will show, Drazin used nothing but the most up to date research.

DrazinBibliopage1

DrazinBibliopage2

As you can see, with great scholarship from the 1700’s and 1800’s, we’re well on the right track. So much of what Drazin says is repeated in Norman’s work so I will only really focus then on one part. That will be the comparisons that are made between Buddha and Krishna.

For this, let’s put on our skeptical hats. Let’s suppose we don’t know much about the life of Krishna and Buddha and we just want to see if the case has been made. We could point out that this comparison doesn’t hold up in modern scholarship as the idea that Christianity is a copycat of other religions has really fallen by the wayside. There’s nothing wrong with old books per se, but when they make claims, you do want to see if those claims have held up over time.

As we go to the section about the similarities between the life of Jesus and that of Buddha and Krishna, something is noticed. For Jesus, we go to the primary sources most often. There is a link that we can see between the two so that we know where in the life of Jesus these are found. Even if one questions the Gospel’s reliability, one can see that they’re still the primary sources so we know where the material is from.

When it comes to Buddha and Krishna, there are no primary sources cited. Instead, all of them are the writers from the 1700’s and the 1800’s. This is an oddity. If these claims can be found in Hindu and Buddhist writings, why not go straight to those writings? Could it be that the claims really don’t hold up? Could it be that these were claims made by people who actually did not understand the religions they talked about and were caught up in parallelomania?

We also have to ask how likely is it that Jews in the time of Jesus who were peasant fishermen and such would make such a tale? Why would they do it anyway? What benefit did they gain from it? Drazin can come up with a “just so” story, but he needs some backing for it.

Of course, we could add in that the research is in. Mike Licona also looked at similar claims from the work of Acharya S. He got in touch with scholars in the field who did not take the claims seriously at all. There’s a reason the copycat thesis hasn’t lasted.

There is plenty more in Drazin’s book that is just wrong and no doubt, more could be said, but we have already said plenty with Norman’s book and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Drazin engages in the same kinds of arguments that he would not accept if turned on his Judaism. Unfortunately, he is not skilled in what he speaks of to know this. When Concord magazine says Drazin is clearly an expert in the field, we have to disagree.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Ministering In Honor-Shame Cultures

What do I think of this book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker have done us a great service by producing this wonderful book. If I could give any encouragement right now at the start, it would be simple. If you want to have an impact with most of the world and learn to understand the Bible in the world it was written in, here’s my advice.

Buy this book and read it right now.

Seriously. I found myself reading this book and wishing I could put it in the hands of everyone in ministry. I would be thrilled if more Christians would learn about the honor-shame culture. Most Christians are shocked when you tell them that most of the world doesn’t work with the idea of a guilty conscience like we in the West do. We have become so focused on ourselves that we are aghast that the rest of the world could be any different from us.

The danger here is we are not only able to give the Biblical message to people in other cultures, who are living among us here in the West more and more and still thinking in the same way, but we are unable to give the Biblical message to ourselves. So many misunderstandings about the Bible would be cleared up if we realized the text speaks in honor-shame language.

On page 28, the authors say something I wish we could all hear and when I speak about honor and shame to Christians, I point this out:

As we have taught Christians about honor-shame in theology and ministry, students note the degree to which shame influences their own identity and relationships. Shame is a defining aspect of human existence, but rarely addressed in churches or ministry. When is the last time you heard a sermon addressing shame? Most people have never heard such a sermon. (p. 28. Bold mine. Italics theirs.)

Indeed! We are so saturated in our culture with our own thinking that we think everyone must be just like us. They are not. Many people all over the world struggle with shame. In reality, we know we do too. How many victims of especially sexual abuse struggle with shame? You can tell them about forgiveness all day long. Forgiveness is great and wonderful, but it won’t help them. They haven’t done anything wrong and telling them they’re forgiven won’t deal with their shame. Forgiveness is indeed part of the Gospel, but if we make the Gospel be just about forgiveness, we severely limit it.

We also do have aspects of honor-shame here and most of us don’t realize it. What happens in high school where a lot of students think they need to where X brand of clothing and not Y? (Something I have no recollection of, but many do.) What happens on Facebook where we talk about people liking and sharing our posts? Everyone wants to be thought well of by good people.

To help us with the task of the book, the writers do explain how honor and shame work and then show it in the Bible. Hopefully, Christians reading this will go back and look at the text through new eyes. I encourage Christians to go to the New Testament and use a site like Bible Gateway. Do a search of terms like innocence and guilt. Note that when they’re used, they speak of it in legal terms and not feeling terms. See also where the terms do not show up. Romans, for instance, does not talk about guilt. Many of the Pauline epistles do not. Then look for terms like honor and shame. See how often they show up. Why is it we have so many sermons on guilt and innocence and none on honor and shame?

From there, the writers show how this all works out when dealing with people in these cultures, especially using their own experience. A lot could be said about this, but I think it’s better for you to get the book and read it yourself. The content is exceptionally thorough and easy to understand. It left me looking at matters differently and striving to think more in terms of honor and shame.

I think if there was one aspect I would have liked some light shed on, it would be what is a worship service like in an honor-shame culture? We in our culture have so much that is focused on application and dealing about how we feel and helping us be better individuals. We also greet each other for about a minute (The time we introverts refer to as torture aside from that I greet my wife with a holy kiss) and then sing the same worship songs which are often very self-focused as well.

So then, final advice.

Get this book.

Read it.

Share it with everyone else you can.

This is that important.

In Christ,
Nick Peters