Deeper Waters Podcast 4/21/2018: Ted Wright

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

Archaeology. Digging up the world that was before us and seeing what we can learn about it. Naturally, the Bible soon gets to be investigated to see what can be learned about the past. In many ways, archaeology has been a friend. Consider looking at the book of Acts.

But there are always difficult issues to talk about. There are cases where we have to wonder if archaeology is on our side or not. The Old Testament has plenty of these. If any event in the Old Testament is seen as defining the history of Israel, it is the Exodus.

In this grand event, God delivers His people from the most powerful empire known to man at the time. There are numerous plagues that strike the Egyptians, there is the parting of the Red Sea, and then there is the wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The story is a fascinating one and can be gripping to believer and non-believer alike, but is there any evidence for it archaeologically?

To discuss this question, I wanted to have on someone who does understand archaeology well. I wanted someone who has made the case before and has defended it. After listening to him on an Unbelievable? podcast and liking what I saw, I knew who to talk to. Fortunately, he happened to also be a friend of mine that I knew when I lived in Charlotte and who my wife and I met together before. His name is Ted Wright.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ted is freelance teacher, writer, researcher and founder of EpicArchaeology.org. For over a decade, Ted has been a speaker on Christian apologetics as well as Biblical Archaeology across North America & internationally. In addition to public speaking, Ted was the former Executive and Teaching Director of CrossExamined.org. Ted has also appeared on numerous television and radio programs including the History Channel’s TV miniseries – “Mankind: The Story of All of Us,” as well as CNN’s 2015 documentary on the historical resurrection of Jesus, “Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery.” In addition, Ted has served as adjunct professor of apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary as well as Charlotte Christian College & Theological Seminary, where he has taught for over a decade. Ted has a B.A. in Anthropology & Archaeology from the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University. As an undergraduate Ted worked as a research lab assistant on Phase III (1992-1999) of the Lahav Research Project from Tel Halif, Israel. Ted also has an M.A. in Christian apologetics with a concentration in philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary. Ted participated as an assistant square supervisor in the 2014 excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir (the Biblical city of Ai) with ABR (Associate for Biblical Research). Ted researches and writes for Epic Archaeology, as well as his personal blog, “Off the Map.”

I hope you’ll be here for this episode and if enough time is available, we could discuss some New Testament archaeology as well. Please be watching for this episode. Also, if you haven’t, please go on iTunes and leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/16/2016: Craig Evans

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

What remains of the past? One of the fields we go to to study this is archaeology. What have past civilizations left behind so that we can learn about them? What has been left behind that can tell us about Jesus? As it turns out, quite a bit. If we’re talking about this, we need to talk to someone who is quite familiar with the archaeology and knows it incredibly well. Who better to talk about this than Dr. Craig Evans?

Who is he?

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Craig A. Evans earned his Ph.D. in biblical studies at Claremont Graduate University and received his decretum habilitationis from Budapest. He is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University in Texas. He is author of hundreds of articles and reviews and has published more than seventy books, including Jesus and His Contemporaries, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, Mark in the Word Biblical Commentary, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, God Speaks, and Jesus and the Remains of His Days: Studies in Jesus and Archaeology. He also co-authored with N. T. Wright Jesus, the Final Days. Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also regularly lectures and gives talks at popular conferences and retreats on the Bible and Archaeology, and Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Evans has appeared many times in television programs on History Channel, BBC, Dateline NBC, and others. Dr. Evans served as consultant on the National Geographic Society’s Gospel of Judas project and for The Bible television miniseries produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. He also participates annually in archeological digs in the Middle East and volunteer-teaches at schools world-wide. Professor Evans and his wife Ginny live in Sugar Land, Texas, and have two grown daughters and a grandson.

We’ll be having an hour-long show talking about his book Jesus and the Remains of His Day. We’ll be asking about questions that come up such as if there were really synagogues around at the time of Jesus. What about Nazareth? People like Rene Salm have made the argument that Nazareth never existed. Is he right? What about the burial of Jesus? Bart Ehrman has recently come out saying that Jesus was not given a burial along the lines of those described in the New Testament. Is he right?

Dr. Evans is a brilliant speaker on these topics and you will benefit greatly from hearing of the fruits of his labor in this field. I’m excited to have him come back for the second time to our show. I hope you’ll be listening to this episode and please also do consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I always enjoy reading them. Thanks for being a fan!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Jesus and The Remains Of His Day

What do I think of Craig Evans’s latest book published by Hendrickson Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the latest ETS meeting, with a little bit of spending money my in-laws gave me as an early Christian gift, I was quite excited to go to the bookstore and while in that area, where books are sold for discount prices before the rest of the public gets them, I found Craig Evans’s newest book. Naturally, that was one that jumped immediately to the top of my list. Evans is an awesome scholar and anything that he writes is worth reading about. This book in particular is about archaeological discoveries and the impact they have on our understanding of Jesus and like his others, it does not disappoint.

This is a book that could take you about a week to finish, but it will be time well spent. The material is thoroughly researched with a plethora of footnotes. It’s also highly readable. You don’t need to be too familiar with archaeology or the Greek language to understand what’s going on. Right now, if there was one book I would recommend someone read on the topic of Jesus and archaeology, it would be this one.

Evans also starts off saying that archaeology does not prove or disprove. You cannot go to an archaeological finding and say “Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead”, but you can certainly use it as information in your case. It’s simply amazing how much out there exists in the field of Biblical archaeology and how much we can learn about the life of Jesus based on what is being dug up in the Middle East. This is something that really separates the Old and the New Testaments from so many of the other holy books out there. So what all is covered?

The first chapter is about Bethsaida and Magdala and what we can learn from these cities. Helpful in this chapter also will be the critique of the idea that synagogues did not exist in the time of Jesus, which is a growing idea on the internet, but not so much a growing idea among actual scholars in the field. Knowing about Bethsaida will also give us more information about Peter, Andrew, and Philip, which Magdala naturally gives us a little bit of information about Mary Magdalene.

Chapter 2 deals with the Jesus boat and the supposed house of Peter. These provide us information about the base of operations that Jesus likely worked from in His ministry as well as the kind of boat that Jesus would have been on with His disciples in the storm. While it’s doubtful that this is the exact same boat, there’s no reason to think that Jesus was not on a boat much like this one. Finally, there’s an interesting piece in this chapter on the James ossuary which has been debated back and forth and Evans presents the latest evidence on it for the interested reader.

Chapter three looks at the evidence for Caiaphas, Pilate, and Simon. We have in fact found the ossuary for Caiaphas. Meanwhile, Bruno Bauer, the first one to largely present the idea that Jesus never existed was also skeptical that Pilate existed. Now we have found evidence for Pilate in the form of a stone slab. It’s worth noting also (though I don’t think Evans mentions this) that those who are skeptical of Jesus when going to Tacitus might be surprised to learn that the only place Tacitus mentions Pilate is also the only place where he mentions Jesus. Evans also in this chapter looks at what we can find out about Simon, the man who carried the cross of Christ.

In Chapter four, Evans looks at literacy in the ancient world and gives his case that Jesus was someone who was capable of reading. Jesus being a good rabbi and able to interact with scribes and producing a movement that had people who could read and write well would quite likely himself have been one such individual. He also points out how while literacy might have been lower in the rest of the world, that we could expect matters to be different in the area of Israel since these were people that did bind their religious identity, which was central to them, around written words.

I found chapter five particularly interesting where Evans talks about Psalm 91 and how it was seen by the Jews at the time of Jesus. Many of us are familiar with the idea of the Psalms as a spiritual medicine cabinet and if you’re in some sort of danger, well go to Psalm 91. Apparently, we’re not the only ones. Psalm 91 was seen at the time of Jesus as an exorcism song and it was meant to keep away demonic powers. Jesus Himself is also said to be an exorcist and have exceptional skill at casting out demons and this without using any magic, drugs, or artifacts that existed in His day.

Chapter six concerns the idea of hanging and crucifixion in Second Temple Israel. What did it mean to have someone be crucified? How did that relate to the notion of hanging on a tree? Evans looks at symbols found in catacombs as well as the writings of the DSS to show what the view was on crucifixion at the time. He looks at skeletal remains that we have of crucifixion as well as looking at writings and artwork outside of the Jewish culture to show that this was seen as a curse.

In Chapter seven, Evans looks at burial in the ancient world. This will be an incredibly important chapter nowadays with Bart Ehrman recently taking his strange position on the burial of Jesus. The whole point of this chapter is asking how families handled death together in burial. Could we expect that even those who were buried would be buried in family tombs? Those who are interested in the recent case of Ehrman should read this chapter.

Chapter eight begins with a line that should be written in gold for all the people online who think mythicism is just the latest thing and that scholars aren’t even sure if Jesus existed. On page 147, we read:

“No serious historian, of any religious or nonreligious stripe, doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea and Samaria.

From there we go to various claims in the Gospels themselves about the burial of Jesus. Would Jesus have been buried? Why should we think that? What about the idea that Pilate would release a prisoner on Passover? Isn’t that just a fiction? He also looks at the question of if Jesus anticipated his own death. The interested reader will also find information on the relationship of Annas and Caiaphas to the high priesthood and how this all played out in history.

Chapter nine looks at the old idea of the Talpoit tomb as the supposed burial place of Jesus. Of course, having someone like Craig Evans going after this is kind of like using a bazooka to kill a fly in your house, but he does of course effectively get the job done.

Chapter ten wraps it up by looking at views in the world at the time of Jesus on the question of the afterlife. Many of us today have the idea that the message of the resurrection would have been welcomed by so many because, hey, who wouldn’t want to live again? Well maybe it’s not that simple. Evans takes us across the spectrum and he looks at how Christians looked at the topic of death seriously.

This book is a tour de force. It is simple to read and I found it one that I did not want to put down. If you want to say anything about archaeology and the life of Jesus, you must get your hands on this book. Pick up a copy today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus and His World

What do I think of Craig Evans’s book on archaeology and the life of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

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Craig Evans is a favorite writer of mine and I quite appreciate the style he has with taking to task the opponents of Christianity. (For a clear example of this in this book, just look at him going after Tom Harpur. It gives the impression of using a tank to kill a spider.) Evans is also fluent with the world of archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls and uses that knowledge in this book to explain further the life of Jesus and show some misconceptions.

To start off with, he looks at the hometown of Jesus. Nazareth was a small little town, but it was also near the city of Sepphoris. Some have thought being near such a major city which had Greek influence would mean Jesus was strongly influence by Hellenistic culture and would then be a cynic sage.

Sorry. Doesn’t work. Sepphoris might have been more Hellenistic than some, but the evidence is still that they were devout in their Judaism. Consider for instance as one example that pig bones don’t show up in their garbage dumps until after 70 A.D. You might think that’s one item by itself, which it is, but it’s an example of many more that Evans shows to his audience to indicate that Sepphoris was devout in its Judaism.

How devout? Well that’s the next chapter. The next chapter looks at the building of synagogues for instance and places of worship and how seriously the Jews took this, including the notion that Gentiles who entered the grounds of the temple where they were not allowed would be responsible for their subsequent deaths.

Okay. Well these people were devout, but how about the Law? How did they value their Scripture? That’s next on the list. Evans takes a look at literacy from various archaeological findings and writings and shows that if anything, the Jews would most likely have the most literacy since they were people of the book and were trained to teach their children the Torah and why it is that they do what they do. This then gets into the question of if Jesus was literate, which Evans thinks it is extremely unlikely that he was not.

So what about the ruling establishment that Jesus dealt with? As Evans continues his progression, he looks at the way the priests and leaders in the area of Judea ruled. What were the people like who Jesus was butting heads against?

Finally, in the main sections, he looks at the life among the dead. What were the burial customs? He explains that it’s quite unreasonable to think that Jesus’s body would be thrown to dogs or that Jesus would not have been given a proper burial. This is another answer to someone like Crossan.

Finally, there are a couple of appendices in the book dealing with the claim of the supposed family tomb of Jesus and then answering the question of what did Jesus look like.

This book is small and easy to read and will be an immense help to students wanting to understand archaeology and the NT. It also has the benefit in this case of several pictures that show the archaeological discoveries so there can be shown clearly what these findings look like and help the student better visualize the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/1/2014: Craig Evans

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Friends, we have a great show lined up for you this Saturday! My guest is none other than Professor Craig Evans and we are going to be talking about Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other archaeological findings that have helped us in our understanding of Christianity.

If you don’t know who Evans is, well let me tell you. The following is a mini-biography that I have straight from the source.

Craig A. Evans is Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. He earned a doctorate in biblical studies at Claremont Graduate University in 1983 and in 2009 received the Decretum Habilitationis from the Reformed University in Budapest. Prior to his appointment at Acadia he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and for twenty-one years was Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, where for many years he chaired the Religious Studies Department, founded the Dead sea Scrolls Institute, and directed the graduate program in Biblical Studies. He was also for one year a Visiting Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

Professor Evans is author or editor of more than seventy books. Among his authored books are Word and Glory: On the Exegetical and Theological Background of John’s Prologue (1993), Luke and Scripture: The Function of Sacred Tradition in Luke-Acts (1993), Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (1995), Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration (1997), Mark (2001), The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke (2003), Jesus and the Ossuaries (2003), Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (2005), Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (2006), with N.T. Wright, Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened (2009), and The World of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence (2012).

Professor Evans has also authored more than three hundred articles and reviews. He served as senior editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research (1995–2004) and the Dictionary of New Testament Background (2000), winner of a Gold Medallion. Currently Evans is serving on the editorial boards of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus and the Library of New Testament Studies. At the spring 2006 commencement the Alumni Association of Acadia University honoured Professor Evans with the Excellence in Research Award.

Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also regularly lectures and gives talks at popular conferences and retreats on the Bible and Archaeology, including the Biblical Archaeology Society summer sessions and Seminars at Sea. He also presented a paper at the prestigious Joseph Ratzinger Foundation Symposium held in the Vatican.

Professor Evans appears regularly on television, on the History Channel, History Television, BBC, Discovery Channel, Day of Discovery, and in Dateline NBC’s 2004 specials “The Last Days of Jesus” and “Jesus the Healer,” which were watched by more than 25 million North Americans. In 2005 he appeared on Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of Miracles” and “The Birth of Jesus,” as well as History Channel’s “The Search for John the Baptist.” Professor Evans also appeared in 2006 in National Geographic Channel’s documentary on the recently discovered Gospel of Judas and the sequel entitled “The Secret Lives of Jesus,” as well as in Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of the Jesus Papers.” He also served as consultant for the epic television miniseries The Bible, produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, which was watched by more than 100 million viewers. For fun he participates annually in archeological digs in the Middle East and volunteer-teaches at schools world-wide.

Professor Evans lives in Kentville, Nova Scotia, with his wife Ginny; they have two grown daughters and a grandson.

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As you can tell, Evans is certainly well-prepared and a great authority in the field. I hope you’ll be listening in with your questions ready. The show airs from 3-5 PM EST and the call-in number is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters