Book Plunge: Biographies and Jesus

What do I think of Keener and Wright’s book published by Emeth Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Burridge caused a revolution of sorts in Gospel studies in the 20th century by making a thorough demonstration that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. Today, most scholars would agree with that. Still, that is the start of the journey. We now have to ask what difference it makes. Is this just knowledge that will answer a question for us on a game show, or are there some ramifications for this?

In this volume, Keener and Wright have brought together several students doing graduate level research at Asbury to talk about the issue. There are some chapters by the editors of Keener and Wright and one by Licona, but for the most part, this is done by students, which I find refreshing. It’s good to see new faces rising up and taking on the task of serious scholarship.

The students look at what difference it makes to say that the Gospels are biogarphies. One at the start is that we have spent so much time trying to trace the communities that received the Gospels that we forgot the point of the Gospels. The point of the Gospels is to tell the story of the life of Jesus. An average person in the pew might not consider this much of a shock, but it does affect how we read the Gospels greatly. The Gospels don’t have a community and then they shape the story. The story is written in such a way about Jesus and telling about Him that hopefully it will shape the community.

Helpful also are notes about the dating of the Gospels. We can accept testimony about historical figures on far weaker grounds than we do the Gospels. Too often, it’s easy to dismiss all the evidence that is there for one position and then say that there is no evidence of the position. It needs to be realized that bias cuts both ways and we must all make sure prior worldview assumptions aren’t changing the way we view the data.

One helpful source in here are the comparisons across other biographies. Those who say the Gospels are unreliable because of differences in the accounts should see differences in other accounts of the same event. Very rarely would we reject the primary event because the secondary details are disputed. Sadly, this is done with the Gospels constantly.

Also helpful to readers will be Keener’s section on oral tradition. He points out problems with the idea of telephone and shows how memorization was taken extremely seriously in the past. Again, this is often a case of a double standard. The Gospels are looked at through one set of lenses and all other ancient history is looked at through another set.

Keener and Wright have put together excellent material that will be helpful for any student of the Gospels. To have new minds going through the material and presenting their thoughts is an excellent treat and as far as I’m concerned, they certainly wrote like professional scholars. I look forward to more research like this being done.

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: Why Are There Differences In The Gospels?

What do I think of Mike Licona’s book published by Oxford University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Go to any debate online about the New Testament and one idea you’ll see pop up regularly will be “It contradicts itself over and over.” Go listen to Bart Ehrman and hear him speak about these and what will he say? “Depends on which Gospel you read?” Gospel differences are something that is a cause of concern to many a skeptic and of course, many a Christian as well. Especially if you hold a high view of inerrancy, you want to know why there are so many differences in the Gospel accounts.

This question isn’t anything new. It goes back to the church fathers. This is in fact why there was even an attempt to turn the four Gospels into one Gospel, but the church didn’t really go for it. As it stands, we have four today and they do contain obvious differences, so do we just have sloppy historians or what? Should we call into question the reliability of the Gospels because of this?

Mike Licona has chosen to answer this question and has done so by doing something that many in our world could consider cheating, but hey, he did it. He actually went back and compared differences in accounts of the same event by an author close to the time of Jesus. His choice was Plutarch and he looked at some of his lives that described figures who lived at about the same time and were quite likely written close to each other chronologically.

Of course, everyone should be warned of possible bias on my part. As many know, Mike Licona is my father-in-law, but at the same time when we have our discussions, if I think he is wrong on something, I do not hesitate to tell him. He got a blunt son-in-law when I married Allie.

Mike’s approach is unique and something that had not been done before. If there is any difficulty I encounter when I am engaging with skeptics of the faith is that they assume the way we do things today is superior simply because that is the way we do them. If we do history this way, well that is the right way to do history. If we want this kind of precision in an account, well that has to be superior and that is what the ancients would want. The greatest error we often make is we impose our own time and culture and society on the ancient world and then misread them.

This is why I say Mike cheated, though in a loose sense of course. He actually went back and saw how they did history and what do you see? You see that the differences that you see in the Gospels that are so problematic are the same kinds of differences you see in Plutarch. Some will no doubt complain and say that surely the Gospel writers would not write Holy Scripture in a style that was known to the pagan world. (Yeah. The second person of the Trinity can condescend to become a human being and die on a cross, but using a certain literary style? God forbid!) Such an opinion is going against the overwhelming majority of Biblical scholarship and ignores how God has often met people where they were and if the writers wanted to write a biography of Jesus to tell about His life and teachings, there weren’t many other options.

Mike goes through the accounts and shows that Plutarch used many different techniques when writing and that the Gospel writers did the same. He has a number of pericopes in Plutarch and a number in the Gospels that give a cross comparison. If one wants to throw out the Gospels as unreliable then, one will have to do the same with Plutarch. This indeed raises the debate to a whole new level. Is the modern skeptic willing to throw out one of the most prolific writers in ancient history just to avoid the Gospels?

What does this say for we moderns as well? It tells us what I said at the beginning. We can too often assume our own standards of accuracy and throw those onto the text not bothering to ask if the ancients followed them. If they did not, then we are being anachronistic with the writers and in fact, being unfair with them. They were not moderns and we should not treat them like moderns.

This should also be taken into account when considering our modern idea of inerrancy. For instance, many of us might think inerrancy means we have to have the exact words of Jesus. What if the Gospel writers did not think that but wanted the exact voice instead? In other words, they wanted the gist of what Jesus said even if it wasn’t exact wordage? That’s okay. We just have to accept that. The ancient works were not modern works and if we impose on them what they aren’t, we will get the wrong message and also miss the true message of them.

Mike’s work has really raised the bar of debate and pushed it beyond just simple harmonization. It is harmonization based on how the ancients did it and not how we moderns do it. I fully hope that other scholars will come alongside and critique the work, both positively and negatively and that we can, in turn, come to a greater understanding of the Gospel texts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Gospel Fictions

What do I think of Randel Helms’s book published by Prometheus books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have heard numerous skeptics recommend reading this book. That alone could have told me enough about it, but I’m always one up for reading a disagreeing book so I ordered it at my local library. It was a rather quick read, thank goodness, but one that had I took a note of every item that I thought was just hideously wrong, the notes would have been the size of an average blog post.

I was also seeing Gary Habermas at the time who happened to tell me in emphatic terms about how bad a book this one is. He was right. The book is very badly researched and like many others, gives the sound of one-hand clapping. Helms doesn’t show interaction with modern scholarship and has a standard of historicity for the Bible that would not be applied to any other ancient text.

So what are these fictions? Well let’s look at some categories here.

If two texts disagree on something seemingly, then the texts are a fiction. If the text has any parallel in the Old Testament, then the text is a fiction. If the text has any parallel in pagan literature at the time, then the text is a fiction. If the text just seems strange and bizarre, then the text is a fiction.

The whole of the book could be summarized that way.

Do you find any indication that the Gospels are actually Greco-Roman biographies? Nope. Not a bit. Do you find any interaction with the fact that the events took place in an honor-shame culture? Don’t count on it. Do you have interaction with great archaeological findings that have confirmed some details in the New Testament? You already know the answer to that.

It seems as if Helms never considers with events that have Old Testament parallels that these could be purposeful. If Jesus is showing that He is the greatest prophet of all and the Messiah and Lord, He will show Himself in ways that are superior to the greatest of the Old Testament. If God is behind the story as well, as we believe, then God Himself could be involved to show Jesus is greater by contrast.

Of course, the best critics of his position will not be argued with. Instead, Helms takes more of a shotgun approach with showing as many supposed problems as he thinks he can with a text and then moving on. Nothing is treated in-depth. Certainly, no better explanation for the resurrection event is given to explain the data agreed to by critical scholars without having to say Jesus actually rose from the dead.

There are works by actual scholars that you can read that will actually engage with the material well and still be non-Christian. Sure, I disagree with their conclusions, but they are much better books. A skeptic wanting to learn about the New Testament would be better served by reading books by people like Ludemann, Crossan, Ehrman, Casey, Vermes, and others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/17/2016: Tyler Vela

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

There have been throughout history numerous opponents of Christianity. Saul of course sought to undermine the faith, and then became its greatest proclaimer. Then you have Celsus who was refuted by Origen, Porphyry who came later, and then people who sought to change the faith like Arius and others. As we moved into more recent history, more and more people have risen up seeking to do away with the faith. People like Nietzsche, Hume, Hobbes, and others. Atheistic writers like Mackie and Flew have also been popular. Many times, Christianity has had decent opponents.

And then, there’s David McAfee.

Many of you might have never heard of him. Somehow, he has over 159,000 likes on Facebook at the time of writing and has traveled to speak about the problems of Christianity. Unfortunately, he has this strange idea that he can do this without even mentioning the resurrection and thinks that if you disprove Inerrancy, then you disprove Christianity. Still, he is out there and there is someone who has chosen to focus in on him and deal with his objections.

My ministry partner has reviewed the book as have I. I have even challenged him to debate if he thinks he can disprove Christianity and it was ignored. Many others have done the same thing. No one has done as thorough a job as Tyler Vela. In fact, Tyler Vela goes through McAfee’s book with a fine tooth comb and actually interacts with the scholarly literature. Of course, as far as I know, there has been no response from McAfee. If you want to know about the response, Tyler Vela is my guest again this Saturday.

Who is that?

tylervela

(Just to be clear, my sources indicate that Tyler is the one on the right.)

Tyler Vela studied Philosophy and English at California State University, Sonoma, graduated with a Preseminary B.A. (Biblical and Theological Studies) from Moody Bible Institute (Chicago), and is currently studying toward his Masters of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He is the host of The Freed Thinker Podcast and blog and is a frequent guest on many Christian and skeptical podcasts and forums.

We’ll be talking about the book Measuring McAfee that Tyler wrote in response. We’ll be going through some of the contradictions and discussing what has really happened to atheism especially on the internet where there seems to be a strong fundamentalist mindset and contrary to what many atheists might think, an anti-intellectual one. Why is it that someone like McAfee has such a following when he doesn’t really have a clue what he’s talking about? What can Christians learn from this and what impact does this mindset have for the future of the church and the future of debates between Christians and atheists and others?

I hope you’ll be tuning in. For those wondering, we had a problem with last week’s show. We had to cancel in the middle, but we only have to do about fifteen minutes more. I hope to have that up soon. Please also consider leaving a review on ITunes of the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Inerrancy Should Not Be Your Focus

Is your worldview centered on the wrong thing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As many of you know, Inerrancy is a topic that is an important one for discussion with me as it has had a great impact on my family. I describe myself as someone who upholds Biblical Inerrancy, but by this, I simply mean that I believe that in the end, when we find what the Bible teaches, that it will be true. Inerrancy is something that we should talk about and I think we should be clear what we mean by it, but at the same time, I think that if you make Inerrancy your focus, then you are playing a very dangerous game and jeopardizing your own faith as well as the faith of others.

I say this because recently i have seen some discussions of Inerrancy. I get concerned when people marry their faith to Inerrancy or when people think that if you disprove Inerrancy, then you disprove Christianity. I reviewed David McAfee’s book awhile back and found it to be extremely lacking, and the biggest weakness really is that McAfee makes no arguments against the resurrection but merely makes arguments about contradictions in the Bible as if when you find these contradictions, then Christianity is disproven. I could grant every one of his contradictions is a legitimate contradiction and still keep Christianity. Would I have to change my doctrine of Scripture? Absolutely. That does not mean I would throw out Christianity.

But if you don’t have Inerrancy, how will you know what’s true in the Bible and what isn’t? We’d use historiography. We’d treat the Bible the way we treat any other ancient document. This is normally the charge we always make to our opponents. We tell them that if you treat the Bible the way you treat any other ancient document, that you will find that it passes the test. We cannot do that if we are not willing to accept the standards ourselves. Too often it sounds like we’re saying we believe in the resurrection because we believe in the Bible. Instead, it should be that we believe in the Bible because we believe in the resurrection.

If your Christianity is built on anything other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then your worldview will have a weak foundation. We could add many other doctrines to this. One of the greatest ones today to consider for that is young-earth creationism. The danger with each of these is that if you disprove young-earth creationism, then that will mean that you will be convinced Jesus did not rise from the dead. If you do this with Inerrancy, then that will mean that if anyone shows you any contradiction that you cannot answer, then you will have to believe Jesus did not rise. I often wonder how far this will go. Mythicism for instance is an absolute foolish position, but will a lot of these people become mythicists when they see contradictions in the Bible? The sad reality is that many of them do.

The Bible is a complex book whether you think it is or not and too many of us expect it to be simple. One of the greatest claims I receive from non-Christians is that the Bible should be clear. Clear to whom? This is always a difficulty. We are in a narcissist culture if we live in the modern west and assume that it must be us and our time. It does not have to be. The Bible requires a lot of study and people who want to ignore the scholarship on the issue are frankly not really worth wasting time on. People who are sure of their position are not afraid to read the best the other side has to offer and interact with it.

If you make Inerrancy your focus, you will have it that you have to be able to give an answer to every contradiction at every moment. That is a ridiculous standard to have. I happen to think I have a good memory when it comes to Biblical matters, which makes it really fun for my friends when they play Bible trivia against me as it gives them a real challenge, but I would not dare attempt to be able to say I will keep in my mind every answer to every Biblical contradiction that is out there. It is far too difficult. Do you really want your faith to hang on that? Sure, it takes a lot to defend the resurrection and that requires effort, but the differences are vast.

There are times I think it is important to address contradictions and those are only two. The first is if you are dealing with a Christian who is wrestling with doubt. You can deal with the contradiction they present at that point. If it does not help them, then you know the real focus of the problem is elsewhere. The same applies to the person who is a non-Christian and you think is seriously considering Christianity. If the person is not there, I do not do it. Otherwise, a person can go to a website and get a list of 101 Bible Contradictions and post them all in a thread. Let’s suppose you answer all of them which will require much time and effort. What will be the response? It will not be “Wow. I hadn’t considered these. Thanks!” It will be going to another web site and getting 101 more Bible contradictions. You don’t need to play “Stump the Bible Scholar.”

Keep in mind I am not saying any of this to downplay Scripture. I have a robust and deep doctrine of Scripture and I’m quite conservative, but I will not bow down at the altar of Inerrancy. Jesus is the greatest revelation of God. The Bible is the greatest revelation we have of who He was and what He did and I hold to it being Inerrant, but that is not the focus. The only question I really want to know is if Jesus walked out of that tomb or not. If He did, then I have Christianity. If He did not, then all we are talking about is indeed nothing but trivia.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Disproving Christianity

What do I think of David McAfee’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

DisprovingChristianity

I was told about this book a few days ago and decided to look and see what I could find out about it. I saw it wasn’t too much on Kindle and I had some Amazon credit so I decided to buy it. How would the author go about disproving Christianity? What I had read already indicated to me that McAfee could be a cut above many of the other atheists that are writing today so I was eager for a challenging case.

I’m still eager for one because I definitely did not find one here.

What I instead found was someone decrying fundamentalists and yet who is practically twice as fundamentalist as the opposition he wishes to go against. It’s another case of someone who thinks “I’ll sit down and read this book from another culture, time, place, and language, and assume that it is to be read exactly like a modern 21st century Westerner would read it and of course, since this is the so-called Word of God, there is no need to consult any works that are actually scholarly so all I’ll do is just quote what the Bible says and I don’t even need to have a bibliography in here then.”

In fact, McAfee’s whole case never comes close to disproving Christianity. At the most, he could have possibly disproven a literalistic version of inerrancy. He never gives an argument against the resurrection of Jesus. It is as if he has this mindset that if one contradiction can be shown to be found in Scripture, then we can safely say that the whole thing is false. I know people who do have this kind of mindset and as you can imagine, yes, we call them fundamentalists. I could grant that every contradiction claim that McAfee raises is valid and I could still say Christianity is true and do so very easily.

How does McAfee define Christianity at the start?

Christianity, for the purposes of this book, will be considered the organized belief system based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and utilizing the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as the Literal Word of God.

And right there we have our first problem, as the literal word of God. What does literal actually mean? The real definition of literal is actually “According to the intent of the author.” What literal means today is what I prefer to use the term “literalistic” for. You read the text in a just straight-forward fashion and assume that what it means to you is just what the text means. In reality, this is really a rather post-modern way of reading the text. Unfortunately, McAfee will stick to this methodology. Oh he will talk about consulting Bible scholars, but he will never mention who they are and I suspect his definition of scholar is about as fluid as that of Ken Humphreys, which would be something akin to someone who can argue their case well and use the English language well.

McAfee also tells us that we do not have proof for many things, so that is where faith comes in instead of logic and reason. McAfee is off on many points here. To begin with, there are many things we do not have “proof” of, but most of us do not take them seriously. We would think it bizarre to believe otherwise in fact. I do not have proof that we are not living in a computer simulation. I do not take that claim seriously. I do not have proof that during the night I was transported to an alternate universe where everything is practically the same. It could have happened, but I do not think it did and I would be crazy to spend serious time today thinking about such a scenario. We do not need proof in many areas. We just need justifiable reasons to hold to a proposition and no justifiable reasons for doubting it.

Of course, faith is always a favorite. McAfee could have bothered to do about five minutes worth of research and studying what Christians really mean by faith, but hey, if you’re setting out to disprove Christianity, you don’t have time to do serious things like research. Just repeat the same tired old drivel that is always said. I, on the other hand, do have time for research. Let’s pull up a real scholarly resource and see what it says about faith.

Faith/Faithfulness

“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

Now McAfee could answer that he hears Christians using faith the way he sees it used all the time. He would be right in that, but the misuse of a word does not count against its true use. After all, those same Christians who use it that way are prone to define atheists as wicked and godless people who live with no morality and only care about themselves. Of course, even atheists should say that not all atheists have been saints and some of them have been wicked people who only lived for themselves, but a misuse of this word that is common does not mean that that is what the word means and certainly not what the word meant to its original audience.

Now of course, McAfee must show us that

The Bible is meant to be taken as the literal word of a flawless Lord.

That is an important thing to demonstrate. So how does he do it? Watch and see as you are about to be amazed with a stunning display of Scriptural interpretation.

John 10:35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Well geez. That should settle it. You should all realize by these verses here that the only way to read the Bible is in a literalistic sense.

That is, unless you actually read the verses and really think about what they argue.

What does the first have to say? It says Scripture cannot be broken. It says nothing about how to read it. In fact, there were plenty of ways to read the text in the time period of Jesus. There were plenty of ways to read the text afterwards. You think someone like Origen would have accepted that we are to read the text in a literal sense every time? Of course not.

We see the same with 2 Peter. All it tells us is that Scripture came from God. It wasn’t just people making things up. Note also that both of these passages would apply to the Old Testament, although you could argue that Peter might have included the Pauline writings in there. One would think that McAfee would have gone with the classic use of 2 Tim. 3:15-16, though even that passage does not give any indication as to how the text is to be read. Also, keep in mind that contrary to what McAfee thinks, Christianity does not stand or fall on inerrancy. I can point McAfee to several devout Christians who are orthodox in their doctrine and do not hold to inerrancy.

And as for Revelation, McAfee thinks that this applies to the whole of the Bible. While one could argue that, I think that just as compelling a case can be made that John is writing about only the book of Revelation. Again, the point is that all McAfee has shown is that the Bible does claim to be from God. What he has not shown is that it is to be taken in a literalistic sense and the evidence we have of the time period shows that it was not. Now McAfee could say he doesn’t go by extra-biblical information, but if that is the case, then first off, he is confirming that he is a fundamentalist again, and second, why is he writing this book then? Is this book not extra-biblical information?

To see a bad argument like that above is incredibly ironic when you see a statement like this later on in the book.

“For an idea as important as religion, it is a shame that Americans (and people around the world) simply take what they are taught from family at face value as opposed to studying, questioning, and learning about multiple religious traditions in order to make an informed decision regarding how, if at all, these organized belief systems will play a role in their own lives. I often ask Christians who received their religious ideologies from family whether or not they acknowledge the statistical assumption that if they had been born in, say, India—to Indian parents—for example, they would probably be affiliated with a denomination of Hinduism instead of the Christian tradition which they now consider to be the absolute Truth, though they would likely hold these religious beliefs with equal or rivaled fervor”

Well Mr. McAfee, I am not one of these Christians. I have read the holy texts of other religions and regularly read books that disagree with me. I interact on a regular basis with atheists and other non-Christians. So far, I haven’t seen anything that really shakes me and judging by the quality of your book, it looks like the atheist side is getting even worse in its argumentation, which is really what I expect. If you just start off with the assumption that you are rational and logical and the rest of the world is not, then you really don’t think you need to do much research in the area of religion.

Not too long after writing something like that, McAfee shows he has not followed his own advice by saying

Morals do exist outside of organized religion, and the “morality” taught by many of these archaic systems is often outdated, sexist, racist, and teaches intolerance and inequality. When a parent forces a child into a religion, the parent is effectively handicapping his or her own offspring by limiting the abilities of the child to question the world around him or her and make informed decisions.

Had McAfee done the study that he talked about, he would have known this is not a biblical position. I do read many Biblical scholars. I do not know one who argues this position. In fact, most Christians today accept some form of Natural Law theory from what I see. Has McAfee ever read J. Budziszewski? Has he ever read R. Scott Smith? These are the Christian scholars in the field to be interacting with and that’s just a start. There are several several more? Or, is McAfee content with taking on the weakest version of his opponent that he can find and thinking that he has defeated the strongest?

Furthermore, all parents are going to raise up their children to believe some things. This is inevitable. I could just as well say atheists are prone to raise their children to think religion is something that only foolish people believe and that they expect better from their children and thus, the children will not grow up questioning atheism. I do not doubt some atheists do this, but I suspect not all would. I have no problem with atheist parents raising their children up and teaching them atheism. I have no problem with Muslim parents raising their children up to believe in Islam. If you believe something is really true, you should want to pass it on to your children. At the same time, let them research. Let them question. That is the best way to learn.

But of course, McAfee just sees this all through a fundamentalist mindset.

Now we go to Christianity in America where he says “The Constitution also guarantees the freedom to be governed by a secular political system, commonly known as the separation of church and state. This simply means that our government should be free of religious influences in order to avoid a nation oppressed by a religious majority much like the one that our Constitution’s framers had escaped.

I had no idea this was in the Constitution!

It’s so incredible. I mean, I just went and looked at the Constitution itself. I did a search for the words separation and didn’t find it. I looked for church and didn’t find it. Religion only shows up when it talks about the freedom of religion. I could have sworn that it came really from a letter that Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Church
and that in this letter, what was really meant was that no one would be forced to belong to any church to be a citizen of the United States and the government could not force anyone to be of a particular religion. I never thought it meant that there should be nothing religious in government, especially since so many of our founding fathers were Christian. I also was sure Jefferson still had a worship service in the White House the following Sunday and that Congress was still opened with prayer, but hey, McAfee says this is in the Constitution and the government is to be free of religion, so who am I to question?

McAfee also argues that many of the early settlers sought to destroy any of the Indians who refused to convert because they had to fulfill their God-given destiny. Is this possible? Could be. I do not doubt horrible things were done to the Indians, but McAfee needs to show this. He has given no documentation of this whatsoever. He has cited no scholars of history. Again, I am not saying that he is wrong, because that is not the area that I study principally, but if he wants me to think that he is right, he needs to give some research from a bona fide historian, and not a fellow new atheist who has no credentials in the field.

Of course, there is also the complaint about homosexuality as if to say that the only reason we have for opposing homosexual behavior and redefining marriage is because of Scripture. There is no interaction with the fact that there are other reasons to be opposed. Of course, you could say that these reasons are wrong and you could say the motivations are really just “The Bible says so”, but that does not make the arguments go away.

The same follows with abortion. McAfee says that it is the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy while in a nonviable state, which he defines as not capable of living, growing, or functioning successfully.) Where does he get this definition? Right here.

Yes. McAfee couldn’t even be bothered apparently to go directly to the page itself where that definition is.

I am one who is willing to look. What do I find?

1: capable of living ; especially : having attained such form and development as to be normally capable of living outside the uterus—often used of a human fetus at seven months but may be interpreted according to the state of the art of medicine 2: capable of growing or developing

Okay. So my question is what is it about being viable that makes what is in the womb suddenly a human person? If we’re talking about able to survive on their own outside the womb, then by that standard infants and toddlers would not be viable. Should we think then that McAfee would support infanticide? Obviously not, though with atheists like Peter Singer out there, you have to wonder how far away that is. Think I’m making this kind of stuff up? Not at all. There are people out there who are defending an after-birth abortion idea. If McAfee thinks this is all religious indoctrination, then what is he going to do with the groups that are secular and pro-life, like the secular pro-life alliance?

McAfee also talks about extremist religionists. He says women have been killed, abortion clinics bombed, doctors attacked, and women denied medical care for having had an abortion. He goes on to say

This act of Christian terrorism is the same terrorism that we have been fighting against in the Middle East, but it is taking shape as a result of interpretation of Christian Scriptures, not Muslim texts.

Ah yes. We all know there is a wave of Christian terrorism going on in this country. One major difference is that Christian leaders and others normally universally decry these kinds of attacks on doctors and clinics and believe in showing grace to women who have had abortions. Women could easily plan on having a march down the street to raise what they consider to be awareness for abortion rights. Do you think they’d be as willing to do that in Saudi Arabia? Muslims are killing us because we do not accept their religion. That McAfee thinks these are exactly the same just shows how out of touch with reality he is.

McAfee also spends a lot of time arguing against the idea of eternal damnation. He has indeed a fundamentalist view of this as he goes to John 14:6 to argue his case.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Now before we get to the main point here, we must speak to yet another howler in this book.

“This verse is, however, only one of the many indicating the necessity not of moral behavior to be saved, but of accepting Jesus Christ—who, according to doctrine, is supposed to have lived thousands of years ago and for whose existence we have little to evidence, neither as a man nor as part of the divine Christian God-head”

If you want to really show that you should not be taken seriously in the world of New Testament scholarship, one of the best ways to do so is to claim Jesus never even existed. McAfee should realize he’s going against 99.9% of the scholars in the field. Now that does not mean that they are right, but it means you’d better have some strong evidence to make a claim like this. Of course, McAfee could say “Well of course they accept that. Most of them are Christians.” Really? Go to a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. You’ll find more than enough non-Christian scholars there. This is a group that elected John Dominic Crossan as their president in 2012. That’s the Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, hardly a friend of orthodox Christianity in any sense of the word. Does that sound like an evangelical or fundamentalist group to do that?

And no, saying the name of Richard Carrier does not answer the claim either. In fact, a search of his name at SBL still turns up nothing. He is not being talked about. He is not taken seriously at all. He does not teach at any accredited university. He is not recognized by the leading scholars in the field and there’s a reason for that. We might as well ask if McAfee thinks vaccines lead to autism.

But to get back to the verse cited, it does not mean what McAfee thinks it means. All we gather is that it is only by the authority of Jesus that anyone makes it into the presence of the Father. It does not mean an explicit knowledge of Jesus. Neither would a text like Acts 4:12 mean that. All that says is the name of Jesus is the one by which we are saved. By this, it does not mean a phonetic understanding, but authority. Simply put, no one will be able to come to God apart from the authority of Jesus.

Do we have examples of people who are said to be saved and yet do not know who Jesus is? Yes! We have a slew of them!

They’re called “Old Testament saints.”

These people were saved by the light that they had and living in accordance with that. Now why should I think it will be different for those who have never heard? It is as if McAfee is totally unaware that this is a doctrine of debate within Christian circles. Many of us do hold to a position that those who have never heard can be saved by living in accordance with the true light they can get from general revelation. We in fact see this in Revelation 7 where there is a great multitude from all over the Earth of every people group that there is. In light of this, much of McAfee’s complaining on this topic evaporates.

In this section, McAfee also argues that according to Christian doctrine, it is impossible to be moral without Jesus Christ. I would very much like to know where this is said. Now we would say no one can be righteous apart from Christ, but that is not the same as saying that no one can be moral. It’s almost as if McAfee decided to go to the most fundamentalist church that he could, just asked them what they believed, and then walked away saying “Well this must be Christian dogma. This is just what all Christians believe.” If he didn’t, then why does he not cite where these opinions are stated?

It’s also important to state that this says nothing about the importance of right living. All Christians agree that right living is important, but to judge that way could easily be arbitrary. God sets the standard Biblically as perfection, which is non-arbitrary. Peter Kreeft in The God Who Loves You suggests we consider what the alternative would be. What if God set up a point system. You have to have 1,000 points. All good actions you do gave you a certain amount of points depending on the action. All bad actions you did cost you some depending on the action. Would this not be totally arbitrary?

Instead, faith in Jesus is a way of saying you can’t measure up and you accept what God already did for you. Your works then determine how you will enjoy God in the life to come and your place in the full realization of the Kingdom. If you do not have that, God has one way to judge you. He judges you by your works. They have to be perfect. For those who have never heard, He will judge fairly. God knows how they would have responded had they heard and the way that their hearts were going. If McAfee wants to argue against the Christian concept, he must accept that the Christian concept is that God is fair in all that He does. It will not do to just assert that God is not fair. If God judges fairly, then there is nothing to complain about.

Of course, there is the idea of the problem of evil and for this, McAfee goes to the problem of natural disasters. Once again, McAfee seems happily oblivious to the fact that some scholars have written on this topic from the Christian perspective and even most atheist philosophers will tell you there is no logical contradiction between God and evil. Of course, they still think there is a problem of evil, but it is not in the same way. I have my own ebook on this topic that is a debate between myself and an atheist. Of course, I am not saying I am a scholar. For that, I can point to others such as looking at the book God and Evil or looking at Plantinga’s work on the case that was said to defeat the logical problem of evil. He could also consider the interviews I’ve done with people like David Wood, Greg Ganssle, and Clay Jones.

In fact, McAfee argues that God causes these disasters. Where does he go? Nahum 1:3-6

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
the bloom of Lebanon withers.
5 The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

It’s hard to see that McAfee misses the apocalyptic language. Can God do these things? Yes. Does that mean God is the direct cause of all of them? No. McAfee does assure us that this is not a radical interpretation. Some of the most well-known Christian evangelists hold this to be the case! Of course, McAfee does not name who these evangelists are and if I should take them seriously as scholars in the field or not. He also says that they blame disasters like Hurricane Katrina on the sinfulness of the people living there. Oh sure, there were Christians saying this, but most scholars in the field who are Christians would not be. Unfortunately, media tends to cover the loud mouths the most.

Returning to the after-death, McAfee raises the question of what if two people cannot be happy without one another in Paradise? How can one be happy while knowing the other is burning in Hell? Again, this shows us that McAfee has not bothered to read Christian scholars. You could probably count on one hand among scholars the number who hold to a literal burning hell (Of course, a fundamentalist like McAfee will). Besides that, anyone who says they can only be truly happy with someone else there with them is practicing a form of idolatry. I certainly would hope that I get to spend eternity with my own wife, but I must realize the joy of being in the presence of God is far greater than being in her presence, and her absence could not overpower the joy of His presence. She would say the same about me.

McAfee also argues that God caused the death of His Son by making the Romans do the crime. Again, it is as if McAfee has read nothing on debates on free-will. I have no problem saying that God knew what the Romans would freely do to His Son and chose to use that. Also, any of them could have repented for their actions later on and received forgiveness. We know that in Scripture, a number of priests and Pharisees did in fact become Christians.

In looking at the origins argument. He has a Christian asking where the universe came from if not a creator. When asked why it had to come from somewhere, the Christian says “Everything has to come from something.” When asked where God came from, the Christian replies He didn’t come from anything. He just always was. The answer then is not everything comes from something so maybe the universe always was.

Could McAfee or any atheist please point me to the Christian scholar who is arguing that everything has to have a cause? I don’t know any framer a cosmological argument who treats it that way.

Also, I would be just fine with an eternal universe. What I want to know is not if the universe came to be, but rather how the universe is existing right now. Is it the cause of its own existing? That is the case in classical Christian theology of God. God has the principle of His existing in Himself because existence is His very nature. He is what it means to be. An eternal universe would not be a problem. Consider the case of having a man who has existed eternally in the same spot. He is standing in front of a mirror that has existed eternally. The mirror has eternally reflected the man’s image. Is the image in the mirror both caused and eternal? Yes.

Naturally, we have the look at the age of the Earth. Once again, you would think that McAfee has never read an authority in the field. He just accepts that the text has to say that the Earth is young. There is no interaction with Hugh Ross. There is no interaction with my personal favorite interpretation, that of John Walton. (Listen also to my interview with Walton here.) It’s for reasons like this that when I read arguments like that of McAfee, I just get further confirmation that atheists don’t really do research when they study religion. This despite the claim that McAfee says Biblical scholars and fundamentalist churches both say the Bible gives an estimation of between 6-7,000 years since Earth’s creation. (Never mind that this sentence seems to be phrased terribly in the book.) Really though? What Biblical scholars? Could he please name them? The vast majority I know of hold to an old Earth.

And naturally, there is the argument of why won’t God heal amputees. One reason that this doesn’t happen as often is that frankly, this is not life-threatening. It’s not pleasant I’m sure, but most of us can go on to live easily enough. Second, does McAfee know that this has never happened? Has he examined every case, or has he more likely just dismissed them? Has he interacted with a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles? (Again, my interview with him here. Has he demonstrated that this has never happened? Even supposing that it hasn’t, has he demonstrated that because of this miracles never happen? Not at all.

We finally get into contradictions. To begin with, McAfee speaks of a text that has been edited for thousands of years. It would be nice to see some scholarly citation of this. I suspect all he could point to is Bart Ehrman. Well Mr. McAfee, if you think Ehrman says this, then let me show you some quotes of his.

20. A lot of textual scholars have fretted about this as if it were a problem. The concern seems to be that if we can’t radically modify the original text, we have no business engaging in this line of work. This view strikes me personally as completely bogus. We can still make small adjustments in the text in places–change the position of an adverb here, add an article there–we can still dispute the well known textual problems on which we’re never going to be agreed, piling up the evidence as we will. But the reality is that we are unlikely to discover radically new problems or devise radically new solutions; 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.

(found here)

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.

But hey, fundamentalist atheists have to have their myths.

Of course, we have one of my favorites. Jesus false predicts his own return. After some brief discussion McAfee says

There is no known resolution for this false prophecy put forth by Jesus.

Why yes, yes there is. It’s a simple one. It’s called orthodox Preterism. Jesus was not predicting his return or a rapture. The apostles asked Him about the sign of His coming. They had no concept of Him even leaving. Why would they think something about Him returning? They were asking about the sign of Him taking His throne. They knew the destruction of the temple would mean that a new thing was going to be taking place. Jesus spoke in the language of Old Testament destruction. McAfee could get some information on this if he actually read a book on the topic such as Gary DeMar’s Last Days Madness Keep saying there’s no resolution to it McAfee. Those of us who have studied the topic and written about it (See here and here for this are just laughing our heads off at this point.

We then come to the Genesis 6 passage that says that God is limiting man to 120 years. McAfee says most Biblical scholars agree that the Lord is limiting lifespan to 120 years. Really? Most? Who are they? Could you not name one? McAfee acts as if finding one person who goes beyond this disproves the text. First off, if McAfee’s interpretation was correct, this would be an approximation. It’s a generality. Second, I do not think it is even correct. I think God is saying there is 120 years before the flood (Oh by the way McAfee, had you read those scholars like I have suggested, you would know many of us think the flood was not a global flood but a local one). After all, the writer of Genesis has long life spans even after the flood. You can say he was wrong, but don’t make him an idiot. He then thinks this whole thing has to be a contradiction since the Bible also says that we are given 70 years in Psalm 90, perhaps 80 if we have the strength. Again, this is a generality. It is not a fault against Scripture if we live longer lives now because of better conditions.

McAfee also reads literally the statements about God’s feelings in the Bible. (What a shock. A literal reading of the text) Myself and others see this as anthropomorphisms. God is being described in ways that we can understand. I do not believe God literally has feelings that change since God does not change according to Scripture and according to the Thomistic metaphysics that I hold to. McAfee also thinks a perfect God should only create perfection, but why? Perfection is a difficult term. Only God is truly and absolutely perfect and He could not create a being like Himself because such a being would have to be eternal and uncreated. Again, McAfee has not interacted with any real scholarship on the issue.

McAfee also asks if God is a warrior or a God of peace? He’s described as both. Indeed He is! What’s the contradiction? One reason we can go to war is to get peace after all. There are people who are opposed to peace and using force to get their own way on their victims. We go to war against them so the innocents can live in peace. Suppose someone breaks into my house and is attacking my wife. This person has violated our peace. I pull out a gun, shoot, and kill him. You know what? I have taken a violent action, but the peace has been restored by eliminating the ones that violate the peace. Of course, if he has objections about God and supposed genocide, he is again free to go to scholarly works on the topic.

When speaking about the virgin birth, he asks why it is only in Matthew and Luke when it was extremely important to later Christian teaching. So extremely important that for some reason it’s not mentioned in the epistles or Revelation. Of course, I do think it is important, but the central focus was resurrection. So why would others not mention it? Mark is giving the eyewitness account of Peter. Peter did not witness the virgin birth. (And to be technical, it’s not a virgin birth but a virgin conception.) Also, this teaching would have been something shameful to mention. Mary would have been seen as having a child out of wedlock and Jesus would be seen as an illegitimate child. One would hardly make up the claim of a miracle to avoid that. That would be implicating God. This is the kind of stuff a good Jew does not make up, and we have every indication Joseph and Mary were good and devout Jews. Again, there were scholarly works available to McAfee such as Ben Witherington and David Instone-Brewer.

McAfee also argues that Adam and Eve were the only two people on Earth, though there are again evangelicals that would disagree with this, such as Walton and N.T. Wright. He also says that Lot and his family were blessed despite the behavior of Lot’s daughters. I do not know of any further mention of Lot’s daughters. First off, to say Lot was righteous does not mean he lived a perfect life. Many great heroes made mistakes. It could have meant that, but it does not necessitate it. Second, there is no sign of blessing on Lot’s daughters. Their action is described but not prescribed. In fact, the children they gave birth to went on to for the most part be enemies of Israel.

McAfee also claims that Jesus being fully God and fully human is a contradiction. We are not told how but hey, let’s just take it on faith. He also says that many times Jesus separates himself and points us to Mark 10:18 with Jesus answering a rich man with “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” What McAfee does not realize is that in Jesus’s day, a compliment like that was often a trap. To take it would be seen as stealing honor for oneself. Jesus instead deflects the charge by pointing it to God and at the same time does not deny it for He is saying “You are saying I am good. Yet in your view, only God is good. Are you willing to put me on that level or not?”

We cannot go through every contradiction that McAfee cites, but we can look at a few. McAfee tells us that James says God does not tempt anyone, but God did tempt Abraham. No. God tested Abraham and there is a difference. He gave Abraham a choice as to how he wanted to go. Again, there is no real interaction with any writing on this topic. For all we know, all McAfee did was visit Wikipedia pages.

Jeremiah 3:12 says the following:

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.

And 17:4 says

You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

Never mind that Jeremiah 3 gives a conditional based on repentance. Also, McAfee is still in his fundamentalist reading. Forever in this case is a hyperbolic statement meant to show the seriousness of the offense. Jews specialized in using hyperbole after all.

Can man see God? Again, the supposed contradictory verses are given, but no real interaction. McAfee never cites Biblical scholars. He never considers the text is talking about seeing God fully in His essence as He is. Myself and numerous others would say only Jesus has seen that, and all others got to see something else. For many of us, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.

What about who the father of Joseph was? There were at least four different options the early church had to resolve this. McAfee does not argue with them. My thinking is one of the genealogies is the genealogy of Mary and the other that of Joseph. Would the son born to them be called Emmanuel? Matthew is saying Jesus is a picture of God with us, which is also how the book of Matthew ends, meaning Jesus’s life is God with us. I’m also one who does not see the Isaiah account as a prophecy of Jesus per se, but one that was re-enacted by God in the life of Jesus in a greater and more powerful way.

What about the giants, the Nephiim, described in Numbers 13:33. Were they not destroyed in the flood in Genesis 6 since they were mentioned before that? It’s simply a comparative statement. Moses is saying that the people were saying the people seemed quite large.

Was the new covenant delivered through a mediator? Galatians 3 says so, but there is no mention of that in Exodus. Of course, McAfee is still a fundamentalist who seems blissfully unaware of the thinking at the time in Second Temple Judaism on passages like that in Exodus. McAfee says this has been studied extensively by Biblical historians and remains a mystery. Who are these historians? We are not told. The mediator is quite simply Moses. There is no contradiction in the text just because one does not mention angels.

He also argues that Judges 1:19 and the iron chariots shows that God is not all-powerful. This is not so. The problem was that the people were not faithful to go and fight because of those chariots and so God would not drive them out. McAfee thinks this shows the powerlessness of God and even includes Genesis 11 as an example since God has to go down and investigate the Tower of Babel. McAfee misses that this is a joke. The people are said to be building a tower so they can reach up to Heaven. This tower is so unimpressive though that God is said to “look down” so that He can see it. It’s nowhere near the glory of God. The language is that of a joke. “Oh sure. Let’s go down and see what those silly people are up to now. Isn’t it just cute?”

And of course, there’s mention again that the text has been substantially altered from its original state. Again, no evidence, just a statement of faith. (This must be learned about fundamentalist atheists. They are great people of faith. They will believe anything they read that is negative about the Bible without doing any of the necessary research or if they do read something, it is only what already agrees with them. Fundamentalists like to stay in a bubble after all.)

What about babies born with disabilities in connection with Exodus 4:10-11? McAfee assures us he has talked with many Biblical scholars on this. Many claim that this is the work of the devil that causes children to be born with disability. Can God create people blind and deaf and undo that as well? Yes. Why are some allowed to be blind and deaf? Jesus gives an example in John 9 where it is for God’s glory to be shown in their lives. God often uses the disabled community to remind us all of the things in life that are extremely special. I know this talking to many parents who have severely disabled children.

Naturally, there is the story of Elisha and the bears. There is no mention that bears in the area would not have been moving that fast which shows these kids were trying to fight back against the bears seeing as forty-two were killed. There is no mention that these were likely not small children, but more young adults who were a sizable threat since there were at least forty-three of them there. There is also more than just mockery going on here. These boys represent rebellion against God and are telling Elisha to go ahead and disappear to. They want nothing to do with him and his message and essentially want to see him dead. McAfee knows none of this. It’s too bad those many Bible scholars he claims to have talked to couldn’t have told him anything about this. Of course, he could have bothered to do some research and read commentaries and such but hey, if you’re a fundamentalist, you just don’t do that.

Slavery comes up as well. There is no interaction with Ancient Near East studies on this. You will not find it explained that in Exodus, the slaves were just undergoing discipline. Slavery was largely voluntary as people had to bring in a living somehow and the owner was to be given the benefit of the doubt. Any serious injury resulted in the slave’s freedom which meant loss of income for the owner and loss of future income as his honor would have been tarnished and who wants to work for an employer like that?

Of course, there are the spoils of war described in Numbers 31:17-18. For these men who were supposedly obviously just keeping these women for sex, there is no acknowledgment that they had to have a week of purification. There is no acknowledgment that in Deuteronomy a woman was to grieve for a month over her family before being fully a wife. McAfee says they were captured for sex, but the text does not say that. Perhaps McAfee is just reading a view of women he holds into the text. Well if it’s not sex, then why spare the virgins? Because the virgins would not have been guilty of seducing Israelite men in Numbers 25. They would be spared because they were innocent.

It’s odd really. When no one is spared, God is mean and evil. When people are spared, God is still mean and evil. Heads, the atheists win. Tails, the theists lose.

We have also the story of the rich young man who is told that he must sell all he has and give to the poor. McAfee takes this as a command for all Christians for all times. It is not. It is just for this man who had an idol of wealth. We know this because Jesus regularly traveled with rich people who were his patrons and supported him. Every traveling rabbi had to have supporters like that. Jesus does not condemn wealth. He condemns wealth having us.

Sabbath breaking has to come up. McAfee shows no awareness of the great debates at the start of early Christianity. In reality, all sides in leadership would agree Gentiles did not have to become Jews completely, but at the same time James was not wanting to have zero connection with Judaism or make it that someone was looked down on for observing the Law. Since the theocratic nation of Israel was not in the same state, Gentiles were free to not observe the Sabbath. They were not under the Law to begin with. McAfee shows no interaction with these kinds of complex ideas and the view between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament situation. Once again, this is because he is a fundamentalist.

When we get to the story of the resurrection of the men in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, what is the commentary by McAfee? “This is considered to be an extremely absurd and radical idea to say the least.”

Well I guess that settles it. Yeah. We get by your worldview that miracles are absurd, but that is the very aspect under question. Should we embrace your worldview? It’s saying “You should embrace my worldview because your worldview has things my worldview considers absurd.” Okay. Well in my worldview, a universe existing by its own power is absurd. Therefore, McAfee should become a classical theist.

McAfee also goes to Luke 14:26 where Jesus says you must hate your own family to be His disciple. He says Jesus praises ignorance and separateness throughout the text. We are told even the most liberal Christian scholars cannot disagree with this fact. Who are these scholars? Again, we do not know. McAfee misses that Jesus is again engaging in hyperbole. He is saying you must be willing to forsake everything if you are to be a disciple of Jesus. You may not have to, but you must be willing. This is because the Kingdom of God is coming in Jesus and your relation to Him determines your place in the Kingdom.

He also writes about God’s condemnation of eating shellfish in Levitical Law and says “homosexuality is also said to be an abomination.” Homosexuality is part of the moral law and in fact repeated in the OT. Dietary laws are part of ritual law and not repeated in the NT. The passages on homosexuality show the nations around them were being judged for their wrong sexual practices. The other nations are never judged for dietary laws or for the Sabbath or anything like that. What’s worse is this is really simply bigotry on McAfee’s part. It is making fun of cultures that do have purity laws, without realizing that McAfee himself I’m sure has several. Does he ever use hand sanitizer? Would he be fine with me coming to his house and writing on his walls with permanent marker even though it would not carry and disease whatsoever? Perhaps McAfee should broaden his horizons and go to other cultures where ritual purity is taken seriously.

McAfee also writes about the women keeping silent in 1 Cor. 14. What he does not mention is that there is some evidence first off that this is an interpolation. Second, if not, Paul is likely quoting a saying the Corinthians themselves have. Paul has already spoken in 1 Cor. 11 about a woman prophesying in the church so he has no problem with women speaking. He also had Phoebe deliver a letter in Romans and quite likely, she was the one then to read that letter. McAfee could have done what I did and actually talk to a Biblical scholar on this passage, such as my interview with Lynn Cohick on Jesus and Women. (Please note this McAfee. I not only talk to the scholars. I also present evidence that I have done so. I can also cite scholars. Maybe you should try it sometime.)

McAfee concludes this section by speaking of the Bible having very little historical evidence, without any interaction with writers like Blomberg, (and here as well), Bauckham, Evans, (and here as well), Boyd and Eddy, Hemer, or Keener. After all of this, he has the gall to say we must properly understand Christianity with:

in the case of Christianity, this consists of a strong knowledge of Christian history, modern teachings, and biblical lessons in context — which many Christians lack.

Those who can’t do, teach apparently.

In later writings in the book, he says he finds great comfort in having his view based on science and not faith. Again, no interaction with Christian scientists and a misunderstanding that borders at least on scientism.

He also asks why you’d claim to be a follower of

an outdated tradition that you do not understand

and

All that I ask is that you question the beliefs that were (most likely) implanted in your mind as a young child and hopefully research your so-called holy texts.

Well I have done that and dare I say I’ve done it a lot longer than you have and I would simply encourage you to do the same. As many have said, if you wrote something like this for a school, it would fail immediately due to a lack of a bibliography and lack of interaction with sources.

He also says amusingly that atheists should understand the Bible. Indeed, they should, but it would be nice if McAfee would lead by example. In that same section, he says the great flaw of all of these systems is faith, which is simply ignorance. Well if faith is ignorance, which we have shown it isn’t, it is hard to imagine someone having more faith than McAfee. Yet at the end of this, he describes himself as a religious studies scholar. Okay. McAfee, please show me what peer-reviewed works you’ve written at the field. Please show me your credentials in the field. Please show me the institution that has hired you as a professor of religious studies. Now you can say “But you are not peer-reviewed and not teaching in the field and you don’t have a Ph.D. at this point. Indeed! But I never claimed to be a scholar either and deny the claim when it is said of me. You have not done that.

There is also a section on Christianity and war. You will find the claims about the Crusades and the KKK and that Hitler was a Christian as well. For the Crusades, we await eagerly to see if McAfee has bothered to interact with someone like Thomas Madden. Does he not realize the Crusades were for the most part defensive wars after 400+ years of Muslim aggression? We also wonder why we should accept the KKK as representing orthodox Christianity in any sense. Finally, with Hitler, could he consider interacting with a work such as this one? Meanwhile, would McAfee be kind enough to explain to me the killing that went on under atheist regimes in Cambodia, China, and Russia?

In writing about religion in Canada, McAfee says he is able to write about the topic of religion from an objective point of view. Yes everyone, because we know that atheists hold zero biases in all that they write. It is only those Christians that hold a bias. McAfee goes on to say

“Because of this theism-laced political system in Canada, citizens (regardless of religious affiliation) are forced to endure not only the singing of a theist-based national song, but also Christian prayers before various federal events—including meetings for the creation of legislation”

The horror! The horror! Right now, Christians are being murdered for being Christians all over the world, but those poor Canadian secularists. They have to endure singing of a theist-based national song and then they have to hear Christian prayers! The terrible plight of such suffering that these people go through! Won’t you please come alongside these people who are suffering so much with having to listen to things that disagree with them? Please go right now and write to your Congressman and urge him that we must convince Canada to stop this great suffering right now!

In the end, McAfee is demonstrating to me the downward spiral that is going on in the atheist community. Atheist books are becoming more and more anti-intellectual and atheists are not doing really serious research and seem to think all their thoughts are gold because they are atheists. Now of course, this does not apply to all atheists. I know some atheists who will read this review and would read a book like McAfee’s and say “No. This is not me. I am just as embarrassed by this guy.” The sad reality is too many are not. If you are a self-respecting atheist and want your community to be taken seriously, then please do your part and beg people like McAfee to be quiet on these matters. Please tell people like McAfee to write actual books that show actual research where they actually interact with the other side.

Yet I am thankful. If atheism continues down this path, atheists will just grow more and more uninformed while thinking they are informed. They will leave themselves vulnerable in the long run in the marketplace of ideas. The response of Christians now is to be bulking up on what we do believe and learning it well as well as learning what atheists like McAfee believe. I seriously doubt McAfee will stop writing, but I hope he doesn’t. I want him to keep making material like this that will do further damage to the atheist community. He’s doing more service for Jesus Christ than he realizes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A further review of this book can be found by Tyler Vela on his podcast and here. My own ministry partner has written on this here.

A Response To Richard Hagenston

Is your pastor really not telling you some truths about the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Richard Hagenston is an ordained United Methodist minister and a former pastor who has written a book called Fabricating Faith: How Christianity Became A Religion Jesus Would Have Rejected. Now to be fair, I have not read the book yet, but someone sent me a link to the blog of Hemant Mehta, the “friendly atheist”, where he has a guest post by Mr. Hagenston.

Now I’d like to start with a sad statement. I think the reason many of these issues will never come up from pastors is that frankly, most pastors don’t even think about them. I have said several times that too many pastors are unequipped. I am not saying all pastors should specialize in apologetics, but all pastors need a basic knowledge at least of apologetics, they need to have at least one “Go-to” person in the church on apologetics, and they need to be able to emphasize the importance of apologetics to their flock. The sad reality is too many people in the flock have no clue what apologetics is, including myself for a long time, and this could be because many pastors don’t know either.

The result of this will be in the increasing amount of misinformation put out. On the one hand, Christians who apostasize from the faith will go out and share all this information that they never knew about, most of it coming from bogus sources on the internet. The second is that there will be too many Christians who will follow in kind because their pastor never protected them. Unfortunately, those who stay in the faith too often live in their secluded bubbles and ignoring the outside world, which kills any chance of their fulfilling the Great Commission.

That having been said, let’s look at the truths that will not be told.

The first is that the apostles did not know of a virgin birth.

The problem with such a claim is the same as illustrated by Christ-mythers. It relies on an argument from silence. If X never mentioned an event, then he didn’t know about it. We could only guess from something like this that a large population of the world at the time knew absolutely nothing about a volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Because we deem something as important does not mean that the people of the time would have really wanted to talk about it.

Let’s consider the virgin birth. If the first Gospel written was Mark, why would Mark not mention it? It’s really quite simple. Mark is an inclusio document that is based on the eyewitness of Peter. Peter would most certainly have not been present for a virgin birth. Despite this, some think there could be a veiled reference in describing Jesus as the son of Mary instead of of Joseph in Mark 6:3.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

In fact, it could be the virgin birth would not be something that the writers would want to mention. As David Instone-Brewer points out in The Jesus Scandals. the virgin birth would have also been seen as an embarrassment. Not because if it was true that that would lower Jesus. It is because it would be seen with skepticism and in a Jewish culture, it would admit one sure fact about Jesus.

Jesus had a birth that was not normal.

Why would that be shameful? Because that could easily lead to the charge that Jesus was a mamzer, that is, a child born illegitimately. That might not be as big a deal here in modern America, but in the Jewish culture, that would really call into question your status as a righteous man of God. A writer like Matthew could have heard the rumors and think he had to say something and grasp onto Isaiah 7:14, which was admittedly not seen as Messianic at all. (Were Matthew making up a story, one would expect him to use passages that were seen as Messianic.)

Another danger of this is that unusual births (Not virgin but unusual) was part of the system of pagan gods at the time. Jews were quite resistant to paganism at the time. Now they could accept some cultural aspects, but their religious aspects were by and large kept. Excellent information on this can be found in Jesus and His World by Craig Evans and The Jesus Legend by Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy. For a brief example, we see in the garbage of the Jews in Jerusalem few if any pig bones before 70 A.D. After 70 A.D., we see them. Why 70 A.D.? That’s when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Romans would have taken over the area and observance would not be practiced as much.

Why would Luke mention the virgin birth? Luke could quite likely have had Mary as one of his sources while he was in Jerusalem, which I suspect at this point happened when Paul was on trial as described in Acts and Luke had plenty of time. Luke wanting to show Jesus’s relation to all men could have shown that this happened this way to say Jesus is not just for the Jews. He’s for the Gentiles as well and his unique birth pictures that.

For John, John goes way beyond the virgin birth and has the fullest statement of pre-existence in the Gospels. If John is also the last to write, it could be that he would know what was covered in the others and feel no need to repeat that ground.

As for Paul, why would Paul really need to mention it? Now it could be mentioned in Romans 1 and possibly in Galatians 4, but is it really important to the message of Paul? In a high context society, this is what would have been known already. Paul is not writing a life of Jesus. He is trying to deal with problems in the church and there’s no need to interrupt an argument on whether Christians should be circumcised or not with “Oh by the way, Jesus was born of a virgin.”

For more on this, listen to my interview of Ben Witherington in the second hour of my podcast here and to my interview with David Instone-Brewer here.

Now could it be that the other apostles didn’t know of a virgin birth for arguments’ sake? Sure. You need more than silence to show that.

The second myth is that Jesus offered nothing for the Gentiles. The first two pieces of evidences are that first off, Jesus’s healing of Gentiles was limited, such as the healing of the Centurion’s servant, and second, the way Jesus treated the Syrophoenician woman.

It is interesting that the centurion’s servant is used as an example because in the story, Jesus says many will come from the east and the west to dine with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while the sons of the kingdom will be cast out.

10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

What the author misses is that Jesus’s first focus was Israel. He was coming to them to offer Himself to them as their king. It never meant He never saw anything beyond, but it meant that His message started with Israel.

So what about the Syrophoenician woman? Here we have a case of Jesus using sarcasm and I’d say in fact, pointing out the problems with the attitudes of the Disciples who most likely would certainly have seen this woman as a dog. Let’s look at the story.

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eatthe crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her,“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus in the Gospels regularly challenges the assumptions of people around him. “Why is He with a Samaritan woman?” “Which one of these men is a neighbor?” “If this man was a prophet, He would know what kind of woman this is.” “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes?” John the Baptist as well did this. “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones.” Could Jesus be doing the same here?

Note that Jesus doesn’t complain about the presence of the woman. It is the disciples who do. The disciples are the ones who have no compassion for the woman and want Jesus to send her away. Jesus doesn’t go out directly since he’s trying to escape the crowd and rest for now along with his disciples. This woman must have sought him out then and Jesus’s first words in the dialogue are not to the woman, but are to the disciples.

Jesus in fact points to a schedule in His ministry to the woman. He never says “No.” He instead points out that His first priority is Israel. The woman in fact never disagrees. She never asks specifically to be made a focus. All she asks for is crumbs from the table. Pets in the house would traditionally be fed later, but surely she can get a little something for now. Jesus commends her on her faith which would no doubt have shamed the disciples who were supposed to be part of faithful Israel. Jesus in fact was being the true Israel by being kind to a foreigner and acting as a priest for a foreigner.

Let’s consider also another passage in Matthew. This is 21:43.

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

This is part of the Parable of the Vineyard and we must realize how shocking this statement is. This would be like saying in our country that much of our financial abundance and our land would be given to a third world country outside of us. Many of us in America still have this idea that we are central in the story of history and everything revolves around us. Now I do love our nation, but we are not the focal point of history. Empires come and empires go.

If you were a Jew and heard this, it would mean the covenant promises were being violated by your people and God would leave you abandoned. The Jews had experienced that in the Babylonian exile and did not want to go through it again! They were the special nation. They were the ones chosen by God. How could they miss out on the blessings? Jesus’s words are absolutely shocking.

And of course, Matthew is the one that has the Great Commission in His Gospel as well ending out his own inclusio account. Jesus is said to be God with us in the virgin birth and he is God with us even to the end of the age.

The other piece of evidence is that Paul experienced resistance from the Gentiles. This is the passage used.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step withthe truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Yet in this passage, we see nothing about how Peter responded to Paul. Instead, we find the way that Paul responded to Peter and pointing out that Peter was acting out of line with the Gospel by living as though righteousness would be declared by following the food laws rather than through faith in Christ. What evidence do we find that Peter accepted Paul?

Now we could point to 2 Peter, but that is not usually accepted and since our writer later on writes about forgeries, I doubt he would accept it. So let’s go with Galatians itself.

In Galatians 1, we read the following:

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

No resistance here.

And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

No resistance here either.

In fact, if tradition is true and Clement was the disciple of Peter, then we could see what Clement says about someone his teacher would have supposedly opposed.

We read the following in 1 Clement 47:1

Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle.

Again, not real resistance.

So thus is the second secret dealt with.

For the third, how about Jesus never claiming to be God in the synoptics?

The first major mistake here is that the only way to many people to claim deity is to go around saying “Hey! I’m God!” In reality, in the ancient world, like much of today, actions spoke louder than words and Jesus regularly pointed to His actions. This would be His claim to forgive sin, and this apart from the temple itself, His claim to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and His claim to send out the angels in Mark 13 as well as His strong claims about sitting by the right hand of God and coming with the clouds (Language of theophany) in response to the high priest.

While more passages could be listed, let’s look at what Hagenston says.

In fact, all of those first three gospels show Jesus scoldingly saying that he should never be thought of as God. Mark 10:18 depicts Jesus as saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Obviously, he took offense at the mere thought that he might be considered to have the same righteousness as God. He is shown making the same point in Luke 18:19 and Matthew 19:17.

Obviously? No. Not obviously. It might seem that way to a modern Western reader, but in the ancient world, Jesus would have known this man was trying to butter him up as it were. How will He respond to a compliment of an exalted type? Does He deny that He is good? Then why should anyone listen to Him? Does He affirm His own goodness? Then what kind of person is He claiming to be? Jesus instead deflects the comment without once denying it. “Okay. You want to say I’m good? That applies to only God. Are you ready for that level of commitment?”

Unfortunately as the story shows, the man was not ready for it.

For more on this and how the church perceived Jesus early on, see my interview with Charles Hill, Michael Bird, and Chris Tilling on How God Became Jesus . For a look at how the ancients would have viewed Jesus from their perspective, see my interview with E. Randolph Richards here. For a defense of the incarnation and Trinity, see my interview with Rob Bowman here. 

The next objection is that the Gospels have irreconcilable differences in the resurrection accounts.

Let’s suppose that’s true.

So what?

Most scholars today defending the resurrection don’t even go to the Gospel accounts to do so. They go to 1 Cor. 15 and Galatians 1-2. Inerrancy is not a requirement for the Gospels to be true or even reliable. (Although one could find in commentaries several ways to reconcile the resurrection accounts.) So what does Hagenston say?

To add to the confusion, the Gospel of John shows Jesus appearing in both Galilee and Jerusalem. The actual appearance of a resurrected Jesus would have been so stunning that it raises the question of why there was not even one record of such an event that made a deep enough impression to be passed down in all the gospels.

Once again, the problem is the argument from silence. There are any number of reasons why such an appearance would not be mentioned, including it not being really needed. One account with more than one witness would have sufficed in a Jewish court of law. Of course, for an excellent defense of the resurrection, the best work now is Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” You can hear my interview with
him here. You can hear my interview with Gary Habermas on the same topic here.

Next is the claim that Jesus opposed public prayer. Did he?

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

How is it you are not to pray publicly? You are not to pray publicly to be seen by others. Jesus would have known about several public prayers in the history of Israel, such as Solomon at the temple ceremony in thanking God for it. This was in fact proper for someone acting as a priest to the people. Jesus condemned instead showman prayers, prayers done just to receive glory for oneself.

The next claim is that some books of the Bible are forgeries and this is most notably, the pastoral epistles. Hagenston does bring up some reasons why they are thought to be forgeries.

However, there is wide agreement among many Bible scholars that they differ so much from Paul’s vocabulary, style, and teachings that they could not be by him.

It’s interesting that he talks about the teachings being so different and then in the next paragraph compares 1 Cor. 14:34-35 to 1 Tim. 2:11-15. Of course, he does say 1 Cor. 14 is likely a later insertion. It is quite possibly an interpolation. Also possible is that Paul was quoting the words of the Corinthians to them. We know earlier in the epistle he has women taking part in worship in chapter 11.

But to look at the earlier argument, yes, there are differences, but this can also be expected depending on who is being written to. For instance, these letters are personal letters. The only other example we have of this from Paul is Philemon. If I write an email to a friend, it will be quite different in all of those ways from an email I could write to my wife.

This would be easier of course to reply to had Hagenston given more concrete examples. He didn’t. For a look at the teaching on women however, see my interview with Lynn Cohick here. For the question of forgeries, see my interview with Andrew Pitts here.

Next is that some contradictions in Scripture are intentional. The first example is Psalm 51. What does Hagenston say?

An Old Testament example is found in Psalm 51. That psalm was written after Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem (and its Temple that had been built by Solomon) and led the city’s inhabitants off to exile. Since the Temple was no longer available for sacrifice, the author of Psalm 51 offers comfort in Verses 16 and 17 by saying God does not even desire sacrifice but only a contrite heart.

But then, in a clearly intentional contradiction, someone who disagreed with that came along and added, immediately afterward, Verses 18 and 19 saying that God would be delighted by sacrifices that would follow a rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Hagenston sees a contradiction between offering up the sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart and then switching to offering bulls. This is only a contradiction if you hold to a view that is a legalistic one of Judaism. Judaism instead more often saw the sacrifice of bulls and other animals as something done not so much to earn forgiveness but to show forgiveness. The proper response to forgiveness was to offer something of value to you.

Since God pronounced David righteous by his contrite heart, David would respond by offering up bulls on the altar.

Hagenston goes on to say.

In the New Testament, we see an example in what the gospels say about the message of John the Baptist. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all depict John the Baptist as saying he was offering a baptism for the forgiveness of sin through repentance alone. But, writing later, the author of the Gospel of John didn’t like that at all. He wanted to say that forgiveness comes only through sacrifice, the blood sacrifice of Jesus himself. So, in contradiction to the other gospels, he says that the message of John the Baptist was to proclaim Jesus as a pending sacrificial Lamb of God.

Once again we have the same kind of scenario going on here. As I read the texts, I do not see repentance alone. In the texts themselves, John says to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We know from elsewhere in the Gospels that John’s disciples fasted, for instance. Jesus is seen as walking out of lock-step with the tradition. We see John saying nothing about sacrifices. He doesn’t commend them and he doesn’t forbid them.

The final is that apostles taught by Jesus insisted Paul was wrong about His Gospel. What does Hagenston say?

As for the identity of Paul’s opponents, in 2 Corinthians 11:13 he calls them “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” But who were they? In 2 Corinthians 11:5 he sarcastically calls them “super-apostles.” In that time, “super-apostles” could have meant only one thing: the original apostles.

Is this possible? Sure. Some commentators are open to it. Is it a done deal? Not at all. Hagenston gives no argument for it. There are not scholarly authorities cited. It is only an assertion.

Hagenston will need to make an argument and do so interacting with the best scholars in the field. Until he does so, there is really nothing that can be said.

In the end, I find many of Hagenston’s criticisms lacking. While he says he is still a Christian, and that could be the case until he starts denying Christ rose from the dead as I do not see inerrancy as an essential of the faith, he seems to have come from a more modern perspective and is not interacting with the scholarship in the field. As is too often the case, he gives a one-sided presentation.

I conclude the way I started. This is precisely why more education and awareness of apologetics is needed in the field.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

A Response To Islam Answers

Is the Crucifixion A Historical Reality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by a friend to look at the “work” from “Islam Answers” on the historicity of the crucifixion. Some of you think I save my worst condemnation in research methodology for the new atheists. That is false. When I read Muslim argumentation, it is worse. Going through the first part that I went through was a labor of love for my friend.

I do wish to note that I am staying with my area here as well. Seeing as I am not an authority on Islam, I will not be commenting on how well Muslim works pass the standard of historical criticism. That is for those who do study Islam. I will instead comment on their criticisms of the NT. Naturally, it won’t be exhaustive, but it will be sufficient.

The work that I am critiquing at this point is part 1 that can be found here. What I find repeatedly is the same argument ad nauseum and the same failed argument. I find a lack of interaction with the latest scholarly research and the so-called research that I find is extremely poor. This will be pointed out as we go along, especially since a number of times, Wikipedia is cited as their source.

For instance, it is repeatedly stated that the Gospels are anonymous. The writers of this work (Who strangely enough I do not know who they are since they happen to be anonymous) repeatedly state that if they were eyewitnesses, surely they would want to put who they were. It is a shame they did not pick up a work like E.P. Sanders’s “The Historical Figure of Jesus.” On page 66, they would have read:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’

Furthermore, it is not as if we have no idea whatsoever who wrote the documents that we have as the Gospels. There is no interaction with Martin Hengel’s suggestion that the original works would have included the authors names somewhere. Hengel could be wrong of course, but it would be good to see the anonymous writers of this piece interacting with it.

Is there any mention of the church traditions that state who the authors are? None whatsoever. Again, the church traditions could be wrong for the sake of argument. Sure. Yet shouldn’t the idea be at least interacted with? We could consider what Tim McGrew says in my interview with him at the start about Gospel authorship or my interview with Andrew Pitts on NT Forgeries.

In fact, for all their concern about anonymity, as I said, it doesn’t bother them that the authors of their work itself is unnamed and even on their web page about the music in the video, one sees this:

Theme Nasheed (by unnamed group from Morocco)
Enjoy, and make some “duaa” for us.

Apparently, the problem isn’t anonymous works. It’s which ones they will accept.

Are we to think anyway that if there was a name on the Gospels, that they would instantly be seen as credible? We have six epistles in the NT that are said to be by Paul that most scholars do not think are Pauline. Why should we think the Gospels would be treated any differently?

And what about other works that are anonymous? How do we know Plutarch wrote his works? One of his grandsons later on says he did. A large number of works in the ancient world were anonymous. Do the authors of this piece want to say that if any of them are anonymous, then we must view them all with suspicion.

In fact, let’s take a look at some points about the authorship of the Gospels. Let’s start with Matthew. The early church speaks with one voice. Matthew wrote the book. The writers of the piece being responded to today make note that the authors don’t use the term “I” but instead, if they speak of themselves, speak in the third person. Traditionally, this would only work with Matthew and John because Mark and Luke not even in tradition would be seen really as major eyewitnesses. (Mark is thought by some to be the young man who runs off naked in the Garden, but that’s only one scene.) Matthew does write about himself in the third person. Is this a problem? The writers of this piece should have known this question was addressed around sixteen centuries ago by Augustine. Excuse a long quote please:

Contra Faustum 17.1

  1. Faustus said: You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them. Where do we learn that Jesus said this? From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount. In whose presence was it said? In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen. Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel? It is. Does he mention this saying of Jesus? No. How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount? In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness. But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative. Thus we read: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him.” [Matthew 9:9] No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him. Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name. Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

Augustine replied: What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus! If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, “I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill,” was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men? According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ. On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority. The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise. With reference to such, he says to believers: “If any man preaches to you another gospel than that you have received, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:9] If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted. But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ? In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John. Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.

Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion. As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others. Does he not say at the close of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”? [John 21:25] This proves that he omitted many things intentionally. But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them. It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. [John 12:41] It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of: “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote of me.” [John 5:46] Your evasions are met on every side. You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

  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.

This happens in other places. Consider Xenophon’s Anabasis in Book 1, chapter 8.

At this time the barbarian army was evenly advancing, and the Hellenic division was still riveted to the spot, completing its formation as the various contingents came up. Cyrus, riding past at some distance from the lines, glanced his eye first in one direction and then in the other, so as to take a complete survey of friends and foes; when Xenophon the Athenian, seeing him, rode up from the Hellenic quarter to meet him, asking him whether he had any orders to give. Cyrus, pulling up his horse, begged him to make the announcement generally known that the omens from the victims, internal and external alike, were good (3). While he was still speaking, he heard a confused murmur passing through the ranks, and asked what it meant. The other replied that it was the watchword being passed down for the second time. Cyrus wondered who had given the order, and asked what the watchword was. On being told it was “Zeus our Saviour and Victory,” he replied, “I accept it; so let it be,” and with that remark rode away to his own position. And now the two battle lines were no more than three or four furlongs apart, when the Hellenes began chanting the paean, and at the same time advanced against the enemy. (Emphasis mine)

Or consider Book 2, chapter 20, section 4 of Josephus’s War of the Jews.

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, 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. (Emphasis mine)

Such is sufficient to make our case.

What about Mark? Mark is said to be the testimony of Peter. Note that if the early church wanted to secure Mark as a Gospel, they could have just said it was the Gospel According to Peter since it was essentially Peter’s testimony. They didn’t. They kept the middleman in there, the middle man who would have been a shameful figure seeing as he was a Mama’s Boy who ran back home and led to a division between Barnabas and Paul.

Luke? Luke never claims to be an eyewitness himself, but he interviews those who are eyewitnesses and records what they say. Again, why would the church make up Luke? He’s an unnamed barely mentioned in the epistles.

John is the one who makes the most sense really and guess which one is the only one with some dispute in the early church? It’s John. Is it John the Elder or John the Apostle who wrote it?

Interestingly, in all this talk about eyewitnesses, nowhere is cited the work of Richard Bauckham with “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” I suppose the great research of Islam Answers never included reading the best and latest scholarly material.

What about bias? Everyone who wrote anything back then wrote with a bias. I suppose Islam Answers has a bias as well. They want to show Islam is right and Christianity is wrong. Should I discount them entirely because of that? Not at all. The best holocaust museums are ran by Jews. Do you think they have a little bit of bias. In fact, as stated in my interview with Jonathan Pennington, unbiased history would be viewed with suspicion. You had to have a motivation for writing what you wrote. Mostly, it was to say “This person was a good and virtuous man and you should seek to emulate him!”

Of course, there is an ample amount said about contradictions and one of the main ones they point to is the sign above Jesus’s head at the cross as if to have different renderings of what it says is problematic. To begin with, the message was written in more than one language. Which language was translated in which way? Second, even if it said one thing, a paraphrase is entirely acceptable. What do they say the sign says?

Matthew: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

Does anyone notice a recurring theme here?

We are also told that the Gospels claim Jesus will die and be raised three days later. Why were the Gospels surprised? Chances are, they did not think raised from the dead by Jesus then meant literal bodily resurrection. They probably were thinking along the lines of divine exaltation somehow, such as Jesus being vindicated. Or, they were wondering if He was speaking in parables again since this is the Messiah and the Messiah is not supposed to die.

The writer also asks about the claim that Jesus died (Noteworthy that in this piece he only deals with the Gospels and not Paul or even secular sources like Tacitus) and wants to know if the author could verify Jesus was dead. After all, Pilate seemed surprised.

It is true most victims lasted longer on the cross, but Jesus had also been up all night long, undergone a trial, and been severely flogged. (Many people died in just the flogging alone.) This would only hasten the death of Jesus. If there is still doubt, let us consider that those who would know well, like the American Medical Association, agree that Jesus was dead.

The next point the authors bring up is that in about 50 years according to the historical method, the eyewitnesses would have been dead. This is flawed terminology anyway. The historical method does not speak. Historians speak using the historical method. Nevertheless, what is the great source that the authors use for their information on the historical method?

Wikipedia.

I’m not kidding. They really use Wikipedia.

At least they’re nice enough to tell you what to search for. They recommend looking for R.J. Shafer, although Shafer wrote forty years ago and we have learned some matters since then. Is there any interaction with much more recent work? How about James Dunn’s “Jesus Remembered”? or Walton and Sandy’s “The Lost World of Scripture.” You can also hear my interview with Brent Sandy on the topic.

The writers tell us that the Gospels were written 40-50 years later. Source on this?

None given.

Argument for it?

None given.

Now again, they could be right, but they need to argue that. Also, the testimony of the eyewitnesses would have been told in the context of a community. (Yes. They later on refer to the telephone game not noting that ancient communication was completely unlike that.) In the community, those with the best memories would be the gatekeepers as it were of the information as the stories were told. Now minor details could be altered as long as the thrust of the story was the same. This did not constitute an error in the story to the ancient mindset. For more on the liberties that could be used in Greco-Roman biography, hear my interview with Mike Licona.

The writers also make a claim about the authors having an air of omniscience asking questions that are meant to be stumpers.

“Who shadowed Jesus to report him being carried by Satan from mountain to mountain. Who was with him?”

Strange idea. I’m just going to throw this one out there. Maybe Jesus Himself told them what happened in the wilderness?

“Who shadowed Judas to report him make the agreement about money?”

Simple. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus could have both had knowledge of the event.

“Who shadowed Judas when he hung himself? and when he died AGAIN (!!!) by spilling his guts?”

Now there are different ways to deal with the discrepancy. Some say the terminology in Matthew is not literal but meant to say Jesus died like a traitor like Athithophel. I’m going to for the sake of argument go for the more common idea that Judas hung himself over a precipice and then after time, the rope broke and he fell and died.

No one needed to shadow him for that. Simple observation after the fact would tell everyone what happened?

Finally…

“Who shadowed Jesus when he prayed remove this cup from me”?

When Matthew says that Jesus went a little farther, the Greek word used is Mikron. That should show how short the distance was. Jesus prayed for a long time. When He returns each time, He finds the disciples sleeping. What’s so hard about thinking they hear him praying out loud just as they doze off? What would also be impossible about if the resurrection is true, Jesus telling them about the prayer afterwards? Either one works.

Later on, we find this excellent piece of logic. We are told the NT was written in Greek, but the language of Jesus and the disciples was Aramaic, therefore, whoever the NT authors were, they never met Jesus.

Yeah. I don’t see the logic either.

Would it have been ridiculous to consider that in the early church, the authors could tell their stories to people who could write and speak Greek and communicate it to them? It would also not be unheard of for them to know some Greek, especially if they were traveling in the Roman world anyway where Greek was the universal language.

WIth this, they bring in 1 Peter which they say is in Greek and too sophisticated to be by a fisherman. (Because we all know fishermen just had to be stupid.) Even if that was so, did they bother to read 1 Peter? What does 1 Peter 5:12 say?

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

It says Peter had a secretary, namely Silvanus, who wrote for him. Peter would have had the final approval to be sure, but it would be just fine to say “This is what I want to say. Phrase it in the best way.” Peter would still be considered the source of the letter.

Amusingly, the writers consider the idea of secretaries as an incredible response. Any interaction with E. Randolph Richards’s work on secretaries? Nope. Well if this level counts as an argument, then I have a response.

Muslim apologists often use the ridiculous argument that the idea that the Gospel writers used secretaries is ridiculous!

If their assertion counts as a refutation, so would mine.

When we get to textual criticism, there is complaining that one early fragment cited is the size of a credit card. What’s their source of their contention with this? It’s Wikipedia. Perhaps they could have considered a work such as The Early Text of the New Testament. If the NT cannot be trusted textually, there’s no basis for trusting any ancient document textually. I’d also like to point to the words of a leading textual scholar on the transmission of the NT. This scholar first says:

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.

Elsewhere, this scholar also says:

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.

I strongly suspect our anonymous writers would tell me to stop reading the conservatives and pick up some Bart Ehrman instead.

Which would be amusing if they did because the scholar who said both of these statements is in fact, Bart Ehrman.

The first one is here: 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

The second one is here:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.

The writers also deal with supposed contradictions between the OT and the NT. Now I don’t hang my hat on inerrancy. Scholars do not play all-or-nothing games with ancient texts. Yet one supposed discrepancy needs to be mentioned. The writers say in the NT God is a spirit and doesn’t have a body. What about the OT?

The writers refer to Habakkuk 3:3-4. I find most translations speak of rays coming from God’s hand, but the KJV has the reading these writers quote.

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

Yes. They really think the Jews thought God was a being like this who had horns coming out of His hand. The same with God walking in the garden in Genesis 3. Apparently, they do not know how to recognize allegorical language or as is also the interpretation I give for appearances of God in the OT, that the pre-incarnate Christ was the one who appeared.

One other one worth dealing with is if Jesus’s name was Immanuel as in Matthew 1, or if it was Jesus, as He was known throughout His life?

The writers are unaware of double names in the OT apparently. Consider that Jacob was also called Israel and many times after his name was changed, he’s still called Jacob. Moses’s father-in-law was known as Reuel and Jethro both. My favorite example of this is in 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and theLord loved him.

25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now why would the writer say Jesus was known as Immanuel? In the original prophecy, the boy who was born was a sign that God was with the people. Jesus is a far greater indicator of that. This Gospel has early on “God is with us” in Jesus and ends with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is known as an Inclusio. This means that the whole of the Gospel is to be seen as “God with us” in Jesus.

The writers also say that the passages that speak about Israel don’t work for Jesus since Israel went and lived in rebellion. The point is that Jesus is a type of Israel, not a one-to-one parallel. Jesus is in fact the true Israel and He succeeds as Israel where national Israel failed.

The writers also say that if John was near the cross, the disciples would have known to not be afraid. John was also known to the high priest so he could have been given some extra leeway anyway. That could explain his being near. (Also, there was a crowd there. Are we to think that every person was patrolled?) Are we to think the other disciples would not want to take precautions seeing as their Messiah in their eyes at the time did not survive the cross?

When it comes back to eyewitness testimony and memory, they refer to the writings of Garraghan, who wrote in 1946. Again, we’ve learned more since then, but where is this information found? What a shock. It can be found here.

It’s as if the only work the writers read on how to do history was that Wikipedia page.

In fact, later on when they quote Wikipedia again they say

The reader must be warned that our following discussion assumes that our above mentioned Wikipedia source, is correct and does not have grave omissions.

It’s hard to imagine how these people think this passes for research….

Their next claim?

Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898) proposed a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history:[3]

  1. If the sources all agree about an event, historians can consider the event proved.
  2. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.
  3. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.
  4. When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most “authority”—that is the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness.
  5. Eyewitnesses are, in general, to be preferred especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.
  6. If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced.
  7. When two sources disagree and there is no other means of evaluation, then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.

Did I have to type any of that? Nope. It was cut and paste from Wikipedia. Why? Because that’s exactly what they did….

Also, there is another cut and paste job in the article from Wikipedia which I will quote as well.

C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation:[11]

  1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement ‘the hypothesis‘, and the statements describing observable data, ‘observation statements’.)
  2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements.
  3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.
  4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.
  5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.
  6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false.
  7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

McCullagh sums up, “if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true.”

At least they think McCullagh is an authority. Here’s what McCullagh says about Mike Licona’s book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

This is an astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come.

Our writers were probably too busy reading Wikipedia to read scholarly books on the matter and learn how historians really operate from them.

Of course, there is the constant cry of “contradictions.” For instance, did the Centurion come to Jesus or did his servants? For the ancients, this would not have been a problem. When the servants came, it would be as if the centurion himself came. Both could be spoken of. Are we to think that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him, that that means Pilate himself did the deed? Much could be said about other supposed contradictions. An excellent source on these would be Tektonics and of course, reading the best commentaries on the issues and other scholarly books like Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.” You can also consider my interview with Blomberg on that book.

Again, not everything could be said, but it is safe to say that these writers embody the very worst in research methodology. I suspect all they did was sit at their computers and look up sources like Wikipedia. There is no hint of any interaction with the best material against their position. Those wondering on the pro-Islam side of their argument are invited to go elsewhere, but I can safely say that their criticisms serve for me as a boost to the Gospel and a further demonstration of the bankruptcy of Muslim apologetics.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/12/2014: Talking About Plutarch

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

First off, for all interested, the podcast is now up on ITunes! All interested can find a link to the podcast here. Please be sure to leave a good review of the podcast so that others will be encouraged to listen to it as well. So now, let’s get to what we’re going to be talking about.

We’re going to be bringing back one of our favorite guests to the show, at least considering that so many people wanted to call in and ask him a question last time he was on! In fact, this is a guest that I can call family and mean it. My guest is going to be my father-in-law, Mike Licona, and we’re going to be talking about the works of Plutarch and how they relate to the study of the Gospels.

Some of you might not know who Mike is, so let’s get some introductions in.

Mike

According to his bio:

Mike Licona (Ph.D.) is associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus, Inc. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of Pretoria, which he earned with distinction and the highest mark. 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 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 Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He has spoken on more than 60 university campuses and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs. For more on Mike’s ministry, visit www.risenjesus.com.

Mike’s latest studies have been of Plutarch to see how Greco-Roman Biographies were written at the time and how that can help us understand the Gospels better, especially when dealing with the idea of “contradictions.” This of course will spark some inevitable questions.

Are the Gospels really in the genre of Greco-Roman biography? Why should we study something like Greco-Roman Biographies? Why think the Gospel writers would use a form of literature that could be considered pagan to get the message of Jesus across? Can studying something from the culture really help us to understand what is going on in the Gospels themselves?

Then of course, we’ll be looking at some favorite “contradictions” and seeing how it is that studying the Gospels as Greco-Roman Biographies can in fact help us to figure out what the solutions to these contradictions are. Mike is a thorough scholar and one who you will appreciate getting to listen to so I hope that you’ll be looking for this podcast to show up in your ITunes feed as we talk about the study of Plutarch.

In Christ,
Nick Peters