Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 28

Can we believe miracles took place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 28, Jelbert decides to take on Craig Blomberg on miracles in the Gospel tradition. At the start of his response, Jelbert says that we need to avoid circular reasoning.  We can’t say that a god or a demon accounts for some miraculous events and then when we see those events, that’s evidence.

First off, this isn’t entirely accurate. Scientists do this kind of thing regularly. If such and such object existed, then we would see X take place. We see X take place. Therefore, the object exists. It’s just fine to say “If an immaterial reality exists, we can expect to see miracles take place. We see miracles take place. Therefore, an immaterial reality exists.

Second, and this is more important, circular reasoning works both ways. If there are no immaterial beings, then miracles would not take place. Then when we see something that looks like a miracle, well, it can’t be a miracle. Why? Because no immaterial beings exist. That is truly arguing in a circle.

Jelbert says that in general, it is difficult to imagine any account being sufficient to convince us of a supernatural event. First off, I question the use of the term supernatural. Second, this could be said of anything one is skeptical of. The creationist could say, “It is difficult to imagine any account being sufficient to convince us that life came from non-life.” Yet on both counts, why should we think that? Can you give an answer on both counts that is not question-begging?

On the contrary, I think it’s quite simple. Imagine attending the funeral of a dead friend. Then lo and behold, three days later you see him alive again. Perhaps you are skeptical and you go to a doctor. It’s him. The DNA is the same and everything. Would this not be sufficient?

Suppose you have a friend who is blind. You go and pray for them and then in the end pray that in the name of Jesus they be healed. All of a sudden, they open their eyes and have perfect 20/20 vision? Perhaps it wasn’t a miracle, but could you not be justified in thinking that it was?

Jelbert also says that in our modern age, there is a great lack of evidence for miracles. Search a miracle claim and at rock bottom the evidence evaporates. Naturally, there is no interacting with someone like Craig Keener whose book Miracles here I reviewed and I interviewed him here. Good luck for Jelbert disproving all of those.

That’s something else to point out. For Jelbert to be right, he has to be right on every single miracle claim there is. Are a number of them fraudulent? Sure. Are all of them in Keener’s work true? Probably not. Yet by necessity, they have to be for Jelbert. Hypothetically, they could all be false and that still would not prove that miracles cannot and have not taken place.

Jelbert also says we are told to have faith. He does not say if Blomberg says this or not, but he presents a paragraph on faith which relies on a false definition. Faith is not a way to know things but a response to known things. Those interested can see more here.

Jelbert also says Blomberg is wrong about miracless being in every layer of the tradition. After all, Paul never mentions them. For one thing, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us in verse 12 that the signs of an apostle were done including wonders and signs in the midst of the Corinthians. When you write a church questioning your reputation, you don’t make a claim like this unless you know that your opponents will agree to it.

For another thing, Blomberg, of course, knows about Paul and Jelbert should have considered that. What Blomberg is talking about is the Gospel tradition. When we study even down to the layer of Q, we find miracles. The same grounds that allow many facts to be known about the historical Jesus are the same grounds that would allow for miracles. Even skeptical scholars today admit Jesus was known as a miracle-worker and an exorcist.

He also says that Jesus telling people to not say that He healed them would explain why people did not know about the miracle accounts, but this again begs the question that they did not know. Much more likely is that Jesus is doing this so that He can avoid grabbing at honor for Himself and avoid trouble with the authorities at times.

Jelbert then says it comes down to credibility and that the birth narratives destroy the credibility. Yes. Well, I suppose if you look at accounts, don’t bother to look at counter-scholarship on them and throw your hands up in the air and say I can’t reconcile them, then yes, credibility is shot. Fortunately, most scholars don’t do things this way. If we decided an ancient author could not be believed when he got one thing wrong, we would know far less about the ancient world than we do.

This could also work against Jelbert. Let’s take our creationist who is skeptical of evolution again. He comes to Jelbert who wants to argue about fossils that support evolution. “That’s nice, but you see, Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man were thought to be real by Ph.D.s and yet now we know they were hoaxes and besides that, science changes its mind most every week so science like yours has lost all credibility with me.”

Not only this, if we did throw out Matthew and Luke, we still have Mark and John and Blomberg would say even Q has miracles. How is Jelbert going to avoid them? Does he want to keep using this all-or-nothing thinking? Down that road lies mythicism.

Jelbert also relies on Wells who relies on Strauss. Wells is kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel though at least he has changed his mind on mythicism. Why do we have these miracles that are like the Old Testament? Because the authors are trying to depict Jesus as superior to Old Testament prophets.

Yet even if we went with a time of 70 A.D. for Mark, there would still be people around who knew these did not happen if they were false. What we have to assume for Jelbert is that everyone suddenly had total amnesia about what Jesus did and an entirely new story was created and totally replaced what really happened within a generation. Good luck with that.

Going along the path of Wells quoting Strauss, we get the old chestnut of not knowing who the Gospel authors were. Well, I suppose if you have books and all our earliest sources closest to the time say the same thing about authorship and these writers saying these claims of authorship being in different places, it’s really difficult to figure out.

Why would the early church choose Matthew, a name not well-known in the Gospels and a tax collector? Why Mark, who was a sissy boy who ran back home to his mama in the first missionary journey and caused a rift between the first two great evangelists? Heck. You could have named it after Peter who Mark was supposed to be the interpreter of? Why Luke, a Gentile not even mentioned in the Gospels. Interestingly, the only figure you could understand is John, and that is the one disputed the most. Was it John the apostle or John the elder? Many other works from the ancient world are anonymous. What methodology does Jelbert have to identify them?

He also says Luke used Mark and at times edited him so Luke doesn’t see him as completely reliable. First off, no one is arguing for complete reliability. Second, that a source edits some of what is said doesn’t mean the original is seen as unreliable. There could be any number of reasons. Luke might just want to stress something differently than Mark does.

Finally, Jelbert says we do not know how well the Jesus in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus, but we do know that no miracle anywhere has sufficient evidence to accept it. We should all marvel at the wonder of Jelbert with this one. What a remarkable man. Somehow, he knows that all miracles all over the world do not have enough evidence. Somehow, he has investigated all of them. Perhaps there were new miracles said to take place today. Worry not dear readers. Jelbert knows the evidence is insufficient!

That, my friends, is circular reasoning.

Jelbert in all of this nowhere gives any argument against miracles at all. He can say there is no argument for theism (Though he never counters the way of Aquinas), but even so, miracles are an argument for theism. It would have been good for Jelbert to follow his own advice and avoid circular reasoning, but alas, that is not done.

We shall continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Would Matthew Use Mark?

Why would an eyewitness use a non-eyewitness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My in-laws got me an Amazon Tap for Christmas. As I speak, we are listening to the local Christian radio station on it. I also use it to listen to the Unbelievable? podcast, which I had been missing out on. (And during that, I utilize another gift I’ve been given, Final Fantasy XV from my parents.) On the show I heard yesterday, it involved a Christian and a Muslim debating if Jesus was seen as God and the Muslim presented a few times the claim “Why would Matthew use Mark when Matthew was an eyewitness and Mark wasn’t? It doesn’t make sense.”

The sad thing is I see this objection from so many people, even many that should know better, and it leaves me wondering. If these people would spend a few moments thinking about this, then I think the answer would be clear. Just in case it isn’t for some, I figured I’d write a little something about that.

Now some of you will want to contest traditional authorship. Making a case for the authorship of the Gospels is another post, but this objection assumes the traditional authorship for the sake of the argument. Therefore, I will be doing the same so please no replies such as “Well Matthew didn’t really write Matthew!” or something like that. For the time being, let’s accept the claims of attribution to the Gospels made by the early church.

Once we do that, we are reminded that Mark isn’t just Mark writing without a source really. Mark is the testimony of Peter. (Interestingly, the church never called this the Gospel of Peter. They could have skipped the middleman, but they didn’t. This was the work of Mark.) Why would this matter?

It’s because despite Matthew being an apostle, Matthew was not part of the inner circle. Many times in the Gospels, you’ll find that Jesus takes with Him Peter, James, and John. These three then directly saw things that Matthew himself did not see. By going to Mark, Matthew could ascertain his information on these events that he did not see.

On top of that, Matthew could get another perspective on events. Why not avail himself of that? Ancients did have good memories to be sure, but this was often a good memory in community. Some scholars will have you thinking that someone like Mark just suddenly wrote these stories thirty or forty years after the events and the rest of the time he was just sitting on them and not sharing them, talking about them, being a part of conversations with them, etc.

So contrary to the Muslim guest, yes, it does make sense. The explanation I think is simple and is consistent with the idea of traditional authorship. This isn’t a proof of the traditional authorship to be sure, but I would hope that it is at least a refutation of what is a bad argument against traditional authorship.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheism and the Case Against Christ Chapter 6

What do I think of chapter 6 of McCormick’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Chapter 6 further brings us home just how uninformed McCormick is in Biblical scholarship. This is amusing since he talks about other people holding an emotional commitment to a worldview and thus finding it hard to really examine it properly. One wonders if McCormick is not somehow talking about himself. After all, while one can have a deep emotional investment to Christianity, one can have the same to atheism.

He has a story where someone comes up to you who is a stranger and calls himself Matthew. Matthew wants you to believe a story, but he didn’t see any of it and it’s not clear whether he met or spoke with anyone involved in the story. It was something that took place long ago and passed through a long list of people. He’s still sure they’re all honest and trustworthy.

Matthew then tells you that it actually happened 100 years ago but it wasn’t written until decades later and we don’t have originals of the writing but copies of copies. These original writings were all based on tellings and retellings of the story. Still, he’s convinced everyone involved was trustworthy.

Matthew’s story is about a man named Jones and Jones was abducted off of the face of the Earth. There are many people who sincerely believe the story. It’s not hard to see what the parallel is.

It’s also not hard to see that McCormick doesn’t know for a moment what he’s talking about.

McCormick has cited no references on Biblical scholarship. He has no references on oral tradition and he has no idea how textual criticism works. Instead, he’s gone with a lot of atheist pet slogans and hasn’t bothered to research or questioned them. You can’t help but wonder if he has an investment in these kinds of slogans since they agree so well with what he already believes.

Of course, McCormick says this could change if some crucial differences were shown. Perhaps McCormick should have looked to see if there were any differences. McCormick strikes me as someone who has only really read what agrees with him and disavowed the rest. He does not interact with the best critics of his position at all in these chapters.

It’s also worth noting that Paul is added to the mix and we are told that Paul could be someone who learned about this because he heard a voice when he had a powerful seizure and vision while going to work and before that, he was a famous skeptic with a TV show debunking alien-abduction stories. One can’t help but be impressed with the creativity of certain skeptics. It is apparent they will believe in anything before the resurrection.

So let’s start. First off, McCormick has as we have shown earlier not bothered to understand oral tradition. He also has a problem with written tradition as he assumes a true account would be written down immediately. Does McCormick see this happening with any other book in the ancient world? Or is it rather that McCormick will treat the Jesus story differently? Keep in mind if he does this, he is being hypocritical since he is accusing Christians of treating the Jesus story different from every other claim such as Salem, Islam, alien abductions, etc. If McCormick is going to talk about equal standards, he needs to apply them himself.

Second, we are talking about different cultures. The world of the Bible was an honor-shame culture. In this world, you would not want to share a story that would put you on the outs with society, but that is exactly what happened. The resurrection was a story that would be seen as deviant in nature.

Third, McCormick doesn’t really bother to interact with arguments about authorship or date of writing. Are these not important? Is it the case that obviously Bart Ehrman is right and everyone else is wrong because Bart Ehrman is the skeptic? All of these are important issues. All of them are ignored.

McCormick also says the martyrdom argument won’t work. After all, that people died for a belief doesn’t mean it’s true. If we apply it consistently, we have to conclude that the dedication of Heaven’s Gate proves that there was a spaceship at the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. This is such a hideous twisting of the claim that it should be embarrassing to McCormick to have it in print.

No. What it is is an indicator that the person is convinced it’s true. If some of the apostles willingly died for their conviction, we can’t be sure that Jesus rose, but we can be sure that those apostles believed he rose. With the Heaven’s Gate cult, we can deny there was a spaceship on the tail of a comet, but we can be convinced that the people sure thought there was one.

All of this thinking is lost on McCormick.

At 1945, McCormick tells us that he thinks the hypothesis that there are other material beings with physical powers unlike our own and in another part of the universe fits more readily with what we know of the rest of the world than magica,l transcendent, supernatural beings. Of course, no doubt, this we refers to materialistic atheists who also share his view. We won’t say anything on God yet, but there is a later chapter looking at the concept of God and yes, McCormick handles it just as abysmally as he handles this.

McCormick has an even worse scenario. Imagine being on trial for a murder committed decades ago that you did not commit. The prosecution rests on the testimony of Mike, Monty, Larry, and Jacob. None of them saw you commit the crime and have never met you, but they heard stories from others that say they saw you commit the murder. This murder happened 30 years ago.

Also, Mike and Larry got a lot of their story from Monty. Not only that, another man shows up named Perry who says you did it, but he didn’t witness it and just had a powerful vision saying you did it. Does this sound like fair grounds to convict you?

Of course not, and it also doesn’t sound like a fair treatment of the NT. We could get into some wonderful discussions on how Paul got his information and who he was and how reliable he was and we could talk about the synoptic problem and archaeological evidence for the NT. Well, we could talk about these things, but they might have the sad consequence of increasing the reliability of the New Testament. It’s best to not touch them.

In the end, McCormick gives yet another weak performance. Only those thoroughly unfamiliar with scholarship will think he has said anything remotely convincing. This is quite amusing since our next chapter will be about counter-evidence, something McCormick regularly avoids.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1 can be found here.

Chapter 2 can be found here.

Chapter 3 can be found here.

Chapter 4 can be found here.

Chapter 5 can be found here.

Chapter 7 can be found here.

Chapter 8 can be found here.

Chapter 9 can be found here.

Chapter 10 can be found here.

Chapter 11 can be found here.

Chapter 12 can be found here.

Chapter 13 can be found here.

McCormick’s Gaffe

 

 

Book Plunge: Rediscovering Jesus

What do I think about the new book from Rodney Reeves, Randy Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Rediscovering Jesus by Capes, Reeves, and Richards is a surprising read. Now I had read this book shortly after reading Rediscovering Paul so I was expecting something like that, but that isn’t exactly what I got. At the start, I was kind of disappointed hoping to find more about the culture of Jesus and especially looking at Jesus from an honor and shame perspective. That disappointment was only initial. As I got further into the book, I found myself quite intrigued and fascinated by what I was reading in the book and I found the idea for consideration a fascinating one.

This idea is to look at Jesus in isolation from the major sources that we have, such as the Gospel writers individually, the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, the general epistles, and Revelation. What would it be like if each source was the only source we had on Jesus? We usually take a composite of all we have on Jesus and then put that together and say this is the real Jesus. There is no fault in this, but looking at each case in isolation can be an interesting case study. Imagine how different our worldview would be if the only source we had on Jesus was the book of Revelation?

While these are fascinating, there is also a second section where we look at Jesus from other sources. What about the Gnostic Jesus such as popularized in works like The Da Vinci Code? What about the Jesus of Muslims who never died on the cross? What about the historical Jesus of modern historians who do not hold to the reality of miracles? What about the Mormon Jesus that looks like a Jesus made just for America? Speaking of that, what about the American Jesus as here in America, Jesus is used to promote and sell just about anything. Every side in every debate usually wants to try to claim Jesus. Finally, what about the Cinematic Jesus? Many of us have seen Hollywood movies about Jesus. Some are good. Some are not. How would we view Jesus if all we had were those movies to watch? (And since so few people read any more, this could become an increasingly common occurrence.)

For me, honestly the most fascinating section was the one on the American Jesus. This dealt with so much I see in my culture. It’s interesting we don’t talk about the French Jesus or the Japanese Jesus or the Italian Jesus. It’s more the American one. This one changes so much to being the super manly Jesus who takes the world like a man or the Prince Charming Jesus that every girl sings about as her boyfriend. This can be the pragmatic Jesus who is there to help us promote our culture, or it can be the Superman Jesus who rescues us when we’re in need, but then disappears. I do have to admit I am a Superman fan so I could see the parallels very easily and while I do think there are valid parallels, we do not want to see Jesus as identical with Superman. If there’s any chapter in the book I keep coming back to mentally, it’s this one. I will certainly be watching my culture much more.

I find this book to be one of the most eye-opening ones I have read in that sense. I do not think I ever paused to consider what it would mean if all I had to tell me about Jesus was just one particular source or one kind of source. How much richer off we are for having all these other sources! We can also be thankful for the non-Christian sources as well because these can highlight aspects of the Biblical Jesus that we might have lost sight of or they could show that the Jesus of the Bible is so much greater by contrast. If an outside source says something true about Jesus, we are the better for it. If it says something false, this can contrast with the true and we are the better.

I recommend the work wholeheartedly. It fortunately also comes with questions at the end that make it ideal for small group discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: Born of the Virgin Mary,

Was the Bible truly talking about a virgin birth? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

“The virgin shall be with child.” So reads the passage in Isaiah 7:14 and immediately many Christians see this as talking about Jesus. Is this the case? Well, no.

So Matthew got it wrong?

Also, no.

Then how can both of those be accurate?

In Isaiah, Isaiah was telling King Ahaz that the king should not join a group of other nations in uniting against the enemy of Assyria. He was so insistent that the king should not do this that he even told the king to ask God for a sign, something that would not normally be encouraged. Ahaz seeks an excuse then and says “I will not put God to the test.” Isaiah then tells Ahaz that he’s going to get a sign anyway. What is that sign? The virgin will be with child!

What does he mean by virgin?

The Hebrew word is Almah and yes, it does mean a young woman. It does not necessitate that the woman is a virgin, but in many cases the woman actually is a virgin. Isaiah at this time is referring to a woman who was known and is saying that that woman will give birth to a child. It is quite likely someone who Isaiah himself would be marrying. The sign would be that by the time this child was old enough to choose right from wrong, in other words, an age of moral accountability, the team of nations together would have already fallen.

Indeed, this is what happened. Therefore, we have a fulfillment of prophecy.

So no, this is not talking about Jesus.

Yet when the Scriptures are translated into Greek, when the translators got to this verse, they chose to translate Almah as Parthenos, which is the word for a virgin. Therefore, when Matthew uses the word, it does indeed a woman who has not had sexual intercourse and when he writes out his Gospel, he sees the virgin birth of Jesus as a fulfillment of this prophecy.

But how can this be?

Remember, for other objections to the virgin birth, one is encouraged to go here. What Matthew is doing is taking an event in the past and saying that he sees a reenactment as it were of what happened in the past. This is actually a way of giving honor to the account. It was important to find past precedent for current events.

An example in Matthew’s Gospel is when Jesus tells the Pharisees that Isaiah was right when he prophesied about them saying “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

What was going on? Jesus was looking at an event in the prophet’s time and seeing a reenactment of that same event in his time. For the Jews, Scripture was always speaking and it was honorable to find parallels to past events being going on in the lives of the people of the time.

So was Isaiah prophesying about Jesus? No.

Was Matthew wrong in using this passage? No.

What was right is how a fulfillment was going on.

Those interested in seeing more are recommended to check Richard Longenecker’s “Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period” and Sandy and Walton’s “The Lost World of Scripture.”

In conclusion, Matthew saw the event in his time and thought of the passage in the past. Even if it was not what Isaiah had in mind, it would have been perfectly acceptable to exegetes of his day to interpret Scripture in this way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

She Who Must Not Be Named

Why does Matthew not like her? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The women in the genealogy of Jesus so far have been named, but when we come to verse 6, we meet an exception. We are told that David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Oh we’ve read that story several times! We all know that that woman is Bathsheba!

Do we?

It is my contention that Matthew did not think highly of Bathsheba. In fact, it could be the Old Testament writers didn’t either. The name Bathsheba could be a placeholder in fact. It literally means “Daughter of an oath.” What oath? We don’t know. This could be a name given to avoid giving her real name. She had to be addressed in some way. In fact, the entire account in 2 Samuel 11-12 is meant to be a shameful one. Let’s go back and look at it.

The writer starts off that saying it was spring when kings go off to war, since battle in the snowy conditions was much more difficult. Yet immediately, we see that David is not going to war. David sends out all the king’s men, but he himself stays behind in Jerusalem. The writer wants you to know that David is not where he is supposed to be. A king is meant to act likea king and David is not doing that. Will this lead to any sort of disaster on his part?

As the king is on the roof, he sees a woman bathing and notes how beautiful she is. This is Bathsheba. There were numerous places where a woman could have bathed and not been seen, and yet this woman chose to bathe near the king’s palace, where there would be several men who could see her. Matthew and the author of 2 Samuel likely see this the same way as not an innocent action. This is the case of someone trying to gain reputation using her body. Of course, in our modern world, we no longer have any idea what it would be like for a woman to use her body to try to get something and certainly not in the public eye.

David sends people to find out about her. Note this might sound private, but it is not. Privacy was not the norm in the ancient world. The right to privacy that we claim would make no sense to them. This would be the word that would be spreading all around the palace. Everyone would know “David wants to know about Bathsheba.” Word comes to him and he sends for her and Bathsheba dutifully comes to the king and does not have any problem with sleeping with him. (Strange that a woman who was concerned about monthly uncleanness would not mind that little weightier matter in the law about adultery)

David’s had his fun however. All is taken care of. Right?

Well, until word comes that the woman is pregnant. Note that this would have been a number of months later at least and no one has confronted David on this. David knows that this will lead to his shame if it is found that he committed adultery. What does he do? He orders Uriah to be brought back to the palace to see David with the hopes that he can entice Uriah to sleep with his own wife so everyone will think the baby belongs to Uriah. Note that Uriah is a gentile as well, a Hittite, and he is going to be acting more honorably to the God of Israel than the king is, something even more shameful to David.

The first night of his visit, Uriah refuses to go home to Bathsheba. What does he say to David when David asks why he didn’t?

““The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!””

Ouch! We can miss all that is said in here and see it as just a statement of facts, but Uriah has essentially slammed the king. Let’s look at the points.

First, the ark of Israel and Judah are staying in tents. That’s right. That which was to represent the manifest presence of God to the people is in a tent. Where is the king? He’s in a palace! The king should be out there with the ark and he is not. Why does the king get better treatment than the ark of God does?

Second, Joab is referred to as the commander of Uriah and not David. This is saying that Joab is playing the role of a real king going out and leading the people into battle. Why is David not being the king? In fact, these are camped in the open country. They are placing themselves in a position of danger. Why is the king not doing the same thing?

Therefore, Uriah will not enjoy the pleasures of home and at this point, it is quite likely that he knows all about what David has done and that David is trying to cover his own tail. Uriah is not going to do it. David tries again even getting Uriah drunk, and yet Uriah is more righteous when he’s drunk than David is when he’s sober.

David now has to try something else. He sends Uriah back with his own death warrant. At this point, David is endangering the army of Israel in a raid, all to cover his own sin. We say Uriah died, and rightly we do, but let’s be clear that the text tells us that some of the other men in the army died. There were other casualties to this action besides Uriah. In fact, David doesn’t really care about this. All that matters to him at the time is that Uriah is dead. David can take Bathsheba and no one will be the wiser.

David is fine with what has happened because no one exposes him. In the ancient world, there was not an internal conscience of guilt. Instead, your actions were shown to be right or wrong based on what others told you. That is why David is completely caught off-guard when Nathan confronts him on the matter and only then does he repent. Let’s be clear. This is something important about David that makes him a righteous man. When he’s called out, he does repent.

We know that the child born first to David and Bathsheba died, and that later there was a son born to them whom God loved and that one was named Solomon. As we see later in chapter 12, Joab continues attacking the city that they had been at war against and sends words to David to muster the troops for the final confrontation or else he will take over the city and name it after himself. In other words, Joab also wants David to act like a king as well.

Matthew refuses to name Bathsheba in his account. It is quite likely that he did this to remove honor from her. He sees her as one who vaunted herself to get into the royal family. Bathsheba must not be named and if a theory like this is correct (Which more can be found about this in “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes”) then the writer of 2 Samuel had a similar position.

What can we get out of this for Christmas?

Most of us can look back at stupid decisions we’ve made in our lives. Note that God took no doubt a wicked act, what happened between David and Bathsheba, and stil used it in his plan of redemption. We know that God redeems us as sinners, but we do not realize often times that He also redeems our actions. Anything that we do, He will use towards His good. We should not see this as a license to sin, but we should not on the other hand view our sins as the end of everything. We can never ruin God’s plans by them and He has already taken them into account and will use them for good.

And let’s keep in mind that that good was once the birth of the Messiah.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Truth on Ruth

The third woman in the genealogy of Jesus? Let’s talk about her on Deeper Waters.

We’re looking at the Christmas story this month on Deeper Waters and right now we’re going through Matthew’s genealogy and looking at notable mentions in it. I’ve said that women seem to have a tendency to pop up in the genealogies, which is highly unusual for a genealogy of the time. The first and second one have both involved morally questionable situations, but when we get to this third one, she is definitely as pure as the driven snow.

One of my favorite ministries is the Ruth Institute, which is an excellent pro-marriage ministry, and a great place to go to if one wants to know why we should oppose redefining marriage. In talking with the founder of this group, I found that it was named the Ruth Institute because of the character of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth is one of those books not quoted in the Old Testament, but one that is extremely important. How come?

The story starts with a family that leaves Bethlehem and goes into Moabite territory due to a famine. While there, the sons marry two Moabite women. Shortly after that, all the men die. Naomi, the mother, hears that the famine has ended and starts heading back. Her two daughters-in-law come with her and she tells them to go back. One of them agrees but the other says:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

This is one determined woman and this is not a simple platitude. With this, she was abandoning her Moabite heritage and saying she wanted to be a part of the people of Israel. That also meant abandoning the religion and living in the service of the God of Israel. We may see this as a small change today as many people change their religions all the time, but in that day and age, your entire identity was being changed. This is no small gesture on Ruth’s part and we should not see it as such.

Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem then and in order for them to survive, sends Ruth out in the fields to glean. This was an allowable practice where someone was supposed to leave some food behind in a field so that the poor could come in and get what was left behind. Ruth gets noticed in the field of a man named Boaz. He makes sure she is well provided for. When Naomi finds out, she is overjoyed and says that God is to be praised because He has not forsaken the living or the dead. That is the most important line in Ruth. It is the central one and the rest of the story is built around it. The author of the account wants you to know that God has not forsaken those people who have died and is still fulfilling the covenant. This will become more apparent later on.

Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer and thus is eligible to marry Ruth so she can be provided for. Naomi, a crafty mother-in-law, gives Ruth clear instructions. Take a good bath, put on the best perfume, and put on a really good outfit. Why? You are to go down and see Boaz and make an appeal to him to marry you. Ruth does this and she does it in a way that is not immoral at all. It was within the custom of the time. Boaz wakes up to find Ruth at his feet when she makes her request. He tells her there is a kinsman-redeemer closer than he and he must have a chance first, but if he does not accept, then Boaz will marry Ruth. Ruth spends the night at Boaz’s feet and leaves before anyone else wakes up. There is no reason to believe that any sexual activity took place that night.

When the morning comes, Boaz speaks to the other kinsman-redeemer, who is so unworthy in his actions that he is not even given a name in the book. All other individual characters, even those without dialogue, are named. This person is not. He refuses to marry into the family of Naomi and so loses his honor. Boaz takes it upon himself then to marry Ruth and he does so. The elders bless the union and pray that it be as bountiful as that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, a name we saw earlier in this blog.

So the family goes back to Bethlehem, (And yes, the Bethlehem Jesus was born at) and there they have a son whose name is Obed. Okay. A lot of you might not have heard of him. He is the father of a man named Jesse. Now the names are starting to seem familiar. Jesse is the father of David. Indeed, God has not forsaken the living or the dead. He has fulfilled His covenant to Israel in David and ultimately, by David’s son, the Christ.

Ruth is a figure that should be upheld and celebrated in the church today. It is also amazing that she is not just a woman and a gentile, but a Moabite, a distant cousin of Israel of whom they weren’t always on best terms. Deuteronomy 23 shows us that. For those concerned, David would qualify to enter the temple on two grounds. First, his father was an Israelite so he would be Israelite by descent. Second, Ruth had been accepted into the people of Israel and forsaken her Moabite heritage.

Ruth gets us from the time of Judges to the time of David with 1 Samuel filling in even more of the information, but though the book of Ruth is not explicitly cited in the NT, we dare not underestimate Ruth’s importance. God is still able to be the God of all who call on His name.

In Christ,
Nick Peters