Book Plunge: The New Testament and Homosexuality

What do I think of Robin Scroggs’s book published by Augsburg Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been doing some research lately on the Romans 1 passage on homosexuality for a class I’m taking and wanted to read some of the books I could find on the passage that were written from a perspective that is different from the traditional one that the passage condemns homosexual activity. Scroggs was one that I had heard about. I purchased his book then to see what he had to say.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Scroggs did much of a study. If you check the bibliography, his sources as far as I can tell are all of the opinion that homosexual behavior is okay. Of course, he should have some of those sources. The problem is if those are the only sources you really have. It’s like saying “I want to study the age of the Earth” and then reading only people who think the Earth is young and lo and behold, you conclude the Earth is young.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Scroggs gets everything wrong. There are some points I agree with. He says “At the same time, I confess equally that I see no way of reading the Christian gospel except that it is one which totally accepts in love all persons, regardless of inadequacies or moral failings.” (Location 21) Naturally, all of us want to have a robust view of the good news. The good news is Jesus does love you just as you are. I would want to add that He also loves you so much He doesn’t want to leave you as you are.

Scroggs is also correct in saying “Until we know what the biblical authors were against we cannot begin to reflect upon the relevance of those writings for contemporary issues.” (Location 59) This is indeed the case. We need to understand what the text meant to the people back then and then look and see what it means to us today. I agree entirely.

Who also would disagree with the statement that “Each of us needs to know why we hold the views we do and what are the implications and presuppositions of our views. At the same time we need to hear sympathetically the views of others who differ, to understand the logic of their positions. What we need is a little less heat and a little more light.” (Location 127) Again, all of this sounds good. What needs to be asked is if Scroggs will give us more light.

Well let’s see what some early commentators said. How about chapter 11 of book 1 of the Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus?

1. ABOUT this time the Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth; they became unjust towards men, and impious towards God, insomuch that they did not call to mind the advantages they received from him: they hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices. God was therefore much displeased at them, and determined to punish them for their pride, and to overthrow their city, and to lay waste their country, until there should neither plant nor fruit grow out of it.

2. When God had thus resolved concerning the Sodomites, Abraham, as he sat by the oak of Mambre, at the door of his tent, saw three angels; and thinking them to be strangers, he rose up, and saluted them, and desired they would accept of an entertainment, and abide with him; to which, when they agreed, he ordered cakes of meal to be made presently; and when he had slain a calf, he roasted it, and brought it to them, as they sat under the oak. Now they made a show of eating; and besides, they asked him about his wife Sarah, where she was; and when he said she was within, they said they would come again hereafter, and find her become a mother. Upon which the woman laughed, and said that it was impossible she should bear children, since she was ninety years of age, and her husband was a hundred. Then they concealed themselves no longer, but declared that they were angels of God; and that one of them was sent to inform them about the child, and two of the overthrow of Sodom.

3. When Abraham heard this, he was grieved for the Sodomites; and he rose up, and besought God for them, and entreated him that he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. And when God had replied that there was no good man among the Sodomites; for if there were but ten such man among them, he would not punish any of them for their sins, Abraham held his peace. And the angels came to the city of the Sodomites, and Lot entreated them to accept of a lodging with him; for he was a very generous and hospitable man, and one that had learned to imitate the goodness of Abraham. Now when the Sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and this to an extraordinary degree, and that they took up their lodgings with Lot, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence; and when Lot exhorted them to sobriety, and not to offer any thing immodest to the strangers, but to have regard to their lodging in his house; and promised that if their inclinations could not be governed, he would expose his daughters to their lust, instead of these strangers; neither thus were they made ashamed.

Or what about Against Apion Book II?

And why do not the Lacedemonians think of abolishing that form of their government which suffers them not to associate with any others, as well as their contempt of matrimony? And why do not the Eleans and Thebans abolish that unnatural and impudent lust, which makes them lie with males? For they will not show a sufficient sign of their repentance of what they of old thought to be very excellent, and very advantageous in their practices, unless they entirely avoid all such actions for the time to come: nay, such things are inserted into the body of their laws, and had once such a power among the Greeks, that they ascribed these sodomitical practices to the gods themselves, as a part of their good character; and indeed it was according to the same manner that the gods married their own sisters. This the Greeks contrived as an apology for their own absurd and unnatural pleasures.

But what about Ezekiel 16?

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

However, Ezekiel is referring to the holiness code here and the word he uses for detestable things is the word for abominations that is used in Leviticus 18 and 20 that describes homosexual practice. That would mean that Sodom was violating the holiness code. The end of Leviticus 18 and 20 also indicates that the other nations were expelled for following these practices.

When we get to Romans, we see this at Location 224.

“What is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual; what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.” Paul is stigmatizing persons who have gone beyond their own personal nature to commit homosexual acts. But this means they must be by nature heterosexual. Thus Paul does not address the situation of persons who are “by nature” homosexually oriented. This argument depends heavily, of course, on the distinction between inversion and perversion described above.”

Of course, the problem with this is that it’s saying Paul had no problem with the practice automatically which is the statement under question. It’s also amazing that we’re told regularly Paul did not understand what it meant to have a homosexual orientation and yet the whole argument presumes that he does. We could also just as well ask would Paul have had a problem with incest if he knew the person was someone who had an incestual nature and was from birth attracted to family members for sexual gratification?

In fact, when we speak about homosexual relationships we read that “That Paul would have actually known people who participated in such relationships is hardly likely. What he ‘knew’ probably originated rather from the rumor mills of the day, particularly perhaps from Jewish suspicions about Gentile activities.” (Loc. 503)

Okay. So let me get this straight. Paul is definitely a Jew, but he’s a Roman citizen who grew up in a Greek culture and is well familiar with Greco-Roman thought and rhetoric and traveled throughout the Roman empire, but somehow, we can be sure he was not familiar with what the Gentiles did? The same one who said the Corinthians were guilty of an evil not even found among the pagans? Methinks Scroggs presumes too much. This is even more interesting since at 516 we’re told that Paul and his disciple who wrote 1 Timothy were firmly embedded in Greek culture. Which is it?

Scroggs has several references on the term “para phusin” which means contrary to nature. The term is used to describe homosexual practice often. It’s important that when it’s described in the Laws of Plato, it also speaks about female mating with female. Scroggs goes from this to loc. 701 where he argues that Paul’s usage of the term in the passage is a stereotype of Greco-Roman attitudes. It was pederasty being condemned.

It’s hard to really find this convincing, especially since it starts with women on women and since Paul uses language that goes back to Genesis 1, such as the description of animals, male and female, and the creator. Paul is not getting his ideas from culture so much as he is from Genesis 1 and 2.

At loc. 942, we’re told that Hellenistic Jewish attitudes were more homophobic than Palestinian.

Because, you know, we needed more light and less heat….

At loc. 1091, Scroggs says the Gospels do not mention homosexuality at all nor does Acts or the book of Revelation. It’s only in the epistles. Sure, but there are several sins not mentioned in those books. That does not mean they did not matter. It could just as easily mean, these were open and shut cases. Jews did not need to be convinced. I have never heard a sermon at a church about the evils of incest and how we shouldn’t practice incest, but that does not mean all the churches I have been to affirm incest.

At 1098, we’re told that pederasty was the norm for homosexual relationships, so it must be a presupposition that pederasty is under view. Nice to know that all of this is done before we even get to the documents themselves. If we are beginning with any view, wouldn’t it make more sense to begin with Paul’s Jewish view?

I really wish there was more relevant to this, but unfortunately, there isn’t. It looks like Scroggs set out to read only that which agreed with his conclusion and lo and behold, reached his conclusion. Beware always the sound of one-hand clapping. The Christian is on good position in going with the traditional interpretation. Of course, it could be for the sake of argument that the Bible is wrong in what it says, but let’s be sure we’re clear on what it says.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Reply To Metro on Jesus Mythicism

Do some arguments need to stay dead? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ah yes. Easter. That time of year when we Christians come together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the time of year when the media loves to resurrect arguments that died years ago and ask “Can these bones walk again?” Now it’s wanting to bring Jesus mythicism mainstream.

In some ways, it’s odd writing a reply to this because of my stance on the rise of mythicism. I am convinced that those supporting mythicism are doing a great deal of harm to the secular movement in the U.S. and wherever else they go by making internet atheists who are even more ignorant and invincible in their ignorance and that this will allow Christians to win the day years later when we’ve been the ones, you know, actually studying real scholarship instead of just going by what we see in Google. Still, some Christians will see this and be troubled and some will want something to shame the atheists who post mythicist nonsense.

Today’s drivel can be found here. I’d like to start with a rant about the title. The writer wants to speak about things that are not true, but that does not equal a lie. If a student answers a question wrong on a math test, he is not lying. He honestly thinks that’s what the answer is. He is just mistaken. For it to be a lie, the writer would need to demonstrate that the authors of the Gospels knew they were communicating an untruth and chose to communicate it as a truth anyway. Good luck with that one.

So let’s see how this starts.

If you saw somebody flying up into heaven in a cloud of magic sparkles, you’d probably at least Instagram it, right?

So how come 2,000 years ago, no historian seemed to notice when Jesus did the same – despite ‘dozens of eye-witnesses’ seeing him do it?

Not sure where the cloud of magic sparkles came from. We’re not told anything about that. Still, you have dozens of eyewitnesses and naturally, no one could instagram back then, but I think the parallel they get is “Why didn’t anyone write this down?”

Saying something like that assumes a post-Gutenberg version of society. You see, even up until the Industrial Revolution, most people couldn’t read. You want to spread a story? You use word of mouth. Here are the benefits. Word of mouth is free, it’s seen as more reliable, and it can reach everyone who can speak the language. (Yes. I know about Ehrman’s criticisms and have responded.)

Some people get surprised when I tell them writing was expensive. That seems like a cop-out. Not at all, and keep in mind that this is just for writing the original. The copies would have cost a good deal also if only just for equipment since most copies of the NT were made by amateurs.

The cost of writing and rewriting was not free. A secretary charged by the line. Like anyone whose living depended on billing customers, the secretary kept up with how many lines he wrote each time. Although we do not know the exact charges for making drafts and producing a letter, we can make some educated guesses. A rough, and very conservative, estimate of what it would cost in today’s dollars to prepare a letter like 1 Corinthians would be $2100, $700 for Galatians, and $500 for 1 Thessalonians.” Richards, Capes, and Reeves, Rediscovering Paul p. 78

Now suppose you had someone to read the manuscript? Well this would be one person listening to someone else read a manuscript. That sounds a lot like oral tradition and how would these other people tell others? It would still be word of mouth. Of course, those wanting to better understand oral tradition are invited to check a book like The Lost World of Scripture.

Now why would no historian mention this? Well most historians were outside of Judea at the time. Now suppose you’re in a city like Rome and you hear about this rabbi in Judea, which is seen as a more backwaters area, and he is supposedly doing miracles. Chances are, you won’t take this seriously as most of the elite would be skeptical of miracles. Then you hear he was crucified. Okay. Definitely not taking him seriously. No one worthy of a good reputation would be crucified. People didn’t take the claims seriously today for the same reason most people don’t take claims of Benny Hinn seriously. When the Christian movement started, most would not want to dignify it with a response hoping it would just go away. Celsus is one of our first critics and by the time we get to Porphyry, it’s pretty clear Christianity is here to stay, but it’s still combated.

In fact, we know a lot about Messianic claimants who had to have the Roman army called out because these claimants had supporters in the thousand and battles with Rome would take place. These were people worth mentioning. Who all mentions them at the time?

One guy. Just one. Josephus. If we did not have Josephus, we would not have a clue about these people. In fact, let’s look at some other people.

How about Hannibal? He nearly conquered the Roman Empire. He was the great Carthaginian general in the Punic Wars. He slaughtered army after army that came to him and was defeated just before he conquered Rome. This was a great man worth writing about!

Our first mention of him comes about 40-60 years later in Polybius.

How about Arminius who defeated about a tenth of the Roman army in a battle. This great Germanic general would have been a massive hero in his time. This is a man worth writing about!

Wait about a century later and you’ll see mention of him.

What about Queen Boudica? This was another great woman who stood up against the Roman Army. Now surely some would want to write about a woman who was this successful!

Again. No. Wait about the same length.

How about Caius Apuleius Diocles? This guy was the great charioteer of his day and the crowds loved chariots. Sports fanaticism is just as much a thing of the past as it is today. Over a quarter of a million people would watch this guy!

We have one contemporary inscription. That’s it.

But this Jew in Palestine who was crucified. Everyone should have written about him.

I know the objections some of you are raising. We’ll get to them. Let’s get back to the article.

A San Francisco-based atheist writer has argued in a series of controversial essays and books that there’s something distinctly fishy about the whole Jesus story.

Fitzgerald, an atheist activist, says, ‘There is a paradox that Jesus did all these amazing things and taught all these amazing things yet no one heard of him outside his immediate cult for nearly 100 years.

‘Or it means he didn’t do all these things at all…’

Ah yes. David Fitzgerald. Well what a shock because this is what the atheist movement is producing, following the lead of polyamorous prominent internet blogger Richard Carrier. Of course, all Fitzgerald has is an argument from silence and one that completely discounts that we have four Greco-Roman biographies written about this guy within a century’s time, in fact I’d say even by liberal standards 70 years time, and historical references in the Pauline epistles.

Did Jesus do all these amazing things? Well he was said to do them and most people who were outside of the area would not bother to send someone to check them out. You had more important things going on to them all over the world. You see, you can believe Jesus historically existed and did not do miracles. Many atheists do this and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives.

Not people like Fitzgerald. It’s all-or-nothing.

San Francisco-based David Fitzgerald claims that there are no mentions of Jesus – at all – in 125 different accounts of the period.

He says it makes no sense, as Jesus is supposed to have been a famous figure who wrought incredible miracles – but no contemporary writers had heard of him.

So the number is at 125 now? Good to know. We’ve moved a lot past Remsberg’s list. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell us who these historians are. Well if he’s using the list from Michael Paulkovich, which has 126 figures in it, then there are some problems. Even an atheist writer who is unsure if Jesus existed or not can see the problems with it. (I also recommend you read the interaction at the bottom with atheist Tim O’Neill and the others on the blog post.)

What about the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension?

Fitzgerald writes, ‘Of course, the final icing on the Jesus cake is his resurrection and ascension into Heaven in front of many witnesses. It’s strange enough to realize that such a world-altering supernatural event, if true arguably one of the most significant and influential moments in history, seen by scores of eyewitnesses, would not have been an immediate bombshell on the consciousness of the first-century world. But it comes without a trace in the historical record for nearly a century…’

We also don’t have historical accounts of the eruption of Vesuvius that killed 250,000 people at least that are current with the times except for one off-the-cuff remark in an exchange between Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. In fact, it’s not even until we get to Cassius Dio over a century later that we learn that a second city was destroyed in the volcano. Yet somehow, an event that would only be seen by those on a mountaintop who would be said to be of a dubious nature anyway should have been noticed by everyone? (The resurrection was not noticed and again, most who could write would shrug it off. Ancients were especially skeptical of resurrections.)

What about the census?

Fitzgerald writes, ‘Luke (2:1-4) claims Jesus was born in the year of a universal tax census under Augustus Caesar, while Cyrenius (a.k.a. Quirinius) was governor of Syria, But Roman records show the first such universal census didn’t occur until decades after this, during the reign of the emperor Vespasian in 74 CE.’

Unfortunately, this is not a cut and dry case. There are indeed records of other censuses, but it can also depend on how one translates the language in Luke 2. Ben Witherington joined me for the second hour of my program here. He makes the case that the language could indicate that this was a registration that took place before the great census.

At any rate, let’s suppose Luke got a fact wrong. I’m not saying he did, but for the sake of argument, let’s suppose he did. Does this show Jesus didn’t exist? No. At worst, it just shows Inerrancy is false. That’s not enough to show all of the Gospels are false.

What about the slaughter of the infants?

Fitzgerald says, ‘There is absolutely no way anyone would have missed an outrage as big as the massacre of every infant boy in the area around a town just 6 miles from Jerusalem – and yet there is absolutely no corroboration for it in any account – Jewish, Greek or Roman. It’s not even found in any of the other Gospels – only Matthew’s.

There’s also no way anyone would have missed an explosion that killed a quarter of a million people. Oh wait. They didn’t mention it except for an off-the-cuff remark from the time. There’s also this strange game being played that if something is in the Bible, it must be mentioned elsewhere to be corroborated. Do we do this with any other ancient source? I mean, of course it’s nice to have multiple sources, but sometimes we just don’t. That doesn’t mean we throw it out as unhistorical.

But yes, there is a way this would be missed. Bethlehem was a small little hamlet of a town then. The number of boys killed would likely be about a dozen. For a king like Herod, this is par for the course. Of the many wicked things he did, this would not be as intriguing as the more political events he did. Especially since most people outside Christianity would say “Well that Messiah he was fearful of never came so no need to bother with that.”

Fitzgerald says, ‘Most Christians also accept that Jesus’ birth and death were also accompanied by still more phenomenally news-worthy events; like a 3-hour supernatural darkness over “all the land,”. But like the miraculous Star of Bethlehem, no one recorded any such thing at this time. Astronomical marvels like these could never have been ignored by works like Pliny’s Natural History, Seneca’s Natural Questions, Ptolemy’s Almagest, the works of Tacitus or Suetonius.’

And they could never have been ignored because?

Most would look and say “Well that was interesting” but note that nothing happened if they saw it at all. Second, there’s even great debate as to whether it even was a star. Even we Christians debate amongst ourselves what this body was. Some people think it was the aligning of Jupiter and Saturn. Some think it was a comet. Some think it was an angel. Some think a combination of these are something else entirely.

It’s not like we necessarily have exhaustive lists anyway. Fitzgerald would have to show that this was a star and that no one noticed it. None of this has been demonstrated. It’s only been asserted.

As for the darkness, even some evangelicals interpret that as apocalyptic but all the land does not necessitate the entire Roman Empire but could refer to Judea. Even if it meant the Roman Empire, we again do not have an exhaustive list of eclipses and such from the time. Again, the most that is lost is possibly Inerrancy, but if apocalyptic not even that.

In the end, we can simply thank sources like Metro for publishing this. They’re not doing atheism any favors and instead giving a conspiracy theory for atheists. Remember how recently I wrote about how the internet spreads misinformation as much as truth?

Treat Metro’s article as Exhibit A.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Deeper Waters Podcast 3/26/2016: Gary Habermas

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

This Easter, churches will have their usual overflow of people who have come to church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Many will celebrate it, but few will think about it. It’s a shame because the resurrection is not just any event. It’s the most important event of all and if it happened, it is definitely world changing. On the other hand, if it didn’t happen, that is also, unfortunately, world changing. Everything stands or falls on the resurrection.

This Easter then, I decided to see if a good friend of mine would be willing to come back to the show to talk about the resurrection. He was more than willing to. In fact, he told me he was going to study this topic just in preparation for being on my show. That’s so nice. This Saturday, I will be again interviewing none other than Gary Habermas. Who is he?


Gary Habermas (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has published 40 books, half of them on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection, plus more than seventy chapters or articles in other books, plus over 100 articles for journals and other publications. He has also taught courses at about 15 other graduate schools.

Gary Habermas is considered the leading authority on the resurrection and he is also the personal mentor of Mike Licona, who he wrote The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus with. He has written more on this topic quite likely than any one else out there and for those interested, he is currently writing a massive magnum opus on it. His Ph.D. was done the topic as well.

Not only that, for those who are doubters, Habermas is the guy to go to for you as well. Habermas has done extensive work on the topic of doubt and helping Christians who find doubt so troublesome. This isn’t just doubt of “Is Christianity true?” but also the doubts that Christians can have about their relationship with God. “Did I really say the right words?” “Am I really a Christian?” “How do I know I’m not just fooling myself into thinking I’m a Christian.”

Habermas will be my guest for a two-hour interview so expect me to go everywhere I can with the resurrection and try to ask the hardest questions that I can about it. After all, there are a lot of attacks on this one and indeed, there should be. This is the point where Christianity stands or falls and this is where our defense needs to be the toughest. I tell Christians to not marry their Christianity to anything else except the resurrection of Jesus. That is where it stands or falls.

Please be watching your podcast feed for the latest episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Was Eusebius a Liar?

Did the father of church history lie? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“Bishop Eusebius, a close ally of the emperor, was instrumental in crystalizing and defining the version of Christianity that was to become orthodox, and he is the first person known to have quoted this paragraph of Josephus. Eusebius once wrote that it was a permissible “medicine” for historians to create fictions–prompting historian Jacob Burckhardt to call Eusebius “the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity.” (P. 255 of Godless by Dan Barker.)

So says Dan Barker about Eusebius. Now this is naturally a serious charge if it is true, but is it in fact true? Well, not really. For one thing, the description comes from a chapter heading. The heading could have come from Eusebius, but not necessarily. It could have been a summation by a medieval copyist of what Eusebius wrote. Still, even if we grant it, do we have a dangerous case? Well no. In fact, if you just spend a few minutes looking up quotes, you can see what’s going on.

Let’s go and see what Eusebius said in the chapter in entirety.


[PLATO] ‘But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this, and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly?

‘Truth, O Stranger, is a noble and an enduring thing; it seems, however, not easy to persuade men of it.’

Now you may find in the Hebrew Scriptures also thousands of such passages concerning God as though He were jealous, or sleeping, or angry, or subject to any other human passions, which passages are adopted for the benefit of those who need this mode of instruction.

Yes. That’s the entire chapter. Note that this is not at all about creating history. Eusebius writes about the Old Testament and I don’t know any skeptic who thinks Eusebius created that. (But hey, give it time and I’m sure someday some crazy skeptic will say that.) So what is going on?

Eusebius is writing about the use of anthropomorphisms in the Old Testament and saying that although these descriptions of God aren’t literally true, they can be helpful for those who need to be instructed in this way. Note that this does not mean it is a lie. It means it’s being explained in terms that can be understood. We should not expect the Old Testament to be the Summa Theologica for instance.

In fact, we have a parallel to this saying. That shows up in the Contra Celsum of Origen.

Others, then, may concede to Celsus that God does not undergo a change, but leads the spectators to imagine that He does; whereas we who are persuaded that the advent of Jesus among men was no mere appearance, but a real manifestation, are not affected by this charge of Celsus. We nevertheless will attempt a reply, because you assert, Celsus, do you not, that it is sometimes allowable to employ deceit and falsehood by way, as it were, of medicine?

Could this then be a sort of saying at the time? It’s possible. We don’t have enough evidence. Note in all of this, we’re not likely talking about lies, but talking about fictions. That is, it is beneficial to tell things that might not be true but serve for edification. Think of the parables of Jesus that don’t necessarily tell of true events, but are edifying, or of Aesop’s fables.

So again, we have an example of how modern day atheists too often do not check the original sources. Instead, most of them get in second hand from people who probably never checked either. (Jacob Burckhardt lived in the 19th century for instance.) The church fathers weren’t infallible and they needed a savior like we do, but always ask the person who gives a quote where it comes from and find it in its original context.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Book Plunge: One Nation Under God

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

Two of the things you’re never supposed to discuss at the dinner table are politics and religion. What happens when you bring both of them together? Usually, matters become even more explosive. Some Christians want to avoid politics altogether and think that the Kingdom of God should have nothing to do with the governments of men. Some would prefer to combine the two together and say that we will make the Kingdom of God come on Earth through the government.

Ashford and Pappalardo have problems with both positions. Something interesting about their book is that you will not find hard condemnation of either conservatism or liberalism. You will not find targeting of the Republican party or the Democrat party. You will find discussions of the issues, but the writers leave it to you, the reader, to decide where you will take your stand beyond that.

The book starts with opening sections describing the relationship between Christians and culture. Many views are critiqued and some are settled on. It also talks about not only what the content of our presentation will be in the public square, but also how it is that we will go about presenting our viewpoint in the public square. Make no mistake, the writers definitely think Christians do need to stand up for their position.

When it gets to the issues, there are explanations of what is going on in each of the issues and then there are examples of Christians who are taking a stand on those issues. These are quite helpful as they provide often not just examples of the content but how the writers want to see Christians go about making their case in the public square. The writers then end each section with several recommended books. These are classified in range from beginning level to advanced so that if you don’t know where to go, you can have a general idea.

Issues discussed include topics like abortion, the nature of marriage, the environment, economics, war, race relations, and immigration. The writers again do not side with any one party on these issues explicitly. They do take a stand and often explain where it is that they make their stand, but they also leave a lot left unsaid. After all, this is meant to give you just an introduction to the basic facts and they don’t so much I suspect want to tell you their views, but rather how they think that you should go about coming to your own conclusion.

I do sometimes wish more sources had been given on a topic. One main example is that in the section on the environment, there was no mention of the main Christian response to this, the Cornwall Alliance For The Stewardship of Creation. There were a few other sections where I thought more works could have been added, but what is there is certainly sufficient to get someone started on the path.

This is a good and short book. If you work hard, you could read it in a day, but it will prepare you for when it comes time to vote. The reader will start to have a better grasp on the issues and can further read on the issues that interest them most.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Studying Logic

How do you go about studying the topic of logic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been discussing lately with some fellow Christians the study of logic. We’ve often discussed the main ways that people study logic, such as reading the books on logic and listening to great teachers on logic. This is essential to the study and you should do this, but at the same time, I want to point out some fun ways you can put into practice what you are studying.

One place to go to is advertising. Someone is selling you a product. Why should you buy it? What claims do they make? Do they really convince you that this is a worthwhile exchange for your money, or do they do something else, say have a bikini wearing model advertise a burger for you? (And let’s face it, we all know that model never ever eats anything like that.)

Sometimes, businesses are less forward than that and try to sneak in an attitude. When we lived in Tennessee, a local bank would have commercials with a touching country setting emphasizing the goodness of home. Nothing was said about the bank itself, but the feeling you got thinking about the homey atmosphere was meant to carry over to the bank. Car insurance companies have been doing this as well using humor. How many of us laugh at the “Jake from State Farm” commercials or the GEICO commercials about cats, mothers, and the band Europe? You know what? They work, because we talk about these commercials, but many times you don’t really wind up knowing much about the product.

I have also been a stickler for pointing out to my wife Allie what it means when someone is referred to as a liar. Because someone gets a claim wrong does not mean that they are a liar. If that is so, every student who gets a false answer on a math test is a liar. A liar is someone who knows the truth about what they are saying and says the opposite fully intending what they say to be believed as the truth. We have to be clear because someone could say the exact opposite in sarcasm not intending to be believed at all. This kind of thing happens often in politics. It’s too easy to say someone is a liar for providing information that is false. Maybe they are, but it takes more than false information to show that someone is lying.

Speaking of politics, let’s look at the presidential debates we have going on now. This is a great place to go to to study logic because you can look at a question a candidate is asked and then look at the answer and ask “Did they really answer the question?” You can also ask how they did that with a question or challenge they receive from an opponent.

By the way, when you do this, it’s important to try to be as impartial as you can. Let’s say you’re a Ted Cruz supporter in the Republican primary. You might be looking to see what Donald Trump says that is an example of bad logic or an answer that does not follow or dodges the question. That’s fine. Do the same for Cruz also. If you’re a Trump supporter, you will do the opposite. You should also be willing to admit when your opponent does answer the question satisfactorily. You can debate how good the answer is how effective a strategy would be, but does he answer the question?

Humor is also a good place to go to. Comedians don’t try to be logicians, but they do try to point out the humor in our thinking. If you like puns, puns rely on ambiguity largely. That’s what makes them so funny. Much of our humor relies on taking people literally. My wife and I were just seeing someone and getting set to make another appointment and they said we can make it for whenever we want. I replied midnight would work just fine for us. Of course, that wouldn’t work for them, but that was the humor of it. On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper regularly does this sort of thing.

Finally, if you’re doing this from an apologetics perspective, consider watching to and listening to debates. One of my favorite programs for debates is Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley. Try to be impartial. Ask and see what side really makes the better case. I have heard debates where I had to say the non-Christian made a better case and some where sadly, the Christian case was just embarrassing in its defense. It does not mean that I think the non-Christian was right, but it does mean that I think they did a better job presenting their case. One mistake it’s easy to make is to think that if an argument agrees with your conclusion, it must be a good one. Christians and atheists both sadly have a habit of going to Google, finding the first thing that they think agrees with them, and sharing it because they think it agrees with what they already believe and so it must be a good argument.

Studying logic in this can be fun and eye-opening and prepare you for a world where people are going to be consistently trying to snow you. Many will do this unintentionally. Some will do it intentionally. If you can learn to think through what people say better, you will be a step ahead of the game. Even if you don’t know a topic well, you can at least see how well conclusions follow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Was Jesus Scared?

Did our Lord have fear? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife wrote an excellent blog about fear. In it, she raised the question about Jesus in the garden. Did Jesus have fear as he knelt and asked that the cup pass through Him? I think she handled it well from a practical perspective in that she did make sure to emphasize that Jesus was fully human. One of the great dangers of our modern age is that we have so emphasized the deity of Christ that we have often forgotten His humanity.

Still, what was going on in the Garden? Did Jesus have fear? If we look at the account in Matthew, we can see that Jesus had sorrow. Sorrow itself is not a sin to have. There are some things that should make us sad. We can know how sorrowful Jesus was since He was sorrowful to the point of death. This is the lowest despair you can be in.

And what was it that Jesus was not wanting to experience at this time? Now some might say the crucifixion, and of course we can certainly all agree that “Being crucified” is not on our bucket lists. Still, was Jesus wanting to avoid strong physical pain, even intense physical pain like a crucifixion, and that sorrow of undergoing that was what was ripping His soul apart?

I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus was not wanting to undergo at the time was in some sense a separation from the Father. Jesus did not want to have to experience bearing the sins of the world on Him. It’s a lesson to us that Jesus considered His relationship with the Father so serious that He did not want to in any way bear anything that would be contrary to that relationship. Now what exactly happened when that took place? That is for another blog and something I still think about, but today we are talking about the garden.

The difference in Jesus’s action was that He said not what He willed, but what the Father willed. Jesus wanted to avoid the cross and that was certainly not a wrong desire, but if it had to be that way, He was willing to go through with it. That is what makes the difference. It’s okay to not want to go through some things, but ultimately, what shows Jesus’s character in the face of all of this was that He chose the will of God over His own will.

Keep in mind also that Jesus is to be our example in the New Testament and we are to walk as He walked. That means that we are to choose the desires of the Father over our desires. Now that might be something we consider if we have to face something like being willing to die for Christ, but could it be the greatest challenge in the world is not dying for Christ but living for Him? If you are willing to say that you will not recant and be killed, your struggle ends pretty quickly. What about the struggle of today?

What about the struggle to be a good spouse to the person you’re married to? What about the struggle to raise your children in the fear of the Lord? What about the struggle to live within your financial means? What about the struggle to trust God in all things? What about the struggle to remove evil from your own heart?

Jesus in all of His life gave to the will of the Father every time and lived accordingly. Now to be sure, He did not face everything that we faced, but He is no stranger to temptation either and He knew what it meant. He also knew what it meant to succeed and calls us to do the same.

Jesus was willing to die for the will of God. The question for us today is if we’re willing to live for the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Unchanging Witness

What do I think of S. Donald Forston and Rollin G. Grams’s book published by B&H Publishing Group? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With the Supreme Court voting to redefine marriage and the rise of writers like Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, and John Boswell, the church faces a new challenge. Historically, the church has always held to a consistent sexual ethic when it comes to issues relating to homosexuality, but now the claim is rising up that an active homosexual lifestyle and Christianity can coincide. This is also causing splits across the church as new denominations are formed when Christians are convinced the one that they had has fallen away.

Forston and Grams have written in this situation to help Christians through this time by first off, giving an overview of history from ancient Judaism up to the present time to see that the new move is indeed something new and without any Biblical warrant at all. Some might want to claim that Christians have held to different stances throughout history, but it is up to the critic now to substantiate that in light of this research. This was a highly thorough part of the book constantly looking at primary resources and citing them.

After that, we get into the Biblical data, which while I enjoyed the history was the much more intriguing part to me as we get to see interactions with the arguments of the homosexual revisionists today. It’s not a surprise that the change of interpretation has come to coincide with what Western culture wants to embrace. Of course, there can be grounds for changing a long held viewpoint on how a passage should be interpreted, but we need to make sure that those grounds are valid grounds. It can be too easy to begin with the conclusion that we want and then go on from there.

You might think that if you’ve read Gagnon’s work on the topic, you need go no further, but I disagree. Gagnon’s work is indeed excellent and he makes the most thorough exegetical case that there is, but I think in some ways these writers build on the foundation and add in a few extra pieces along with the historical data. If you have read both of these books, you will be equipped to deal with those who wish to say that Christianity and an actively homosexual lifestyle can coincide.

In the end, the writers say it will come down to a question of authority. There are a number of people who are now saying “Well yeah, the Bible does condemn this, but we just realize that was the opinion of the writers in the time of the Bible.” If someone wants to say “We’ve changed our view on slavery and women”, the writers have a section at the end dealing with that kind of objection.

If there were some downsides, I wish more of the quotes from the church fathers had focused on homosexual behavior instead of pederasty. Also, if you want more of a Natural Law approach, you won’t find it here. I think it’s important that Christians have both Natural Law and Scriptural approaches, but I understand the writers could not give us everything.

Ultimately, if you want to know what’s going on in the church with this issue, this is a book you need to get your hands on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Marshall/Buckner Debate Thoughts

What did I think of a theism/atheism debate last night? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I had been invited to attend a debate put on by an apologetics group called Why Should I Believe?. The debate was between the Christian Wallace Marshall, a Christian apologist with Reasonable Faith, and between Ed Buckner. My friend Cody who I went with told me he had seen Buckner debate some on a Ratio Christi panel and had heard him put forward “Who created God?” as if this was the great stumper of our times. I was preparing myself for something similar and hoping that he would say something about the historical Jesus, like mythicism, that I could speak about in the Q&A.

When Buckner got up to speak as the first speaker, it was pretty much entirely an appeal to pragmatism. The life he described as the way Christians live I can say did not resonate with me at all. I do not live in constant fear that I will be severely judged for my actions and thoughts and I do not have to go to the Bible to know right from wrong. Buckner also started off talking about his own experience, to which I was amazed once again how many atheists seem to start with a personal testimony in their evangelism.

When Marshall got up, it was a much better presentation as he was quoting philosophers, scientists, and others. He had done his homework. Buckner left me thinking that all he had done was read popular objections on the internet and put them all together. I did not really see any detailed refutation from Buckner and unfortunately he did not respond to anything Marshall said about the historical Jesus.

There was a Q&A which unfortunately was all too short, but afterwards when I was speaking with Marshall about doing some work with Reasonable Faith, I managed to get myself engaged in some debates including many of the usual claims. For instance, there was the idea that Christianity copied from Egypt. Some questions were obviously points of concern, such as the young black woman who wanted to know what the Bible was really talking about with slavery.

Of course, most memorable for me was engaging with someone who was advocating the Jesus myth theory and saying that scholars don’t even know if Jesus existed. When I asked for the scholars who doubt this, well we all know who came up. None other than polyamorous Richard Carrier. I asked what accredited university he was teaching at now to get the reply of “Well he teaches at…” and then leaning over to ask his friend “Where is he teaching at?” Carrier isn’t teaching anywhere except online to internet atheists. There’s a reason for that. (It’s also a reason why I think polyamorous Richard Carrier is a great gift to the church.)

Unfortunately, trying to talk to mythicists about anything in history is incredibly difficult since the standards change for Jesus and Carrier’s words are treated like Gospel. When asked if any of us had ever read his works, I was able to reply that I had in fact read his latest book already on the historicity of Jesus. Do I think Carrier has made a serious case there? No. Not really. Perhaps those who hold him up as the cream of the crop with NT scholarship might think so, but no one else does.

If there was one critique I’d have of the Christian case, it would be that too often I think we are marrying our apologetic to the modern science. Consider how so many are building their apologetic on Big Bang cosmology. Well what if that ever changes? What about those who are building their apologetic on problems with abiogenesis. What happens if that question is answered one day? (I know there are hypotheses, but at this point I know of no clear accepted answer in the scientific community.) This is one reason I think it’s best to go with metaphysical arguments, especially since the science is incomplete without metaphysics. Why not just go straight to the main force? Could we be inadvertently feeding into the scientism of our day?

Still, I try to be fair and objective, but I have to say that Marshall carried the day in this one. He had a better grasp of the subject matter and had more than just pet sayings that you can find on an internet search. I was hoping for a more impressive show from the atheist to get a real debate going, but I was disappointed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters