Deeper Waters Podcast 6/1/2013

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

So you’re sitting there wondering what you’re going to do for your Saturday afternoon. How about the Deeper Waters podcast? Well that could depend on who the guest is this week. If you tune in, you’re going to hear an excellent guest. The incredibly scholarly Craig Blomberg will be our guest to talk about the historical reliability of the gospels.

That also happens to be the title of the book that he has under discussion. Some of you might know Blomberg from Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Christ.” Others of you might know Blomberg as well from the fact that Geisler went after even him for defending Michael Licona. What you should know about Blomberg is that he used the methods of scholarship and wound up defending orthodox Christianity.

We’ll be talking about what it means to say the gospels are historically reliable. Do we mean that they are inerrant? If they are not, does that cost us anything? We’ll be talking about the question of miracles. Since the gospels involve miracles, does that make them automatically suspect? (Spoiler alert for some of you. You can expect more on this when I interview Craig Keener on August 10th.)

What are the approaches of scholarship that are being used? We will talk about all manner of criticism such as form criticism and redaction criticism. We will talk about the concept of the gospels being read as midrash. Should Christians avoid this kind of study and approach altogether? Should we go in wholesale? Or does the ideal method lie in the middle somewhere?

What about the authorship of the gospels? Can we know that Matthew was written by Matthew and that Luke was written by Luke? What about contrary theories to this? Is there a historical method whereby we can determine who it is that wrote a particular book?

Also, we will be talking about supposed contradictions in the gospels. If you go to any atheist website, you are quite likely to see a list of Bible contradictions. Blomberg has seen them as well and obviously, we cannot discuss all of them, but we will try to discuss some of them. Of course, if you have one that you really want to have discussed, then you are free to call in at 714-242-5180.

On the agenda as well is to discuss extrabiblical resources in looking at the biblical record. Is there anything in history that contradicts the Biblical account? Something interesting in light of this is that Blomberg does not really think archaeology can provide the help most people think it can with the gospels. We’ll also be talking about why he thinks that.

Much of this is just possibility as we never know where one question might take us, but these are all possible topics of consideration. I invite you to be listening tomorrow from 3-5 EST to hear this informative podcast and feel free to join in the discussion at the number mentioned above.

A link to it can be found here.

Hope you’re listening!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Do You Doubt?

What makes people doubt Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend recently sent me an article by Peter Enns where Enns talks about the question of doubt and wants to know why Christians doubt. Doubt is a topic I’ve experienced a lot of familiarity with and take seriously. Most people know about my relationship with Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, both of whom have been very forward about their experiences in dealing with doubt. Both of them are also excellent scholars in their field.

This post is not going to deal with how to deal with doubt at this point. I’d just like to talk about what the problem is. This will also go to both sides of the spectrum. It can be why non-Christians doubt that Christianity is true, but it can also be about why believing Christians doubt that Christianity is true. This will be specified more in future posts.

Doubt is very common amongst Christians and in fact amongst anyone. If someone has a worldview and they never experience any doubt of their worldview or never have before, then that person is simply not taking their worldview seriously. Doubt is not a sign of a problem necessarily, but in fact can be a stepping stone to a greater understanding of one’s own worldview and if one has a wrong worldview, motivation to change it.

Generally, doubt falls into three categories. This does not just apply to Christianity. People can doubt any worldview for these three reasons.

The first is intellectual doubt. Intellectual doubt is usually seen as the most common, but in reality, it isn’t. Intellectual doubt can often be a smokescreen. A great way to find out of if intellectual doubt is the problem is to answer the question and see what kind of response you get. If you get a response that starts with “But what if?” then you are most likely dealing with emotional doubt.

Intellectual doubt is really the simplest of all to treat. The way to answer intellectual doubt is to just get more information. It means you go to the local library or bookstore and start getting out resources and doing the necessary study so you can learn. If one is never satisfied by such study, one needs to move on and see if there is another reason for doubt.

Emotional doubt is the next on the list. This is the one I’d say is the most common and is rooted not in reason, but in the emotions, although it often takes the guise of reason. Blaise Pascal spoke of taking the greatest champion of reason and suspending him on a platform of sufficient size over a huge chasm. Watch what happens as his imagination overtakes his reason.

This is the cause of phobias. For instance, if someone is afraid of flying, it will not matter if you quote to them all the statistics in the world on it being safer to fly than it is to drive. They will not be able to see it because of their emotions. This includes myself as well until I finally took my first flight and now I simply adore flying. One aspect I enjoy of going on a long trip sometimes is that I get to fly again.

Emotional doubt happens when what one feels overpowers what they think. For instance, one could say they don’t think atheism is true because life would be meaningless without God. I by and large agree with that, but that is not a reason that atheism is not true. It could be atheism is true and life is meaningless.

This is especially problematic since emotional responses are usually the reason we believe many claims. I think of the old hymn where it says “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!” Such a reason will not convince a world any more than the Mormons talking about the burning in the bosom convinces you. If a Muslim tells you he knows in his heart that Muhammad is a prophet, you are not going to be convinced.

Emotional doubt also goes with false expectations. When we expect God to provide certain feelings and that the Christian life should be a certain way, we will naturally have doubt if this does not happen. We can be guilty of wanting something that God never promised. There will be more on this later.

The problem of evil definitely falls into this. Evil in itself can never prove Jesus did not rise from the dead, nor does it disprove theistic arguments. These stand or fall on their own. Evil does give an experiential basis for doubt. It hits so close to home that it is a problem that needs to be addressed. The problem of evil is often addressed intellectually, which is really as an academic subject the way it must be addressed, but when dealing with someone affected by it deeply and presently hurting from it, one absolutely must touch the emotional side. I have often told people who I have taught that if you’re ever a pastor at a church and a woman comes to you from your congregation whose son just died in a car accident and she’s crying asking why God allowed this to happen, that if you turn into a philosopher and/or apologist at that moment, I will come over and smack you. Yes. She will need that, but at that present moment, she just needs to grieve. She needs a pastor and a counselor first. When the shock has worn off, then you can handle the intellectual difficulty. (Note that it is far better to deal with that intellectual difficulty prior. All Christians need to get an answer for evil in their mind beforehand.)

The final kind of doubt is volitional doubt. I have no doubt some Christians doubt atheism and some atheists doubt Christianity for these reasons, and they are the worst. It is not about a search for truth at all or seeking to not have emotions control reason. It is about not wanting to believe.

For instance, someone could not want to be a Christian because they have a sin in their life, such as rampant extra-marital or pre-marital sex, and they know becoming a Christian means giving that up and they don’t want to. Sin is a reason a number of people can refuse to become Christians. Some of you reading might say “That’s not me!” I contend only you and God know the answer to that one. If you are doubting Christianity, at least make sure this is not the reason why.

After all, suppose you think God is the most wicked being who ever has been. If Christianity is true, that won’t change the fact that He exists and that Christianity is true. It could mean you have a wrong view of Him and that false view of Him is blinding you from seeing Him as He is. There are some who have said they would prefer to go to Hell instead of being in the manifest loving presence of God. The sad reality is God is ready to grant them their wish. Instead, I recommend trying to see why God acts so different from what you expect. There is no doubt some emotional thinking in volitional doubt, but this kind of doubt deals more with the will. An emotional doubter can want to believe. A volitional doubter doesn’t want to, and it will require changing the will, a much harder process. Anyone who has overcome an addiction or tried to lose those few extra pounds on a diet should know this. You have to work to change what it is that you really want.

These ultimately are the broad categories of why doubt takes place. Over time, I hope to be able to look at these and give recommendations on dealing with them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Rulers Of This Age

Where did the rulers of the age reside? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve been looking lately at some arguments given to advance the idea that Jesus never existed. An interesting verse given is in 1 Cor. 2:8. The text reads as follows:

“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Now it is argued that elsewhere where Paul uses the word archon, which is translated as rulers, then it refers to rulers of the air and that refers to spiritual powers. So it is that Jesus did not really confront earthly rulers, but he instead confronted the rulers in the heavenlies and this heavenly story later on took on an earthly meaning.

One place where Paul uses it is in Ephesians 2, but there he clarifies the term by speaking of the ruler of the power of the air. The qualification is so you will know that Paul is not speaking about an earthly ruler but in this case about a spiritual ruler.

Another place the term is used is in Romans 13, but here I see no basis whatsoever for thinking that it refers to any sort of heavenly ruler. The passage is about governing authorities on Earth and how Christians are to respond to them. So what do we do in 1 Cor. 2?

Do we have any reason to think that the reading of earthly rulers would not apply? Upfront, no. The only basis for taking it the other way is because somehow saying rulers of this age makes it a spiritual battle going on.

Now of course, Christians would not deny that spiritual powers were at work in the crucifixion of Jesus, but these were spiritual powers who operated through earthly rulers. The problem with people like Carrier and others is that they have made it an entirely either/or situation. It is EITHER spiritual powers at work meaning this is a myth, OR it is earthly powers at work. If it is spiritual powers, then it is ipso facto by that argument not earthly powers, but why should this be accepted?

In the ancient world, there was not this great dichotomy between so-called natural and supernatural. Instead, the divine was seen to be active in everything and that included earthly affairs. If you asked if spiritual powers had Jesus crucified you could be told “Yes.” If you asked if earthly powers had him crucified, you could be told “Yes.”

Do we have any evidence that goes for the traditional interpretation?


Tacitus in the Annals in 15.44 tells us that Jesus was crucified and this under Pontius Pilate. Lucian tells us that Christians follow a crucified sophist. We could also include Josephus depending on how much of the testimonium is considered valid since it refers to the crucifixion. Definitely we could include the gospels, Acts, and numerous other statements in other epistles and other Pauline epistles.

All of these other statements MUST be wrong for the mythicist theory to hold here. That sounds like awfully weak ground.

It’s at this point I do wish to remind skeptical readers that there are several atheists who admit Jesus was a historical figure and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives.

I conclude that the case is just not persuasive at all to see this as less than a simple statement of fact that Jesus was crucified by the authorities on Earth at the time. This is a contrast to the soon coming age of the Messiah when Jesus will instead stand in judgment over them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Studying The Historical Jesus

How is a Christian to go about studying the historical Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last night, I finished reading a book by Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary called “Studying The Historical Jesus.” In this book, Bock does not really set out to give conclusions. He is writing for an audience that I believe consists of lay people interested in this kind of study and perhaps as a textbook for people starting off their college career.

Bock also writes from a conservative perspective, which is just fine of course. It’s important to point this out since he is writing to people who I suspect might be apprehensive about doing historical Jesus study. “Study the historical Jesus? Isn’t it a matter of faith? Don’t we have the Inerrant Scripture? If that is the case, then how is it that we are to do historial study? Are we calling into question the reality of Jesus?”

Bock answers with a strong no and encourages us to enter into the field explaining to us how the work is to be done. He starts off by giving us some cultural context. What was the world like at the time of Jesus? What was it like right beforehand? How did the culture interact? I was quite pleased to see him talking about the importance of honor in the ancient world, something not at all stressed in most works that assumes the ancient person was just like us in their thinking.

Bock does give some brief apologetic, but it is not for the resurrection. It is simply for the existence of Jesus. Of course, even this historical certainty is coming into question these days largely by internet atheists who prefer reading non-scholars on the topic and wikipedia entries. Of course, events like this only encourage me seeing as this is a fine time for Christians to be learning real facts on historical Jesus study and how it should be done while our opponents intellectually bankrupt themselves.

Next, Bock gives us information about how the quests for the historical Jesus have progressed with the third quest especially going on looking into the Jewish roots of Jesus. (I have a suspicion we may even have a fourth quest going on with the look at the social-science information.) This is a highly helpful summary of the history for those who are starting out.

Finally, Bock lists the kinds of approaches to gospel study that are going on today such as form and redaction criticism. Bock urges Christians to not ignore these even if they are often done from skeptical bases. We can still use the information to our advantage and learn valuable insights on how to approach the text. After all, if the Jesus of orthodox Christianity is really the same as the historical Jesus, why should we be afraid of any historical study? True study will get us closer to that Jesus if not right there.

In conclusion, I recommend this book to help those who are wanting to learn more about Jesus study and how it should be done, as well as reminding us that being an orthodox Christian does not mean one cannot use the historical tools that have been handed to us. Why not take the weapons of our opponents and use them to our advantage?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: On The Reliability of the Old Testament

Can we trust the Old Testament? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Old Testament is an important aspect of the Christian story. After all, we say Jesus is the solution to the problem, but in order to understand the solution, we need to understand the problem. After all, hearing that the answer to the question is 42 doesn’t help until you know what the question is. Many of us spend much time studying the NT since the resurrection is absolutely essential to Christianity after all, but we should not neglect the Old Testament. Yet there is much literature to read in that area as well. Is there any resource that can tremendously help us with that?

There is. It is Kenneth Kitchen’s book “On The Reliability of the Old Testament.” Kitchen is a fine scholar in the field who wrote this to be a parallel to the work on the reliability of the NT. There are some 500 pages worth of content and it is fully packed. Hundreds of pages go to notes.

The book starts off in a spot I found odd, that of the divided kingdom of the OT. It is my suspicion that Kitchen starts here because this is where most of the archaeological evidence is. He goes on throughout the book to the rest of the OT and is quite blunt in his argumentation. He does not hesitate to refer to a position as poppycock or nonsense. He definitely has a strong antagonism to the JEPD hypothesis.

It is important to note that this book mainly focuses on people and places and shows that they were realities, although Kitchen readily admits when the case is that we do not have enough evidence in somewhere yet. Kitchen’s defenses include that of David, the patriarchs, the Exodus, and even the long lifespan of the people in Genesis 5. If Kitchen is using a hypothesis instead of something far more backable, he lets it be known.

The reader of this work will be benefited highly by Kitchen’s expertise. Nevertheless, there are some ways I would like to see the work improved.

I would not mind seeing more on the transmission of the text and how we know the text has been handed down accurately. Much of this has been written on the NT, but we have very little said about the OT in comparison.

I would also like to see more moral issues dealt with. There are times Kitchen does talk some about the conquest of Canaan and what happened morally, but not many, and I don’t recall much on the concept of slavery in the Ancient Near East.

Also, much of this is not written in language readily accessible for those of us who do not study archaeology and it would be nice to see some more explanations and perhaps even a small section on how the archaeology is done and what can be expected to be found through archaeology.

Yet these downsides do not outweigh the positives. Anyone wanting to defend the OT owes it to themselves to get a copy of this book and read it. The reader who finishes will definitely walk away better equipped than when he came.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Passed On What I Received

Did Paul receive a creed from another, or was it something else? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The point has been argued that when Paul says he passed on what he received in 1 Cor. 15, that that is the language that is used in Galatians 1 and Galatians 1 refers to a divine revelation. This leads us to the conclusion that Paul is not passing a creed that he has received, but sharing a revelation he has had of a divine and heavenly Jesus that later got turned into an earthly one.

Yes. That really is what is being argued.

So what are we to make of such a claim? Well the word for received is the same in Galatians 1:9 as it is in 1 Cor. 15, and both of them are talking about the gospel, but there are marked differences and that is where we need to look. When comparing two things, it is most important to see how they are different.

In 1 Cor. 15, Paul says he passed on what he received, and the information about passing on puts this in the area of oral tradition. He got it from someone else. Scholarship agrees across the board that this information is not original with Paul. This was instead an early creedal Christian statement. The latest you’ll usually see this dated is five years afterwards. Even the Jesus Seminar places it early.

There is no doubt that this is a creed as well. It was formulated for easy memorization and contains a number of words in it that are non-Pauline and as the experts in the language tell me, is written in a very rhythmic fashion to aid in memorization.

What is going on instead in Galatians 1? Paul is talking about the confirmation of the gospel. No doubt, he had some content of it already. He knew the belief that he was persecuting! He just didn’t believe it! Let’s look at some of the language he uses.

1:12 “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ”

Paul is saying that his gospel is from Christ Himself and he received it by a revelation. Does this mean He received all the content? No. He knew what was being said in his life of persecution prior. What he instead received was confirmation of the gospel.

1:15-17 “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”

Consider the language of “set apart before I was born.” Does that sound familiar? Consider this other passage from the OT.

““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.””

That’s Jeremiah 1:5. Paul is finding himself in the tradition of Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations in a far greater sense as he goes into Gentile territory. His divine commission was also an act of God. Why do this? He’s setting up authority. He is showing his authority is equal to that of the other apostles. He’s also showing he is not dependent on them, which is going to be important for when he challenges Peter. He’s not a student publicly admonishing his teacher. That would be disgraceful. He’s an apostle dealing with someone who is on the same level as he is. After all, the Judaizers could say “We are doing what is proper! Look at what Peter did!” Paul says he has the right to speak due to his divine commission. As Christ called Peter, so he also called Paul.

Keep in mind also that Paul is quite clear on what is revelation and what is not. He does not simply make a claim and then say it is revelation. In 1 Cor. 7 Paul says in regard to a question that “The Lord, not I, says” meaning that there is a clear answer in the Jesus tradition. Yet later he says “I, not the Lord, say” meaning that this isn’t explicitly covered in the Jesus tradition, but Paul is going to give his answer to it and he thinks he has the wisdom as an apostle to answer it.

What this means for us is that Paul is very careful with his words. He wants to make clear what has its origins in Jesus and what doesn’t. His words in Galatians indicate that the apostles gave him the right hand of fellowship. To deny Jesus ever even lived would mean that Paul was persecuting a group that showed up suddenly with no historical basis, and just as quickly changed his mind and joined that group. This would mean that all of these Jews suddenly thought it would be a good idea to abandon their ancient heritage given by YHWH Himself and take up another belief system and just as Paul got caught up in this delusion, he happened to meet other apostles who had done so at the same time, and oh yes, there was also a creedal statement with eyewitnesses mentioned that shows up soon after and no one takes the time to call into question before abandoning their ancient traditions.

You are free to take a position that the apostles were wrong on the resurrection. You are free to say that some information about Jesus is legendary. You are free to say that the accounts are unreliable. Let’s just stop the nonsensical idea however that while the ancients might have been gullible, and I would contend they weren’t, that they were so idiotically gullible to make such quick changes that would put their entire lives on the line. To change a quote from Monday’s blog “It’s wrong to say Jesus never rose from the dead. It’s very wrong to say He never existed.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Brother of the Lord

Is James really a brother to a historical figure? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote about the problem of internet atheists and gave the Christ-myth as an example. I can anticipate that someone will ask me about the claims of Richard Carrier. I figured it would be good to look at some of the claims that are made against Jesus being a real historical figure and for a start, thought that I’d look at the passage that talks about James being the brother of the Lord.

Now if James is a brother to someone, it would be self-evident that that person either now exists or at one time did exist. You can still be the sibling of someone who is dead after all. If it is the case that Jesus now existed or even at one time did exist (Perhaps for the sake of argument, he never rose from the dead), then the Christ-myth theory is false.

There can be no doubt that the NT often uses the term “brother” and “brethren” in a spiritual sense. This is still used today of course. The question we have to ask is “Does this mean that every time the text identifies someone as a brother, it means in a spiritual sense?” This would be a highly problematic feature since it would mean no one could positively be identified as someone’s brother in the text.

Could there be any way to make a stronger case? Yes. I think there is. I would like to start with the Galatians passage that’s usually brought up. This text is Galatians 1:19 and reads as follows:

“But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.”

Now this is often dismissed since we know about the case of spiritual brothers. Yes. We certainly do. However, to state that it can often refer to spiritual brethren in the NT is not to argue that in this case, it means a spiritual brother. Here are some reasons I think it does not.

First off, we have a specific identifier remark. James is a brother. A brother of who? A brother of Jesus. This is to set him apart from numerous other people named James. Keep in mind James was an extremely common name in the time of the NT. How do you know which James, it’s the one who is an apostle and more importantly, the brother of the Lord.

Note also that to identify someone by their brother is something extraordinary. Most people would have been identified by their father. This James is identified by the person he is a brother of. This indicates that the person he is a brother of would have been well-known in the church.

Second, James is set apart from others. Would not John and Peter have also been considered brothers of the Lord in a spiritual sense? Yet this is not said of John or Peter. Some have speculated a group called “the brothers of the Lord” and that James belonged to this and none others. Unfortunately, we have no mention of such a group. It is created wholesale to fit the theory. We do, instead, have references to brothers in the NT, even physical brothers, and thus no ad hoc creation is needed.

Third, this reference shows up in Josephus. In there, we find a reference to James, the brother of Jesus. This occurs in Antiquities 20.9.1. The whole reads as follows:

“Antiquities 20.9.1. “And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.” ”

A Christian inserting such a passage would not say Jesus was called Christ. They would say Jesus was the Christ. (Especially if such a person had inserted the earlier reference in Josephus entirely) Josephus scholars have no problem accepting this passage. Some think the final Jesus is the one being talked about, but there is no evidence that this Jesus was ever called the Christ and if so, there’s no reason why he would have been made high priest. In fact, if the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah, it is most certain a high priest could not be Messiah. (Hebrews explains Jesus being one from a Christian perspective)

There are other references in the NT that I think lend support to the idea of brothers not having to be a spiritual term.

1 Cor. 9:5 “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”

Again, why should I create an ad hoc group when instead I could just say these are the brothers of the Lord. Why would apostles not be included in such a group? Why would Cephas not be included in such a group?

Jude 1:1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

Once again, why should I think this is referring to something spiritual. Jude would be identifying himself by a famous marker. He does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus, likely so as not to draw attention to himself and be seeking to steal honor from others. He instead goes with the brother of James, which would be a famous one, and why not the one who is a brother of Jesus. Could Jude be saying James is a spiritual brother, but no one else? The more natural reading fits best.

It is for reasons like this that I do not think the brother of the Lord claim of Carrier being a spiritual brother really holds waters. To argue otherwise is to adjust the evidence to fit the theory and vice-versa.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

If anyone is interested, a friend of Deeper Waters also translated this post into Spanish.

El Hermano del Señor
¿Es Santiago en verdad el hermano de una figura histórica? Hablemos de esto en Aguas Profundas.

Ayer escribí sobre el problema de los ateos de internet y puse como ejemplo al Cristo mítico. Puedo anticipar que alguno me preguntará por las afirmaciones de Richard Carrier. Se me ocurrió que sería bueno dar un vistazo a algunos de los reclamos que se hacen en contra de que Jesús sea una figura histórica, y para empezar pensé en el pasaje que habla sobre Santiago como el hermano del Señor.

Ahora, si Santiago es hermano de alguien, sería obvio que esa persona o bien existe ahora o existió alguna vez. Después de todo uno todavía puede ser hermano de alguien que está muerto. Si es el caso que Jesús existiera ahora o que alguna vez existió (quizá, para propósitos de argumentación, nunca resucitó de los muertos), entonces la teoría del Cristo mítico es falsa.

No puede haber duda de que el NT a menudo usa el término “hermano” y “hermanos” en un sentido espiritual. Esto por supuesto todavía se usa hoy. La pregunta que hay que hacer es “¿Quiere decir esto que cada vez que el texto identifica a alguien como un hermano, significa en un sentido espiritual?” Esa sería una característica altamente problemática, ya que significaría que nadie podría ser identificado positivamente como hermano de alguien en el texto.
¿Podríamos decir algo más contundente al respecto? Sí. Creo que podemos. Me gustaría empezar con el pasaje de Gálatas que usualmente se toma como ilustración. El texto es Gálatas 1:19 y dice como sigue:

“No vi a ningún otro de los apóstoles; sólo vi a Santiago, el hermano del Señor.”

Ahora, a menudo se descarta este versículo puesto que sabemos del caso de los hermanos espirituales. Sí. Ciertamente sabemos. Sin embargo, decir que a menudo puede referirse a hermanos espirituales en el NT, no es argumento de que en este caso significa un hermano espiritual. Aquí hay algunas razones por las que pienso que no:

Primero, tenemos una marca de identificación específica. Santiago es un hermano. ¿Hermano de quién? Hermano de Jesús. Con esto se lo distingue de otras numerosas personas llamadas Santiago. Hay que recordar que Santiago era un nombre extremadamente común en el tiempo del NT. “¿De qué Santiago hablas?” “El que es un apóstol y, más importante, el hermano del Señor.”

Note además que identificar a alguien por su hermano es algo extraordinario. La mayoría de personas eran identificadas por su padre. Este Santiago es identificado por la persona de quien es hermano. Esto indica que la persona de quien él es hermano habría sido bien conocida en la Iglesia.

Segundo, Santiago es distinguido de otros. ¿No habrían también Juan y Pedro sido considerados hermanos del Señor en un sentido espiritual? Aun así, esto no se dice de Juan y Pedro. Algunos han especulado sobre un grupo llamado “los hermanos del Señor” y que Santiago pertenecía a este grupo y los otros no.

Desafortunadamente, no tenemos mención de tal grupo. Es inventado por completo para ajustarse a la teoría. Sí tenemos, en cambio, referencias a hermanos en el NT, incluso hermanos de carne, y por tanto no se necesita una creación ad hoc.

Tercero, esta referencia aparece en Josefo. Allí, encontramos una referencia a Santiago, el hermano del Señor. Esto ocurre en Antigüedades 20.9.1. El pasaje entero reza así:

Antigüedades 20.9.1 “Y ahora César, después de enterarse de la muerte de Festo, envió a Albino a Judea como procurador. Pero el rey removió a José del sumo sacerdocio, y confirió la sucesión a esa dignidad sobre el hijo de Ananías, llamado también Ananías. Ahora según se dice, este Ananías mayor probó ser muy afortunado; porque tenía cinco hijos los cuales habían todos ejercido el oficio de sumo sacerdotes delante de Dios, y él mismo había ostentado esa dignidad mucho tiempo antes, algo que nunca había ocurrido a ninguno de nuestros sumo sacerdotes. Pero éste Ananías más joven, quien como ya hemos dicho tomó el sumo sacerdocio, era un hombre de temperamento osado, y muy insolente; el cual así mismo era de la secta de los Saduceos, los cuales son muy rígidos para juzgar ofensores, por encima del resto de los judíos, como ya hemos observado; cuando, por lo tanto, siendo que era esa clase de hombre, y creía que se le ofrecía, como Festo estaba ahora muerto, y Albino estaba de camino, convocó al Sanedrín de jueces, y trajo delante de ellos al hermano de Jesús, llamado el Cristo, cuyo nombre era Santiago, y a algunos otros; y cuando hubo formado acusación contra ellos como infractores de la ley, los entregó par ser apedreados: pero los ciudadanos más moderados y afectos a la ley, se indignaron; y enviaron mensajeros al rey, pidiéndole que por carta exhortara a Ananías a que, en adelante, no hiciera tales cosas, pues lo realizado no estaba bien. Algunos de ellos fueron al encuentro de Albino, que venía de Alejandría; le pidieron que no permitiera que Ananías, sin su consentimiento, convocara al sanedrín. Albino, convencido, envió una carta a Ananías, en la cual lleno de indignación le anunciaba que tomaría venganza contra él. Luego el rey Agripa le quitó el sumo sacerdocio, el cual ejerció por tres meses, y puso en su lugar a Jesús, hijo de Dameo.” Un cristiano que insertara tal pasaje no diría que Jesús era llamado el Cristo. Ellos dirían que Jesús era el Cristo. (Especialmente si tal persona había insertado la referencia anterior en Josefo en su totalidad) Los eruditos en Josefo no tienen problemas para aceptar este pasaje. Algunos piensan que el Jesús que se menciona de último es al que Josefo se refiere, pero no hay evidencia de que este Jesús era llamado el Cristo, y si fuera así, no hay razón para que lo hubieran hecho sumo sacerdote. De hecho, si el Mesías era de la tribu de Judá, es muy seguro que un sumo sacerdote no podía ser Mesías. (Hebreos explica que Jesús lo es, desde una perspectiva cristiana) Hay otras referencias en el NT que pienso dan apoyo a la idea de que “hermanos” no tiene que ser un término espiritual.

1 Cor. 9:5 “¿No tenemos derecho de traer con nosotros una hermana por mujer como también los otros apóstoles, y los hermanos del Señor, y Cefas?” De nuevo, ¿Por qué tendría alguien que crear un grupo ad hoc cuando en su lugar podría decir “estos son los hermanos del Señor”? ¿Por qué no estarían incluidos los apóstoles en tal grupo? ¿Por qué Cefas no estaría incluido en ese grupo? Judas 1:1 “Judas, siervo de Jesucristo y hermano de Santiago” Una vez más, ¿Por qué deberíamos pensar que esto se refiere a algo espiritual? Judas se estaría identificando con un marcador famoso. Él no se identifica como hermano de Jesús, probablemente para no llamar la atención sobre sí mismo ni robar el honor de otros. En su lugar, se identifica como el hermano de Santiago, y no como el hermano de Jesús. ¿Acaso dice Judas que Santiago es un hermano espiritual, pero nadie más? La lectura más natural encaja mejor.
Es por razones como ésta que no creo que la afirmación de Carrier de que el “hermano del Señor” es algo espiritual quede en pie. Argumentar lo contrario es ajustar la evidencia para que encaje en la teoría y vice-versa.

En Cristo,
Nick Peters

Why I Ignore Most Internet Atheists

Why is it sometimes best to just not bother? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Before leaping into the meat of this post, let’s make a few clarifications.

No. Not every atheist is an internet atheist. I refer to a general type of person by this. If you are on the internet and an atheist and are highly informed and can show it and have done your homework on what you and I both believe, then I do not consider you an internet atheist.

Yes. I realize too many Christians are just as ignorant. If you think I’ve been silent on this matter, then you haven’t been reading my blog at all. I have often castigated the church for not doing the proper job of educating the laity on what they believe and why.

Having said that, let’s go into what it is I’m writing about.

I thought about this yesterday after listening to J. Warner Wallace do a podcast on Christ mythers. These are the atheists that go around saying Jesus never even existed and that he’s a copycat of Mithras, Horus, Osiris, Dionysus, etc.

The sad part is that they think they know what they’re talking about. They don’t. They have not read any scholarship on the issue. Instead, they’re getting their information from internet sites or perhaps even worse, a site like Wikipedia. (Never ever in a debate do I look at a Wikipedia link. If you think the information there is true, you can find it elsewhere.)

Modern NT scholarship does not even consider this possibility. This includes liberal and conservative, Christian and atheist. A way to get a great laugh is to go to a group like the Society of Biblical Literature and announce that you are a Christ-myther. Yet despite this, the virus of the Christ-myth still spreads.

As an example, around Easter, I commented on an article Gary Habermas had in a national newspaper on the resurrection. Internet atheists came out in droves. One of them posted this little gem:

“It’s obviously nonsense. It’s not even a given that Jesus existed. There are books which say he didn’t exist. Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called “The Quest For The Historical Jesus” and said; ‘There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus.The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never existed.”
Albert Schweitzer from “The Quest For The Historical Jesus’ ”

I can assure you something about this internet atheist beyond the fact he’s uneducated on this. He has never once read Schweitzer. Schweitzer held that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Strange that he would hold such a position about someone who never even existed.

So what is the quote saying? It’s saying that the Jesus that has been traditionally believed in by orthodox Christianity never existed. Our view of Jesus was entirely wrong. It is not at all saying that there never was a historical Jesus.

To be sure, I think Schweitzer’s position is wrong, but it’s not as wrong as the other. As Stuart on the Big Bang Theory said “It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable. It’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.” It’s a little wrong to say Jesus never did miracles, preached and founded the Kingdom on Earth, etc. It’s very wrong to say he never existed.

These same types keep repeating this mantra that they get from the new atheists about “No evidence! No evidence!” (Most anyone who treats the new atheists as making serious arguments is an internet atheist) Now you could say that there is insufficient evidence. You could say I believe based on wrong evidence or a wrong interpretation of the evidence. Yet why insist that if I believe something it is because there is no evidence? (Unfortunately, the main reason I can think of is that too many Christians do just that.)

It also includes a definition of faith that means belief without evidence. I would just once like to see the new atheists present evidence for this belief. Is this what the Bible means by faith? Can they produce a Greek or NT Lexicon that has that definition for pistis, the Greek word for faith?

Those who take this position are invincible in their ignorance unfortunately. It is as if they have this allergy that if there is some shred of evidence for anything Christian, then there is a huge crisis. I, as a Christian, would have no problem accepting the existence of Muhammad or Buddha. I just think the belief systems they espouse are wrong.

So after awhile, I have come to the conclusion that such opponents are not worth dialoguing with. There are plenty of people online who have the time to deal with such. I no longer do. When it comes down to the choice of reading that book more to understand the scholarship behind an issue or responding to someone who shows no sign of listening to reason and will take a good portion of my time, which do I choose? I have my own family to spend with and study to do and responding to internet atheists is not a wise investment of my time.

If you are an atheist reading this, then I suggest you avoid being one of these people. Take the time to read someone who disagrees. Many atheists look at the YEC community and say “Look! They don’t pay attention to the majority of scientists and astronomers on the age of the Earth and have bad science and think that only their position is correct despite the rest of the world speaking with one voice on this.”

Okay. Let’s suppose that’s true. That’s the exact same thing internet atheists do when they embrace the Christ myth. They don’t pay attention to the overwhelming majority of scholars on the issue and have bad scholarship and think their position is the only correct one despite the rest of the world speaking with one voice on this.

If you are someone who comes up seriously arguing for ideas I know are blatantly false and yet refuse to listen to reason or evidence on the position because you’ve already convinced yourself there can be none, why should I waste my time? I would rather dialogue with someone who I think will listen and not only that, will give me a challenging dialogue.

In conclusion, what’s needed on both sides is people becoming more familiar with what they believe and what their opponents believe. My time is limited. I have no desire to waste it on fruitless endeavors when others can argue there instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

An Unbelievable? Podcast

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters podcast? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

I actually just finished the interview for the Deeper Waters podcast about half an hour or so ago. This time, I interviewed Justin Brierley of Unbelievable? and talked with him about the show Unbelievable? and about the conference of the same name happening annually in the U.K.

Unbelievable? has been one of my favorite shows since I’ve started listening. Justin Brierley is a wonderful host/moderator who brings on excellent guests and who manages to remain quite neutral in his presentation. If you really want to hear both sides of a debate sometime, just turn on Unbelievable? and see what you find. As Justin and I discussed, sometimes the atheist does do better. Sometimes the Christian does better. That is life. For those interested, I have often written into the show and spoken about how badly a Christian has done in debate. In fact, for those even more curious, I was once a guest on the show. (See January of 2010 for my debate there on the problem of evil after the Haiti earthquake.)

Justin and I talk on the show about the state of the church in the U.K. Contrary to what I used to think, it is not a spiritual wasteland over there. There are bright lights that are shining, and I consider Unbelievable? to be one of them. We need to keep in mind that there are strong pillars of Christianity that exist over there, including someone like N.T. Wright.

We also talked about the show and how it has come along and the great guests that have come on. Justin said some guests have been good and some haven’t. Some could be great writers and just not meant to a debate style like that which is done on Unbelievable?. The show has also been an education for him, something I’ve noticed in my brief time hosting a podcast. The show is often a chance for me to get my own education in interviewing guests on so many great topics.

There was also talk about the Unbelievable? conference that takes place annually in the U.K. This year, the conference will be focused highly on C.S. Lewis, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his death. There will be discussions on Lewis and the imagination, Lewis and the problem of pain, and even what would C.S. Lewis say to the new atheists?

I highly encourage my readers to be listening to the Deeper Waters podcast. It’s really exciting to be bringing out the best in Christian apologetics. We plan on having more and more scholars show up. Yet while listening to my show, I also encourage you to listen to the Unbelievable? podcast. It is a podcast that I never miss and if I’m on vacation and have to listen to two podcasts one after the other, well that’s what I do. Unbelievable? is that good.

For those interested, the interview with Justin Brierley can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are All Beliefs To Be Respected?

Are we misunderstanding respect? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Quite recently, I have seen several interactions in the internet world with people of different beliefs and each time I have seen statements like “I respect your beliefs” or “Let’s all try to respect the beliefs of one another.” I understand why some people make such sentiments, but I cannot help but think that they are fundamentally built on an error.

For instance, let’s suppose I think a belief is fundamentally false. In fact, not only do I think that the belief is false, but I also think that it is dangerously false? If you have the belief that torturing babies for fun is okay, I am not going to tell you that I respect your belief. I am going to oppose your belief with all that I have. It is as far as I’m concerned, not just a wrong view, but a wicked one, and why should I respect something that I think is evil?

Now some of you are saying “But not all beliefs are like that.” Correct. There are varying degrees. I do not agree with a dispensationalist approach, for instance, but I can respect that it seeks to uphold the Lordship of Christ and to find a place for Israel. I just think the views are wrong. I cannot thus respect is as a whole, but I can give respect where it is due. I can also respect the rights of people to hold beliefs that I think are in error in some places. My own spouse after all is a dispensationalist.

Ultimately, what we are seeking to really have is respect for the rights of people to hold certain beliefs. We do value freedom, but we know some beliefs are dangerous to hold, such as the belief that it’s okay to murder your neighbor. When people act on such a belief, we respond by locking them up or giving them the death penalty.

Note also in this that it is not just what beliefs are held that matter, but how they are held. I have more respect for an atheist who can well argue for his viewpoint than I do for a Christian who can give no reason why they believe what they believe. I think the atheist is at least taking reality far more seriously than the Christian is. Even if I agree with the Christian on the essential matters, their approach is not one that I respect as it is simply the result of a blind leap.

Let us make clear where we stand. Some beliefs are wrong and we must oppose them, but this does not necessarily mean opposition to the holder of the beliefs. It all depends on how much they have researched their beliefs and how much they have researched the side that they critique. To use an example, I cannot respect the new atheism, even though I can respect some atheists. Why? The new atheism has done squat to understand the beliefs of those they argue against and consistently put up straw man after straw man.

Respect ultimately is not just given. It is earned. If you show up in the marketplace of ideas and know how to argue your beliefs and know what your opponents believe, you will get respected. If not, you won’t.

In Christ,
Nick Peters