Deeper Waters Podcast 6/17/2017: Seth Ehorn

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us grew up doing Scriptural Memorization. Before too long, we found out that the New Testament quotes the Old Testament a number of times. Understandable. Yet is it always a clean cut quotation? What about when we come to the question of composite quotations?

If you’re like me, you thought composite quotations weren’t too common. There’s the one in Matthew 27 and the one in Mark 1, but that’s about it. Right? If that’s what you thought, then like me, you thought wrong. Composite quotations also include long listings of quotations such as are found in Romans 3. Composite quotations are also not just found in the New Testament, but are found in the literature outside the Bible with the authors there giving composite quotations of the works that they admire.

How can we learn more about these composite quotations? What do they have to say about the reliability of the Bible and it’s handling of Old Testament quotations. Why is it that we hear so little about this kind of topic if it’s really much more prevalent than we thought? If you uphold inerrancy, does composite quotations have anything to say about that?

In order to discuss these, I am bringing on someone who has done extensive work in this area. He has co-edited an entire volume on this work and it is a major focus of area for him. His name is Seth Ehorn and he’ll be here with us to discuss the topic of composite quotations. So who is he?

Dr. Seth Ehorn took the PhD from the University of Edinburgh in New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology in 2015. Currently, he is Visiting Assistant Professor of Greek Language and New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois.

When we look at some composite quotations, we see that they will can take two different books of the Bible and yet attribute it to one author. Is this a problem with the text? It is an error? Many of the skeptics we meet would say that this shows a contradiction in the Bible. Many Christians would sadly take the same route and go with most any theory to avoid what they think is an error in the text. What does it really mean?

How is it that others saw the practice? If the apostles and their companions are using this process, would they be accused of mishandling Scripture? Would the Jews have said that this was an illicit move, or would they have said it is a move that is acceptable and yet they still would not agree with the conclusion?

We could also ask how widespread this was before and after Jesus. Before Jesus, were the rabbis of the time ever engaging in composite quotations and do we find them in the Dead Sea Scrolls? After Jesus, did the church fathers ever do anything like this?

I hope you’ll be joining me for the next episode. We’re quickly working on getting prior episodes up so don’t worry about your podcast feed. Things should be back to normal before too long! Please also go and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Further Response To John Tors

Has the Bible been betrayed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Tors isn’t happy. He just doesn’t like my last response to him. Not too much of a shock, but yet he has written a long diatribe in response. I don’t really plan at this point in addressing everything since Tors has spent so much time on this that one wonders if he’ll be publishing an Ebook on the topic soon. At this point, I also plan on this being my final response. Tors is too much of a time drainer and honestly, not worth it, but I figured it could be fun to go after this one.

Tors gives off the impression of one saying that if anyone doesn’t interpret the Bible the way he does, they are a liberal bent on betraying evangelicalism. As much as I have a problem with Geisler, it could be said Tors goes even further than Geisler and if Tors was in Geisler’s position, one can picture the nightmare that would be hanging over the Evangelical world. Tors has not only a fear of everything else being “liberal” but is also convinced he knows better than the experts in the field and I mean the ones who are working out of their specialty.

It’s amazing that right off, Tors, like Geisler, acts like anyone who disagrees does not hold to the Correspondence Theory of Truth, which I do hold to. Tors says that:

First, truth is what corresponds to reality.  Something that does not correspond to reality is not true.  It is not true, for example, to say that George Washington issued the Emancipation Proclamation or that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Tarzan of the Apes.  It is true to say that Donald Trump is currently the President of the United States of America.

Why is this important? Because if you suggest anything different in the accounts, then you’re going against the truth! Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look hard at the Gospels to know that they are quite different. If you mean every story has to be exactly the same in every detail, then no, the stories cannot all be true. Consider the story of the centurion’s servant. Who came? Matthew says the centurion was the one who engaged Jesus and spoke the whole time. Luke says elders of the town came to Jesus and then says the centurion sent others to talk to Jesus on his behalf. Which is right? The stories are obviously the same story, but they are obviously not identical.

Most of us realize that the centurion sending servants to act on him would be seen as if he himself came since they were acting on his behalf. When the Press Secretary makes an announcement, no one shouts “error” when it’s said later “The President today said that….” Of course, I have picked a minor example. Others could be found. What did Peter say at the Great Confession of faith? Did the voice at the baptism of Jesus speak to Jesus or to the crowd? How many times did the rooster crow at Peter’s denial? If you want more, just go look up your favorite skeptical website and see all the “Bible contradictions.”

Most of these are of course minor deals. They rely on ancient practice and such. Was it an error that Jesus said three days and three nights He would be in the belly of the Earth? After all, if Jesus died on Friday and He rose on Sunday, then that’s two nights and just one day. It’s when you realize that for the ancient Jews that a part of the day would be sufficient that you realize that Jesus did speak accurately by their standards. That is what is often missed. Why should we judge an ancient work by modern 21st century standards?

Second, an error is “a mistaken opinion or belief” (OED, p. 847), “mistaken” being “having a wrong opinion or judgment, being under a misapprehension” (OED, p.1795), and “wrong” being “incorrect, false, mistaken” (OED, P.3732).  If this is still not clear, “incorrect” is “of a state, description etc.: erroneous, inaccurate” (OED, p.1342) and “false” is “of an opinion, proposition, etc.: not in accordance with the truth or the facts; erroneous, untrue” (OED, p.912).

Again, no objection, but we have to wonder how far will this go? Did Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount twice and just use second person and third person both? Again, for many of us, it’s not a problem to say that one writer could have adapted what was said to apply it better to the audience. It’s also not unlikely that Jesus would have given this talk more than once. I am a speaker. This Monday night, I’m giving a talk for the third time on life with Aspergers and raising awareness at Why Should I Believe? I have given this talk before, so I know what I will say, but it will also be different. One highly doubts that Jesus was the only speaker in history who only gave every sermon or parable one time.

“Inerrant,” then, means “in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.” It is regrettable that we have had to go to such lengths to establish the meaning of “inerrant,” which should be axiomatic, but, as we will see, it is necessary to do so, lest anyone attempt to pass off as inerrant that which manifestly does not meet this definition.

I don’t think anyone is disputing any of this. What is being disputed is what standards will we use? For instance, when I encounter someone who says we need to go by the plain meaning of the text, I ask plain to who? To a 21st century American? A 19th century Japanese man? A 17th century Chinese man? A 13th century Frenchman? An 11th century Englishman? An 8th century German? A 5th century Italian? A 3rd century Greek or Roman? A 1st century Jew?

Who determines what is the plain meaning? It would be the author ultimately and that author wrote according to 1st century standards. Will those standards be different from ours? Absolutely. It’s not right of us to force him to follow our rules. We must look at his and see how closely he followed them. I have regularly pointed out that we are following Western standards way too often and those cause us to badly misread the text.

Tors starts in on Wallace here with:

New Testament scholars who work on determining the wording of the original Greek New Testament are functioning at the level of the deepest integrity when they argue that the original read “in Isaiah the prophet.” This is because they are arguing for wording that seems to communicate a mistake. They argue this in spite of their own feelings about the biblical author’s accuracy …. the vast majority do have sufficient respect for a biblical author that they will not impute to him an ostensible inaccuracy unless the manuscript testimony compels them to do so. At all points, textual critics are historians who have to base their views on data, not mere theological convictions. The rule that almost all textual critics follow is: Choose the reading that best explains the rise of the others. This means looking at the external and internal evidence in an effort to trace out both history and psychology.

Wallace is right here. We want to get to what the original text said and not what is easier for us. The rule is all things being equal, if you have two readings, the more difficult one is to be preferred. It’s more likely that a scribe would try to smooth out a reading than to make it more difficult. Of course, Tors lunges in on “Wording that seems to communicate a mistake” and immediately, there you have it. Wallace does not concede a mistake. I pointed Tors to Ehorn’s work on composite quotations which includes Jewish sources to show that the practice that was done was a Jewish practice. We can be quite confident that Tors will likely never read it.

We should also point out that Tors refers to me next as good old Nick Peters and soon drops the “good.” It’s not escaped my notice that the Old Nick was a name given to the devil. As I have said, Tors has upped the ante of Geisler. Tors is unfortunately the kind of person an apologetics approach like Geisler produces. It’s one that says that if you stand up for inerrancy, then you cannot possibly be wrong. You’re not just correct in your conclusions, but in all of your actions.

In my look at what Wallace says about inerrancy, I point out that Wallace goes after a magic wand approach that treats the Bible like a science book. Tors won’t have any of that! Inerrant means the Bible is without error! That’s it! He writes that

Peters actually says, “He went after a view of what that is,” and already we can see that he is off the rails.  As we have pointed out, there is only one definition of “inerrancy”, and that is what the word actually means: without error, in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.  Inerrancy is not a matter of opinion, such as which is the best sport or the most flavourful food.  It has a specific definition, so there is no other “view of what that is”; any other “view” of it is not inerrancy.

Nice to know we have the word from Sinai here. At any rate, the question becomes, what constitutes an error? Is it an error by our standards or by their standards? You see, it was treating the Bible like a science textbook that led to many of our problems. Does Tors think that the sun goes around the Earth? That was what some people argued and they did it based on the Bible. Does that mean the Bible was wrong or our interpretation was wrong because we treated it like a science textbook? (This is also why I disagree with a concordist approach and trying to do things like read the water cycle into Job.)

As an example, Norman Geisler looks at Martin Luther. I am a Protestant, but of course, Luther was not infallible. We did not replace one Pope with another one. Luther was wrong on some matters. Geisler at his website puts up some statements that he himself would not agree with.

D. Scientifically Authoritative

  • There was mention of a certain new astronomer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked,] “So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Josh. 10:12].

  • Because we are not sufficiently able to understand how these days occurred nor why God wished to observe such distinctions of times, we shall rather admit our ignorance than attempt to twist the words unnecessarily into an unnatural meaning. As far, therefore, as St. Augustine’s opinion is concerned, we hold that Moses spoke literally not allegorically or figuratively, that is, the world and all its creatures was created within the six days as the words declare. Because we are not able to comprehend we shall remain disciples and leave the instructorship to the Holy Ghost..??

    Let’s give one caveat here. There are a number of Luther scholars who don’t hold to the accuracy of all in the Table Talk. Okay. for the sake of argument though, Geisler does. In fact, someone like Jason Lisle would argue that since Geisler denies a young Earth, that he denies inerrancy. It’s amazing to me that Mike Licona uses ancient writing techniques to interpret the Bible and that’s disallowed, but Geisler uses modern science to interpret that the ancients had no access to, and that’s okay! Still, the look at Luther gets worse.

E. Self-consistent

  • Though this Epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and regard it as a good book, because it sets up no doctrine of men and lays great stress upon God’s law. But to state my own opinion about it, though without injury to anyone, I consider that it is not the writing of any apostle. My reasons are as follows:

  • First: Flatly in contradiction to St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture it ascribes righteousness to works and says that Abraham was justified by his works in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans 4, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. . . . Second: Its purpose is to teach Christians, and in all its teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the Resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ (Ibid., p. 24).

    So apparently, in this paradigm, it’s okay to question the authority of James and even say that he disagrees with Paul on justification, and you’re not denying Inerrancy, but question the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 and you’re in trouble now.

If we read the Bible in the way the author did not intend us to read it, then we are going to misread the text. The author did not have 21st century Western Americans in mind. With the New Testament, the author had first century Jews and Gentiles in mind, varying of course on the book being read.

When we get to Daniel Wallace recommending we treat the Bible like any other work of history and study it according to that method, Tors has a lot to say. I will quote what he says about my looking at it here.

Old Nick Peters really gets his shorts into a knot on this one, carping, “Just say ‘It’s God-Breathed.’ Okay. How does that deal with the writing? Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”  Then, in response to Wallace’s view that the Bible should be held to the same standards as other ancient historians such as Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, I pointed out that “Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and ‘any other ancient historian’ were not divinely enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was, however, so it is in a completely different category from ‘any other ancient historian’s writings.’” Peters responds,

If you want to see what’s wrong with this kind of approach, just consider if Tors was saying the same about the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Is Wallace treating the Bible like any other book? In a sense, yes. That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book.

The mind certainly boggles at this.  Peters actually mocks the concept of Scripture being God-breathed (“Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”), griping, “How does that deal with the writing?”  He makes no effort to find the answer to this question, it should be noted; he just seems to use this as a pretext to ignore the issue.  Indeed, he intimates that saying that the Bible is God breathed carries no more weight than saying it for the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.  (This shows, perhaps better than anything else, where the type of evangelical Peters is defending is coming from, and should really put paid to any credibility old Nick may ever have had.)

Yes. Because I asked a queston, I actually mocked the idea of the text being God-breathed. At this, we wonder what color the sky is in Tors’s world. Does he see an enemy behind every bush. I hold the text is God-breathed. What I deny is saying that “God-breathed” answers every objection. It doesn’t.

Tors also says I make no effort to find out the answer to the question, this one being the census in Luke. You see, if I’m writing a response, I’m meant to deal with every single objection. Well, no. I’m not. I was dealing with a dangerous view of inerrancy instead. I’d like to point out now that Tors says nothing here about the question of the feeding of the 5,000 or the synoptic problem or a multitude of other “contradictions” that are presented. Sauce for the goose after all…

However, if Tors wants to know about what I’ve done on the question, well this is the beauty of having a podcast. I have interviewed Ben Witherington on the birth narratives and if anyone wants more on Luke, I interviewed Darrell Bock on that as well. After all, these scholars are much more specialized than I, so why not listen to them?

Tors goes on to say that

Now, it should be obvious that the question “How does that [i.e. that Scripture is God breathed] deal with the writing” is not an excuse for ignoring the fact that Scripture is God breathed and if and when the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon can show ancient prophecies that were fulfilled or advanced knowledge that people at the time of writing could not know, and when either is endorsed by a man who claimed to be Deity and proved His claims by rising from the dead, then we can consider whether either is God breathed.  Until then, the Bible remains sui generis.  It is difficult to see how this would not be obvious to any Christian – unless he actually believed the Bible has no more evidence for being God breathed than does the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.

But notice this! As soon as Tors brings up other points about the Bible, then saying “God-breathed” is no longer sufficient to make the case. The Bible is true because of XYZ. I fully agree that this cannot be done with the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon. Tors is actually arguing my point. With advanced knowledge though, Tors makes the mistake that I have pointed to earlier of concordism in this article.

Even if we granted the point, there are still other passages that we would not take literally, such as Proverbs saying the Earth sits on pillars. What of Joshua and the sun? Does Tors agree with Martin Luther or not? Tors is in fact reading the Bible as a science textbook. The problem is if you take Job’s saying and read it as a science statement, you’ll miss the real statement he wants to make. What that is I leave to the scholars of Job.

Consider that we do this with Genesis. We make the debate about the age of the Earth, as if that was the real concern in the author’s mind. He wanted us to know how old the Earth is. I agree with John Walton that the passage is about the creating of sacred space. Once you get that, it beautifully fits into the Gospel and bypasses the whole debate as the point of the text is not the age of the Earth but the why of the Earth then.

Tors goes on to say that

As to how does the fact that the Bible is God breathed “deal with the writing,” Peters might want to study 2 Peter 1:20-21; he might want to notice that what is written by men is explicitly stated to be spoken by God Himself (e.g. Acts 1:16, 4:25, Hebrews 3:7-11); and he might want to take Jesus’ promise seriously, wherein He said in John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  Note to Wallace: The Holy Spirit is better than a “tape recorder.”

Then if this is the case we have to ask why do the Gospels have different things being said? Sure, the content is virtually the same, but the wording is not identical. Note also that if we want to take John 14 literally, well it only says that what Jesus said would be brought to recall and says nothing about his deeds. How about events one was not a witness of? Luke and Mark used eyewitnesses but were not themselves eyewitnesses. (Mark could have seen some things possibly and could be the fleeing naked man in Mark 14, but there’s no hard proof of that.) Mark and Luke would never have received Jesus’s promise. Also, it’s hard to see how Tors can avoid a dictation theory.

As to Peters’ enthusiastic statement that “That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book,” as we explained in the previous article, “logically it is lunacy, for if treating the Bible like any other book leads to the conclusion that it’s not like any other book, that means the initial working presupposition that it’s like any other book is wrong and inapplicable and therefore invalidates any conclusion reached when using that presupposition.”  That is simple and obvious enough that even a reasonably intelligent child can understand it; why Peters apparently cannot is hard to understand.

Except it doesn’t, and I argue that many people who deny this use a different standard. Just yesterday I was in a Twitter war involving mythicists saying we have no contemporary records of Jesus. Now of course we do, such as the epistles and Gospels, but I want to take their standard. My question to them is what about Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and Arminius? All of these were very well-known figures at their time who did amazing things and yet no contemporaries said a peep about them. I get told “Well they weren’t supposed to be the Son of God doing miracles and rising from the dead.” Do you see that?! The standard has changed!

One such standard is the inerrancy standard which means inerrancy according to modern Western ideas of inerrancy. These differences show up in different accounts of any ancient event. Mike Licona in his recent work shows that even the same author has different accounts of the same event.

Another problem is that many people come with a viewpoint that says miracles can’t happen. Of course, no evidence will be persuasive if you rule out any possibility of being wrong right at the start. For these people, saying that “magic” (And magic and miracles are not the same) is in the text rules it out ipso facto. The standard here being that the Bible must adhere to the rules of natural law. The problem is not the Bible, but false standards brought to it.

Now I approach this without fear. If the skeptic wants to say he will test the Bible like any other book, my reply is simple. “Do it.” I say that because I am convinced the Bible can stand up to scrutiny. I don’t just sit back and say “God-breathed!” and think that answers all the questions.

As for what is said about infallibility and inerrancy, I got my information from Derek James Brown, who did his dissertation on ICBI. He supports it, but thinks there needs to be changes. He pointed out that infallibility is the basis because if God cannot error, then he cannot produce a text that will have errors in it. In that sense, because God cannot error, a text that He is behind will not error. It is not the other way around. Hence, I said Tors has it backwards. Tors wants to point to what Wallace and others say. I’m quite sure that if Wallace read my assessment on this matter, he would have no problem with what I’m saying. Of course, we do have to ask if God did indeed do this with the Bible, which is another question, and one that I think the answer is yes, God did produce such a text, but it is not a hill I’m willing to die on either.

We move on:

“You obviously have a high view of scripture,” I observed. “Why?”

“Because Jesus did,” he said matter-of-factly.

 “How do you know?” I asked.

“One criterion that scholars use for determining authenticity is called ‘dissimilarity.’ If Jesus said or did something that’s dissimilar to the Jews of his day or earlier, then it’s considered authentic,” he said. “And he’s constantly ripping on the Pharisees for adding tradition to scripture and not treating it as ultimately and finally authoritative. When he says that scripture cannot be broken, he’s making a statement about the truth and reliability of scripture.”’

Peters then says, “Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument.”  It is difficult to ascribe this comment to Peters’ general incompetence; it smacks of intellectual dishonesty.  Arguing from incredulity, which is a logical fallacy, by the way, is to say that something cannot be true because one personally finds it difficult to believe, and I did no such thing.

My argument against Wallace’s claim here was to point out that

How does the ridiculous criterion of “dissimilarity” show that Jesus had a high view of Scripture? Oh, that’s right; it doesn’t. This is a non sequitur. Wallace did not answer Strobel’s question but simply jumped to another topic ….

So according to these scholars, if a 1st-century Jew says something that sounds like what we’d expect a 1st-century Jew to say, that indicates it’s not authentic, and if the founder of Christianity said things that Christians believe, then that indicates it’s not authentic. Authenticity is determined by dissimilarity! Only a madman or a Biblical scholar could assert such arrant nonsense as this with a straight face, for it is more than obvious that Christians, as followers of Jesus, would base their beliefs on what He said, so of course it would sound similar, and that 1st-century Jews said things that sounded like what 1st-century Jews said – because they were 1st-century Jews.

No. By argument from incredulity, I simply mean that Tors takes a response that he will not accept it and then argues from there. Tors ignores Wallace’s point about how the criterion of dissimilarity shows the case. Jesus is different from the crowds of his day as he rips into the Pharisees for adding Scripture to tradition. Jesus argues that Scripture alone is sufficient and cannot be broken and if tradition contradicts Scripture, tradition is wrong. That is how it makes the case. Jesus was speaking outside of the cultural standards for rabbis of the time by lambasting the Pharisees and his argument against them depended on his having a high view of Scripture.

Peters continues to embarrass himself.  I quoted Wallace saying, “The Gospels contain a summary of what he said. And if it’s a summary, maybe Matthew used some of his own words to condense it.  That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy,”and I pointed out that “Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy, as there’s no way to know what in the Bible is true and what isn’t.”

Now, what I have said is axiomatic and so obvious that even a child could understand it.  But not old Nick Peters.  (Either that, or there is a whiff of intellectual dishonesty here also.)  He sniffs,

It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps. He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.

Let us look at this point by point, and we will get a good understanding of where old Nick is coming from.

First, he said, “It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps.”

Let us clear up the mystery for him: I did not make a “leap” of any sort.  I said, Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy.”  “IF the writers are making stuff up.”  IF.  Perhaps Peters should open up a dictionary and perhaps a textbook of English grammar and learn the meaning of the word “if” and how it is used.  If he does that, he should come to understand that my statement is not a “leap”; it is axiomatically true.

By the way, it’s worth pointing out that Tors cries foul if anyone dares to insult him, but he has no problem with it. I’m not whining about this. I actually find it amusing. I quite loved the part about how I “sniffed” something. I easily picture Tors as a red-faced preacher pounding the pulpit and screaming out every line.

Tors’s point is highly false. There is nothing about making stuff up when you say things in your own words. It’s called paraphrasing. The writers of the Gospels had to do this to some extent anyway since Jesus for the most part was speaking Aramaic. That would be translated into Greek by them and they would have to put the saying in the words they thought best captured what Jesus said. Again, they weren’t interested in word-for-word. The gist is what was important.

It still boggles the mind how that means “Making stuff up.” Now if Jesus never told the parable of the prodigal son and Luke just made up the parable and put it in the words of Jesus, that would be making stuff up. If instead the parable was told in Aramaic and Luke put it in his own words in Greek, that would not be making stuff up. Besides, we can be sure that much of what Jesus said was a lot longer than what we have. The Sermon on the Mount can be read in about twenty minutes. I am sure Jesus spoke a lot longer. Matthew is just giving us the main points of the message.

Second, while condensing people’s words is not necessarily problematic when done by a reporter, nor is using one’s own words to describe the situation, claiming that someone said something when in fact he did not say it is an error.  And while other ancient writers may not have been able to avoid such errors, in the case of the Gospel writers, Jesus’ actual words were brought to their memory by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), such errors were not unavoidable, nor did the writers make them.  Why so many evangelical scholars want to ignore John 14:26 is, as we have indicated, difficult to understand.

With this then, I contend that Tors’s view is unsustainable. As soon as we have different words taking place, then inerrancy will have to go. My version of inerrancy is just fine. I don’t go by errors by modern standards, but by ancients where the gist of what was said is sufficient. Again also, John 14:26 would not have anything to say to Mark and Luke and nothing to say about Jesus’s actions.

Third, and this is the most disturbing, Peters says, “He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.”  And there you have it, folks.  According to Peters, you can’t know that the Bible is historical, unless you study external sources of history.  The fact that little of the Biblical narrative can be proven “by studying history” doesn’t seem to bother old Nick.  The problem of explaining why the Biblical narratives, unsupported, cannot be known to be historical, but secular historical sources can be is something he does not address (nor is there any indication he has even thought about it), though he is doing a good job of uncritically following Wallace into this morass.

Yes people. Let this keep you awake at night. If you want to know about the reliability of the Bible, you might actually have to *Gasp* study! Horror of horrors! Those who want to defend the Bible and show it to be true will need to study history! It might not be enough to just stand up and shout “God-breathed!” and let that be it.

As for the problem, once again, Tors expects me to address everything. Well let me explain it to you Tors. I give the Bible the benefit of the doubt largely because Jesus rose from the dead. I believe in the Bible because I believe in Jesus, not the other way around. Many areas I have found have been corroborated by study in archaeology and secular sources. Where there is no evidence either way, I am willing to grant the benefit of the doubt to the Bible. It’s proven reliable in areas I can check. I will trust it where I can’t. Tors naturally assumes that since not every post contains my every thought, I must not have thought about something. It’s amazing how arrogance and ignorance often go hand in hand.

It doesn’t even seem to occur to old Nick that the Gospel books are, even at a minimal view, historical documents that must be given the same prima facie credibility as any other historical documents.  And, given the fact that there are four Gospel books, that they are all based on eyewitness testimony (and two were written by apostles), that they were written close to the time of the events described therein, and that their manuscript attestation is considerably better than anything we have for any other ancient writing, the Gospel books are far better historical evidence for the life and career of Jesus than we have for any other ancient personage, including Augustus and Tiberius, the two Roman emperors contemporaneous with Jesus.  They are more than adequate to tell us about Jesus, and we have no need for inferior ancient documents to verify them; “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7), not the other way around.

Well considering that I’ve done podcasts on these topics interviewing scholars and written on them myself on my blog and debated them, yes, I do know about these. One wonders if Tors is just trying to flaunt some intellectual superiority or something here. He does seem quite obsessed with himself after all.

In fact, although Peters claims that “inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them,” neither he nor his fellow travelers do any such thing; indeed, old Nick shows no indication of even understanding how the application of historiography is to be done.  He seems to think that “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible” is opening a reference book or two written by the sort of people described in our original article and uncritically passing on whatever one finds there.  That is not “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible”; it is more in the nature of chanting a mantra.

Tors seems to think he knows what I’m talking about here. My thinking on the matter is to critically study the books. Even the ones written by my father-in-law I question. When he told me about something Ehrman said once, I thought it was a powerful quote, but I asked where it was and looked it up myself to make sure the quote was right. I also do go and get out the primary sources often and see what they say. I have to do this with modern history with all manner of false quotes put up on the internet. The same applies to ancient history.

The intellectual gallimaufry of Peters becomes even more clear with his next statement: “He also asks how could readers of the Gospel assume any of it was historical? Answer. They wouldn’t. This would also be something that skeptics could look at. Want to know if it’s historical? Just send a servant or two to the area of Judea. Have them ask around. Do an investigation. This is what historians did.”

One wonders why eyewitnesses of events cannot be trusted in what they say, but “historians” can be trusted when they tell us whether these eyewitnesses should or should not be trusted; it should be obvious to anyone who thinks that eyewitness testimony is preferable to the testimony of one who is not an eyewitness.

Looking at this, it’s as if Tors rode into town to skeptical Gentiles who did not believe in resurrections and to Jews who had a zeal for their text and said “Jesus is risen!” and everyone converted. If a skeptic got his hands on a Gospel, he would not assume it was true. He would investigate it. You could say it was from eyewitnesses all day long and that it was God-breathed. That would not be enough. He would want to verify it, and who could blame him? Christianity by social standards was a shameful belief system and one would lose their honor by embracing it.

I also didn’t say historians could be trusted the same way. On mundane claims, one would have no problem, but when it came to claims that put one at an area of risk, one wants to double-check. This is what any wealthy high-honor person would do if they were skeptical.

Beyond that, I don’t think the Gospels were largely written to convince skeptics. It was more for the edification of the church in passing down the life of Jesus, especially as the apostles were getting older and dying. No doubt there was some persuasive effort to them, but that wasn’t the main point. A preacher in a church will often be speaking to the audience of Christians present, but could include enough for a skeptic with questions.

And, more important, while there should be little doubt that people around the mid-1st century AD did “send a servant or two to the area of Judea” (1 Corinthians 15:1-7) who could check personally with eyewitnesses, we live a good 1,900 years too late to use that method ourselves – and according to what old Nick just said, it is the only way we can believe the Bible is historical. So we cannot believe it.  Game over.  One wonders if old Nick is even listening to himself before he makes his assertions.

Sure. We live at a downside with that. Does that mean we’re lost entirely? No. We can study the sources that we do have and the more we study those, the more we see how incredible a book the Bible is. Tors seems to be like someone eager to make a point saying “Did you think of that? Did you? Huh?! Huh?! Huh?! I bet you didn’t!” No, Tors. I did. Sorry, not game over.

I also objected to Peters’ ludicrous assertion that Dr. Paige Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) is not qualified to comment on issues of New Testament scholarship and exegesis, though Peters (B.Sc.) obviously believes himself qualified to make such comments.  It is strange that he does not realize that most reasonable people would not agree with him about this, but may well see Peters as a coxcomb.

Sorry Tors, but unless Paige Patterson has kept up with the latest in NT scholarship, then no. They shouldn’t speak on the matter. Mike Licona is fine on NT scholarship, but if he speaks on evolution, test that with a better source. I also do not claim that I am a better authority in my person alone. I claim that I am relying on the best scholars in the field. By all means, check everything I say.

Characterizing my objections as “go[ing] after[Peters] and Holding,” old Nick sets about trying to vitiate my claims.  He begins by averring that “I do not think the Bible does have historical or scientific errors. I guess Tors knows my view better than I do. I have no problem with the statement that the Bible is without error.”

Unfortunately, Peters’ avowal here seems at odds with his book’s insistence that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”  It seems possible to reconcile the two statements only if what old Nick means by “without error” here is actually different from inerrancy as believed by the “old guard.”

It’s quite easy to reconcile and the overwhelming majority of evangelical scholars would understand my view and be behind it. When I say the Bible is without error, I mean according to the rules and standards of writing at the time and not ours. Why should our time be so special that we get to determine what should and should not have been written? We are not that special.

This becomes much clearer, in fact, when Peters goes on to say, “I have a problem with a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.” What he derides as “a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism” (you know, the Bible means what it actually says) is actual inerrancy, and he has “a problem” with that.  So whatever old Nick may mean by believing the Bible is without error, it is not inerrancy.

The literalism is the problem and again we have to ask about the clear meaning of the text as I indicated above. For instance, I think when Jesus said “This generation will not pass away” in Matthew 24, He meant that generation. Much of the language He described is figurative. Dispensationalists would disagree and take those parts literally and read Jesus talking about a different generation or the Jewish people.

Everyone recognizes that the Bible has different usages of language. It has hyperbole, sarcasm, irony, metaphor, parable, simile, poetry, etc. A literalistic approach is not always the best approach to the text. When Jesus says that the high priest will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds and sitting on the right hand of God, are we to say that Jesus is literally going to ride a cloud while sitting at God’s side the whole time? Not at all. Tors is applying a Western hermeneutic of literalism.

Incredibly, old Nick tries to defend Licona’s drivel, saying, “This might sound like an odd notion, but to refute someone’s interpretation, you have to show the text does not mean what they take it to mean.” It is no surprise that Peters has it backwards yet again.  Since this is not Wonderland, an “interpretation” does not get an initial presumption of validity simply by being put forward; it is the one who says that a statement in the midst of a historical narrative and indistinguishable in style from the surrounding passages is not historical who has the onus probandi – and Licona has not come even remotely close to meeting it.  Had old Nick stayed with philosophy longer, he might have understood that.

Except he has. He spends a number of pages in his book and gave a talk later on at a conference on it. Has he proven it? No. That’s a far more difficult thing to do with history. Has he given a justification? Yes. Am I entirely convinced? No. My thinking is that we should still investigate the claim and see what the text says. When I first heard of the interpretation, I just marked it down as an interesting idea to consider. I hold to the opinion that it is better to debate a question and not settle it, than to settle it and not debate it.

Peters is still not done.  I mentioned in my original article that Peters “is married to Mike Licona’s daughter” – which full disclosure should require.  Old Nick objects, saying, “Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the ‘Bias’ charge.”  Yet again, Peters shows himself to be careless with facts, as I never accused him of bias.

Directly, no. Yet still I never said several things or argued several things and Tors has no problem making assumptions about those. Again, do as he says, not as he does. If not bias, then one wonders what the point of bringing this up is. Even if I am wrong in why it was brought up, can I be blamed for wanting to cut off a possible objection in advance? Apparently, I can be.

In fact, old Nick protests a little too loudly, saying, “All Tors needs to do is contact Mike and be assured from Mike that we have many disagreements, even on the New Testament, and I do not walk in lockstep with him.”  That does not, of course, prove that Licona does not influence Peters’ thinking, as in the selfsame article, Peters tells us that he changed his major from philosophy to New Testament – and he did it “when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good.”

And this seems to prove my point about bias. To begin with, my point about my major is one that Tors could have seen by doing the research. Tors is talking about the Ebook I wrote that explicitly says what my major is in it. Did he not read it? This calls into question for me Tors’s ability to do research. Note also there’s nothing about “Oh sorry. I got that wrong.” Tors is practically incapable of admitting an error.

And yes, Mike influences me. I do take his words seriously, but I can also question them just as much. Would Tors prefer that I be the son-in-law of a great New Testament scholar and not heed his words? Sorry, but I prefer the path of humility, which I think Tors left long ago as we will see.

Old Nick does not seem to be at all aware how ludicrous his attack on Dr. Patterson is seen to be by any thinking person.  Dr. Patterson, who has done such great work defending the Bible, is being told by a small-time blogger with a “Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College” that he is not qualified to comment on the issue of inerrancy, though the small-time blogger with the bachelor’s degree obviously feels that he himself is qualified to comment on this issue, for he freely does it.  Any thinking person would find the hubris of this small-time local blogger to be repugnant.

For those interested in hubris, wait till the end. For now, if anyone wants to know about my ability and such, just read my blogs and other written material and listen to the podcast I present. When I interview someone, see if I ask informed questions that show that I know the subject matter. Feel free to check the endorsements page of my website as well to see what scholars in the field say about my work.

But not to Peters, and it may be his hubris that prevents him from thinking straight.  He actually says, “Does Patterson publish regularly in journals of New Testament scholarship? Is he cited by New Testament scholars? If not, then he’s stepping out of his field” but then goes on to say, “I also am quite sure that the evangelical scholars will go with my work far more than Geisler’s, particularly since I’m the one who interviews them.”

Think about it, folks; according to old Nick, Dr. Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) has no cachet on inerrancy because he does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars,” but “evangelical scholars will go with [Peters’] work far more than Geisler’s,” even though he himself does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars” – and holds only a Bachelor’s degree, and not in New Testament studies.

Yes. I am not cited by them. No problem. My claim is whose opinion they will think is more accurate. I interview the scholars. I know what they think. We have enjoyable conversations, much like Daniel Wallace and I had together one night after an ETS meeting where we went out with a bunch of guys. We talked some about New Testament scholarship, and then went on to talk about our wives.

I do not think any scholar who is not related to old Nick will “go with [his] work,” though they may appreciate having him as a cheerleader and for providing a platform through his podcasts.  Peters seems to be living in a fantasy world of his own.

Then Tors is simply wrong, as Dan Wallace says in his review of my Ebook co-written with James Patrick Holding, Defining Inerrnacy,

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, by J. P. Holding and Nick Peters, published by Tekton E-Bricks on 22 May 2014, is intended to be a response to Norm Geisler and Bill Roach’s Defending Inerrancy—and so much more. Both have a similar cover and similar title. Defining Inerrancy, however, is a gloves-off defense and affirmation of a version of inerrancy that many are not acquainted with. That is, many except those who are Old and New Testament scholars.

Translation: The material in the Ebook is not news to Old and New Testament scholars. Wallace knows them and knows them even better than I do. Tors can keep talking about the fantasy world, but he ignores that I do meet with these scholars and talk with them. I count Dan Wallace as a friend of mine as I do many other scholars through my work on my podcast.

In sum, old Nick can be safely ignored by all.  His approach is damaging to the church.  Fortunately, he is a small-time blogger and podcaster, and it is unlikely that he will have much influence, and certainly not on those who are not already inclined to follow the destructive path outlined in our original article.

Time will tell what will happen. As it is, I think my reach is getting better and better, but again, time will tell. As for Tors, I am confident that he will keep marginalizing himself more and more and staying in his insulated circle. As I told people I was responding to him, the response I got was “Who?”

Of course, it’s bizarre to say Mike is the next Bart Ehrman. In fact, the more likely scenario is someone in Geisler’s camp would be the next Bart Ehrman since Ehrman was one who put too many eggs in the Inerrancy basket and not just Inerrancy, but a literalist Inerrancy. If Geisler thinks that that is not a problem, I’d like him to meet the several ex-Christian atheists that I’ve met online who in large part left Christianity because they had the Inerrancy doctrine called into question when they in reality held to a modern view of Inerrancy, like Geisler’s.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Peters to wonder what would have happened to these “ex-Christian atheists” had they come across an apologist who accepted inerrancy and gave them solutions to their difficulties, instead of coming across the type who said, “Yeah, there are errors in the Bible, but don’t worry about it.  Yeah, the Bible is wrong about creation but, hey, trust it on the resurrection anyway.”

The problem is that this approach leads to more difficulties. When I meet an atheist who wants to argue creation, I take them to the resurrection. Why? Because you could argue until you’re blue in the face and you might convince them their objections don’t hold wait, but it won’t get them to the cross. I also don’t do the game that I call “Stump The Bible Scholar.” This is where a Christian is presented with a list of 100 contradictions in the Bible. Suppose this Christian goes and researches all of them and answers them all. Will the skeptic convert? Not a chance. He’ll just get 100 more contradictions. It also continues the idea of the all-or-nothing game. As Wallace says in his above review

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

Note also I do not say the Bible is wrong on creation, but when it comes to the science of the matter, I’m more than happy to tag another friend of mine who knows the science far better. It is a mistake to think one must be an expert in everything. I am happy to let someone more knowledgeable in that area than I deal with the question.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the completely wrongheaded and dangerous approach adopted by old Nick Peters is to look at his handing of Genesis 1.   He says:

This is why when it comes to evolution, I stay out of the debate. I am not a scientist and I do not speak the language. If you think evolution is false and want to argue it, here’s what you do and I don’t think even the staunchest evolutionist will disagree with me on this point. Go do your study and preferably a degree in a science that is related to the field, such as biology, and study the arguments for and against and make your own arguments and present a case from the sciences that refutes evolution. If evolution is bad science after all, the way to refute it is with good science.

And there you have it, folks.  You are a Christian – you believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, God the Son and Saviour; you follow Him and you know that He proclaimed Scripture to be the word of God (Matthew 4:4), that it cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that it must be fulfilled (passim) – but if you want to know about origins, don’t bother to study the word of God, to investigate it with your knowledge of Hebrew and exegesis, because none of that matters.  You need to get a degree in science so that you can assess the indirect inferences of secular men and decide about origins.  What is the authority here: the word of God or secular science?

Here’s the problem Tors. If you go to a skeptic who doesn’t accept Scripture and tell him evolution is false, he will discount what you say immediately. I follow the following advice:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

Who said that? A modern liberal? Nope. Augustine centuries ago. It’s still true today. If evolution is false, it will be false because it will be bad science and can be shown scientifically. If you want to argue evolution, you actually need to study science. Tors again falls for the idea of the Bible as a science textbook, as if God’s main concern in Genesis 1 was giving us science.

Now, Walton denies that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, as the Bible clearly teaches; “The Genesis account , he claims, refers to a literal seven day period in history, sometime after the material creation, when God assigned the cosmos its real intended functions, prior to his taking up residence in it as his temple.”  But Walton does not have a degree in science, the prerequisite Peters demanded, so why does he accept his view over the plain meaning of the Biblical text?  Why is Walton qualified to proclaim on this issue without that all-important science degree?  By Peters’ own standards, he should not “hold more to John Walton’s view on Genesis 1.”

Because Walton’s approach is a hermeneutical one. I have argued you could hold to Walton’s approach and be a YEC, an OEC, and a theistic evolutionist. Tors also assumes the plain meaning of the text is one to a modern Western person. Perhaps he should read Walton’s book on the topic. Since Geisler is not a YEC, does he want to also argue that Geisler is denying inerrancy by going against the “plain meaning” of the text and using science to interpret the text? Walton does nothing like that. Walter Kaiser would also agree as he has said that Genesis tells you that it happened in the beginning. It’s the science that tells you how old the Earth is.

In his blog post,Nick Peters made various claims and charges that require responses, but some did not fit into the flow of our main article, so they are addressed herein.  Peters’ comments are prefaced with “Re:” and are italicized; my responses are in regular type.

Re:My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has updated his page on Mark 1:2 in response to some of what Tors says. I will thus not be responding to criticisms of Holding unless they involve me directly.”

Holding’s update to his page utterly fails to rebut anything I said.  His update has been demolished, as can be seen at our article “Mark 1:2 Revisited: A Response to James Patrick Holding”, at http://www.truthinmydays.com/mark-12-revisited-a-response-to-james-patrick-holding/.

Demolished so well that Tors started stopping Holding’s comments because he didn’t want to embarrass him. Right. Of course, in Tors’s world, as soon as he says something, the opposition is demolished.

There are certainly differences in wording among the Gospel books, but that does not mean the words of Jesus were replaced by the Gospel writers who “recorded the gist of it.”

First, as Peters notes, Jesus spoke mostly in Aramaic, while the Gospel books were written in Greek.  But old Nick does not seem to realize that when translating from one language to another, it is possible in many cases to make different choices of wording so that they are different in the target language, but all of them accurately portray the original language.

Absolutely, but they won’t be word for word. They will be different. There is also a difference between “before the cock crows” and “before the cock crows twice.” The gist of the saying is what mattered.

Furthermore, there is no reason to think each conversation is recorded in full.  In conversations, questions may have been asked more than once, in different words, and answered more than once, in different words.  The different Gospel writers might have recorded different parts of the conversation.

So Tors can say that the writers condensed something and yet, that’s okay. Wallace says the same thing and he’s denying inerrancy. Gotta love it. We also have “might have”. Does Tors not know? The text is God-breathed! Does He want to cut out the words of God?!

The utter silliness of old Nick is shown in his apparently-meant-to-be-sarcastic question, “Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus?

Here is Peter’s great confession in the various Gospel books:

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20)

These are all different, but a skeptic could point out the “evolution” in the text. Matthew takes Jesus from being the Christ to being the Son of God as well. I have no problem saying the content is the same, but the wording is different each time, but there’s no dispute at what is at the heart.

Re:“We have to wonder what Tors is thinking here. Does he think someone would come up to Matthew and say “Hey Matthew. What are you writing?” “I don’t know. It’s in Greek.” Is it just awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words? Perish the thought!

It seems that this unutterable genius that is Nick Peters does not realize that Matthew, as a tax collector, had to know Greek and had to be good at it.   He really needs to do his homework.

Sarcasm is lost on this one. It’s something you notice about fundamentalists. They don’t really have a sense of humor. I have in fact spoken elsewhere saying that Matthew was one who was definitely literate in the apostles being a tax collector. Tors really needs to get a sense of humor.

Re: I seriously doubt Dan Wallace will want to spend much time with Tors so I will take them on for him.

“If so, then either of [Geisler and Patterson] are free to respond to the criticisms that I have made of their approach. Nothing has been said by them so far. Geisler ignored a challenge that was put on his wall by someone else from Holding and banned the person who put it up.”

Interesting; in old Nick’s fantasy world, scholars of course rightly ignore me but naturally should not ignore old Nick (or his friend Holding) but should respond.  The possibility that Geisler does not respond to Holding for the same reason that Wallace does not respond to me does not seem even to occur to him.

In fact, I have no reason to think that Wallace has any idea that I wrote about him; he is no doubt a very busy man.  But if he will not “want to spend much time with Tors,” he has been well advised; it is another maxim of strategic warfare not to enter into a battle one cannot possibly win.  And he cannot win this one.

Tors again misses the point. Does Geisler owe us a response? No. But, if someone puts up a challenge and that person is blocked and the post deleted, then it is clear that someone is ignoring counter-evidences. Also, with my defense of Mike Licona, I would easily be seen as the one most representative of Mike and speaking on his behalf. Geisler also has referred to my defense, but he has never addressed it. That’s a big difference.

By the way, with what I said earlier about hubris, consider Tors is confident that he could best Wallace on this one. Not counting on Wallace taking up the gauntlet, but it would be amusing. Apparently, the lesson on humility is for everyone else.

In closing, I plan on this being my last response unless something drastic happens. Tors is like a tar baby that will take up too much of my time, when I have speaking jobs to do, books to read for my show, and a beautiful Princess to treasure. Further responses I will leave to others.

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

 

A Response to John Tors On Inerrancy

What do I think of what John Tors said? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was away because my wife and I found out about a little Down’s Syndrome girl who was aged five and died suddenly. We went to Tennessee for the funeral. Shortly after I got back, I found out that I had been mentioned in an article by John Tors that can be found here.

My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has updated his page on Mark 1:2 in response to some of what Tors says. I will thus not be responding to criticisms of Holding unless they involve me directly. I seriously doubt Dan Wallace will want to spend much time with Tors so I will take them on for him.

Tors starts with a statement that Wallace makes in The Case for the Real Jesus when interviewed by Lee Strobel.

Now, finish this sentence, I said. When Christians say the Bible is inerrant, they mean …
“They mean a number of things. For some, it’s almost a magic-wand approach, where the Bible is treated like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect. Some Christians would say, for example, that the words of Jesus are in red letters because that’s exactly what he said.” (Bold Tors’s)

Tors immediately leaps into attack mode with a response that one wonders if he has really read Wallace at all.

It is typical of this sort of evangelical scholar to mock the view of inerrancy that takes it mean “having no errors,” but whether Wallace likes it or not, that is what inerrancy means. So this is not a “magic-wand approach”; it is the only approach consistent with the actual meaning of inerrancy.

Except Wallace never mocked a view of inerrancy as meaning the Bible is without errors. He went after a view of what that is. I suspect Wallace means more the idea that the Bible is like a modern textbook and every word had to be one directly said by the person involved, be it Jesus or anyone else, and that if we dare question that, then everything goes out the window. That Tors reacts in such a way to something that Wallace never said is quite revealing.

Wallace goes on to say as Tors quotes.

“Well, if you compare the same incident in different Gospels, you’ll notice some differences in wording. That’s fine as long as we’re not thinking in terms of quotations being nailed exactly, like a tape recorder. They didn’t even have quotation marks in Greek. In ancient historiography, they were concerned with correctly getting the gist of what was said.”

Tors responds to this point that is not controversial at all among NT scholars by saying

We have already seen Farnell’s devasting response to this approach. The Bible is not like other works of ancient historiography, because it is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Of course, I have responded to Farnell here and here. However, this is hardly a response. Just say “It’s God-Breathed.” Okay. How does that deal with the writing? Are we to think God just breathed one day and “Poof!”, here is the Gospel of Luke! Anyone can look at the Gospels and notice that there are differences in wording. Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus? Or, are we to think that he made a statement and the writers recorded the gist of it? (Note Tors. We don’t have the exact words anyway because Jesus was going around speaking in Aramaic and the Gospels are in Greek.)

Tors goes on to quote Wallace saying

“My definition of infallibility is the Bible is true in what it teaches. My definition of inerrancy is that the Bible is true in what it touches. So infallibility is a more foundational doctrine, which says the Bible is true with reference to faith and practice. Inerrancy is built on that doctrine and it says that the Bible is also true when it comes to dealing with historical issues, but we still have to look at it in light of first-century historical practices.”

Tors immediately fires back with

Wallace has it completely backwards; inerrancy is the more foundational doctrine, for, as we’ve said, if the Bible is not trustworthy on historical issues, it cannot be trusted “with reference to faith and practice.” So infallibility is built on inerrancy, not vice versa. Nor should we “look at [the Gospel books] in light of first-century historical practices” that allow for errors, inasmuch as the Bible is God-breathed, which is not a standard “first-century historical practice.”

It’s not a shock that Tors is the one who has it completely backward. Infallibility is the reason one holds to inerrancy. Derek James Brown in his dissertation on Inerrancy and ICBI quoted R.C. Sproul (You know, one of those guys who’s a framer of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) who said

Though the words infallible and inerrant have often been used interchangeably and virtually as synonyms in our language, nevertheless there remains a historic, technical distinction between the two words.  Infallibility has to do with the question of ability or potential.  That which is infallible is said to be unable to make mistakes or to err.  The distinction here . . . is between the hypothetical and the real.  That which is inerrant is that which in fact does not err.  Again, theoretically, something may be fallible and at the same time inerrant.  That is, it would be possible for someone to err who in fact does not err.  However, the reverse is not true.  If someone is infallible, that means he cannot err; and if he cannot err, then he does not err.  To assert that something is infallible yet at the same time errant is either to distort the meaning of “infallible” and/or “errant,” or else to be in a state of confusion. (Page 25 of Explaining Inerrancy).

Wallace goes on to say

“I don’t start by saying, ‘If the Bible has a few mistakes, I have to throw it all out.’ That’s not a logical position. We don’t take that attitude toward Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, or any other ancient historian’s writings. For instance, does the first-century Jewish historian Josephus need to be inerrant before we can affirm that he got anything right?”

To which Tors replies with

Of course not. But Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and “any other ancient historian” were not divinely enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was, however, so it is in a completely different category from “any other ancient historian’s writings.” In contrast, it seems very clear that Wallace is treating the Bible like simply any other book. Period.

If you want to see what’s wrong with this kind of approach, just consider if Tors was saying the same about the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Is Wallace treating the Bible like any other book? In a sense, yes. That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book. Tors apparently lives in a world where the Bible has to be kept safe from historical research, lest an error be found. It also has to be written in a format that is amenable immediately to 21st century Americans, because, well, aren’t we the most important of all?

Wallace then goes on to say that

You obviously have a high view of scripture, I observed. Why?

“Because Jesus did,” he said matter-of-factly.

How do you know?I asked.

“One criterion that scholars use for determining authenticity is called ‘dissimilarity.’ If Jesus said or did something that’s dissimilar to the Jews of his day or earlier, then it’s considered authentic,” he said. “And he’s constantly ripping on the Pharisees for adding tradition to scripture and not treating it as ultimately and finally authoritative. When he says that scripture cannot be broken, he’s making a statement about the truth and reliability of scripture.”’

Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument. Wallace is saying that by the methods of historical scholarship, we know that this is Jesus’s view of Scripture. Wallace wants to treat Scripture like Jesus did. Tors seems to have a problem with that. He also imagines that Wallace has said there are historical or scientific errors in the text. It would be nice to know where Wallace said that. I must have missed that part.

We will next quote Wallace saying

“The Gospels contain a summary of what he said. And if it’s a summary, maybe Matthew used some of his own words to condense it.”

To most of us, something like this is not problematic. People write something and they use their own words. Tors however, is always on the hunt for something that goes against his fundamentalism.

See? Just “like any other book.” Period.

We have to wonder what Tors is thinking here. Does he think someone would come up to Matthew and say “Hey Matthew. What are you writing?” “I don’t know. It’s in Greek.” Is it just awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words? Perish the thought! Wallace goes on to give the reasonable conclusion to what he said with

“That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy.”

Tors, as expected, hits the panic button.

Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy, as there’s no way to know what in the Bible is true and what isn’t. As we’ve seen, Gundry’s suggestion that non-historical additions in the Gospel According to Matthew would not be a problem because his readers would know what was historical from the Gospel According to Mark and from Q is patently a non-starter. Furthermore, if Matthew could add non-historical material, so could Mark have done, so that Matthew’s readers (and we) could not assume that everything in the Gospel According to Mark was historical. In fact, how could they assume that any of it was historical?

And, of course, Q is a figment of liberal imagination. But even if it weren’t, how could the readers of Q know whether any of it was historical? If Matthew and Mark could make up non-historical material, why could not the writer of Q? I have not yet found even one evangelical scholar who can answer this question.

It is a mystery how one goes from “Saying something in one’s own words” to “Making stuff up.” Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps. He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history. If Tors is scared to apply historiography to the Bible, perhaps it is true then that Wallace (And myself) have a high view of Scripture and Tors has a low view of it. After all, Tors apparently seems fearful that if inerrancy goes out the window, that there’s no way of knowing any truth in the Bible.

He also asks how could readers of the Gospel assume any of it was historical? Answer. They wouldn’t. This would also be something that skeptics could look at. Want to know if it’s historical? Just send a servant or two to the area of Judea. Have them ask around. Do an investigation. This is what historians did.

Strobel’s interview continues.

Do you think this idea of inerrancy has been elevated out of proportion to its genuine importance? I asked.
“At times…. Belief in inerrancy shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to engage seriously with history….”

Quick to panic again and make a mountain out of a molehill, Tors says that

Is this meant to imply that “engage[ing] seriously with history” will necessarily lead to the conclusion that there are errors in the Bible? In fact, inerrantists certainly do “engage seriously with history,” but they use already established facts as part of their analysis – much like, once it has been established that the Earth is round, that fact is used in all further geographic analysis. Now, since the Gospel writers were empowered by the Holy Spirit to remember Jesus’ words, and inasmuch as Scripture is God breathed, the historical information in the Bible is superior to that in any other source and stands in judgment of it.

All too often, what passes for “engag[ing] seriously with history” by evangelical scholars is the opposite; whenever a secular source makes a claim that disagrees with a claim in the Bible, it is assumed by default that the Bible is wrong,2 and therefore efforts have to be made to massage the Biblical testimony to fit – or we are simply to accept that the Bible is wrong.

While inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them, I do not think Tors does. Tors is not engaging with history but still pushing the claim of the Bible being God-breathed. I agree that it is, but Tors never tells what this means or how this plays out. How does he know the text is God-breathed without making a circular argument? Would he accept it if a Muslim said the same about the Koran?

Fortunately, we see that Tors has said that a British scholar has said we treat the Bible like any other book to show it’s not like any other book. Sadly, he says that this has been shown to be inappropriate, but with no clue where or even who this scholar is. At this point, all Tors has is assertions of faith.

He then continues quoting

“That’s better than the opposite position that has become an evangelical mantra: ‘Hands off the Bible — we don’t want people to find any mistakes in it, because we hold to inerrancy.’”

Tors answers with

The implication seems to be that inerrantists do not want to examine the Bible too carefully, because, as these wise evangelical scholars know, there are indeed errors, and so inerrantists want to ignore facts in order to hold to their doctrine of inerrancy. This is a ridiculous implication.

It is a ridiculous implication, and it’s a good thing Wallace doesn’t hold to it. Wallace is instead saying some inerrantists do seem afraid that they will find errors that won’t stand up to scrutiny. If anyone is hesitant to enter history here, it’s Tors.

Now he decides to go after myself and Holding.

Finally, let us consider James Patrick Holding, founder and president of the on-line Tekton Education and Apologetic Ministries.5 He is of interest because he is a frequent “go-to guy” for both Creation Ministries International and Christian Research Institute, which means he is reaching a sizeable audience. Holding has taken it upon himself to challenge Norman Geisler’s defence of inerrancy, and not only online; he and co-author Nick Peters self-published an e-book, Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, in which he and Peters attack Geisler’s Defending Inerrancy. In this e-book the authors aver that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard isdangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”

Tors responds with

Do note that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is that it means “no errors” i.e. the Bible is completely free of all errors, including historical and scientific errors. This is the “perception” that Holding and Peters consider dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist and not defensible or respectable.”

This is news to me, because I do not think the Bible does have historical or scientific errors. I guess Tors knows my view better than I do. I have no problem with the statement that the Bible is without error. I have a problem with a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.

I am going to, as I said, bypass what was said about Holding. Holding can answer on his own. For my part, I will address what is said about me.

Holding’s co-author, Nick Peters, who, interestingly, is married to Mike Licona’s daughter, also piles on, but he, too, clearly stultifies himself. He details Patterson’s qualifications, including the following – “A graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson also completed Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary” – but then asserts that “While these accomplishments can be all well and good, there is a striking omission from it. There is absolutely nothing here about being trained in NT scholarship and exegesis. Being a competent and even skilled theologian and/or philosopher does not make one an expert on NT scholarship and/or biblical exegesis.”

Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the “Bias” charge. All Tors needs to do is contact Mike and be assured from Mike that we have many disagreements, even on the New Testament, and I do not walk in lockstep with him.

Tors wants to say I stultify myself. How? Because I point out that we have no reason to think that Patterson is an expert on NT scholarship and/or Biblical exegesis.

One wonders whether Peters has any idea about the sort of courses one takes in Master’s and Doctoral programs in seminary; in case he doesn’t, he should find out that it certainly includes courses in “NT scholarship and exegesis.” It seems rather strange that Peters suggests that Patterson’s training is inadequate, when Peters himself holds only a Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College, and is currently working on a Master’s degree – in philosophy.

Of course I know, because I have studied at a Master’s level in Seminary. While this is taught, it does not mean it’s a specialty area. Does Patterson publish regularly in journals of New Testament scholarship? Is he cited by New Testament scholars? If not, then he’s stepping out of his field. I would say the same thing about Mike Licona trying to be an authority on philosophy.

Tors wrote this in 2015 by the way and wanted to point out with an ironic sucker punch that I’m working on a Master’s in Philosophy. Ouch. Guess that puts me in my place.

Unless, you know, you actually look at anything since 2009 and realize people can change majors, which I did when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good. Let’s see. What does my own website say?

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My birthday is 9/19/1980 and I was born in Corryton, TN just outside of Knoxville. I was raised in a Christian home and found out about apologetics while I was in Bible College and my passion was set from then on. I have a Bachelor’s in preaching and Bible from Johnson University and I’m working on a Master’s in New Testament there. I am especially interested in the historical Jesus and the resurrection. I am also an advocate for traditional marriage having been married to my wife Allie Licona Peters since July of 2010. We are both diagnosed with Aspergers and we have a cat named Shiro. My other interests include reading, video games, and popular TV shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Flash and other shows. I’m also extremely sarcastic so you’ve been warned.

Or since he knows about Defining Inerrancy, maybe he could have just read my description in the book.

Nick Peters is currently working on his Master’s in New Testament at North West University in South Africa via a distance program. He has been in apologetics ministry for nearly fifteen years at the time of this writing. He blogs regularly at Deeperwaters.wordpress.com and runs a podcast called the Deeper Waters Podcast, where he seeks to interview the best in Christian apologetics and scholarship. He and his wife Allie are both diagnosed with Asperger’s and both of them currently live in Corryton, Tennessee, just outside of Knoxville, with their cat Shiro.

Now are there differences there? Yep. I switched where I was working on my major at and my website is now at a different address and I now live just outside of Atlanta. Fortunately, the part about my wonderful wife and about Shiro are still true.

Academic qualifications, of course, do not determine how well one can understand the Bible or apologetics, but it is Holding and Peters who choose to focus on that, claiming that Geisler and Patterson are not qualified to assess Licona’s teachings. It seems clear, however, that on that basis Geisler and Patterson are individually each better qualified to assess NT scholarship than Holding and Peters put together.

If so, then either of them are free to respond to the criticisms that I have made of their approach. Nothing has been said by them so far. Geisler ignored a challenge that was put on his wall by someone else from Holding and banned the person who put it up. I also am quite sure that the evangelical scholars will go with my work far more than Geisler’s, particularly since I’m the one who interviews them. Tors can make his assertions of faith, but all it is is faith.

Tors’s approach is in the end, one that is embarrassing to apologetics. It will not convince any skeptic and will leave a Christian who holds to it thoroughly defenseless. Perhaps Tors should study some New Testament scholarship before proceeding.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/11/2017: Mike Licona

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“It depends on which Gospel you read!” Many of us have heard Bart Ehrman talk about this in describing Gospel differences. It is a kind of unavoidable problem. Why are there differences in the Gospels? Shouldn’t we expect them to agree, especially on major events like the resurrection?

If you want to know why there are differences in the Gospels, you should talk to someone who has written on this. In fact, the very name of his book is Why Are There Differences In The GospelsThat someone is Mike Licona, a friend, a scholar, a great apologist, and my father-in-law, and he will be my guest. So who is he?

MikeLicona

According to his bio:

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be talking about Plutarch in comparison with the Gospels, including not just parallel accounts, but how does the writing of Plutarch compare even with anonymity, dating, and miraculous activity? We’ll then be looking at some scenes in Plutarch that appear in more than one life that he has written, but at the same time are vastly different. We’ll be discussing how these work when carried over to the Gospels and if there are similarities in treatment.

We’ll then go to the Gospels. What are we to make of the idea of Ehrman that “It depends on which Gospel you read?” How does this research affect the doctrine of inerrancy if it does at all? What are we to do when we read the same story in different Gospels and see great differences between them? Do the differences outweigh the similarities?

I hope you’ll be listening. Mike Licona is an excellent scholar and this work is one that has been published by Oxford Press and so one can’t say it’s your regular evangelical press. I also hope you’ll be willing to go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I always love to see how much you like the show.

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

Has The Bible Been Changed A Lot?

Is the text vastly different than it was? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It was recently brought to my attention that Business Insider decided to celebrate Christmas with a video on why the Bible isn’t trustworthy. Normally, I prefer to celebrate with presents and time with friends and family, but to each his own I suppose. So do we really have anything new here?

Of course not.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be addressed. After all, a lot of people will never bother to study what it is they believe and why. (You know how it is, we live in a society where people will learn about their favorite sports team, TV show, video game, etc. but won’t dare to really consider maybe they should think about the belief that they base their entire life on.) Sadly, this will also apply to many skeptics who will take a faith that makes strong claims and decides ipso facto that since those claims involve miracles they must be nonsense and never examine the claims seriously.

So let’s dive into this video. The speaker starts with talking about the Bible being the most sold book of all and that many think it contains the actual words of God. What many people don’t realize according to him is that the Bible has been changed, A LOT. So what are these evidences?

To begin with, no first edition exists. All we have are copies of copies.

This sounds scary if you’re someone who doesn’t know about manuscripts in the ancient world, until you realize that we don’t have the first writing of ANY ancient work that I know of. If there is one, I will be quite surprised. We have copies in every case. How much we can trust the account depends on a number of factors.

How soon is the earliest copy to the date of the original writing?
How many copies do we have?
Can we check these copies back and forth?

So how does the New Testament measure up?

manuscript copies

As you can see, Homer comes closest and it’s not even a contest really. Now if the speaker wants to make a big deal out of this, we ask that he be consistent. Please be extremely skeptical of all the other books on the list as well.

The speaker then says that this all took place many years after the events supposedly took place. It would be good to know how much skepticism he has. Would he go all the way to being a mythicist? Inquiring minds want to know! He also points out that many of these copies weren’t made by professionals but were made by laymen.

Naturally, we can’t expect someone busy enough to make a video for Business Insider to go out and read some of the scholarship on this issue and actually inform himself. While he cites a couple of scholars, there’s no in-depth looking at what they say and providing context for the issue. He could do what I did and interview Charles Hill on the Early Text of the New Testament and issues of canonicity or interview Daniel Wallace. (And if he can’t interview at least listen to what they have to say.)

The speaker goes on to talk about how this lead to many errors and omissions.

No. It’s not a typo on my part. He’s the one who said “This lead to many,” Who knows? Maybe he differed from the original script at one point.

If he wants to talk about these kinds of omissions and errors, he’s free to examine the texts. We will have a little bit more on this, but we have so many texts in so many languages that it’s easy to cross-check. When we do, we find that in fact the Bible does hold up, but again, a little bit more on this later.

We go to the three biggest changes. The first is the woman caught in adultery. It’s a shame that this is news to so many Christians, but such it is. We live in a time of great Biblical ignorance.

The next is the Gospel of Mark. (It’s amazing how predictable these are.) This change is the ending of the Gospel and how it has no narrative of Jesus rising and appearing. The speaker then tells us that in original manuscripts, this story is nowhere to be found.

Wait a second.

What original manuscripts?

Our speaker has gone on and on about how there are no original manuscripts and now is saying this is not to be found in the original? In what way does he know? Could it be that we can tell because we can actually check the texts back and forth and see what they say and compare them? Has our speaker undermined his own case?

The third is that in Luke, Jesus makes a dying plea to forgive the executioners, but it was not intended to refer to the Romans but to the Jews. This was taken out and then added centuries later to appear to be about the Romans. This is one many haven’t heard of, but notice something.

Apparently, we don’t have a clue what the text said, but we can tell what the originals somehow said, that a change was made, and that said change was later corrected. We can discuss why it happened and how, but that doesn’t change what the original said. Even his source on this, Bart Ehrman, says it is likely to be found in the originals.

While we’re at it, what else does Bart Ehrman, this non-Christian New Testament scholar say about the New Testament?

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

 

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

Sadly, too many Christians won’t be prepared for something like this because, well, all those sermons on how to be a good person and how much God loves you won’t really matter when the text that all that is based on is called into question. Even worse, these kinds of objections are not the crisis that many people think that they are. With some serious study, instead of focusing only on one’s personal hobbies, it’s amazing what one can learn.

Hopefully Business Insider from now on will stick to business instead of going to Biblical studies.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus Part 6

Is the Christian Bible credible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look at Asher Norman’s book 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus. Now we look at the Christian Bible. This chapter and the next one I think are going to be my favorites to deal with, and dare I say it but the next one could be even more fun when we look at the historical Jesus.

You know this chapter is going to start out good when it has a quoting of Earl Doherty. Doherty is someone whose theories are not taken seriously by Biblical scholars and are that of Jesus mythicism. That theory is that the epistles were not aware of Jesus’s earthly history.

Of course, this is just false and we can see that looking even at just the ones that are universally accepted as Pauline. What are some of the facts we have?

1 Cor. 15:3-8

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Christ died, was buried, and appeared to several people. Note the James must be a unique individual called James since no clarification is needed. Could it be that this ties in with James, the brother of the Lord in Galatians 1?

Galatians 1:19

I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.

If Jesus had never existed, His brother would probably know about it. I don’t buy ideas about this being a spiritual term. If so, why are the other apostles not brothers as well?

Galatians 3:1

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

1 Cor. 5:7

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

This is fully consistent with Christ being crucified on Passover.

1 Cor. 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Romans 1:3-4

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ has a human and a divine nature.

Galatians 4:4

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

Jesus lived a life born of a woman and under the Law, which means among His fellow Jews living a Jewish life.

Now I know the objections. Yeah. Not forgetting them. We will get to them as we go along.

All Norman has on the other side is an argument from silence. The maxim with those is that where silence is expected, the argument from silence is weak. We are told that there is no mention of his sayings, his miracles, or Calvary, to which we ask, why should they? These were occasional letters. They were written to deal with specific instruction. The fundamentals of the faith would have been covered. You don’t go to those who already know these and repeat them again and again.

Norman buys into the idea that these messages were received by revelations. If so, these revelations seem awfully constrained. Why not claim a revelation every time for every event? The language is actually that of oral tradition.

“Are you sure?! Look at 1 Cor. 11. What I received from the Lord! Paul is saying he got a message directly from Jesus!”

No. In his book on the historical Jesus, Keener points out that this kind of language was common for rabbis who claimed to receive interpretations from Sinai. They don’t mean the mountain or Moses appeared to them. They mean that is the foundation. So why does 1 Cor. 11 mention the Lord? Because Jesus is the foundation for what was said. He said the works in 1 Cor. 11. He did not say the words in 1 Cor. 15 so Paul did not receive those from the Lord.

Norman also thinks the Gospels are second century. (Of course, we know we can’t trust second century Gospels, but that fourth century Pseudoclementine Recognitions is totally reliable!) Unfortunately, he gives no scholarship for this as he is still just parroting Doherty. The main example he brings up as a problem is the date of the crucifixion of Jesus based on differences between John and the synoptics and says it can’t be reconciled.

I have no interest in debating inerrancy, but let’s suppose it can’t be. Oh well. That doesn’t overturn that there is much that is historical. All-or-nothing thinking is not the way good historians think. It’s the way fundamentalists think. Still, Norman is free to go and look at several commentaries and see what he can find. If he is so sure we have a defeater, I invite him to please go to a site like Skeptics Annotated Bible and see what “contradictions” they see in the Old Testament that cannot be reconciled.

Mark is said by Norman to be the first Gospel written. That is a statement that some scholars would disagree with, but not most, so we won’t make a big deal about that. The humorous idea is his problem with Matthew using Mark if Matthew was an eyewitness. If Matthew had been the one behind it, why use Mark, which I have addressed elsewhere. The most amusing part is when he says that Matthew speaks of himself in third person. Why didn’t he say “Jesus saw me sitting at the table” instead of “He saw Matthew.”

Poor Norman. He doesn’t realize how far behind the times he is. This was addressed by Augustine 1,600 years or so ago. Just go to Contra Faustum 17.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting

    hold

    on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

  And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

Consider the Anabasis by Xenophon. Here’s the 1st part of book three with a note at the end by the editor.

After the generals had been seized, and the captains and soldiers who   1
formed their escort had been killed, the Hellenes lay in deep
perplexity--a prey to painful reflections. Here were they at the
king's gates, and on every side environing them were many hostile
cities and tribes of men. Who was there now to furnish them with a
market? Separated from Hellas by more than a thousand miles, they had
not even a guide to point the way. Impassable rivers lay athwart their
homeward route, and hemmed them in. Betrayed even by the Asiatics, at
whose side they had marched with Cyrus to the attack, they were left
in isolation. Without a single mounted trooper to aid them in pursuit:
was it not perfectly plain that if they won a battle, their enemies
would escape to a man, but if they were beaten themselves, not one
soul of them would survive?

Haunted by such thoughts, and with hearts full of despair, but few of
them tasted food that evening; but few of them kindled even a fire,
and many never came into camp at all that night, but took their rest
where each chanced to be. They could not close their eyes for very
pain and yearning after their fatherlands or their parents, the wife
or child whom they never expected to look upon again. Such was the
plight in which each and all tried to seek repose.

Now there was in that host a certain man, an Athenian (1), Xenophon,
who had accompanied Cyrus, neither as a general, nor as an officer,
nor yet as a private soldier, but simply on the invitation of an old
friend, Proxenus. This old friend had sent to fetch him from home,
promising, if he would come, to introduce him to Cyrus, "whom," said
Proxenus, "I consider to be worth my fatherland and more to me."

 (1) The reader should turn to Grote's comments on the first appearance
    of Xenophon. He has been mentioned before, of course, more than
    once before; but he now steps, as the protagonist, upon the scene,
    and as Grote says: "It is in true Homeric vein, and in something
    like Homeric language, that Xenophon (to whom we owe the whole
    narrative of the expedition) describes his dream, or the
    intervention of Oneiros, sent by Zeus, from which this renovating
    impulse took its rise."

 

The Wars of The Jews by Josephus. 2.20.4

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, 32 who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

De Bello Gallico by Caesar

VII.—When it was reported to Caesar that they were attempting to make their route through our Province, he hastens to set out from the city, and, by as great marches as he can, proceeds to Further Gaul, and arrives at Geneva. He orders the whole Province [to furnish] as great a number of soldiers as possible, as there was in all only one legion in Further Gaul: he orders the bridge at Geneva to be broken down. When the Helvetii are apprised of his arrival, they send to him, as ambassadors, the most illustrious men of their state (in which embassy Numeius and Verudoctius held the chief place), to say “that it was their intention to march through the Province without doing any harm, because they had” [according to their own representations] “no other route:—that they requested they might be allowed to do so with his consent.” Caesar, inasmuch as he kept in remembrance that Lucius Cassius, the consul, had been slain, and his army routed and made to pass under the yoke by the Helvetii, did not think that [their request] ought to be granted; nor was he of opinion that men of hostile disposition, if an opportunity of marching through the Province were given them, would abstain from outrage and mischief. Yet, in order that a period might intervene, until the soldiers whom he had ordered [to be furnished] should assemble, he replied to the ambassadors, that he would take time to deliberate; if they wanted anything, they might return on the day before the ides of April [on April 12th].

We are quite amused to learn that Norman thinks it amusing that Josephus wrote The Wars of the Jews. Of course, he’d think that’s a ridiculous idea, but if we follow his standards, then Josephus did not write the book.

Norman also acknowledges that most scholars think the Gospels are late first century works, but considers this unlikely because the epistles don’t refer to them (Why should they?) and they aren’t mentioned until the second century. Of course, we could ask when the first reference to books like Isaiah, Daniel, or the writings of Moses take place and see how well they hold up by Norman’s standards.

Norman misses the point that many ways are used to judge when a work is written beyond “When is it first referenced?” We look for internal evidences and matters such as that. You will not see any interaction with the other side such as Blomberg or Bauckham or anyone else. More information would be damaging to Norman’s case. It’s better to go with the sensational mythicists.

Norman also claims that the Gospels were not by eyewitnesses. He has a quotation from Eusebius about pious frauds which proves nothing of that sort. All it says is several frauds showed up. By this standard, we could say all money is fake because there is plenty of counterfeit money. He then goes on to quote Robert Taylor in the 19th century who was not taken seriously in his own day and just has an assertion. Again, no interaction with Bauckham.

He then quotes Josh McDowell who talks about the differences in manuscripts and says that only 50 variant readings of the Bible at his time were of great significance. Norman in true fundamentalist form jumps to modern times and asks if someone would trust a medical textbook where there were only fifty passages of doubt. Today, textbooks are printed by machine and copied that way so there is no chance of error, but Norman doesn’t know how textual criticism works. We do have differences. They are unavoidable.

Norman tells us that by contrast, after 1948 thousands of Torah scrolls were brought to the public and aside from some in Yemen, there were no differences among the manuscripts. He gives no evidence of this claim. There is no mention of comparing the Masoretic text to the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is no mention of when our earliest manuscript of the Old Testament is or how far the distance is from that manuscript to the time of writing. Without any citation for this claim, I have no reason to take it seriously.

The next chapter is on the birth narratives not agreeing. Norman is hanging his hat on inerrancy. I have no wish to enter into that debate at this point, but I recommend the reader go to his library and look up the commentaries on this issue.

He also then goes to say the Gospels don’t agree on the names of the disciples. (Don’t you love this argument? The names disagree, therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead! Or even further, the names disagree, therefore Jesus never existed!) Norman is not aware that the same person could have two different names in antiquity. We also have no need to comment on the accounts of the death of Jesus supposedly being contradictory.

It’s important to state that I say this not because inerrancy doesn’t matter, but because this becomes a game of “Stump-The-Christian.” By conceding to that debate, one agrees that Christianity hinges on inerrancy. I make no statement like that. I only want to go for the main question. Did Jesus rise from the dead?

We’ll also then skip the resurrection accounts being contradictory as the case does not rely on the accounts of the Gospels. It is worthwhile to point out that Norman says the trial of Jesus lacks credibility because it violates so many Jewish customs. Norman is only repeating what Christian scholars have said for years. This was an entirely wrongly done trial just to deal with Jesus.

Norman’s case here largely hangs on inerrancy and pays no attention to leading scholarship. He is fine with 19th century works and works not accepted by the scholarly community today. We hope that one day he will get past this, but it seems unlikely.

But the worst is yet to come….

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus Part 5

What are we to make of Paul? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you had thought we were into flights of fancy before with Asher Norman in his book, we have reached new heights with this one. Norman presents some of the worst eisegesis that you will come across. I do realize that there are many Jews who are opposed to Christianity and do want to read anti-missionary material. Please do consider another source. This chapter on Paul will leave a lot of Christian readers stunned at the way Norman twists the New Testament. (Of course, he has nothing but condemnation if he thinks we do that with the old, but it’s okay to do that with the New.)

Let’s start with the idea that Paul believed the ends justifies the means. Norman gives us some Scripture for this. He starts with Romans 3 with verses 5 and 7-8:

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly,what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.)

Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

Let’s look at the whole passage. We’ll go with verses 1-8:

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak
    and prevail when you judge.”

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly,what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

Norman has been outright dishonest by removing the sixth verse which shows that Paul disagrees thoroughly. Romans is often seen as a sort of dialogue epistle with Paul interacting with an interlocutor throughout and quoting what he thinks his opponent will say. These are not the views of Paul. It’s rather funny that Norman accuses Christians of doing to the Old Testament the very thing he does to the New Testament.

Next we go to 2 Corinthians 12:16:

Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!

Again, the whole passage, 11-21:

11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip,arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

Norman apparently hasn’t learned about something called “sarcasm.” Does he really think Paul is going to confess to openly tricking the Corinthians in a letter trying to regain favor with them in light of the super-apostles? Not at all. In fact, he’s saying just the opposite. He was good to them always and was never a burden to them. Obviously, he had to be up to something!

Finally, Philippians 1:18:

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Again, starting at verse 15 and going through 18 shows a different picture:

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Paul is acknowledging that some people preach Christ in an attempt to cause trouble for Paul. Paul can’t do anything about this but instead turns it back on them. “What do I care? I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for Christ and you all are proclaiming Christ so thank you very much!”

Norman is also convinced Paul lied about being a Pharisee since he worked for the high priest and was never a student of Gamaliel since Paul opposed the Law. (Which he really didn’t, but that thing called the Damascus Road experience did change some views) He also speculates that Paul was a failed convert to Judaism. Will you find any scholarly backing for any of this? Nope. Just Norman’s imagination. In fact, his main source is the Ebionites later on who wrote about Paul wanting to marry the daughter of the high priest. He got turned down and in a rage turned on Judaism.

Evidence for this? None.

We move on to Paul’s Damascus Road experience and here, we are not shocked that Norman thinks that he’s surprised us all by saying there are three different accounts of what happened. Yes. Sometimes the story has some differences in it based on who is telling it and who the audience is. One fact to be sure of is Luke is no fool as he writes this. He knows what has happened. It’s quite likely he’s going for some variety. Of course, there are any number of commentaries Norman could have checked and any number of explanations for this, but no. Norman only saves that research for the Old Testament.

If this wasn’t enough, Norman thinks he’s caught Luke plagiarizing. Why? Because the experience account contains the saying “kick against the goads.” Why that also shows up in The Bacchae of Euripides! Luke is a plagiarizer!

Or maybe Luke is quoting a common idiom which was referring to resisting the will of the deity. Suppose I’m a pastor of a church about to send missionaries to an unreached part of the world. I could get in a pulpit and say “For Jesus, we are about to boldly go where no man has gone before!” No one would accuse me of plagiarizing Star Trek. They would understand the theme that I am pointing to.

Norman goes on to say that Paul was lying about being with Gamaliel because, hey, look at how Paul describes himself in Titus 3:3.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

First off, since Paul has several Gentiles with him in the writing of the letter, this isn’t a shock. He doesn’t say “I.” He says “We.” Second, Paul is speaking more about spiritual understanding. Christ did indeed add something to Paul.

If you think this is something unbelievable, it gets worse. This next one is so bad that I nearly threw the book up in exasperation when I read it. Let’s give the text first. It’s Galatians 2:19-20:

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Followed by 6:17:

17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

Norman’s conclusion? Paul sees himself as the alter ego of Jesus.

No. I’m not making that up. Really. I’m not. He really says this.

What Norman misses is that Paul lived in a world where individualism was not the way. Paul would identify himself with his group. In this case, Paul chose to identify with Christ. Paul had his identity wrapped up in Christ and was to live imitating Him. His life was to be for Christ and when he got persecuted, He was just following in the footsteps of Jesus. Despite this, Norman thinks this is better seen as Paul showing mental instability. The instability here is Norman with scholarship about the Greco-Roman world.

Norman then goes on to make the case that Paul didn’t get the Gospel from the apostles. This is hardly a shock to anyone who has read Galatians. Of course, he leaves out that the apostles added nothing to him when he presented himself to them.

Norman goes on to argue that Jesus’s disciples didn’t accept Paul. He goes to Acts 9:26 for this:

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

A brief thinking on this will show the problem. Disciples means anyone who followed Jesus in this context. It does not mean one of the twelve. To show this, let’s plug in the definition for the twelve here.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the twelve, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was one of the twelve.”

“Hey Peter. Can you remind us again? We’ve been together for at least four years here. Was this guy always one of us? I don’t remember.”

Also, let’s not be surprised that the followers of Jesus were surprised that Paul said he was a follower of Jesus. This would be like a Christian church in the Middle East being suspicious of that known ISIS member wanting to join the church saying he’s become a Christian. It’s not a shock that Norman leaves out that Barnabas changed their minds. We know Norman’s game now. Evidence that doesn’t suit his case is thrown out and treated as non-existent.

Norman also says that the apostles had to have appointment letters from James to show they are an apostle. His source for this is a rejected Gospel called the PseduoClementine Recognitions. Norman doesn’t point out that this isn’t a Gospel, that it was written by those the church held were heretics at the time, and that it dates to the fourth century. After all, fourth century documents are far better at judging first century events.

Norman then goes on to quote 2 Corinthians 3:

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.

If you’re going with Norman, you won’t find this verse. He lists it as verse 6. (Honestly, I wonder if Norman has ever read the New Testament or just read about it.) What he doesn’t realize is that letters of recommendation were all about status in those days with a higher honor person giving a recommend for a lower honor one. It’s not about a secret club the apostles had. He gives other verses as well, but none of them show what he wants them to show.

Norman also says Paul did miracles, but since he taught a different God, then this means he was a false apostle. Norman has not shown that this is a diffferent God. Throughout, we’ve shown his understanding of the Trinity is dreadfully lacking.

Norman also says that Paul taught a different Gospel and a different Jesus. We start with 2 Corinthians 11 and verses 4 and 13.

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

For such people are false apostles,deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.

Of course, all of this depends on these apostles being the same as those of the twelve. This has not been shown. Many people were called apostles who were not of the twelve. Norman gives no evidence that what he asserts is the case.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16:

15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

Are you wanting to know how this shows Paul taught a different Gospel?

So am I.

Norman gives no explanation.

Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

As expected, Norman ignores entirely that in this very chapter, Jesus’s own apostles have no problem with the message that Paul is preaching. If anyone wants to check Norman’s claims, just go back and read the verses he gives. It’s easy enough to make any case when you just cherry-pick. I once again shudder to think that this man is a lawyer.

We already looked at Norman’s claim that Paul believed the end justifies the means. There’s one more passage he adds to that. It’s one commonly used and that’s 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

No doubt, Norman would be outraged at missionaries visiting Japan who take their shoes off in someone’s home even though they never do that at home! How deceptive! How dare you actually live like the people you are trying to reach! This is all Paul is saying. He does say he’s under the law of Christ so he can’t do everything he wants to do, but he does say that if he wants to reach Jews, he abides by the Law. If he’s with Gentiles, he lives more freely.

Many passages Norman quotes also with Paul’s statements about the law also come from Hebrews. While some think Paul was the writer of Hebrews, there’s no hard proof of this. Norman also thinks that Paul was wrong when he said the law can’t make anyone perfect. Apparently, Norman thinks there were sinless people walking around in the past. King Solomon disagreed but hey, Norman knows better.

Norman also says that Paul lied about his opposition to Torah. (His supposed opposition.) For this, he goes to two passages. First, Acts 24:14:

However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,

Norman leaves out the first part of this verse, but what’s the problem? I could say this as a Gentile. I have no problem with it. No Christian should. It doesn’t mean we follow the Law, but we realize the purpose of it and agree with it.

Acts 25:8:

Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

Again, the problem? It’s not like Paul brought a pig and sacrificed it in front of the temple. Paul abided by the Law in Jerusalem.

Norman also thinks Acts 21 is a clincher. James, after all, has Paul take a purification vow.  This isn’t James giving orders to Paul. It’s James being the middleman. James is in the position of trying to tell Jews they don’t have to be Gentiles to be Christians. Paul is doing the opposite. He’s telling Gentiles they don’t have to be Jews. Now Paul has shown up with a lot of money due to the collection being taken among the churches for Jerusalem and with some Gentiles in tow. Paul is to show his solidarity with his fellow Jews by taking part in this ritual, which he agrees with.

Norman also argues that the Jews thought Paul was a heretic. Again, no major point to make here. Not much of a shock.

Finally, we conclude with the idea that Paul was a Roman agent still in his ministry. Evidence of this? Well in Romans 16, he greets Aristobulus who could have been the grandson of Herod. Naturally, that would mean that he had to walk in lockstep with Herod for Norman. The same with the greeting of Herodian. Paul also greeted all the Christians in the household of Caesar in Philippians. It’s ignored that the city of Philippi was a Roman colony and Christians there could be of the household of Caesar.

Norman also points out that Paul was protected by 470 Roman troops when being transported in Acts. Paul must have been someone important! Norman isn’t aware that the roads back then weren’t known for safety and that with mass riots just having taken place in Jerusalem and forty known men being in a conspiracy to kill Paul with the possibility of even more that is unknown, the Romans didn’t want to take chances.

Paul also taught submission to Roman authority, but this is hardly a shock either. Would Norman have preferred that Paul taught open revolt? What’s so awful about saying to be a good citizen insofar as you can?

Norman’s arguments are woefully lacking and we haven’t even got to the worst in the book. We’ll see more next time when Norman looks at the New Testament itself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 26 Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus Part 3

Was Jesus Messiah and deity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look through Asher Norman’s book and in part 3, we look at questions of Jesus as Messiah and deity. Norman lists six requirements for the Messiah. The Messiah would be descended from David and Solomon, be anointed King of Israel, return the Jewish people to Israel, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, bring peace to the world and end all war, and bring knowledge of God to the world.

He also makes a point about these being empirically verifiable and says that we don’t need faith. Of course, we can be quite certain Norman doesn’t have a clue what faith really is. He offers no definition of the term. It’s also questionable if all of these are empirically verifiable. Of course, the effects are, but can we independently verify that this is how God said the Messiah would be known? We can point to the texts, but can we empirically verify that those texts are from God? If you mean in the way of hard 100% proof? No. If you mean highly likely, then yes.

Looking at the first criteria, Norman makes much of the differences. This ignores any facts on how the ancients did genealogies. Sometimes, you could skip generations and such. If Norman finds this a problem, what does he do with the Old Testament?

Ezra 7:1-5

Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth,son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.

1 Chronicles 6:3-15

The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Eleazar fathered Phinehas, Phinehas fathered Abishua,Abishua fathered Bukki, Bukki fathered Uzzi, Uzzi fathered Zerahiah, Zerahiah fathered Meraioth, Meraioth fathered Amariah, Amariah fathered Ahitub, Ahitub fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Ahimaaz,Ahimaaz fathered Azariah, Azariah fathered Johanan, 10 and Johanan fathered Azariah (it was he who served as priest in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem). 11 Azariah fathered Amariah, Amariah fathered Ahitub, 12 Ahitub fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Shallum,13 Shallum fathered Hilkiah, Hilkiah fathered Azariah, 14 Azariah fathered Seraiah, Seraiah fathered Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Here, the genealogy in Chronicles is longer. This puts Norman in a hard spot since he says about Jesus that:

Luke’s genealogy from David to Jesus is fifteen generations longer than Matthew’s genealogy from David to Jesus. This undermines the Christian claim that the Gospels are the “Word of God” because God certainly knows the genealogy of King David. Some Christians attempt to solve this fatal problem by claiming that Luke’s genealogy is actually that of Mary, although Mary is not mentioned in Luke’s genealogy.

Of course, if this is a fatal problem for the NT being the Word of God, then so it is for the OT. Note that 1 Chronicles no doubt is pointing to Ezra, yet Ezra is not mentioned. To say Mary is not mentioned is not insurmountable. As it stands, there are numerous arguments given to explain the genealogical differences. If just one is possible, then we don’t have a defeater and finally, my case for Jesus doesn’t rely on inerrancy to begin with. However, if Norman wants to make that the standard, then he has hoisted himself on his own petard. Let’s go on and look further.

1 Samuel 6:10-13

10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

1 Chronicles 2:13-15

13 Jesse fathered Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh.

Whoa! Samuel says Jesse had eight sons. The Chronicler says he had seven. What’s going on? Surely this isn’t the Word of God!

Or it could be that ancients didn’t do genealogies like we do and differences, skipped generations, etc. were allowable. If Norman wants to hold up the NT to modern standards and say it has to meet these or else it’s not the Word of God, then we get to do the same with the Old Testament. Here we have different genealogies. Is the Old Testament not the Word of God.

Norman, who as we will see later on is known for some truly bizarre Scripture readings, says that Paul spoke about the genealogy of Jesus in Titus 3:9 and 1 Timothy 1:4. (He actually has 3:3 listed for Titus when it’s 3:9) Both of these speak about genealogies so surely it’s about that of Jesus. Right? Let’s look at the text.

Titus 3:9

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

1 Timothy 1:4

nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

No. What’s going on is that in the ancient world, your heritage described much of your identity. Christians had a new heritage and identity. That was being in Christ. Why dispute genealogies and such then? This is nothing against genealogies insofar as they are genealogies or against knowing your physical heritage, but it’s saying to not make that central.

The second criterion is the Messiah will be anointed king of Israel. Let’s look at the texts Norman gives.

2 Samuel 7:12-16

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

1 Chronicles 17:11-12

11 When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.

The text has been looked through and nowhere does this anointing seem to be mentioned. Of course, there is the talk of building a house forever. Perhaps that relates to the Temple. We’ll deal with that next.

The third is bringing the people back to Israel.

Isaiah 11:12

He will raise a signal for the nations
    and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
    from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 27:12-13

12 In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the Lord will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel. 13 And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 33:7

I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.

Since the nation of Israel has been around for 69 years now, it has to be wondered what this means then. Is the nation to be dispersed yet again and then the Messiah will bring them back? It is amazing that Norman reads these passages like a modern futurist instead of thinking about the return of Israel from the captivity in Babylon.

It also has to be asked, how is it that the Messiah will bring them back if they do not repent? This was the criteria that Solomon laid out in 1 Kings 8 and Daniel followed in his prayer in Daniel 9. Does God change His mind on this? It looks like that if a Messiah is coming, and Norman thinks he is, then Israel will have to be dispersed yet again and then brought back yet again, yet what was the basis of the first bringing back in 1948 if not national repentance? (We could ask what was the reason for the dispersion in 70 A.D. if Israel was keeping the covenant faithfully…)

The fourth is that the Messiah will rebuild a Temple.

26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Let’s just point out that the word sanctuary can refer to that of the Temple, but many times, it does not. Nothing here definitely then about a Temple.

Micah 4:1

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,

Isaiah 2:2-23

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

I still stand by my contention that this is being read like a modern futurist. Meanwhile, I also think it’s great to see that Norman is sure the Dome of the Rock will be undone for the Jewish Temple. Good luck with that.

The fifth is the Messiah will bring world peace and end war.

Ezekiel 37:26

I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.

Micah 4:3

He shall judge between many peoples,
    and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more;

Isaiah 2:4

He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more.

btw, it’s worth pointing out that later on, Norman is ready to accuse Luke and Matthew of plagiarizing when what they say is so similar to what someone else said be it Mark or a Greek poet. By those standards, since Micah is the later prophet, is he plagiarizing Isaiah?  Still, I look at this and wonder since first off, these passages are about YHWH. They’re not about the Messiah. Does Norman actually think the Messiah will be YHWH? I think there’s another group of people that thinks YHWH is the Messiah of Israel, though centered around a person named Jesus….

Second, I see again a modern futurist reading of the text. Norman complains about the way Christians treat the Bible and yet he treats it the exact same way!

The sixth criterion is bringing knowledge of God to the world.

Isaiah 11:9

They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 40:5

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Zephaniah 3:9

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
    to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord
    and serve him with one accord.

Jeremiah 31:33

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The reply is still the same. Norman rules out a second coming, but let’s consider this. Moses nowhere talks about a temple. The word doesn’t show up. The term for Messiah only shows up in Leviticus and here it talks about the priests. Norman still considers these essential. Why is it that YHWH can give progressive revelation and yet it stops with the OT? Still, we have looked at the negative test. Let’s look and see if Jesus meets these criteria.

Jesus is of the seed of David and Solomon. He is a descendant of them both through Mary and Joseph. Those interested in the differences in the genealogies are invited to see the best commentaries and works on these issues.

Jesus is indeed the King of Israel. Norman’s texts don’t mention an anointing so we don’t need to either. Jesus is King of Israel as demonstrated by God raising Him from the dead.

The third is that Jesus will bring the Jews back to Israel. In this case, yes. Israel is the people of God and now that people has been expanded to include Jews and Gentiles. All Jews who come to Jesus are being part of Israel, the remnant.

Jesus will reign with the final temple. He does indeed. This time, the church is His temple. God doesn’t dwell in places built with human hands. His rule is not restricted to one building.

He will bring peace to the world. No one is doing more to bring peace than Jesus. No one has shaped ethics more than Jesus. No one has had more of an effect like this than Jesus and all great moral reformers today take cues from Him somehow.

Finally, He will bring knowledge of God to the world. The reason people all over the world today read and study and love the Old Testament is because of Jesus. Atheists don’t debate polytheism much any more. They debate monotheism. Jesus established one God so much in our minds we don’t consider polytheism at all.

Next we move to Jesus not being the Son of God. Norman does provide amusement with a list of people who were half-man and half-god and born of virgin mothers such as Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Mithras, and Isis. (It is a wonder how a mother like Isis can be half-man. It is suspected he means Horus or Osiris, but this is Norman we’re talking about.) There is a later chapter specifically on those figures so we will deal with that then. Rest assured, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Norman gives a list of verses about God not being a man. These were addressed in earlier posts and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Just go back and read here.

Norman gives us many texts to show that God was alone when He created.

Deuteronomy 4:39

know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

Deuteronomy 32:39

“‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

2 Kings 19:19

So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”

1 Chronicles 17:20

There is none like you, O Lord, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Isaiah 44:6

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
    and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
    besides me there is no god.

Isaiah 45:5-6

I am the Lord, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
    I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.

Unfortunately, Norman doesn’t realize that I can happily agree with all of these as a Trinitarian. In fact, these kinds of passages and many more are used by us to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, I am amazed at one passage that seems to have escaped Norman’s notice since he places a big emphasis on God being alone.

Proverbs 8:22-31

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

This is Wisdom speaking and it’s definitely a creation passage. How does Norman explain this? We Christians explain it easily enough. If you’re like me, you hold that Wisdom is actually Jesus. (Spoken of in feminine terms due to Wisdom being subservient.) Wisdom was a highly described figure in Second Temple Judaism and in passages in the apocrypha, is spoken of in language reminscient of YHWH in the Old Testament.

Why does Norman leave this out?

Norman also states that the Messiah will fear God, but God cannot fear himself. This is the old canard of unipersonalism whereby God must be one person. All that needs to be said is that the Son walks in the incarnation in the fear of the Father.

Norman thinks there is a lot to the idea that the term “Son of God” can refer to Israel in the Old Testament and followers of Jesus in the New Testament as well as the King of Israel and the Messiah. Indeed it can. Norman takes a flat fundamentalist reading assuming it must mean the same thing and cannot mean deity. That it can also mean, especially in a Greco-Roman usage. It’s noteworthy that Norman nowhere looks at the term “Son of Man.”

The next section is about how Jesus was elected God in 325 A.D.

Okay. You can stop laughing and we’ll get back to the blog.

You see, For Norman, it’s supposed to be news to many of us about the existence of the Arians. No. Not news at all. The deity of Christ had been firmly held as doctrine. There can be plenty of lists one can go to to find these references. One such can be found here.

Next Norman wants to say that Judaism has no concept of a Trinity. Naturally, he ignores literature of Second Temple Judaism that tried to establish what made God God and has other figures that share in divine status, such as Wisdom, and even later figures like Metatron who is said to bear the name of YHWH. For this, he goes to some statements of the church today.

His first stop is The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. In it, he finds the statemen that the Trinity can neither be known by reason apart from revelation, nor demonstrated by reason after it has been revealed. Norman takes this to mean that the Trinity cannot mean understood. Of course, in a sense, that is true, no more than even a unipersonal God in monotheism can be understood, but that is not what the work is saying. It is saying that if you sat down in your armchair with just reason, you could not get to the Trinity. Once you get the information and know the Trinity, you still can’t make an argument with reason alone to get to it.

At times, I wonder how this man is an attorney since he reads texts so badly.

Next we go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, Norman questions Jesus being the same essence as God. After all, Jesus changed and grew and was finite. Norman is unaware that the Trinity explains this by saying the Son has a divine and a human nature and happens to the human nature does not happen to the divine and vice-versa. Norman even asks what it means if God is one and appears as Jesus in another mode of being. Does that mean Jesus wouldn’t be a distinct person? Yes. It would. That’s because that’s not the Trinity. That’s modalism.

It gets worse. At this point, I think Norman is just dishonest. He then quotes A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson saying “As Christ’s human body was phantasm, his suffering and death were mere appearance. If he suffered, he was not God. If he was God, he did not suffer.” Norman leaves out that Johnson says that this was the theory of the Docetist school and Johnson even calls it a “weird theory.” Those who doubt this can look at Johnson’s work itself and just look up the word “phantasm.” See if you think Norman is quoting it fairly.

Norman also goes on to quote Augustine in Book 5 and Chapter 9 of On The Trinity which he said the statement there was popularized by John Wesley who said “Tis mystery all; the immortal dies.” I wanted very much to see what Augustine really said, so I went to my library and pulled out my copy of Augustine’s work. I went to Book 5, Chapter 9.

At least, I wanted to.

There is no book 5, Chapter 9. There was a ninth secton in a different chapter, but I did not find any statement like that in it. It would be nice if Norman had done his research properly. Of course, one could expect him to actually read Augustine’s work and understand it, but that would be asking too much.

Next time, we’ll be looking at the next area, Messianic prophecies.

It’s not going to get much better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters