Yes. Mythicism Is Still A Joke

Should Mythicism be treated as a serious idea? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over at New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado’s blog, for some reason, Dr. Hurtado began writing about mythicism. I was curious to see what was said because NT scholars rarely say anything about mythicism for the same reason geologists would rarely say anything about Flat Earthers. The idea is simply considered a joke.

There’s good and bad sides to this. The good is that NT scholars do have much more important things to do than to get involved in internet squabbles. One can understand them not wanting to take their time to deal with an idea that they do not think should be taken seriously, and they’re right. The bad is that sadly, people are uninformed and they do take it seriously. This is the kind of idea that spreads on college campuses and on the internet among people who don’t know how to do history.

Naturally, posting like this soon reaches the ears of prominent internet blogger Richard Carrier, the rare person who has a Ph.D. in a relevant field and holds to mythicism. Carrier takes the time to say that he wasn’t going to engage one day because it was his birthday recently and there were orgies to be had. Others had responded, but it was time for him to take on Hurtado.

“Surely you’re joking! You wouldn’t write a serious piece interacting with a highly established NT scholar and talk about having orgies would you?”

Well, Richard Carrier would.

Carrier also showed up on Hurtado’s blog, to which Hurtado didn’t even blink at it, but simply pointed out that his reading was highly off. That was last night and I have seen nothing new today about it and Hurtado has said that he has much more important interests to deal with. Who can blame him?

As I said, the theory of mythicism is popular on the internet, but I think Hurtado could be right in that this is a last hurrah for mythicism, at least for now. While Carrier is the best the mythicist case has, it’s not really saying much. Others in the field, both Christian and non-Christian, are looking and aren’t really impressed. The only people that seem to be impressed are those who are already mythicists and atheists who want to hear what they already think.

Such it is with conspiracy theorists. You can see conservative and liberal Facebook pages that will show claims that are easily shown to be false, but many people on each side want to believe what they already believe. Mythicism is just that. It’s a conspiracy theory for atheists. The evidence can sound convincing and persuasive if you don’t understand history, but once you do, the whole thing falls and we all see that the emperor has no clothes.

An interesting twist is that mythicism can be to history what solipsism is to philosophy. It’s usually thought that when you get to solipsism in your philosophy, you’ve made a mistake somewhere. Mythicism can show us how history should be done by showing us how bad history is done. Perhaps this will further refine our criteria of history which I don’t doubt will put Jesus in an even better light historically. After all, death could not defeat Him 2,000 years ago. There is no reason to think the historical method will today.

There have been stories of soldiers of Japan who were unaware that the war had ended decades earlier. So it is that we have many mythicists fighting a battle today unaware that the war is already over and that the historicity of Jesus is solid bedrock. Hopefully, more will see before too long that the battle is already done, but my concern is that there will still be eternal casualties with those who do not know realize the facade that they’ve been sold.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

NYC Terrorism And Gospel Reliability

Can we really know what happened? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

On Halloween afternoon and early evening, there was a news story broke about a radical Islamic terrorist that killed multiple people in New York. My wife and I go to Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday nights at our church, so we only got to hear bits and pieces, yet as it turns out, I did hear different things. That evening on the news, I had heard that he got shot in the abdomen. Another report said he got shot in the stomach. Still, another said he got shot in the buttocks.

Yesterday, my wife and I had the news on and heard even more different stories. This time, we heard that he had been shot in the leg and then it was more specifically, the thigh. We could say that this is a later story that is more clear, but as an outsider, I can’t really know. I could hypothetically go to the hospital and see for myself, but that’s not really an option right now.

So what do I gather from all of this? If we were in the area of New Testament studies, there are some things that some people would conclude. For instance, there are some who would be consistent and conclude that there never was a shooting or even that there never was a terrorist. After all, shouldn’t there be agreement?

Some will point to the idea of eyewitness testimony being unreliable. To an extent, it can be, but there are cases where it isn’t. In a time of chaos when people are dying around you and you could be looking out to save your own life, you might not remember everything that happens well. There will be some things you would not be at all mistaken about. You would not be mistaken about being at the scene or seeing a terrorist mowing down people in a vehicle and you would likely remember the peace that came when he was taken down.

I also often think that if we want to see how reliable testimony is over time, we need to check with people whose lives were significantly impacted by the event in question. Consider 9/11. Who is more likely to remember and relive the events in their mind over and over? Is it someone who was a passerby on the street and knew no one who worked in the towers, or is it someone who lost a spouse on that day? I don’t know of any such study like this, but it would be good to see it done.

When we compare this to the Gospels, there can be times that there are supposed contradictions that do differ on minor details. I am not saying all differences are like this, but many are. These are differences much like the shooting of the terrorist. It might be unclear to those of us on the outside without direct proof to know where the terrorist was shot, but we all know that he was. (Well, aside from perhaps some fringe conspiracy theorists who are no doubt convinced this was all staged, but then that is an apt comparison with the mythicist community.)

Minor differences do not do anything to change the fact of the major events. Someone might be tempted to say that it’s different when we talk about the New Testament. It’s supposed to be the Word of God isn’t it? At this point then, one is treating the New Testament with an entirely different standard. You’re not doing history so much as you’re doing religion. There is no reason to have a position where either all of it is true or none of it is true.

Instead, one can approach it much like any other document. Sure, there might be a few differences, but does that detract from the major points? Note I am not saying you have to sacrifice Inerrancy at all. I am saying you do not have to make it everything.

So what happened in NYC? A radical Muslim terrorist killed several people and was stopped when he was shot. Do I know the minor details beyond that? No. Do I have any reason to believe the major ones are false? No. Do I have justification to believe they are true? Yes.

When we come to the New Testament, we need to do the same. Let’s first see what the major outline of the story is. Then we can work on the minor details. Maybe we won’t even resolve them all, but we can still trust the major points.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jesus An Avatar?

Has the true identity of Jesus been revealed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not uncommon to hear that someone else thinks they know the true identity of Jesus. Naturally, it’s an identity that has nothing to do with Second Temple Judaism and is instead in line with what they believe. So it is with Jeffrey Charles Archer, who was a Southern Baptist minister who embraced a more Hindu position and has said Jesus is an avatar. His work can be found here.

So let’s go through and see how the case is.

It has been well enough noted and touted that there are many uncanny similarities between the Persons of Krishna and Christ.  A Quaker named Kersey Graves (1813-1883) compiled a list of some 346 elements in common between Krishna’s story and Christ’s story.  Indeed, none can reasonably deny that some of the analogies are quite convincing, not the least of which is the phonetic similarity of the names.  Nonetheless, something never quite seemed quite right with that attempt to tie those two purported God-men.  Though I believed that these connections were not without merit, I somehow had a sense they were NOT the same Dude.  Only fairly recently in my own spiritual pilgrimage did I come across accounts of the God named Ayyappa/Shasta, Son of Krishna/Vishnu (when He was manifest as a She) and Shiva, Son of God the Maintainer and God the Destroyer.  Almost immediately something in my intuition else rational faculties told me that Ayyappa was a very likely candidate for the more ancient and abiding identity of the person/Person called Jesus Christ.  Consider as you continue, especially if reading this from a Christian persective, that Jesus is touted to have said to his/His disciples, “I have sheep in other pastures . . .”

So let’s see. Kersey Graves right at the start, which tells us enough. Kersey Graves is someone no one should take seriously today, but of course in the great big world of the internet, the only resurrections that are believed in are of dead ideas that are brought back to life to a new people who have never heard them and don’t understand why they weren’t seriously acknowledged to begin with. (Strange you never see them sharing theories of phlogiston or aether being in the sky.)

But hey, maybe it’s just because I’m a Christian that I’m saying this. Or maybe, maybe it’s just that it’s true. Let’s suppose I went to the other side. Let’s go to the Secular Web and see what they say.

The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ is unreliable, but no comprehensive critique exists. Most scholars immediately recognize many of his findings as unsupported and dismiss Graves as useless. After all, a scholar who rarely cites a source isn’t useful to have as a reference even if he is right. For examples of specific problems, however, see Hare Jesus: Christianity’s Hindu Heritage,and some generally poor but not always incorrect Christian rebuttals. A very helpful discussion of related methodological problems by renowned scholar Bruce Metzger is also well worth reading (“Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity” 2002). In general, even when the evidence is real, it often only appears many years after Christianity began, and thus might be evidence of diffusion in the other direction. Another typical problem is that Graves draws far too much from what often amounts to rather vague evidence.

Keep in mind that this is Richard Carrier saying this and if Richard Carrier says a fellow skeptic is a crank type, well that’s a serious charge. Still, I actually agree with him this time. Graves is someone to not take seriously.

What about the phonetic similarity between Christ and Krishna. This sounds convincing to a lot of people, such as the ones who make a big deal about the “Son” of God in comparison to the “Sun.” Which, you know, totally works if you assume that the New Testament was written in modern English. Other than that, it’s a useless comparison.

If Archer wants to say there is a case, we would need to compare the words for Christ and Krishna in their original languages and show that there was borrowing, such as Greeks borrowing ideas from the Indians. Archer needs more than just a hunch.

And what about sheep in another pasture? Of course, this is going to be the one statement in the Gospel of John He did say. All those other strong claims He made about Himself absolutely do not even have any remotely historical backing. The comment as it is has an easy enough explanation. It refers to the Gentiles.

During my undergraduate years I was for a time a Southern Baptist preacher.  Though this might not seem a good starting place for a seeker of truth, it was in fact somewhat due to clues proffered by the mostly Southern Baptist professors at Oklahoma Baptist University that I began to question the dogmas of that faith.  Years later after I was introduced to the teachings of  sanAtana dharma I still felt that somehow Jesus was a legitimate expression of God and one who well enough presented and the teachings of eternity (quite literally, “sanAtana dharma”).  Ayyappa was the Person I was eventually drawn to that seemed to present a legitimate connection between my first religious impulses and the abiding truth of sanAtana dharma.

You gotta love how personal testimony never seems to go out of style for these guys. It’s a card they just can’t ever seem to stop playing. Still, there isn’t anything along the lines of evidence to respond to here so we move on.

Ayyappa/Shasta is indeed a unique Son of God, as the Christian title, “the only begotten Son of God,” does tout.  Vishnu (God the Maintainer, known as Krishna in His most popular form), this one time, did come to earth as a Woman in order to deal with a particular menace, a dangerous demon named Bhasmasura.  After Vishnu had defeated Bhasmasura, Shiva asked Him to show Himself again as Mohini, His female form.  Well, as Shiva is the essence of masculine virility, He ends up desiring the lovely and seductive Mohini.  They end up hooking up and Shiva empregnates Mohini/Vishnu with Ayyappa, also known as Shasta.  This certainly seems to fulfill the “only ‘begotten’ Son” scenario proffered by the Christian religion, and in fact does fit rather well with the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” trinity of Christianity.

Of course, we could go to Judaism and find a parallel for the only begotten Son in Isaac’s relation to Abraham. If you think this is anything like the Trinity in Christianity, you might as well think that Trinity in The Matrix is a good parallel of the Trinity. The relation in a Hindu pantheon is not at all like the case of divine identity in Judaism and Christianity, which would have no concept of hooking up in the Godhead.

I mean, if your Divine Mom is generally a Dude, what might you refer to Her/Him as?  Also of note in this guise, as Vishnu is the Paramatma, the aspect of God that dwells in everyone as Atman, God indwelling, then how would Jesus/Ayyappa refer to this Being if not as a “Holy Spirit?”  The first little clue, by the way, seems very likely to explain the rather confused masoginistic tendencies of Christians, even despite the New Testament statement that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, neither man nor woman, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

On the other hand, if your Father is seen as a male figure, maybe you might refer to Him as, I don’t know, Father. As for the Holy Spirit, perhaps the term comes from, and yeah, this might be a stretch, the Old Testament? As for misogynistic ideas, this must explain why Jesus had female disciples, Phoebe and Prisca and others were leaders in the early church, etc.

Thus, assuming my identification of said Persons as the same Being is legitimate, Jesus’s real Mom (again, Mary was a surrogate mom) is generally a Dad, and is to whom Jesus was refering when He refered to “the Holy Spirit.”
You kind of have to wonder what’s going on to make someone think this and think that this is a serious theory.
Another Christian understanding of Jesus is that He was “the Word,” as their scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Ayyappa is very much associated with AUM, the Primal sound (which is almost certainly the origin of the Judeo-Christian “Amen”) another quite obvious correlation between Ayyappa and Jesus.  Yet another obvious similarity is that one of the most prominent stories about Ayyappa is that as Manikantan He healed a deaf and blind boy, as Jesus would later be said to have done.
It’s a mystery why the reference to Jesus as the Word is mentioned. It bears no relation to nothing else here. As for AUM, to say it’s almost certainly the origin of “Amen” requires a lot more than just a claim. Again, one needs to see the words in their original languages, then compare them, and then have actual evidence of borrowing. Finally, with regard to healing, for any deity, miracles of any sort would be part of the repertoire, so this is hardly a parallel.
“Upon completing his princely training and studies when he offered ‘gurudakshina’ or fee to his guru, the master aware of his divine power asked him for a blessing of sight and speech for his blind and dumb son. Manikantan placed his hand on the boy and the miracle happened.”  (http://srinagaroo.blogspot.com/2013/04/lord-ayyappa.html?m=1)
Raising the dead is another miracle attributed to Ayyappa, as His name Lakshmanapranadata, which means Reviver of Lakshmana’s Life, clearly indicates.  Indeed these many indications incline me to believe that the two mythological figures are the same Person, as they have such attributes in common.
The similarities between Krishna and Christ might well be explained by the aforementioned theory, as well, as “the Son” was endeavoring to fill the roles of Krishna/Mohini (the Divine Mother of Ayyappa/Jesus) in His/Her absence.  Again, Shiva is “the Father” in this scenario.
Or they might be just the products of a very fervent imagination. This is the same kind of stuff that produced Graves’s material. Again, there’s a reason these theories are not taken seriously anymore. There are others who have made these claims in the past and made them better and they still fell drastically short.
One last thought along this line of reason is that during the “missing years of Jesus” was when He went away to the east to learn from His Guru before returning to Palestine to teach.  Many other connecting factors wait to be unravelled with this identification of Jesus as Ayyappa in mind, factors which give clue to the history and dance and pilgrimage of peoples and the play of the gods and of God and Goddess throughout history and eternity.  Buddhists tout Ayyappa/Shasta as an Avatar of Buddha.  And to reify that Jesus Christ was indeed and in truth an Avatar of Ayyappa, the appearance of a star never before seen is associated with Ayyappa !!
If Archer ever cracked open any other ancient biographies, he would find a whole lot of other missing years. Did all of these go to India? The problem with the India hypothesis is that we have no hard evidence. In fact, in Luke when Jesus speaks at the synagogue, he is said to have grown up there. There is no indication that he went to India.
So I conclude this with shock of all shocks, being thoroughly unimpressed. It looks like Archer likely went from believing one thing blindly to believing something else blindly. Consider this another example of how we are failing to equip our pastorate. I look forward to a future with a more informed pastorate that knows how to explain what they believe, why, and be able to answer critics.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

5,000+ Gods

How do you know you have the right deity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s understandable that when it comes to major issues, many of us have strong opinions. It’s understandable that many of us seek to be informed on those opinions. It’s understandable that many times we will want to talk to others about those opinions who agree and disagree with us and want to either share encouragement or change minds respectively.

It’s not understandable though that people share nonsense all the while thinking that they are sharing a powerful argument. One such case recently happened on the Unbelievable? Facebook page. An atheist, no doubt convinced he had a brilliant argument, shared the following meme and asked what the way is Christians find out of this particular dilemma.

People who post this stuff really don’t bother to understand world religions at all. For instance, consider the Buddha. Many Buddhists in the classical system would be seen as atheistic and not think the Buddha is a deity. The Hindu pantheon has several lesser gods, some more prominent than others, but nothing seen as a sort of ultimate deity. Many would have no problem saying that of course there are 5,000 gods, but could say that all of them are real.

Let’s start with something simple though. All truth claims are exclusive. If I say 2 + 2 = 4, then any person who says an answer that is contrary to 4 is wrong. We could say to people who think I am the husband of Allie Licona Peters that “There are billions of men on this planet who could be her husband, but don’t worry, the claim that Nick Peters is the only right answer.” Of course, it is.

How could this work with atheism? Just replace gods with worldviews. There are almost 5,000 worldviews being believed by humanity. Don’t worry. Yours is right. After all, atheism is just a strong a claim. It’s a strong claim if the meme is true to say that you worship the right God out of 5,000 or so. It’s a strong claim to say that you are right and everyone else is entirely wrong because none of those deities are real.

The meme when looking at the question also assumes that all deities have the same amount of evidence for their existence and all religions do as well. Are we really to think that, for instance, archaeologically, the Book of Mormon can begin to compare with the New Testament, or even the Old Testament for that matter? You could if perhaps you right at the start assume that all of the systems are nonsense, which would just be begging the question.

This is something Matthew McCormick did in his book The Case Against Christ. He made a list of 500 deities that were thought to be ominpotent, omniscient, eternal, etc. He then said that these gods are no longer worshiped this way. Well, I did something rather odd there. I actually went and looked up all of these gods. Any that were seen that way could be counted on one hand. You can see some of my doing this here including his big gaffe.

What needs to happen then is something that should be obvious to the atheists who say they care so much about evidence, but they often forget. That is to look at the evidence. That means when the theist pulls up the evidence for whatever deity they believe in, you actually look at it and consider it.

If you asked me why I believe in the deity I hold to, I would say that it is the most logically consistent for me. It is very similar to the one Aristotle arrived at in his philosophy. I go with the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments. It would be quite long to go into here so that will be for another day.

Then when I look at Christianity, I say the evidence for Jesus is overwhelming. To deny His existence is ridiculous. Other theories I see trying to explain the data surrounding the resurrection I find completely lacking. I say this also by the way as one who has read much on the other side. (I often ask an atheist when the last time they read an academic work that disagreed with them was and I very often get crickets in response.)

There are other points. For instance, the number of other deities is actually much more than 5,000. Also, saying one religion is right does not mean that all religions are entirely wrong in everything that they believe. There are great truths in many of the other world religions.

I am of the firm stance that a meme is not an argument. If you have made your argument, you can illustrate it with a meme, but the meme itself is not the argument. People who think it is I find to generally be shallow thinkers. That includes Christians and non-Christians both. Stupidity can be found among the proponents of any belief system just as intelligence can.

Looking at the thread, I do not see any theist that is concerned about the argument. I’m certainly not, but I figured it would be a good example to post here and one question I’m not sure if I’ve ever tackled on the blog. We can hope that the poster will start citing some academic sources in making his whole argument, but I am skeptical that that will ever happen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Jim Walker of NoBeliefs On Mythicism

What happens when we again examine the historicity of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The internet is a wonderful place where a skilled researcher can uncover treasures of knowledge and benefit greatly from it. The internet is also a dangerous place where someone unskilled can go and think they’re finding treasure when they really have fools’ gold. Such is the case of mythicism.

Mythicism is this theory that does not stand a chance in the academy and has died every time it has been presented, but on the internet, it’s seen as a serious theory among scholars, although this is by people who never read the scholars themselves. I refer to it as a conspiracy theory for atheists. The problem is most anyone on the internet can be seen as a scholar today just because they have a website or can make videos.

“Well you have a website and videos.”

Right you are! I’m also not a scholar! I’d say I have greater expertise, but I have no Ph.D. or peer-reviewed work. Look at my writings and go back to the real scholars who have that and compare.

Last night, someone sent me an article. The article is long and so I asked for select parts he wanted to be addressed. Note also that it comes from NoBeliefs which is one of the worst websites to go to for information on this topic. Still, let’s see what these parts are that are puzzling to this person.

The first is right at the start.

No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.

Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness’ own knowledge.

Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay does not provide good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.

With the first part, if this was our standard, we would have to say 99% of people in the ancient world never existed. Do we have this of Socrates for instance? What of other Jewish sages like Gamaliel, Hillel, and others? Most teachers did not do any writing themselves, but rather they left it to their students to pass on their teachings.

As for contemporary writings, this assumes that the Gospels and the epistles are not contemporary, but we have no contemporary writings of Alexander the Great. Our writings of him come from about 400 years later. We have no contemporaries of Queen Boudica, General Arminius, or Hannibal. These were people also who did, in the eyes of historians of the time, a lot more noteworthy accomplishments than did Jesus. For the ancients, Jesus was not worth talking about.

What about the claim that the Gospels did not come from eyewitnesses? This can also be contested. Nowhere do we see interaction with anything like Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. This statement is just thrown out with no backing at all. Are we to believe that a church in Ephesus one day received a scroll and had no idea who it came from and said “Well, this looks like a good Gospel. Let’s use it!”

The writer not being named in a work does not mean the authorship was unknown. Most writers would not do such. Interestingly, when we have that in some of the Pauline epistles, they’re still viewed as forgeries so I have no reason to think that a name on the Gospel of Matthew explicitly would convince such skeptics.

Still, has Jim looked at any cases for authorship? Has he looked at why the church said Matthew, Mark, and Luke especially? Matthew was a tax collector. Mark was a Mama’s boy who ran back home early and caused a split between the church’s first great missionaries. Luke was a gentile only named in some Pauline epistles. If the church was making up figures as authors, why make up these? I could go on with cases for each, but those who are interested in the evidence, which I am convinced Jim is not, can go and look for themselves at this point.

What about hearsay? Unlike Jim, I did something that I guess would be a bit taboo here. I actually talked to a lawyer about it. Jim first off assumes that this is hearsay and second, documents connected to the events would be allowed to be used in a court of law. Still, I would dispute that the Gospels especially are hearsay and the material in 1 Cor. 15 definitely goes back to the apostles, the eyewitnesses, themselves.

Let’s move to the next part.

Epistles of Paul: Paul’s biblical letters (epistles) serve as the oldest surviving Christian texts, written probably around 60 C.E. Most scholars have little reason to doubt that Paul wrote some of them himself. Of the thirteen epistles, bible scholars think he wrote only eight of them, and even here, there occurs interpolations. Not a single instance in any of Paul’s writings claims that he ever meets or sees an earthly Jesus, nor does Paul give any reference to Jesus’ life on earth (except for a few well known interpolations). Therefore, all accounts about a Jesus could only have come from other believers or his imagination. Hearsay.

Epistle to the Galatians: In this letter Paul describes a meeting with Peter and James, the Lord’s brother (Gal: 1:18-20). The problem here involves the meaning of “Lord’s brother.” Some scholars think this means the biological brother of the Lord while others think it means brother in a communal spiritual sense, as all Christians are the Lord’s brothers and sisters. Note, never does any epistle refer to the brother of Jesus. In all cases, Paul uses the word “Lord,” consistent with the spiritual sense. In any case, even if this phrase did mean a biological brother, Paul could not have known that James had a brother. At best he could only have believed it because his information could only have come from another person, most likely James himself. That makes this letter hearsay.

Epistle of James: Although the epistle identifies a James as the letter writer, but which James? Many claim him as the gospel disciple but the gospels mention several different James. Which one? Or maybe this James has nothing to do with any of the gospel James. Perhaps this writer comes from any one of innumerable James outside the gospels. James served as a common name in the first centuries and Biblical scholars simply have no way to tell who this James refers to. More to the point, the Epistle of James mentions Jesus only once as an introduction to his belief. Nowhere does the epistle reference a historical Jesus and this alone eliminates it from a historical account. [1]

Epistles of John: Scholars tell us the epistles of John, the Gospel of John, and Revelation appear so different in style and content that they could hardly have the same author. Some suggest that these writings of John come from the work of a group of scholars in Asia Minor who followed a “John” or they came from the work of church fathers who aimed to further the interests of the Church. Or they could have simply come from people also named John (a very common name). No one knows. Also note that nowhere in the body of the three epistles of “John” does it mention a John. In any case, the epistles of John say nothing about seeing an earthly Jesus. Not only do we not know who wrote these epistles, they can only serve as hearsay accounts. [2]

Epistles of Peter: Many scholars question the authorship of Peter of the epistles. Even within the first epistle, it says in 5:12 that Silvanus wrote it. Most scholars consider the second epistle as unreliable or an outright forgery (for some examples, see the introduction to 2 Peter in the full edition of The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985). The unknown authors of the epistles of Peter wrote long after the life of the traditional Peter. Moreover, Peter lived (if he ever lived at all) as an ignorant and illiterate peasant (even Acts 4:13 attests to this). In short, no one has any way of determining whether the epistles of Peter come from fraud, an author claiming himself to know what Peter said (hearsay), or from someone trying to further the aims of the Church. Encyclopedias usually describe a tradition that Saint Peter wrote them. However, whenever you see the word “tradition” it refers to a belief passed down within a society. In other words: hearsay. [3], [4]

Epistle of Jude: Even early Christians argued about its authenticity. It quotes an apocryphal book called Enoch as if it represented authorized Scripture. Biblical scholars do not think it possible for the alleged disciple Jude to have written it because whoever wrote it had to have written it during a period when the churches had long existed. Like the other alleged disciples, Jude would have lived as an illiterate peasant and unable to write (much less in Greek) but the author of Jude wrote in fluent high quality Greek.

So let’s go through one by one.

First off, the author has it wrong. Seven of the Pauline epistles are definitely seen as authentic. Second, some do think Paul could have met Jesus, which would make sense since Paul can reasonably go to Jerusalem for Passover and encounter Jesus. Still, if this is the standard that Jim wants, then we can throw out Hannibal and Queen Boudica and Arminius and others since we have no eyewitness testimony of them.

Second, I do not know of any scholars who see the claims about the historical Jesus to be interpolations. If Jim thinks so, he needs to produce them, and no, YouTube personalities do not count as scholars. Robert Price has argued that the 1 Cor. 15 creed is an interpolation, but the case has not convinced scholars and there is zero textual evidence of this. Furthermore, this is the material that would not be interpolated. No early opponent of Christianity was disputing the basic historicity of Jesus.

With Galatians, I would like to see these scholars who think this is someone other than the actual brother of Jesus. Even Catholics who would hold to perpetual virginity would not interpret the passage this way. It would also not be hearsay. It would be from Paul’s own eyewitness testimony himself of meeting James. As even Bart Ehrman has said, “If Jesus never existed, His brother would probably know it.” The only reason to view this with suspicion is you have a prior commitment you wish to show.

We can agree with James that it’s not meant to show a historical Jesus, but neither is it supposed to. Still, many scholars do in fact think that James is getting much of his information from the Sermon on the Mount. It is quite bizarre to think Matthew would make up a whole sermon later on just to agree with James’s epistle.

The Johannine epistles get pretty much the same treatment. Unfortunately, all of his sources are wikipedia or theopedia. (You know, the place where great scholars go for research.) Still, there’s no reason to think that these are written to tell us that Jesus existed, but that they showed up does show that a movement had started and what was it based on?

For Peter, Jim makes much out of saying that Silvanus wrote the letter. Yes, and Romans 16 points out that Paul used a scribe as well, but no one doubts Paul wrote Romans. Even a literate person back then used a scribe so this is not a problem. Also, Acts 4:13 does not mean that Jesus was illiterate and ignorant. It meant that he had not been formally schooled. Either Peter learned how to write Greek well after becoming an apostle, or else he used a scribe. Both of those still hold on to Petrine authorship.

The same can be said for Jude. It is a wonder why quoting Enoch means that Jude did not write it. No doubt then since Paul in authentic letters quoted pagan poets, he thought that those were Scripture too. Jude just took a point he thought was true and used it. Also, there is no reason the church needed to be around a long time. It would have been nice for Jim to engage with some scholars, but alas, he did not.

The next section is on lying for the church.

LYING FOR THE CHURCH

The editing and formation of the Bible came from members of the early Christian Church. Since the fathers of the Church possessed the scriptoria and determined what would appear in the Bible, there occurred plenty of opportunity and motive to change, modify, or create texts that might bolster the position of the Church or the members of the Church themselves.

The orthodox Church also fought against competing Christian cults. Irenaeus, who determined the inclusion of the four (now canonical) gospels, wrote his infamous book, “Against the Heresies.” According to Romer, “Irenaeus’ great book not only became the yardstick of major heresies and their refutations, the starting-point of later inquisitions, but simply by saying what Christianity was not it also, in a curious inverted way, became a definition of the orthodox faith.” [Romer] If a Jesus did exist, perhaps eyewitness writings got burnt along with them because of their heretical nature. We will never know.

In attempting to salvage the Bible the respected revisionist and scholar, Bruce Metzger has written extensively on the problems of the New Testament. In his book, “The Text of the New Testament– Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Metzger addresses: Errors arising from faulty eyesight; Errors arising from faulty hearing; Errors of the mind; Errors of judgment; Clearing up historical and geographical difficulties; and Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations. [Metzger]

The Church had such power over people, that to question the Church could result in death. Regardless of what the Church claimed, most people simply believed what their priests told them.

In letter LII To Nepotian, Jerome writes about his teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus when he asked him to explain a phrase in Luke, Nazianzus evaded his request by saying “I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool.” Jerome responds with, “There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation.”

In the 5th century, John Chrysostom in his “Treatise on the Priesthood, Book 1,” wrote, “And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.”

Ignatius Loyola of the 16th century wrote in his Spiritual Exercises: “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”

Martin Luther opined: “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”

With such admission to accepting lies, the burning of heretical texts, Bible errors and alterations, how could any honest scholar take any book from the New Testament as absolute, much less using extraneous texts that support a Church’s intransigent and biased position, as reliable evidence?

To begin with at the start, it would need to be shown that the text of the New Testament has been heavily edited and changed. Let’s go with a scholar of textual criticism on this. How about Bart Ehrman, who is definitely not a Christian? What does he say?

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

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

I’m also highly skeptical of this idea that the early Christians were killing those in their midst who disagreed. Perhaps Jim could give us some examples. Also, did some people just believe the priests? Sure. That’s still a problem today. It’s also just like some internet atheists write articles where they just believe what they read on Wikipedia.

Many of these quotes are also not what they seem. For instance, Chrysostom does not paint an absolute picture. One could compare what he did to telling the Nazis that there were no Jews underneath the floorboards of the house. The quote about Luther isn’t even listed in the source Jim gives. (This is another reason you don’t use Wikipedia boys and girls. It’s subject to change at any time. Go back to the original sources.)

What appears most revealing of all, comes not from what people later wrote about Jesus but what people did not write about him. Consider that not a single historian, philosopher, scribe or follower who lived before or during the alleged time of Jesus ever mentions him!

If, indeed, the Gospels portray a historical look at the life of Jesus, then the one feature that stands out prominently within the stories shows that people claimed to know Jesus far and wide, not only by a great multitude of followers but by the great priests, the Roman governor Pilate, and Herod who claims that he had heard “of the fame of Jesus” (Matt 14:1)”. One need only read Matt: 4:25 where it claims that “there followed him [Jesus] great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.” The gospels mention, countless times, the great multitude that followed Jesus and crowds of people who congregated to hear him. So crowded had some of these gatherings grown, that Luke 12:1 alleges that an “innumerable multitude of people… trode one upon another.” Luke 5:15 says that there grew “a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear…” The persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem drew so much attention that all the chief priests and scribes, including the high priest Caiaphas, not only knew about him but helped in his alleged crucifixion. (see Matt 21:15-23, 26:3, Luke 19:47, 23:13). The multitude of people thought of Jesus, not only as a teacher and a miracle healer, but a prophet (see Matt:14:5).

 

So here we have the gospels portraying Jesus as famous far and wide, a prophet and healer, with great multitudes of people who knew about him, including the greatest Jewish high priests and the Roman authorities of the area, and not one person records his existence during his lifetime? If the poor, the rich, the rulers, the highest priests, and the scribes knew about Jesus, who would not have heard of him?

For this, I refer the reader to my earlier article on how Jesus is not worth talking about. What amazes me is not how few people talked about Jesus, but that anyone really did at all.

Some apologists attempt to dig themselves out of this problem by claiming that there lived no capable historians during that period, or due to the lack of education of the people with a writing capacity, or even sillier, the scarcity of paper gave reason why no one recorded their “savior.” But the area in and surrounding Jerusalem served, in fact, as the center of education and record keeping for the Jewish people. The Romans, of course, also kept many records. Moreover, the gospels mention scribes many times, not only as followers of Jesus but the scribes connected with the high priests. And as for historians, there lived plenty at the time who had the capacity and capability to record, not only insignificant gossip, but significant events, especially from a religious sect who drew so much popular attention through an allegedly famous and infamous Jesus.

Take, for example, the works of Philo Judaeus (also known as Philo of Alexander) whose birth occurred in 20 B.C.E. and died 50 C.E. He lived as the greatest Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher and historian of the time and lived in the area of Jerusalem during the alleged life of Jesus. He wrote detailed accounts of the Jewish events that occurred in the surrounding area. Yet not once, in all of his volumes of writings, do we read a single account of a Jesus* “the Christ.” Nor do we find any mention of Jesus in Seneca’s (4? B.C.E. – 65 C.E.) writings, nor from the historian Pliny the Elder (23? – 79 C.E.).

* Note, Philo did write about a pre-Christian celestial “Jesus,” but this had nothing to do with the Christian Jesus (unless Christians “stole” Philo’s ideas). See Philo’s On the Confusion of Tongues (62-63, 146-147)

If, indeed, such a well known Jesus existed, as the gospels allege, does any reader here think it reasonable that, at the very least, the fame of Jesus would not have reached the ears of one of these men?

Amazingly, we have not one Jewish, Greek, or Roman writer, even those who lived in the Middle East, much less anywhere else on the earth, who ever mention him during his supposed life time. This appears quite extraordinary, and you will find few Christian apologists who dare mention this embarrassing fact.

To illustrate this extraordinary absence of Jesus Christ literature, just imagine going through nineteenth century literature looking for an Abraham Lincoln but unable to find a single mention of him in any writing on earth until the 20th century. Yet straight-faced Christian apologists and historians want you to buy a factual Jesus out of a dearth void of evidence, and rely on nothing but hearsay written well after his purported life. Considering that most Christians believe that Jesus lived as God on earth, the Almighty gives an embarrassing example for explaining his existence. You’d think a Creator might at least have the ability to bark up some good solid evidence.

Again, this is dealt with in my above article on how Jesus is not worth talking about. As for the confusion of tongues passage, I refer to an atheist on this one. Yes. Even atheists are rightly going after Carrier’s nonsense.

For example, in Matt 4:8, the author describes the devil taking Jesus into an exceedingly high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world. Since there exists no spot on the spheroid earth to view “all the kingdoms,” we know that the Bible errs here.

John 12:21 says, “The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee. . . .” Bethsaida resided in Gaulonitis (Golan region), east of the Jordan river, not Galilee, which resided west of the river.

John 3:23 says, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim. . . .” Critics agree that no such place as Aenon exists near Salim.

No one has evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus’s writings (even though he provides a list of cities in Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles appeared before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn’t come into existence until about 40 years after the alleged death of Jesus. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as established history.  According to John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, “The only epigraphic evidence for Nazareth comes from a Jewish synagogue inscription, written in Hebrew.  A small dark gray marble fragment from a third, or fourth century C.E. synagogue plaque was discovered at Caesarea Maritima in 1962, containing the earliest occurrence of the name Nazareth in a non-Christian source. This fragment and two others unearthed with it preserve a list of the traditional locations where Jewish priests resettled after the Roman emperor Hadrian banned all Jews from Jerusalem in 135 C.E.” [Grossan, 2001] And given the past history of made up objects for Jesus, even this might turn out as a forgery.

Some historians do not agree with this of course. Some think Nazareth existed, some don’t think it existed, and some remain skeptical, but the fact that historians still debate it should tell you that that we should not use this as a certainty. Moreover, some scholars think it as a moot point because they believe “Nazareth” refers to a Christian movement, not a city. For one example, Acts 24:5 refers to a sect of the Nazarenes. The Gospel writers then might have confused the term to mean the city (which by the time they wrote the gospels, a city did exist with that name). We have a lot of educated guesses by scholars, but no certainty.

For Matthew 4, who else would have known not all the kingdoms of the world can be seen from the top of a mountain? No one but everyone. What’s going on? Jesus is being taken to a high position not for the sake of seeing things per se, but for the sake of experiencing being in an honorable position and the kingdoms would be shown in a visionary way.

For John 12, Bethsaida was in the region of Galilee. Pliny the Elder even says the same thing. Also, many places were named Bethsaida and John can easily say this to specify the one he has in mind.

For John 3, the place is not attested elsewhere. So what? Why should we think every city should be attested? There is no great mythology or reputation tied to the town. Why should it have been mentioned?

For Nazareth, again, even Bart Ehrman has dealt with this one. The main one arguing it didn’t exist is Rene Salm who has no experience in arhcaeology at all. It is mythicists who are pushing this. The case is not one seriously discussed in scholarship.

So again, we leave another mythicist article convinced mythicists don’t know how to do history. It is a conspiracy theory for atheists.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/7/2017: Ross Clifford

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

Did Jesus rise from the dead? This is the question upon which the Christian faith rests. Of course, to answer a question like this, you need evidence, and if there are a group of people that love evidence and arguing from it, it’s lawyers. So how would the resurrection stand up in a court of law? Could you make a legal case for the resurrection of Jesus?

To answer this, I have decided to bring on someone who does specialize in legal apologetics. He is someone trained in the area of law and decided to use his legal skills on the case for the resurrection of Jesus to see if it would hold up. It did, and in his book Leading Lawyers’ Case For The Resurrection, he looks at seven lawyers and one thought to be a lawyer who also made a case for the evidence surrounding the death and the resurrection of Jesus and came out believers. His name is Ross Clifford and he’ll be joining us.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ross Clifford is Principal of Morling Theological College, Sydney.  Prior to entering the Baptist ministry he practised as a solicitor and barrister.  He was the pastor of two Sydney Baptist churches each of which grew dramatically.  He is the author of nine books including The Cross is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection. He co-pioneered outreaches into Mind.Body.Spirit festivals.  He is a former President of the Baptist Union of Australia, former and current President of the NSW Council of Churches, President of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, recent Chair of the Australian Lausanne Committee, and is a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance for 2010-2015.  In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2010 he was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM).  He is married to Beverley and they have two children.  His passions include legal crime novels, cricket and all brands of football.

What makes a legal case distinctive from a historical case? How strong is it? Could it really stand up in a court of law? After all, we supposedly have these accounts that wildly contradict and differ from one another. They are supposed to be late as the skeptics say. Isn’t that a problem?

And what about hearsay? Isn’t that all that the accounts are? If so, then how can they possibly be used in a court of law to make the claim that Jesus rose from the dead? We certainly can’t get Paul and the writers of the Gospels to take the stand and get to question them. How do we do it when all we have is pretty much ancient documents?

In looking at the legal cases provided, I found them quite fascinating and I hope you will as well. Please be watching your podcast feed for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. If you like the show also, please go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

I Survived The End Of The World….Again

What are we to say about end of the world predictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you know about predictions being made about Rosh Hashanah this year. September 23, 2017 was supposed to be a date of huge prophetic significance. Well, that is if you listened to the “prophecy experts.” For the rest of us, we preferred to call it “Saturday.” Okay. Some of us called it Batman Day and went to our local comic book store to get a free Batman comic.

As for me, I decided this time I’d be an exception and make some predictions as well. I made these three. The amazing thing is as far as I have seen, they have held out.

Prediction #1: Nothing of eschatological significance will happen.

Prediction #2. People making these predictions will not repent when shown they were wrong but will simply recalculate.

Prediction #3. At the next event that they deem to be unusual, these people will start the whole cycle all over again.

The sad thing is this is an easy set of predictions to make because it happens so often. Has John Hagee repented for the Blood Moons hysteria that led to absolutely nothing? Nope. How many people have repented after a book that claimed XYZ was the antichrist was written and now that person is long dead and gone? Sorry. Not happening.

As I have said, being a prophecy expert would be a great job to have. You can say whatever you want and claim it’s from the Bible, be a best seller, have a great following with people hanging on your every word, be entirely wrong and demonstrably so, and yet still be regarded as an expert. All that’s left is for these people to go into politics.

If there was anything else I was noticing regularly, it was people on YouTube making videos and what would they point to? Experiences and dreams over and over. Scripture could be turned to, but only as an afterthought to confirm what was in the dream. To those who are saying that there are no coincidences with Christ, sure, but sometimes things happen that aren’t all about you. That dream you had last night? Maybe it was from God. Maybe also it was your brain sorting things out because you had too much pizza the night before.

You see, you don’t know that everything in a dream or your experience is a direct message from God. You don’t. This is what is said about Scripture. Try interpreting Scripture. (You know, that book that says about what you say is the return that no one knows the day or the hour.)

Why is it that I get on this so much? It’s not just because I’m an orthodox Preterist in my eschatology. My wife sure isn’t and she has a huge problem with these people as well. It’s because these people and this mindset give people excuses to not believe the Gospel. If they can’t trust you on what the Bible says in this case, why should they trust you on the resurrection?

Keep in mind, the Bible nowhere tells us to be predicting when Jesus will return. It doesn’t. If you are doing the Great Commission, it won’t matter anyway. If He returns tomorrow and you’ve been doing it, great! You’re ready! If He returns 1,000 years from now and you were doing it in your lifetime, great! You’re ready!

There are too many Christians out there that are so obsessed with the future return of Christ that they’re not doing anything with Him in the present. Instead, it’s becoming an embarrassment as this is the picture the world gets. Fox News even had a story about “Biblical Numerologists” saying the end of the world was coming. How much egg does the church have on its face because of these kinds of actions?

That’s one reason I want to take a hard stand against this from now on. Please Christians. Do not buy books that are claiming to be expert guides to prophecy. Do not go to ministries that claim to have the inside scoop on what’s going to happen in the future through prophecy. Do not support and encourage Christians that are trying to date the time that Jesus will return.

If God says something will happen in prophecy, it will happen. He doesn’t need your help. You have your marching orders already. That’s the Great Commission. Too many people try to find out who the antichrist is and spend less time thinking about who Jesus is. Too many out there can “prove” in minute detail every single point about what’s going to happen in the Great Tribulation, but they can’t give you a case for why you should think Jesus rose from the dead. That’s a problem.

As long as the Christian community supports such people, it will be encouraging them and helping to further embarrass. It is understandable some people have a hard time believing in Christianity for reasons like miracles and the like. We don’t need to give them another reason or have them think the Bible can’t be trusted because we are saying it is clearly teaching X when it is not and that can be too easily demonstrated.

I get that some of this crowd are waiting for Yom Kippur which is at the end of the month, but if nothing happens, then what? Will there be any repentance? If not, then you have to ask who these people are doing what they’re doing for the most? Is it really the honor of Jesus they think most of or their own?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Secret Battle of Ideas About God

What do I think of Jeff Myers’s book published by David C. Cook? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jeff Myers’s latest book certainly starts off getting your attention. How can it not with talking about people who were directly tied in to 9/11? This then gets directly linked to virus outbreaks that have taken place which is finally compared with the idea of mind viruses. Myers doesn’t mean some disease you need to go see your doctor about, but rather ideas that spread and people don’t have much defense for, including and especially, younger Christians.

Myers work is to deal with a problem which is that many of our younger Christians believe things that are entirely at odds with orthodox Christianity and they don’t even realize it. They’ve been made victims in a war that they don’t even realize that they’re fighting in, something immediately reminiscent of The Green Book is Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. These people have not been given a Christian worldview. As I’ve said many times before, it might be shocking to realize that to develop a good Christian lifestyle, you might need to have more than concerts and pizza parties at church.

Myers says that there are essentially five other kinds of worldviews, though no doubt there is some overlapping. These are secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, New Spirituality, and Islam. As I write this, I know Christian friends who have fallen especially for New Spirituality and Islam. Myers contrasts these worldviews with Christianity in the book.

One good aspect about the book is Myers is very open about himself and his own struggles and mistakes. When he writes about a failed marriage, he doesn’t hide it. When he talks about anger with God, that’s out there in the open. When he talks about mistakes in the past in the area of sex, that’s right there. When he says that counseling drains him, he means it. That kind of openness I admire.

Those questions are relevant because what Myers is really dealing with in the book is existential questions. Am I loved? Why am I hurting? Does life have any meaning? Can’t we all just get along? Is there hope for the world? Does God matter? Many of us in apologetics would like to leap straight to the questions of if God exists or if Jesus rose from the dead, but many people are not starting with those questions. They’re starting with these. We need to get to those questions, but how does Christianity answer these questions in contrast to other worldviews?

Myers’s book is clear and easy to read. You don’t have to be a professional philosopher to understand his arguments. There’s about 200 pages of content, but it’s still a relatively short read and it’s one that you could present to someone who is exploring Christianity and wondering about these kinds of questions.

If there was something I would like to see more of, it is that while the book is clear that Christianity does answer these questions, that doesn’t show Christianity is true. It’s fine to have a book dedicated to existential questions, but I would have liked to have seen a section at the end that would include apologetics books for further reading on the other questions that can show that Christianity is true. Perhaps it could point to other authors like J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel.

Still, this is a good book to read to help with the questions. It’s easy to read that when I finished, I put it in a stack of books for my wife so that she could go through it as she’s been learning a lot about these questions as well. If she does go through it, I am sure she will be blessed by it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Is Jesus An Idol?

Do we make an idol out of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife shared something that it was thought it would be good for me to respond to and, well, as you all know my wife gets first priority. A lesbian Methodist bishop, something to think about in itself, has said that we make an idol out of Jesus. Now I wanted to see what was said to make sure it was being understood. We don’t need any “Jesus is my boyfriend” type of messages out there. If that was the kind of thing being said, that would be fine, but no. Karen Oliveto has something different in mind.

For her, Jesus was indeed fully human, which we would all embrace as part of orthodoxy, but part of His humanity includes growing in moral character. It would be false to say that Jesus never grew as He walked this Earth. Luke 2:52 tells us that He did. It would be false to say Jesus came out of the womb knowing Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, how to do quadratic equations, the distance between here and Alpha Centauri, and pontificating the Summa Theologica.

It would also be false to think that Jesus because He was God and man was superhuman in everything that He did. While Jesus could walk on water, if you were to have a swimming race between Jesus and Michael Phelps, your smart money is better spent on Michael Phelps winning. Michael Jordan would beat Jesus in a game of basketball. If you want to talk about physics, someone like Stephen Hawking would know more about that than Jesus would have. Jesus came and played by the rules after all. We dare not think He was God so much that it eclipsed His humanity. His humanity was entirely real.

The difference is with moral behavior. Jesus did not grow morally because He was the only one who never sinned. He was born without a sin nature. He did not become a more holy person throughout His life. He was pure and spotless from the beginning.

Oliveto’s main text to show Jesus growing supposedly is the story of the Canaanite woman who had a demon-possessed daughter. In the interest of fairness, this is a difficult passage to understand. It is easy to see how some people could see the account and think that Jesus is awfully cold. This is a woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Why not help her out? Why speak to her in such a way to refer to her as a dog?

What I think is going on is that Jesus is not just helping the woman, but He is also teaching His disciples. His disciples would have known about Jesus’s willingness to help out Gentiles seeing as he’d helped the Centurion’s servant and He’d delivered the man with the Legion inside of him. Still, old ways of thinking die hard. The Disciples would have grown up with an inherent distaste for the outsiders. Even after the resurrection, it took a vision to get Peter to share the Gospel with a Gentile.

So when this woman comes to Jesus, Jesus I think was playing along with what the disciples were saying who just wanted her sent away. The account starts with the disciples seen as being in the place of favor since they are the chosen ones of Jesus and the woman being a shameful figure seeing as she is an outsider. Jesus tests the woman to reveal her not to Him, for He knew what was in her heart already, but to reveal her to the disciples.

So what happens? This woman turns out to have greater faith than the disciples. The result is a complete turnaround. The woman is honored and the disciples are seen as the shamed ones. Jesus did not honor their request, the MEN who were closest to Him, but honored the request of the woman. This would have been a hard lesson for the disciples to learn that day.

Oliveto is certainly right that Jesus stood against the cultural norms and prejudices of His day. She is wrong in thinking this was a new revelation to Him. Jesus regularly shattered the viewpoint of those around Him. His own ministry was a challenge seeing as He was not one of the educated elite. He regularly interacted with women, would speak to Samaritans, dined with prostitutes and tax collectors, etc.

Oliveto is quite likely reading too much of herself into Jesus. It is true that we can put Jesus into roles He was never meant to be into, such as Jesus being your boyfriend, but it is false to say that we are in danger of making too much of Jesus. In reality, we are likely not seeing Him as He uniquely was and is. Skeptics today are regularly trying to find similarities between Jesus and other figures in ancient history. What is far more interesting is noting how Jesus is different from all other figures. Jesus is in a class by Himself.

It’s not Jesus who is prejudiced and bigoted and needs to be informed by us. It is the opposite. We have our prejudices and bigotry, and the main one many of us have is the assumption that we in our cultural milleu are enlightened and in the right entirely. If our moral stances disagree with Jesus, we really need to look at those moral stances.

Oliveto has certainly opened us up to something though. Jesus is far more different than we realize. In reality, this article reveals nothing new about Jesus. It sure reveals a lot about Oliveto.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Christianity Is Not About You

What is the focus of Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In America, we have entered into a very me-centered time and this has entered into our Christianity. Yesterday, I shared a video with a lady talking about the solar eclipse and all her dreams and everything with it. While she is one who is quite exceptional with thinking these dreams are all from God, she’s the one speaking out the most about so many people who do XYZ because they think God is telling them to do something or God is leading them to do something without any Biblical mandate on seeing if this is how God communicates.

That is a very dangerous place to be because if you think God is telling you something, then you cannot be wrong. How can you listen to possible rebuke and concern? I would hope readers of my blog would recognize I have studied and take what I say seriously by all means, but please do not ever treat me like I cannot be wrong. I most assuredly can be and have been.

Yesterday, my wife also had someone message her about how they thought God had given them some verses for their ministry. The sad reality was that these verses were all about Jesus, except, well, they got a new referent. It’s pretty amazing to see that we can go through the Bible and look for verses that are about us, not in the sense of being a part of the people of God, but that God wrote something for us individually.

This could also be contributing to our marriage problems in our culture today. There are sad times when I think a couple should really divorce, such as when a husband is being abusive and won’t stop, but even then, divorce should be seen as a sad tragedy. It’s a tragedy to think that someone broke a lifelong covenant made before God and man so badly that one person had to leave for their own safety. It’s sad to think someone promised sexual fidelity to one person but gave themselves up to another. That’s all sad.

The saddest part is many times, divorce is not often for those reasons. It’s more being done because the other person isn’t making me happy and doing enough for me. This is a relationship where we are supposed to learn how much we can give for another, and yet we use it just as much to seek our own well-being. Ideally, in marriage, both persons are making sure their spouse’s true needs and desires are being met in a proper way. If that is so, then both people will get what they want.

Suppose one person isn’t doing their part? It’s always amazing that we tend to think that means we don’t have to do ours. God will not hold you accountable for what someone else did or didn’t do. You are held accountable for what you do.

The problem with making ourselves so often the focus is that it’s really hard to get away from that and everything is interpreted about reality through us. That will also downplay the love of God in us. How could God not love us? I mean, we’re just that awesome. Right?

Scripture tells us the opposite. We were the enemies of God. God doesn’t love us just because we’re just so awesome, but because He’s so awesome. Anyone can love someone who’s completely lovable. It’s loving someone who is unlovable that is true love, and we are all many times unlovable.

We all have our own sins and failures. Last night, my wife and I were talking with someone about marriage. One thing I brought up was that my wife and I each have things about each other that we wish the other would work on. I said that if we got these worked out completely and they never came up again, does that mean we’d have a perfect marriage? No. There will always be a new issue. We are all fallen human beings and we will not achieve perfection in this life.

If anything, this should humble us. That means we will always need grace. There will never be a time that we don’t need God. There will never be a time when we earn love and grace. It will always be a gift.

One of the most humbling things I’ve come to realize is that. Aside from what He promised He would do for me in the covenant, God doesn’t owe me anything. If He doesn’t owe me anything, then everything else He gives me is a gift. My spouse is a gift. My income is a gift. My talents and abilities are a gift. The land I live in is a gift. My friends are a gift. My very life and breath is a gift.

Wouldn’t the great tragedy be if I wasn’t thankful for these things? Romans 1 tells us this actually. One of the great sins of mankind is that they did not give thanks to God. They acted like it was something they were, dare I say it, entitled to.

If you are doing a ministry, and much more of it is about you than it is about Jesus, you’re not doing it right. Those of us who are in ministry need to realize that we are not essential. God can get His word out without us and if something happens to us, God’s ministry will still get along just fine. We are not the focal point of the universe.

Live your life then dying to yourself and giving of yourself to those around you. We are all tempted to look out for ourselves, but in the way of the cross that cannot be done. Had Jesus taken that route, you and I would have no hope. We are to continue the ministry of Jesus who gave Himself for the world so that they could come to know God. We must give ourselves to those around us as well.

It’s about Him. It’s not about you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters