Waves Come Crashing Down Finale

Is the final objection from a critic really that powerful? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters!

We’re going to be looking at the final claims of a critic. One major argument will be dealt with as well as some bonus arguments. Let’s look at the first one.

“7)…100% FACT: no on duty judge, jury, prosecutor, defense attorney, or court would accept what we have of the gospels as evidence for anyone in the bible …RED FLAG!!!!”

None whatsoever? This must be news to lawyers and attorneys and such who are Christians and it would have been news to legal writers of the past and of the present who treat the gospels from a legal standpoint. There is an entire field of legal apologetics. An excellent example of that can be found here.

Of course, the main deal is that these are not legal documents but are historical documents and therefore should be treated by the standards of history. How will a historian look at the claim? Our critic unfortunately has no clue on such a topic. Let’s see this further by looking at the bonus facts.

“Bonus 100% FACT: the Jewish Dead Sea Scrolls (written before, during, and after 4 BCE to 30 AD) knows nothing of the NT Jesus or his disciples (the NT Jesus simply don’t exist in them) …RED FLAG!!!! ”

This is not news to anyone. Why should the Qumran community care about someone going through the “pagan” territory (seeing as they didn’t care anything for the temple complex) and supposedly being the Messiah? Since he was executed on a cross, that’s all the more reason to not waste time with him.

“Bonus 100% FACT: 4 BCE to 30 AD, worldwide, (far as what we have in our hands) is void of the NT Jesus …RED FLAG!!!!”

And very little of ancient history is written while the person being written about is still alive. Again, why should anyone have written anything when oral communication worked so well to get the word out seeing as few people could read?

What can we say about all of this in reply?

It is often said that Christians are too often ignorant of their faith and believe blindly. I agree. Yet let it not be said that atheists are not often in the same boat. Some here might be surprised to think that our critic thinks he is so powerful that he can take on names like Habermas, Licona, Zacharias, Copan, etc. One might speak aught against these people all one wants, but one should be willing to grant they at least have some knowledge of what they speak.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Unfortunately in our day and age, everyone on the internet thinks they’re an expert. Anyone can write a blog and anyone can make a YouTube channel and be seen as an authority.

Some might say that I have a blog and I have a show.

That is true.

Do I think I know what I’m talking about? Yep. I do. Personally, I think everyone does or else they wouldn’t talk about it.

I ask that you be willing to check what I say. In fact, I can guarantee you some things you read on my blog or hear on my show will be incorrect. Why? Because I’m not perfect. I’m bound to make some mistakes from time to time. No scholar out there is infallible. I dare not suggest to you that you treat my writings the way Scripture should be.

That is a key difference. Someone who cares about truth is open to being wrong and does real research before making a claim. I strongly suspect most atheists I encounter online have not really read the other side that much nor do they make the questions in seeking answers. They only want to embarrass.

Lesson for today. Don’t be like this critic. If you want to be an atheist, be an atheist! Just be informed in your atheism. I in fact have more respect for an informed atheist than I do an uninformed Christian. At least the atheist I am sure is taking the issues seriously.

Do the same. Take the issues seriously and know whichever side you fall on, you know why you have and can make a case why that does actually interact with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

JPH’s treatment of this can be found here.

Waves Come Crashing Down Part 6

Can our rabid skeptic get any worse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s been awhile since we’ve continued these series as other pressing issues came up, but now it’s time to return to look at the great red flag that our skeptic, who does not deserve to be named, has brought forward.

“6)…100% FACT: we have nothing close to an original of any gospel book (besides a single fragment from the 1st century and a dozen or so from the 2nd century one has to around 200 AD before we get any real readings from the gospels) …RED FLAG!!!!”

We eagerly await to find how this standard will be met in other works of ancient history. Do we have an original of Tacitus? Not at all. In fact, we know from what we have that some of the material that Tacitus wrote is missing, yet what we have is seen as accurate. Those who have seen the charts on the NT in comparison to other ancient works know that the NT stands out above the others.

For the NT, we have more copies of the manuscripts than we do any other work. We have more copies in more languages. We have more copies in more languages closer to the time that they were written than we do any other ancient work. In fact, the textual evidence we have for the NT is best described as “an embarrassment of riches.”

Of course, this does not mean anything per se about the content of the NT. That a work has been handed down accurately does not mean that the content of that work is thereby true. Unfortunately, I have seen several who have made this claim, but I have not seen anyone who is an apologist making this sort of argument. It is a straw man that is put forward by skeptics.

If our critic wishes to make much of this kind of claim, then we need to see why it is that he can accept the accounts of Plutarch, Tacitus, Polybius, or any other ancient work as being handed down accurately when we do not have the evidence that we do for the NT with them.

Our critic could also bear to read some works on textual criticism. In fact, even those who are already Christians should read some works on textual criticism. Of course, for the skeptical side, there is Bart Ehrman and anyone who is wanting to get to read both sides should read Ehrman, but there should be other works that are read.

For instance, one could read “A Student’s Guide To Textual Criticism of the Bible” by Paul Wegner. In fact, if I could just recommend one book on the topic, this would be it. Other works include those by Metzger on textual criticism and The Reliability of the New Testament edited by Stewart which features a debate between Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace, who is one of the leading if not THE leading conservative NT textual critic today.

We also recommend the work of JPH on this same objection here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Resurrection of Jesus

What do I think about Crossan and Wright in dialogue? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In “The Resurrection of Jesus”, a dialogue takes place between N.T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan on the resurrection with several essays following by noted scholars on the subject. I wish to focus my main part of the review on the dialogue between Crossan and Wright.

As readers of the blog know, I have a strong bias with N.T. Wright. I am a fan of his series and try to read anything he wrote and listen to any podcast that he is on. If I am ever given a chance to review an N.T. Wright book, I take it immediately. Thus, I not only get to review a great book, but add one to my collection.

Naturally then, I thought Wright was stellar, but my problem with the debate is that it had little to say about history from what I saw. Crossan takes a quite postmodern approach and wants to discuss interpretations rather than what really happened. Trying to have the dialogue take place then is akin to trying to nail jell-o to the wall.

Yet Crossan’s whole position is problematic. It is as if it doesn’t matter at all if Jesus literally arose or metaphorically arose. We’re all still Christians and we have to get about the work of the Kingdom! I’m not ready to jump on board. If Jesus died the death of a wicked blasphemer and I have no reason to believe He was vindicated, then why should I waste my life following Him?

On the other hand, if Jesus was resurrected, this means just more than that a dead guy came to life again. As Wright says, if the thief next to Jesus had been resurrected, it would have been considered a strange world. No one would go out and immediately proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

The resurrection of Jesus would then mean that our real material world and all that is in fact immaterial is on the path to restoration. God is building His Kingdom right now and we are the ones that are at work. Eventually, death itself will be obliterated. The story cannot work both ways. Either death has the final say on Jesus, or Jesus has the final say on death.

Crossan’s approach should be a reminder to Christians that we need more than history. We need to have a whole interpretive grid into which to fit the resurrection and to show what a difference it makes. We are becoming a more and more postmodern society in America with everyone’s view being seen as just as good as anyone else’s. (Except those darn evangelical Christians.)

We also need to firmly set up what is and isn’t a Christian. Crossan wants to include himself. If we do not think he is one, why not? If we say the physical resurrection of Jesus, then we have to ask why is that a clincher? Why does it matter?

As I have said many times before, Christians need more than just knowing how to establish the resurrection. They need to be able to show what a difference it makes and how it fits into their worldview beyond “Christianity is true.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Bible College For You?

Do you have to go to Bible College to get a good apologetics education? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, a comment on a blog I wrote was by someone who had a passion to be an engineer and was studying to be one, but wanted to know apologetics as well seeing as to how important it is. This person, named Michael, admitted to not being solid in faith or having 1,000 Scriptures memorized.

Yet they thought the only way to go was Bible College. Is this the case?

Let me state at the start that I did go to Bible College. Bible College is great, but it is not for everyone. When I went to Bible College, I did not know a thing about apologetics. I found out there. Much of my learning then came from my own reading as I sought to devour everything I could. To this day, I still regularly go down to the college and go to the library and get some books. I say, and I’m afraid it’s true, that I use the library more than most of the students.

While I was a student, my classes would sometimes touch on apologetics matters, but I only took one class that really looked at the issue much and that was a class on worldview thinking. In many ways, I have been largely self-taught, though I did get some invaluable training in Seminary, especially on Thomism, a background I think that will shape me for the rest of my life.

I am glad that Michael sees the importance of apologetics and knows that this needs to be done, but Michael, if your passion is to be an engineer, then I encourage you to please stay in school where you are and seek to be an engineer. God’s program with the Kingdom calls for engineers after all. You can use your ability in engineering in various ways for the kingdom.

Now am I telling you to not study apologetics at all? Not a bit. I encourage you to do so and if this is a drive of yours, then keep it up. If you want, get a degree in engineering as high as you can and want to and then, you could consider going to Bible college as well and getting a degree there.

Yet you might not want to go that route. That’s fine. If not, you have more access to information than has ever been possible. You can go to ITunes and download college and seminary courses on various matters and learn from the best professors. You can go to the library at a Seminary or Bible College still and set up an account so you can use the books there.

Also, you can find someone in your area who is trained in apologetics and have them be a mentor for you. Note that this is also an encouragement to those who are mentors and helps them to do their own study knowing someone else is depending on them.

The main thing is to try to do the best you can to manage time, something we all have difficulty with. Set aside a bit of time each day to do some studying and remember at the same time, it’s not all studying. If you’re married, you’ll need to spend time with your wife and if you have them, your children. Remember, all work and no play…

Apologetics is important after all, but not everyone is meant to do full-time apologetics. We need Christians who are teachers. We need Christians who are doctors. We need Christians who are scientists. We need Christians who are garbage pick-up men, janitors, bank tellers, cashiers, police officers, soldiers, etc.

Also, we need good Christian pastors and counselors. These should have some basic understanding at least in apologetics, but I also think that a pastor should be able instead to point to someone in his church who is highly skilled in apologetics to leave him the freedom to focus on pastoral duties. He should answer basic questions, but pass tougher ones on to an expert. A counselor should have basic information such as helping with the problem of evil, but he needs to focus on what he needs to be a good counselor and be also able to refer to an expert.

Ultimately, we could all be blessed by learning more about God and our faith system, but we should not think that that means everyone is meant to do that full-time. The reason a church pays a pastor is so the pastor can be able to devote his time to study and then be able to share with the congregation what he has found. The reason someone should support the apologetics ministry, like this one, is because we are out there doing the same kind of work. (In fact, I find our work is much more dangerous than that of your average pastor. We’re the ones out there taking bullets on the front line.)

Michael. Stay in engineering. Be the best engineer that you can be. If someone is in apologetics, they should not seek to be mediocre. They should seek to excel. Excel as an engineer. Get the best degree that you can and do the best work that you can do! When you have time to yourself, learn something about apologetics. Read this blog. Read others. Download podcasts and listen to them on your commute to and from work and school. Before getting a book, look over a number of reviews of it and see if it’s one you really want to invest yourself in.

Remember finally what Paul said, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31.) My recommendation is that you follow your passion while still doing what else you can otherwise and let God bless your service in engineering to his glory.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters 7/27/2013: Chris Winchester

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

As readers of yesterday’s blog know, Allie and I celebrated three years together yesterday. When Allie and I got married, I sought to include as many of my friends as I could. One of those friends was someone I met at Seminary who is now working overseas to get a further degree in study of the NT and I am convinced is an up and coming scholar in the field. I’m not just saying that because he’s a friend of mine. I’m saying that because he’s an excellent researcher on a variety of topics. (And to add, he’s a good groomsman, even if he was about to pass out.)

Chris especially has had a lot of fun with the mythicist crowd, although he is now getting a bit exasperated, as well as critiquing the writings of several non-Christians such as Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier. In the case of Carrier, this even includes interactions with Carrier himself on his blog.

I can say that whenever Chris decides he’s going to research anything, I find that he consistently throws himself into it and seeks to get the best information that he can. This has included everything from political conspiracies to alien abductions. There’s no such thing as Chris doing just a little bit of looking into a topic. He looks entirely at what he’s doing.

As a good researcher, Chris is constantly asking questions and this is something that we do back and forth. There are many times that I will come and ask him a question and want to know what he thinks about a topic and likewise, he will come to me and ask me a topic. This is the way that we have iron sharpen iron. We can find each other to be invaluable allies when we are working together in a debate. (Yet perhaps he should consider trying to fight against me some when we play Smash Brothers together. Just a suggestion.)

While at the Deeper Waters podcast I have wanted to highlight the work of scholars, I want to also promote those who I think deserve to be promoted and that includes Chris will all that he has done in the area of research. I know that when I have been climbing up the ladder in the apologetics community, that it has been helpful to have other people be willing to showcase my work and since the show gives me a platform to do the same, I want to be able to help out in that way. That’s what friends are for anyway.

Therefore, I invite you to be listening in this Saturday to the Deeper Waters Podcast to hear a good friend of mine. We will be focusing our talk on the historical Jesus and discussing problems with mythicists as well as Chris’s interactions with Richard Carrier online. Show time is from 3-5 EST this Saturday. The call in number to the show as always is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Number Three

Do wonders ever cease? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, I’m moving away from the usual debate I’ve had on the blog recently to mark a milestone down. I certainly hope there will be no debate on today’s entry. When I say for the title “Number Three” is that, as readers of this blog hopefully remember, today my wife Allie and celebrate three years together.

I’ve often said I was one of those guys who thought I’d never ever get married, not because I didn’t desire to, but because what kind of girl loves a nerdy guy like this? Apparently, Allie is the kind who does. It was on this day three years ago that she said that yes, she wants to invest the rest of her life into me. I said the same to her naturally.

It’s been an interesting three years. Our finances have been terrible. We’ve had numerous events happen such as job losses, having to move, deaths, and surgeries. With both of us being Aspies, we undergo a number of difficulties a lot of couples do not, but at the same time it has been an adventure.

I’ve always seen apologetics as an adventure. It is protecting the world from false teachings that seek to destroy the flock and lead people astray. It is a battle where souls are on the line and with Allie by my side, I can wake up each day more inspired and know that when my work is done for the day, I’ve got someone by my side who expects me to give it my all and is cheering on her husband, who she thinks is absolutely the best!

These years have been shaping for me. Before we got married, my then pastor met me at the church and ten minutes prior to walking down the aisle, we were praying, and he asked me what I was praying for. I told him that what I prayed for most was that I wanted to be holy. I understand that the next day, a Sunday, that was even talked about in the sermon. (We would have been there, but Allie and I were on our way to the beach for our honeymoon. I think it was an absence the church understood.)

Today, that is still my prayer. I can look at things I do or say and think “Dang it, I really made a mistake there.” If anything can help make you more aware of the sinful nature in your life, it’s marriage. I had lived with a roommate prior to marriage, and that certainly brings some things out of you, but somehow marriage does it totally different.

In marriage, you share your entire being with someone. I love Allie heart, body, and soul. I seek to give her all that I have and I ask that she does the same for me. Marriage becomes a way of saying “I want nothing to hold me back in my love for you.” Many people today in debates talk about how they want freedom so much. A married couple does not want freedom. They want to be bound to one another.

It takes awhile to get used to the changes. Some are more immediate, such as learning to share a bed with someone. Some of them take time, such as, well, time. After awhile, you start to realize your time is not yours. I can find that I can plan out how I want the day to go some, only to find out later Allie wants to do something and before too long, those plans aren’t going as I thought. I do the same to her sometimes. That’s part of sharing your life. Nothing is really “yours” any more. It becomes more “ours.”

In all of this, a person is shaped more in sanctification and holiness. Now in saying this, I am not saying everyone should get married. Not everyone wants to. I’m biased, but I think marriage is awesome. I like thinking that I’m the guy that gets to be sharing my life with someone special. I like looking and realizing that we have in fact formed our own family unit together. I like thinking as well that while we’re going through a hard time now, there is work to be done in the future and we’re going to do it together. There are some events ahead on the horizon and I hope that matters will pick up.

So today, as I celebrate three years, I am aware I am a far better man for it. I often tell Allie that aside from the gift of Jesus Christ, nothing empowers me like she does. Nothing shapes and encourages me like she does. It is a role no parent, family member, teacher, or friend could fill. It is something special only the love of a spouse could do, and Allie has indeed done it, even though I suspect she is highly unaware of how strong the change is she has wrought, despite my constantly telling her.

Happy Anniversary to my Princess! I love you dearly!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Buying A Sword About Self-Defense?

Why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy a sword? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, a friend of Deeper Waters sent me a statement to comment on concerning the Zimmerman trial. What it was was the person saying that a man has a right to defend himself he used Luke 22:35-38 to make that point.

“35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.”

There are some times when a preacher is said to have a good message but to have the wrong text. This is the same case here. I do hold to a person having the right to defend themselves. In the past, that was a sword. Today, a gun would be more appropriate. Therefore, my contention is not against self-defense.

However, to say I support self-defense does not mean that I support every Scriptural argument given for self-defense. I don’t think this passage is talking about that at all. After all, let’s consider that Jesus would have eleven men by his side since Judas betrayed him. These eleven men would have two swords between them to fight off a crowd? (And why would Jesus want the crowd to be fought off? In the text, we see him surrendering to them and condemning Peter for getting a sword out in the first place!)

What Jesus is talking about is the future coming time when the disciples will face great peril and they need to be men of courage, men that would be the kind who would normally use a sword. If Jesus had literally meant for them to buy a sword, then it is a wonder we do not see the disciples engaging in hand-to-hand combat anywhere throughout the book of Acts!

When Jesus says “It is enough”, do we really take him to mean that the two swords the disciples have will be enough for them to be prepared when the Roman army comes? Of course not! Instead, it is a matter of exasperation. Jesus regularly has a problem with the disciples taking him in a wooden literal sense. (Please keep that in mind many of you today who think that the best way to take Jesus is always the wooden literal sense unless there are other reasons not to. Jesus himself has several problems with that approach.)

The best lesson to get from all this is that the right message does not mean the right passage. I am not saying the Bible condemns self-defense. I am just saying that this is not the right passage to go to and when we go to the wrong passage, we end up causing harm to our position as we make it look foolish and have it so that some think when they dispute our false interpretation, they’ve shown the Bible does not teach this at all. Not only that, the worst part is whenever we have a false interpretation, we miss the true interpretation we are to get out of Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to Clubschadenfreude on the 500

Is there a case here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For some wondering about a final reply to Matt Ferguson, we will be having a debate so I figure rather than reply, wait and save everything I see problematic for the debate, entirely my prerogative. This will likely be a month or so into the future. I’m thinking around mid-September would be the best for me. Yet meanwhile, someone has linked me to a writing on the appearance to the 500 on a blog by a Clubschadenfreude, whom I will be calling CS from now on. The first part can be found here. There is a link to part two and I do not consider it necessary that I give links to both parts.

Unfortunately, one has to wade through much of CS complaining about the way apologists and such think, which ironically I find to be really the exact way fundamentalist atheists like CS actually think. Claims of “Nothing more than a story”, etc. show up. Does any interaction with real NT scholarship show up? Well, we already know the answer to that one.

So let’s try and cut to the chase.

Note CS is responding to some others in this post so let’s see what is said first.

Now, for the claims SS and Ben have used about their religion to be true, for example that JC was a man/god and that his body vanished by magic and he came back from the dead, we need a story *and* evidence to support it. We have nothing that does so that cannot be used for other religions. You have offered stories, not the evidence that supports them. A claim that 500 people saw JC is not evidence. I can claim to have 500 people in my backyard. What would be evidence for this claim? Maybe a photo, crushed plants (I have a wee back yard), a police report from my neighbor who doesn’t like me, etc.. We can have a believable “report” if we have that corroborating evidence. A story does not stand on its own. I have no more reason to believe the stories of Indian gods being with people than I have to believe the Christian claim that there was a demigod. I ask Ben and SS: Do you believe that the gods interacted with the ancient Hindus? Or do you think that they are just stories? What would make you believe that such claims are true? For me, it would be again corroborating evidence as I have listed.

The language here is quite revealing. At the start, I am not arguing for the incarnation. I am simply arguing for the resurrection. Is the incarnation important? Yes. Do I hold to it? Yes. Yet right now, I am simply arguing for the historical claim and the ramifications of that come later. The claim is as follows:

“The historical figure known as Jesus died.”

“This same person was alive afterwards.”

That is it. If those two are established, will I move on from there? Yes, but CS does not understand that this is not an all-or-nothing game. It is not the case that unless one proves the incarnation, then one has not shown Jesus did not rise.

To refer to this as a story is also problematic. I know of no NT scholar who says the account is simply a story. All of them take it seriously, even Robert Price in saying that this has to be an interpolation.

If Paul is trying to make a convincing argument to the Corinthians, we should realize something. Even if the account is wrong, Paul certainly believes it to be true. Not only does he believe it to be true, he is willing to put himself on the line by offering it to be challenged by saying most of them are alive though some have fallen asleep. In other words, he is saying that the people are there to be questioned.

“But their names are not mentioned!” One wonders why Paul should have to write out a list of say 400+ people in an age where writing was timely and expensive. The oral tradition would take care of this and these people would have been well-known in the community.

So if Paul believes it to be true, either Paul is wrong entirely, or there’s a misunderstanding. If Paul is wrong entirely, then we need a reason to know why no NT scholar is making this claim. For instance, consider a non-Christian like Ludemann.

“The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81

CS’s position is one of hyper-skepticism. Now we could just as well say that perhaps this event did happen then, but it was a mass hallucination. Fair enough, yet if CS wishes to argue it was a mass hallucination, then it is up to CS to back that claim.

For our purposes, it is important to note that Paul compares this to our resurrection. CS is urged to read two works that show Paul is talking about a physical resurrection despite interpretations to the contrary. The first is Gundry’s study “Soma in Biblical Greek.” The second is Michael Licona’s work on pages 403-37 of “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” For another view, since CS could think I’m begging the question by citing Christian scholars, they could consider chapter 5 of Dale Martin’s “The Corinthian Body.”

Note, this would require CS do some reading in NT scholarship. As we’ve seen, this could be problematic.

CS also says a story does not stand on its own. This is extremely problematic as there is no rule in historiography that says “If there is only one testimony to an ancient event, that event cannot be accepted as historical.” If CS thinks there is such a rule, it is up to them to show it.

Let’s move on.

In the story of Jesus Christ, we have four differing stories of what should be the most important event in history, and no one else in the world noticed events that should have been pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, this is moving away from the 500. How does it work to show “Paul must be wrong because the later gospels are wrong?” It doesn’t. If that’s the standard, then anyone could have disproven Christianity supposedly by just writing an account that contradicted the gospels early on. One must weigh each claim on its own.

Also, CS seems to wonder why no one else would notice these events. Here’s why. It’s quite simple. No one else would really take them seriously.

Suppose you are an official in the Roman Empire and you have a servant come to you and say “Sir! There is a report that in Jerusalem, there is a rabbi who has been traveling and teaching and though crucified, he has risen from the dead!” What are you going to be thinking?

Jerusalem…A strange area in the world known for trouble-making and rabble-rousing. The people there have strange beliefs and have been known to have rebellions regularly.

Miraculous claims-Something we don’t need to take seriously. The gods are not intervening in our lives and if they are, they certainly won’t choose a place like Judea. They would choose us.

A rabbi. Why on Earth would I take the idea of a rabbi seriously as being a Messiah figure? If anything, we’ll just send a squadron of troops down there if these people get problematic and squash them like we always have.

Why would you not be paying attention? Because you are skeptical as most people were in this time. We know, for instance, that the world did not immediately convert to Christianity despite the fact that Christians from the beginning were teaching the resurrection. Why did they not? Because people did not believe every claim they heard. Today, we know how important the claim was. Back then, it would be seen as just another claim.

If CS thinks otherwise, it is their burden to show why such a claim should have been taken seriously, especially with would-be Messiahs on every corner practically in Israel.

For example, how the Titanic sank was up for debate when it was just competing stories, but the actual ship shows what happened. Stories can be told about such things, but that doesn’t mean that the there was one ridiculously large blue diamond on board. If we have no good reason to believe in what is claimed, an event that has no evidence to have happened of to have *ever* happened, having contradictions about the event shows that there is even less reason to believe it. For instance, the bit about whether Jesus can be touched or not. If one touches him and one is not supposed to, then what? They are struck down like Uzzah? That JC ceases to become holy? He was certainly worried about it in one story, but not the others. If I can’t trust JC’s words in this, why trust it when he says “Him that believes in me shall have everlasting life.”?

With a mess like this, it is hard to know where to get started. For instance, with the Titanic, the central claim is still the same. It is the same for the resurrection accounts. The central claim is still the same. It is a wonder that the same skeptics who speak about the accounts “copying” one another and thus not being independent traditions, then say that the accounts contradict one another. We can expect that there would be some differences in the accounts. This is common for eyewitness claims. In fact, in writers like Plutarch, the same event is described differently by the exact same author. Are we to throw out Plutarch?

As for the part about touching JC, I wonder what on Earth CS is going on about. Did CS bother doing any real study on what the word touch means in John? Did CS look up any commentaries or consult with NT scholarship on the issue? I do not think we really have to ask the question. We already know the answer.

CS then goes on to talk about the standards given to juries in CA and says this in part of the reply:

People do honestly forget and make mistakes; however, there is no evidence of an honest mistake in something written decades after the supposed event. And indeed, two people may witness an event differently.

It is as if there is something to the account being written decades after the events. Does CS not know that this is common in ancient literature? The best account we have of Tiberius overall would be Tacitus, which is about 80 years after Tiberius lived. Plutarch wrote about events that happened centuries before he lived.

CS gets this idea from living in a Post-Gutenberg society where it is thought “If you want to get the truth out there, write it down!” The ancient person would not have thought that. For them, the oral tradition would in fact be more reliable. It is something you can question and interact with. In fact, a written account would reach fewer people since few people in the Roman Empire were capable of reading. Not only that, does CS know nothing about the time it would take to write such an account as well as the cost of writing such an account? It would not matter to say that they wanted to or had great motivation. One might as well say because I would love to build my wife a barn and buy her a horse to put in that barn, that despite not having money, I should be able to go out and do that right now.

CS goes on:

As in all cases, the evidence for someone existing is dependent on evidence, not only stories. I can claim that Thor Odinsson existed but unless we can find corroborating evidence, my claim has no basis in reality. Can we make an educated guess at the probability of someone existing? Yes. In this case, Thor is a god, and since we have no evidence of gods or the supernatural, the probability of his existence approaches zero. Did Julius Caesar exist? Well, we know that there was a Roman empire, there were generals and there were emperors, so the likelihood of his existence is high. Can we accept all that is claimed about him with no question? No. Same with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Saladin, King Richard the Lion-hearted, etc. In archaeology, we can be pretty sure that a stone mason or blacksmith existed, but we may not have a name to put with the artifacts in a village.

I do not accept the so-called supernatural/natural distinction, yet we sit back and eagerly await the disproving of all theistic arguments by CS. I especially await her disproving of the Five Ways of Aquinas. If philosophy is approached the same way history is, I suspect I will be waiting a long time.

If CS also wants to go with archaeology as the main source, they will encounter problems. For one thing, one has a bare minimum of what the ancients had in archaeology. It is usually said one has 1% of 1% of 1%. What archaeological evidence would CS expect to find for some people accepted as historical. What could we expect to find of Gamaliel, for instance?

Suppose CS says we need to find coins. Why should we expect that? To begin with, a Jew would not have a coin stamped with the image of a person created. That would go against the 2nd commandment for them. Second, why should the Roman Empire have coins depicting Jesus or Gamaliel or any other Jew of that time?

Finally, there are numerous people written about in history that we would not find specific evidence for except the writings of the historians themselves. CS needs to tell us why it is we should be skeptical of such writings otherwise if we need corroboration. Should I doubt a figure in Tacitus existed if I cannot find something archaeological to back them?

Now, let’s look at the claims of about James. We have the Bible claiming he existed, as the brother of Jesus Christ, son of God. We have Josephus mentioning him: “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin 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.” However, if one reads about James, there are problems with calling him a “brother” if one accepts one sect’s version of Christianity. Is he brother or cousin? Or was he either? We have a few mentions in Acts, this mention in Josephus and mentions hundreds of years later. At best, we can say that there probably was a person who led the Jerusalem Christians. He may have been called James, since that seems to be a fairly common name (in regards to common names, Josephus mentions 20 men called Jesus aka Joshua, a common Jewish name). He may have been the brother to a rabbi who claimed to be the messiah. But we have nothing that shows he was the brother to a demigod. And that is the person that Christains need to show existed. I could say “sure, there was a man who thought he was the messiah. Per records from the time, there were bunches of them.” I ask Ben and SS and our other Christians here: “And then what? We know that this is not the character you wish to prove existed. I have no problem with you denying the divinity of Joshua ben Joseph, but I think your religion does. “Who do you say that I am?”

And again, we have this same problem. One must show this Jesus is in fact the incarnate Son of God supposedly. That is not what must be shown to show the resurrection. This is the kind of all-or-nothing thinking that is common to fundamentalist atheism. Note also that there is nothing here about archaeological evidence of James, yet his existence can be accepted. (In fact, do we have archaeological evidence of Josephus? Maybe he never existed.)

Yes. There are some who think James was a cousin and not a brother. What of it? Both sides agree James existed and was a relative of Jesus and was skeptical of him beforehand. Yes. There are several people named James. Again, what of it? Note this one is particularly noteworthy since he is identified by his brother who was called Christ. This must have been a famous Jesus that would have been known by an earlier reference, and indeed there is one earlier in the work of Josephus, though granted it has interpolations. Few scholars say it is a wholesale interpolation, including Josephus scholars. Most if not all Josephus scholars would say some the testimonium is authentic.

Since there is evidence for neither Horus nor Jesus Christ, there is no reason to think either theist claims to be true. Parts of Josephus, like the bible, may contain accurate information. But we know that all of it does not. This shows how some Christians cherry pick their sources. They wish to say that since Paul mentions James, James must exist. All we have are Paul’s claims, nothing more. Paul mentions demons, again, nothing shows that they exist either. In that we have stories about characters that non-Christians find true, and believe to be non-fiction, that should mean that SS, for example, should accept them for truth as much as he thinks I should accept his claims as truth. I think I am fairly safe in guessing that SS isn’t going to proclaim the authenticity of the deeds of Heracles or Hanuman anytime soon. And thus, if that isn’t proof enough that Heracles and Hanuman didn’t exist, then” nothing, simply nothing will convince you or anyone else. “

Again, this shows CS is one of three things.

CS is piggybacking on Carrier.

CS is ignorant of NT scholarship.

Or finally, both. My money is on both.

For instance, has CS dealt with the references in Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Pliny, Mara Bar-Serapion, etc. The reality is that the idea of a Christ-myth is simply a joke in NT scholarship. Most scholars would barely even give it a foot note. If CS wants to make claims about Hercules and others, let the evidence be presented. In fact, if there can be shown to be good evidence that there was a person named Hercules in history, even though there could have been legend built up around him, then it is necessary that we accept it.

For now, let’s move on to part two.

I have said that there are only stories that Paul existed as claimed. That includes his supposed conversion. I can also say that there are only stories that Simon Magus flew around since that also cannot be shown as true either. There are many stories that have no evidence supporting them. We have the claims that King Solomon used demons to build the Temple of Solomon. I ask our Christians: Is that a story or is it the truth? How can you tell? We have no evidence of such a temple so who knows how it was built, if it existed at all. This also applies to the supposed empty tomb. We have no tomb so we have no idea if anyone was in it, or if anyone disappeared from it.

Not even Richard Carrier would accept the claim that Paul never existed! This just shows the extremes that CS is willing to go to. Has CS given a historiography by which to show that a person is historical. As for these other claims, let CS feel free to give the evidence for them. I do not discount them ipso facto, but I do ask to see the evidence.

For instance, consider the claim about Simon Magus flying. These are in works that are believed by NT scholars to be apocryphal. This is the kind of account that CS wishes to compare to the gospels, which are Greco-Roman bioi. (See Richard Burridge’s work.)

What CS doesn’t realize is that one should accept a claim that there is good evidence for, regardless of if that claim goes against one’s worldview. If it does, then one should be prepared to change the worldview, unless of course one wants their worldview to interpret the evidence.

For instance, if I refuse to be open to the possibility that there is no God, then is it proper for me to interpret all evidence in that light and whenever any evidence goes against my position, just have to re-interpret it somehow? If my central claim of my worldview is false, it would eventually catch up to me. If I would not be allowed to do that, why should CS be allowed to do the same?

CS goes on to say more about Acts being a story, though I would be impressed to see her find the scholar who says none of Acts is historical, and I suspect the only possible name that could come up is Carrier.

And yes, I do say that the appearance to the 500 is just a story. It comes from 1 Corinthians, written by Paul, some decades later than the supposed event. There is no evidence this is from some “ancient creed”, it is solely found in 1 Corinthians.

We await the news that CS has discovered that is not known to even skeptical groups like the Jesus Seminar. We eagerly await their interacting with the scholarship on this such as Dunn, Hurtado, Ludemann, Crossan and Borg, Bauckham, etc. that all say that this is a creed. If CS simply wishes to say there is no evidence, then this is a sufficient reply.

There is evidence.

If CS can make an assertion without an argument, there should be no objection to my doing the same. The difference is, I do have an argument and it is one rooted in NT scholarship. Number of scholars I’ve seen referred to by CS thus far? You could count that with all your fingers cut off.

Paul indeed says that ““Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” SS, you claim that this should be “self-explanatory”. However, it isn’t, and I ask you to do so

It is not self-explanatory indeed, but CS has not done the research on this. We know from Josephus that this is the Pharisaic language used to indicate the passing on of tradition. It is saying “I got this from my rabbi and now I am passing it on to you.” One gets the impression that CS reads no scholarship and does not argue for their claims really but simply has the position of “If Christians do not prove their claims, mine are right!” If so, that is simply wrong.

We see SS making baseless claims again when he claims that “myths of dying and rising gods never really took off in Palestine”. Well, one could make the argument that they certainly did, with the ideas being co-opted into the Jewish myths with Jesus.

One could, but CS certainly doesn’t! Has CS gone through the relevant material in Boyd and Eddy’s “The Jesus Legend”? Has CS interacted with Craig Evans in “Fabricating Jesus.” CS is simply relying on scholarship that most scholars today do not take seriously. Indeed, the internet is the place where zombies live most as dead ideas get resurrected to new life to those behind on scholarship. Not even Bart Ehrman takes these claims seriously.

If CS wishes to show that the Jews decided to copy a pagan idea, then I leave the burden of proof to CS. I suspect CS has never even read a work like Ulansey’s on a figure such as Mithras. I can assure CS that I am not impressed with Google scholarship.

No, he [Hercules] is taken to heaven and made a full-fledged god. Just like someone else we know, eh?

Why am I not surprised that CS’s source on this is Wikipedia? Hercules undergoes an apotheosis. This is not the claim of Jesus, but it is again irrelevant right now as all seeking to be shown is the resurrection. Perhaps if CS thinks this is true they can give us a general timeframe of when this happened, like NT scholars can do with Jesus. Perhaps, CS could also show the difference between a deity in a polytheistic system vs. the deity in Second Temple Judaism and how Jesus as God’s Wisdom would strongly differ from a polytheistic concept.

In the Jewish prophecies, we have no claims of being killed and returning. The messiah will come and then reign, with all of the world’s leaders respecting him. Didn’t happen so much with JC. What’s the possible answer? That the idea of a returning god is co-opted into the story to explain an inconvenient death.

We can thank CS for saying that there was no such prophecy at the time of Christ understood this way. In fact, it is only after the event that this starts being seen in Christian tradition. This would go against the idea of Jesus being made up based on the OT.

As for what didn’t happen with Jesus, as an orthodox Preterist, I only find it humorous.

I would ask SS how one could show a connection between the resurrection myths and Jesus. What would be possible ways to do this? Hmmm. Well, we have the cultures intermixing, either normally through trade and conquest, or if you believe the bible, through the supposed enslavement of the Israelites by one big culture all about resurrection, the Egyptians. We can see how religions infect each other with the modern examples of voodoo and Santeria. So we have an actual observed phenomenon versus an unsupported claim that the authors of the bible came up with the idea of resurrection on their own. Perhaps it is more important to ask: How can one show that the authors of the bible didn’t copy the myth?

Once again, CS needs to interact with Boyd, Eddy, and Evans, who go to great work to show that even in the diaspora, Jews clung tightly to their guns. Sure, they would interact with Gentiles, but they did not imbibe their ideas that way. They could learn the language, but that did not entail accepting the beliefs of people who spoke that language.

CS can point to modern examples, but to say people do this today in a belief system shows the Jews did so in theirs is just fallacious. Each claim must be taken on its own and considering the Jews were quite opposed to intermixing, especially after their having gone to Babylon for doing so earlier, the burden is on CS to show that this happened.

As for the claim that Craig is being used, I would say there is a good possibility Craig is not being used. The pointing to the creed is more along the lines of the minimal facts approach. Craig does use minimal facts outside the creed, which makes his approach more problematic. It seems CS does not know about the minimal facts approach, which again shows they are behind on NT scholarship.

If CS wishes to challenge this, then this is my challenge. Come to TheologyWeb.com and look for me there in the Deeper Waters section. Feel free to send a message there and tell me you’re here to accept the challenge. I eagerly await to see if CS shows up.

And as expected, throughout, we have seen no interaction with NT scholarship. A shame. Perhaps CS would benefit by going to the library more than going to Google.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/20/2013 Tim McGrew!

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it!

I am quite excited about this podcast! Our prior guest had to cancel and will be back later, but right now, our guest is going to be Tim McGrew! Tim McGrew is a name more of you should know! He is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, yet incredibly humble and an excellent friend!

Tim McGrew will be talking to us about many various topics. In fact, we’re not entirely settled on what it will be since it was last minute, but he is a storehouse of information in many different fields! These includes Bayes Theorem, historicity of the gospels, epistemology, etc. (I’ve also learned recently that this includes Star Wars, much to my shock)

Tim McGrew is also an advocate of reading the old books, and there are times I wonder if there are any that he hasn’t read! It is important to take our modern times and have them tampered by reading the works that came before us. What is often unrealized by many modern skeptics was that their charges were already answered, usually a century earlier!

McGrew also favors undesigned coincidences. These are ways that one detail given by one gospel writer coincides wonderfully by providing missing details of another writer, and in ways that most likely were not planned! In each case, it lends more credibility to the gospel accounts.

Tim is also one of the most prominent members of the Christian Apologetics Alliance, a well-known group on Facebook, and if you’re wanting to study apologetics and you’re on Facebook, it should be a group that you belong to! We could talk with him about that as well!

What about the traditional authorship of the gospels that Bart Ehrman argues against? Tim McGrew would like to get a chance to take that on as well! He has not been as impressed with Ehrman as a number of our skeptics. I have been assured that McGrew will be polite, but he will by no means be gentle.

And what about mythicists like Richard Carrier and others? For these, McGrew finds their position completely ludicrous and he wants to say something about Carrier as well, which could definitely include his ideas about the usage of Bayes Theorem. If anyone is an authority on this, it is McGrew.

Friends. This really will be an astounding show and Tim McGrew is something you definitely want to know about. I hope you will be as impressed with him as I am and especially come to appreciate his love for Christ and concern for the well-being of the apologetics community. I am pleased not only that Tim McGrew is my guest, but also that he is my friend.

Call in number will be 714-242-5180! The link can be found here. The show will air on the 20th from 3-5 PM EST and I invite you to be ready with your call in question for Tim Mcgrew! I look forward to having you in my audience!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: What Really Happened To Jesus?

Does Ludemann have a good argument against the resurrection? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently finished Gerd Ludemann’s book, “What Really Happened To Jesus?” Ludemann has been called an atheistic NT scholar, though I understand there are some that question that. We can say he at least is not a conservative Christian at all since he denies the bodily resurrection. So what is there in this book?

To begin with, there are some statements that I was happy to take and add to my apologetics database as I think it’s important to see what scholars who are not Christian are saying about the historical facts concerning Jesus. Two such examples suffice. The first is on page 17:

The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.

This is something important to mention since among internet atheists, this is itself often disputed. Note that Ludemann isn’t even taking seriously the claim that Jesus never existed. He’s bypassed it entirely.

Another claim that might surprise some people is found on page 81.

The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied.

Yes. Even the appearances cannot be denied according to Ludemann. Of course, he does not think that they were appearances of the real risen Jesus. Instead, these would be hallucinations.

Before getting to that, there are a number of places I find Ludemann’s case straining to try to get something to fit. One such example is his looking at the appearance to the 500 described in 1 Cor. 15. Ludemann says on page 100 that:

The appearance to ‘more than 500’ as a historical phenomenon can plausibly be represented as mass ecstasy which took place in the early period of the community.

Ludemann says the likely event is the speaking in tongues in Acts 2. Is this really plausible? Are we to say people had this mass hysteria and this hysteria was enough to convince a number of the well-to-do (Since Meeks has argued that a reasonable number of early Christians were upper class) who weren’t even around at the time?

For one thing, I do not know of any case where speaking in tongues in church history was seen as an appearance of Christ. Further, at the Pentecost event, there were over 3,000 present since we know that many converted. One might say there is difficulty counting, but that does not mean that no one could tell the difference between 500 and 3,000, and a crowd for a Passover event in Jerusalem would surely be excessive.

Is Ludemann then saying this because he really thinks it’s accurate, or because the creed in 1 Cor. 15 can’t be denied and a mass appearance like that would be problematic, so we have to find some way to explain it!

I fear too often it is the conclusion that is driving the interpretation of evidence rather than the interpretation of evidence shaping the conclusion.

So what about Paul? Paul was prone to having visions.

The problem is the creed in 1 Cor. 15 doesn’t really allow that. For instance, while Paul did have visions at times, he does not treat the creed like that. These are appearances with a word used for normal every day sight. As N.T. Wright says on page 382 of “The Resurrection of the Son of God”,

The word heoraka, ‘I have seen’, is a normal word for ordinary sight. It does not imply that this was a subjective ‘vision’ or a private revelation; part of the point of it, as Newman stresses, is that it was a real seeing, not a ‘vision’ such as anyone in the church might have. The same is emphatically true of the other text from 1 Corinthians.

In fact, Paul adds that Christ appeared last of all to him, meaning that the time of appearances was at an end. Visions could still happen from time to time of course, but not appearances. Note Paul was writing this to a church that was also making much of experiences which would include visionary ones with the implication being that what the witnesses in the creed has differs in kind.

Ludemann says on page 103 concerning 1 Cor. 9:1 that

In my view it is certain that here the apostle is thinking of a vision of Jesus in his transformed spiritual resurrection corporeality. Otherwise it would be hard to understand how Paul could refer to ‘seeing’ (1 Cor. 15:4ff.) for the certainty of the bodily resurrection.

Yet how would this square with Ludemann speaking of Paul being one prone to visions yet at the same time Paul speaking of his case as a last of all sequence? Surely he would know that many in Corinth were having spiritual experiences as well! Paul’s testimony is that of claiming to have seen Christ risen himself just as much as anyone else did.

To explain why Paul would have such an experience, Ludemann has to have Paul experiencing guilt. Ludemann knows of interpretations that say that passages like Roman 7 are not biographical, but simply says his interpretation is not ruled out. Then we move on to psychology!

For all the talk we have about “God-of-the-Gaps”, most skeptics I meet when it comes to the appearances have a “psychology-of-the-gaps.” If you don’t know how to explain it, give a psychological disorder! You don’t have to understand psychology. You don’t have to study psychology. It just has to sound really good!

Psychology is difficult enough to do with the patient sitting right in front of someone and able to answer questions and ask questions. It’s far more difficult to do when the patient is dead, lived in an entirely different culture with a different way of thinking, and because of those two is incapable of interacting with you. It would be hard enough for a professional psychologist to do! (Consider Erik Erikson’s “Young Man Luther.”)

For Ludemann’s idea to work, Paul has to be thinking like a modern in our culture and struggling with guilt feelings. Paul must have secretly been wanting to be a Christian, but could not do it. Therefore, he started having a hatred for those who were and sought out to persecute them to contain his own inner hatred. On the road to Damascus, he reaches a breaking point and has a vision of Jesus.

The only problem is the theory is high on speculation and low on factual data.

Never mind all the problems there are with the hallucination idea, this is not the way we see Paul at all. If we think that we have biographical material in Romans 7, that biographical material is not about Paul’s life in persecution but Paul’s standing before the law. Note that we’re usually told the Jerusalem church, to which Paul would have been responding to the most, was supposed to be that of James which placed an emphasis supposedly on the Law. If they were really a Law-free community, whence comes this supposed dispute between James and Paul on the Law?

In the end, I will simply go with a solution that is not ad hoc and only depends on one other proposition that I think can be well-supported, “God exists.” The best interpretation then that explains all the data that Ludemann accepts is still that God raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing else I know of explains the rise of the early church when they should have not only not survived, but not even got started at all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters