Book Plunge: A Week In The Life Of A Roman Centurion

What do I think of Gary Burge’s book put out by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Fiction is not really the genre of New Testament scholars for the most part. Very few would consider writing a fictional account in order to sell a book or convey information. Fortunately, that very few does not include Gary Burge. Burge has written a book about the story of a centurion who meets Jesus (The one found in Luke 7 and Matthew 8) to give readers some insight into the New Testament world and what it would be like to be in the household of a centurion. You get to see life mainly through the eyes of a servant captured in battle and taken to live with the centurion as he describes all the events that take place.


Since this is a fictional account, I can’t really tell too much about the book, although it is based on the above Biblical passages, with some artistic license certainly granted. After all, we don’t really know anything about the back story of this centurion or the slave in his household. Still, I found the story to be exciting and I could easily remember who the characters were and found myself drawn into what was happening. Since we live in an era where we have TV shows like A.D. going on, I found myself intrigued with the thought of what it would be like if this was made into a filmed version, even if only one that goes straight to TV.

Along the way, Burge makes sure the reader learns about important concepts surrounding life in the ancient world. I was particularly pleased to note the time that Burge dedicated to the topic of honor and shame. This is such an important concept in the ancient world and it is one that we moderns do not realize when we read the Bible. The average person in the pew unfortunately looks at the Biblical world and thinks that the world was just like theirs. (Consider someone who told me as a skeptic today that human nature is the same so surely the empty tomb of Christ would be a popular site for tourists to visit.)

There will also be photographs along the way of various places and artifacts so that if you want to see the kind of item that’s being talked about, you can get that as well. These little snippets in the book are brief and have excellent information that the reader can quickly grasp.

If there were two things I could change, the first would be that it would be helpful for the reader to get a list of recommended books at the end that they can do for further reading on the topic. The reader who gets done with the book and is intrigued and wanting to learn more won’t really know where to go. The second is I wish there had been a different title. One would think by the title you were getting a picture of the day-to-day life of a roman centurion. The title mainly focuses on the last week when the centurion does wind up meeting Jesus. A title like Jesus and the Roman Centurion would have made much more sense.

Still, this is a brief enjoyable read for all wanting to learn something about the ancient world and I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/30/2015: George Yancey

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many Christians today find their opinions aren’t exactly welcome in America. There is an increasing hostility towards Christians, which can certainly be seen on the internet, and Christians are often written off as if they were idiots who just believed everything based on blind faith. Of course, it could be that this is just a misconception on the part of Christians. Maybe we’re looking at the information wrong. Maybe we’re taking some of the personal experience that we’ve had and extrapolating it to a level that is not justified. Perhaps that is really what is going on. One could think that, but it would be more difficult to think that after reading So Many Christians, So Few Lions, and this Saturday one of the co-authors of that book will be on my show. Meet George Yancey.


According to his bio:

“Dr. George Yancey is a Professor of sociology at the University of North Texas. He has published several research articles on the topics of institutional racial diversity, racial identity, academic bias and anti-Christian hostility. His books include Compromising Scholarship (Baylor University Press), a book that explores religious and political biases in academia, There is no God (Rowman and Littlefield), a book that investigates atheism in the United States, and So Many Christians, So Few Lions (Rowman and Littlefield) a book that assesses Christianophobia in the United States. He currently is working to create the first Christian Studies center on a secular campus.”

We’ll be talking about his book on Christianophobia. Upfront, it’s not the term I would prefer to use as I really don’t care for describing an attitude as a phobia, such as in the case of so-called homophobia. (A point I actually agree with Peter Boghossian on!) I do think Yancey got the term from somewhere else. Still, the meaning that is put behind the term is something that he documents by sending out surveys to atheistic groups themselves and having them answer questions about their attitudes towards religious people and especially towards Christianity. The results are quite disturbing.

We’ll be talking with him on the subjects and how he did his research and what it means for us. How did he take the necessary steps to avoid bias in his research? Has his research been recognized by anyone else outside of the field? Has he received any feedback since the time of the writing to show that what he is talking about is going on? What does he think Christians need to do in order to make sure that they are doing their best to change the attitude that the popular culture has towards Christians?

I hope you’ll be here to join us and we are currently working on updating the latest episodes and getting them on the site for those of you who are concerned. As the summer gets closer I suspect that we will have a lot more time. Please do leave an ITunes review of the show also!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

There’s No Evidence

What should you do if you meet someone who says there’s no evidence for a claim? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Twice recently I’ve seen this claim and I know I’ve seen it umpteen times before. It is the claim that there is no evidence for something like say, God. When you meet mythicists, you will be told that there is no evidence for Jesus. Of course, we all make statements like this at times, but if you meet someone who says something like that, what are you to say in response?

To start off, it would be good if you really did have something that could be considered evidence. Unfortunately, as many of us know, many times you will tell what your reasons are and you will be told that that does not count as evidence. What’s the problem here?

The problem is there is a false understanding of evidence as if evidence meant proof. You can have evidence for a claim that is false, for instance. Go watch a mystery show sometime or read a mystery novel. You can have evidence that makes you think Smith is a murderer, and in the end, you find out that Jones is the murderer. It wasn’t that the evidence was faulty or untrue. It was that it was being misunderstood in some way. The facts were all the same in the case.

There can also be such a thing as insufficient evidence for a claim. A knife that Smith owns is found at the murder scene with blood on it. Could that be evidence Smith committed the crime? Sure. It’s hardly going to be enough in itself to get a jury to find Smith guilty. Still, that can be considered evidence.

What are some other reasons people might give as evidence for believing a claim? Suppose you grew up in a Muslim community. You saw Islam your whole life. Your parents raised you as a Muslim. Every intelligent person you met was a Muslim. Would you have evidence that Islam is true? Yes. Would this be sufficient evidence? No. It might be enough to give you justification for your belief at the time, but it is not enough to convince someone outside. We could say the same for someone who was raised an atheist and we could in fact say the same for someone who was raised a Christian.

Could we even say there is evidence outside for other claims? Sure. We could say there is evidence for atheism in the problem of evil. Do I think this is sufficient evidence? Not at all. If someone pointed to a miracle with a Muslim man being healed after prayer, and I have met such, then assuming it wasn’t a Christian praying in the name of Jesus, we could say that is evidence for Islam. The key is that we have to look at all the claims that people bring to the table when they have a discussion. If we take what a person believes and just say “no evidence” we are in fact saying that they and everyone else who believes the claim believes blindly.

Now even if you’re an atheist reading this, really think about that. Do you really want to say that every single person who holds to any theistic belief whatsoever is doing so blindly without any reason whatsoever? That is indeed a huge claim and one that needs to be backed. It would be nice if such a person had evidence that they talked to everyone on the planet who holds to theism and determined this.

I suspect that they don’t.

Of course, it can’t hurt to ask for their evidence. The person has made the claim. Let them back it. If not, you can just kindly tell them you don’t believe a claim that they can’t back.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Winning The Marriage Battle

Are we taking the proper steps to win the battle for marriage? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have a friend who is very interested in the marriage debate. Now I watch this subject to, though it is not my main theme, and I have my own opinions on it, but I tend to try not to argue about it. Still, I am quite interested in sexual ethics because like many men, I have an interest in sex. That has only increased since I’ve got married. I see more and more every day why it is that this is so important to a marriage. I also sadly see that many marriages are ending in divorce. Now to be fair, people like Shaunti Feldhahn have made convincing arguments that the divorce rate is not as bad as we think it is, but I think she would agree that it is still bad and it is especially tragic when Christian marriages end in divorce.

Another sad aspect is some of you are hearing me talk about divorce and wondering what this has to do with the modern marriage debate.

Christians have had a time fighting for things that they want if they think that they benefit from them. Sure. We’ll fight to keep Duck Dynasty on the air. We like that show. Sure. We’ll go to support Chick-Fil-A because we like Chick-Fil-A. Now of course, I’m not saying all who participated in these events were Christians and I am not saying all Christians participated in them, but Christians no doubt made up a sizable number of the people who did that. You would think that if Christians claimed they got any benefit out of anything, that it would be marriage, and that marriage would be worth fighting for.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like it is. As soon as Christians win a battle, off they go to do their own thing and don’t carry any of the momentum to the next battle. We have our chicken sandwich and we have our TV show. Why should we trouble ourselves more? Dare I say it, but the reason the marriage debate has gone downhill on the Christian side in our time is because the Christians have not been honoring marriage like they should.

To do this, we must start with what most of us already agree with the culture on. Sex is awesome. Let’s start there.

Sex is indeed awesome, but frankly, the Christian church does not do a good job of talking about it. To this day, I remember being at a Silver Ring Thing service at a church and the associate pastor got up to talk to the teenagers there about waiting until marriage for sex. Good point. I agree. From there on, the pastor went on to talk about the topic and I was listening as a young college man.

And I was bored.

Pastor. If you are talking about sex, and a college guy is in the audience and getting bored, you are doing something wrong. I could just as easily say if anyone is getting bored, you are doing something wrong.

Here’s in fact what was said. It was said that if you have sex before marriage, you will be doing it for selfish reasons. I can agree with this. In fact, for even sex within marriage, I think we often have mixed motives. There is usually some self-interest involved with all that we do. I’d like to think that my motives are always pure when I do something nice for my wife, but I’d be lying if I said that they were. The problem was the pastor then gave us reasons to not have sex before marriage, such as getting an STD, an unplanned pregnancy, or the shame one might have on a future wedding night.

Sorry, but those sound like selfish reasons also.

There was hardly anything said about the joys of sex in marriage. Lip service was paid to it. That was all.

Excuse me, but I think the joy of sex deserves more than a quick blurb of lip service.

One would especially think the men among us would be wanting to celebrate this just as much. Of course, we all know that it takes two to tango, so I would advise women to keep in mind that if you want your husband to celebrate your marriage, it’s good to make sure that he knows that you are celebrating him. Please a man here and chances are you will find he is bending over backwards more often than not to make you happy. Men are really very easy to please.

Unfortunately, the world looks at what they see in movies and TV and says “It looks like this way of sex is a lot more fun.” On the face of it, one can understand it. You have variety and you don’t have to rely on one person forever and you can have whole new experiences. Marriage often is depicted in negative terms and from that point on, you’re stuck with just one person for life so you’d better make the most of it and if that person doesn’t want to do anything with you, you’re sunk.

If we are going to show the reality, we will have to show that sex in marriage is the greatest path to joy in reality.

For starters, we need more sermons in churches on sex. Once a year is not cutting it because the world is getting its message out there every day and it’s accepted as the norm. Even in the church, you can find people who are living together before marriage and engaging in pre-marital sex and it’s seen as acceptable. They’ve fully received the message of the world. What we want to show is that a sexual relationship built on a promise of mutual trust and continuously learning about how to love one person is far better than anything else. It is better to dive into the ocean of one instead of the many shallow pools of many. It is better to be in a relationship where trust is the foundation and there is already acceptance rather than earning it.

For instance, too often in cohabitation, it can be a test for marriage. Each person thinks they have to measure up in order to get a lifelong commitment. Our old adage is that you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. That sounds reasonable. It does until you ask one question.

Which person is the driver and which person is the car?

You see, if you take a car for a spin and it doesn’t please you enough, you take it back to the lot. The car does not have hurt feelings. The car does not feel unworthy. The car doesn’t care one way or another. A person is not like that. This is especially so with women who are really the ones making themselves the most vulnerable. They are the ones who are the most emotionally connected on average to the sex act.

Do you really think it’s proper to treat a person like a car? If you enter the sexual relationship that nervous thinking you’re being tested, you really aren’t going to be doing your best. In fact, most couples would tell you that even if you do wait, which you should, your first time is not going to be the best time you’ve ever had. Why should it be? It should be a memorable and special time, but it won’t be the best. You’re just learning. You’re just now starting to get used to how each other’s bodies work and just starting to explore them for the first time. Things can be good, but you should expect that they will get better.

And with trust, you know there is no pressure. This person is not going to reject you. Honor marriage right and you’ll know they won’t because they have a covenant. When I meet couples who are struggling in their marriage, I tend to talk to the guys because it’s much easier for me to counsel a fellow man. I always point them to the covenant. You made a lifelong promise to that woman when you married her. You are to honor it.

Do you get one person? Yes. That is a person you know will be there. You don’t have to go to sleep wondering if the person will still be there when you wake up. You don’t have to be worried about the sexual history of that person. It is someone you know. Love builds up sex and sex builds up love. It is a beautiful circle and it extends in marriage. Your marriage will build up your sex life if you do it right and if you do your sex life right, it will build up your marriage. This is a circle where you two keep blessing and celebrating one another and things get better and better.

And then, marriage is the ultimate place for when children come along. Should you have a child, the child is in an environment built on love where there is a mother and a father waiting. It does not have to be a disaster if a woman gets pregnant. It can instead be something to celebrate. The love you two share can then be passed on so the child can grow up in love. While the love you and your spouse have is sexual, you can be sure that if that love is consistently being shared, that love will pour out and reach beyond itself. Ladies. For the most part, if you want to fill up your husband’s love tank, there is never a return receipt on sex. Your husband will be overflowing if you are consistent. Remember that it is said that just like pizza, bad sex is good sex. You won’t go wrong affirming a man like this.

Why does this matter? Because the ultimate way to win the marriage battle is for us to celebrate our marriages ourselves. The world should be looking at the Christian church with envy wondering how it is we have such good sex lives. It should not be something we’re hesitant to talk about. Of course, some matters should be private, but that you have joy in your marriage should not be private. That should be something worth sharing and let the rest of the world draw its own conclusions about why the two of you are so happy.

Also, this is not to say sex is the only important part of marriage. It certainly is not, but it is an important part and one the Bible speaks about often, which means we should speak about it often as well. Those wanting good sex should also be doing as much as they can good in a marriage and again, like the circle, good sex will help make that easier. When we find that marriage is something worth honoring for ourselves, we’ll give the rest of the world reason to honor it as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Dealing With A Street Preacher

Could there be a better way to spread the Gospel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Saturday Allie and I were driving around and happened to pass by some street preachers on the side of the road waving their Bibles and holding the signs telling people to repent. These kinds of guys I think have really good intentions. I don’t doubt they want to serve the Kingdom. What I think is that in the long run, they turn more people away from Christianity than they turn people to Christianity. I told Allie sometimes I’m tempted to stop and put on an atheist hat and see what happens.

And she suggested that I should just do it. How well could a street preacher do at defending the faith?

So we stopped and ended up talking to one of them. We’ll call him Jim, though that wasn’t his real name. Jim seemed to be a nice enough guy. I just went up first and asked him “Why should anyone believe what you’re saying?”

It really is a reasonable enough question. If you’re going to say that you think something is true, it would make sense that you would have some reason for believing that that something is true. In fact, this is why I think everyone needs some basic apologetics. If you want to talk about the change that Jesus made in your life, which is usually the most common apologetic, that’s fine, but it’s far better if you can build that on an argument beyond the subjective.

Jim didn’t have much. He did talk about some tablets found that talked about an OT king that existed and we had no record of that until we found these tablets. I do not remember the name of the tablets, but unfortunately, he could not tell me the name of the king. I suspect it was king David.

He also said he had astronomical data to show the truth. I asked what that was. He replied that the moon follows the sun every day in its circuit. The moon is to be a symbol of the church and the church is always following the Son.

Oh dear readers. Please never ever ever use an argument like this.

To begin with, this kind of thinking relies on astrotheology and you’ll find someone like Acharya S. who will happily use that kind of argument to show Jesus never existed and the whole thing is based on astrological symbolism. This would also fit in since the guy pointed to a Gospel in the Stars approach where the constellations are meant to tell us about the truth of Christianity.

Second, it relies on the English language entirely. In the Greek, the words for sun and son are not that close. This would assume then that God wanted to make this revelation known yet only to people who spoke English. (Which fits well since the guy was, shock, a KJV-onlyist.)

He then tried to ask Allie and if we feel any lack in our lives or anything missing. We just said “No. We live pretty good and happy lives.” This is again another problem with this kind of methodology. If your opponent does not admit that they are feeling the thing that you want them to feel, at that point you are sunk.

As we went on, we started talking about the problem of the Biblical manuscripts. To his credit, he did get right that the Bible was an oral culture. From there, it went downhill. I used the Ehrman line about copies of copies of copies. Jim’s response was to point to the Textus Receptus and how this is the one manuscript that has been proven to be right and scholars have found that the other manuscripts are wrong. (And in fact, he blamed it all on satan.)

This was quite problematic for him. When I asked him when the Textus Receptus dated from, he didn’t know. When I asked him what scholars proved the TR was the most reliable manuscript, he didn’t know. When I asked what scholars had proven the other manuscripts wrong, he didn’t know. So I was to trust a document from an unknown time to be proven by unknown scholars and other unknown scholars had proven the other manuscripts wrong.

Does that sound convincing to you? It shouldn’t.

As we went on, we kept explaining that with each claim, Muslims and Mormons give similar. He pointed out that Christianity is a religion that relies on grace instead of works. That is true I think of course, but that does not mean Christianity is true. It just means it’s a system someone can like a lot more. We have no independent grounds I know of to say “The true religion will be one of grace.” It’d be nice, but we need to establish that somehow.

Eventually, we did tell him that we are Christians and that what we do is to prepare Christians for when real opposition shows up. Allie gave a bit of her personal testimony saying that she was a suicide survivor, twice. He asked if she was a Christian both times and she said yes and he said “Do you really think someone with the Holy Spirit would try to kill themselves?”

I really wish I’d had the presence of mind then to realize what had been said and let the guy have it for insulting my Allie like that right in front of me. I’ve taken my own personal vow to do better next time, but if you meet someone who has had suicidal inclinations before and acted on it, the last thing you want to tell them is that they should question if they are really Christians at all. This is not an act of love. People who are like this need to be treated gently. (I can proudly say that Allie has bounced back incredibly from this latest attempt, which was in fact this month. It is like having a whole new person around the house and our relationship has never been stronger)

He also viewed the claim that I’m a Christian with great suspicion because he said he didn’t see any fruit in me. Now he added that he couldn’t really judge, but the Spirit in him did not see the spirit in me. It’s a way of saying “I’m going to judge you, but I’m going to blame it on God instead of on me.” The judging is still going on and it’s amazing this guy could see something after so brief a conversation as we had.

I am sure there are out there some street preachers who can do a good job. There are some who know what they believe and why and they can show it in a Christlike manner, but I’m also convinced that the majority do not do this. They turn off more than they get to come to Christ. Zeal without knowledge is something dangerous to have. Would that we could have more of the zeal of street preachers and the knowledge and love to go with it to show the reality of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christ-Centered Apologetics

What do I think of Joel Furches’s book published by Crosslink Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Awhile back Joel Furches sent me this book, which recently I finally got around to reading. Normally, the only direct apologetics books I read today are those that are sent to me and I mainly try to keep in mind how an audience unfamiliar with apologetics would take it. Generally, if you’re well-read, you won’t find much new in many classical apologetics books. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. Everyone needs a start somewhere.

So what are the positives of Furches’s book?

I certainly appreciate that Christ must remain the center of our apologetics. Furches rightly points out that too often we can get bogged down on secondary issues such as Inerrancy or the age of the Earth. The main point that needs to be proven is that Jesus is who He said He was and that He rose from the dead.

I do appreciate that Furches has a chapter in here on how to do apologetics. I do not agree with all that he said, and more of that is coming up later, but knowing how to do apologetics is just as important as having the content of apologetics.

Furches is also right on how this must be done in our churches today. Christianity is in a state of lethargy here in America with most people not knowing what they believe beyond “faith.” The new atheists can make easy pickings of such people, not because the new atheists are so strong, they’re not, but because the ones they are going against are so weak.

I also agree that too often our worldviews have been like a house of cards. Each doctrine of Christianity has been given as much importance as every other one and so if one falls, then everything falls. To point to earlier examples, I know of Christians that if they found out the Bible had an error in it, they would abandon their faith immediately. I also know several who thought Christianity was disproven when they were convinced the Earth is old.

Now what are my concerns?

First, while Furches does often cite Biblical scholars, many times, he does not, and these times can be concerning. I really don’t like seeing John MacArthur used as if he was a Bible scholar when there are real New Testament scholars to go to for the matters that MacArthur is consulted on. Also, while I do respect people like J. Warner Wallace greatly, it can too often look like an apologist quoting another apologist. I would prefer to go back to the scholarly sources. Wallace certainly cites them in his work, so why not instead of citing Wallace, go back to the people that Wallace cites?

Second, I thought some arguments could have used some improvement. I am thankful for a look at each of the Gospels to show they are by eyewitnesses or trace back to eyewitnesses, but would this not have been a good time to mention Richard Bauckham’s groundbreaking work on the topic? Since the most defense was applied to Mark, would it not be helpful to show that Mark is an inclusio account that directly links itself to Peter?

Third, some arguments were just suspicious to me. Consider for instance the claim that there was some of Mark found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. I do not know a specialist on the Dead Sea Scrolls today who takes this opinion. Putting an argument that could be highly spurious in a work could lead people to question the rest of one’s research.

Fourth, I found the section on prophecy troubling. To begin with, there was nothing about how to interpret prophecy in the OT that I saw. What is a Christian to do when met with passages like Hosea 11:1 being cited in Matthew 2? Without an informed hermeneutic on the NT’s usage of the OT and how prophecy was understood in Second Temple Judaism, you could quickly be devastated by others who are sadly just as ignorant of such realities. I also was surprised there was no mention of Daniel 2 or Daniel 9 which I consider excellent prophecies with the timing of Jesus.

Finally, with how to do apologetics, I would disagree in some areas. There are times I am answering a question and I am NOT trying to get the person to come to Jesus. The person is hostile, but it is a public place. My goal is to shut them down since they are a threat to others coming to the cross. I think in such times being more tough in one’s approach can be helpful and in fact I see this in the Bible regularly.

In conclusion, it’s kind of a mixed bag. If you don’t have any apologetics training, this could be a good start. I would hope in future editions the author would take my concerns into consideration as areas for improvement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/23/2015: David Marshall

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Some of you might have recently seen a hilarious “debate” on the resurrection of Jesus between John Loftus and David Wood, if you can call it a debate. I really hesitate to do so because Loftus just did such a horrible job in it. My wife was unfortunately trying to take a nap at the time and she kept being woke up because I was just laughing too much. Still, we can be sure that Loftus will just keep on kicking. Despite this, there is one person who definitely takes Loftus seriously, and that person is one of his greatest critics, David Marshall.

Who happens to be my guest this weekend.


David Marshall is the writer of numerous books such as The Truth About Jesus And The Lost Gospels, Jesus and the Religions of Man, and The Truth About The New Atheism. On this episode, we’re going to be talking about his latest book, How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test. This last book is in fact one I have reviewed and I found it to be excellent. I’m not the only one to suggest that we could be looking at a book that could be a Mere Christianity of our time. It’s just that good.

Dr. Marshall will be joining us from China where he and his wife live. He is an expert on world religions and his idea in response to Loftus’s book is to take Loftus’s idea of the outsider test for faith and in fact to make it even stronger than Loftus has made it and show that Jesus passes the test. He does this by a stellar collection of data from around the world and some of the best scholarship that is available. The book is filled with factual information that will drive you to want to study Jesus more and also has a great deal of humor that will make it an enjoyable read.

We’ll be talking about Marshall and his interactions with Loftus as well. Who is Loftus really? After all, many people have not heard of him though they have heard of the four horsemen of the new atheism and other names like Richard Carrier. What exactly is the Outsider Test for Faith as its called and why does Loftus think it is so powerful? Why is it that Marshall in fact thinks that it is a challenge that is worth taking seriously? What about charges that Jesus did not do this and that in fact there has been much suffering brought about in the world as a result of Jesus? Isn’t the name of Jesus the cause of much of the violence in the world after all?

I’m really looking forward to this interview and I hope that you’ll be encouraged to pick up the book. It will be a read that you will take great delight in and will open your eyes to many realities around the world that Marshall sees on a day to day basis.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Brief Look at Remsburg’s List

Is there a problem when contemporary sources don’t mention Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the hallmarks of internet atheism today is to hold that Jesus never even existed and there’s no evidence that He did. Now this position is one that is laughed at in the academy of New Testament scholarship, but on the internet, it’s treated as if it’s a lively debate. (These same people will be howling if you dare question evolution, which also isn’t really questioned in the scientific academy and since I am not a scientist, I do not raise up questions to it either. It makes no difference to me.) It’s quite amazing that for all the people I meet who claim to be freethinkers, they all seem to think exactly alike.

A popular tactic to use is one called Remsburg’s list. For instance, on site called Positive Atheism has a reference to Remsburg’s list by putting up chapter two of Remsburg’s own book. You can see it here. To the unsuspecting Christian, this seems like something remarkable, especially since in our day and age Michael Paulkovich has come out with a similar list with his joining the mythicist bandwagon.

To an unsuspecting Christian this list looks powerful. To an uninformed atheist, this list looks like a silver bullet.

Alas, I must say I am more skeptical than my skeptic friends apparently. You see, when I come across a claim, I actually want to question and investigate it. Let’s see the claim this way.

Jesus was a wildly popular figure in the ancient world.

Since Jesus was so popular, He should have been talked about by everyone.

Jesus was not talked about by everyone.

Therefore, Jesus didn’t exist.

To begin with, the whole thing is a total non sequitur. There are any number of reasons for not mentioning people and this would include more famous ones not noted by their contemporaries such as Hannibal, who nearly conquered Rome, and Gamaliel, who was one of the greatest teachers of Torah in Judaism. None of these were worthy of a mention by their own contemporaries. (And it’s quite odd to think that a general who nearly conquered the Roman Empire would go without a mention, but a crucified failed Messiah (In the eyes of the world) should have been mentioned. Of course, there is more to the answer than this.

Let’s first consider that Jesus was wildly popular. Not really. Jesus was a flash in the pan in the ancient world as it were. In His lifetime, many people did talk about Him, but His greatest popularity was with the peasants in the area. The educated elite saw Him as a threat and not someone they would want to talk about. This is in fact only in Judea. As I have argued elsewhere, for the rest of the world, Jesus was not worth talking about. Let’s list some reasons why those outside of Jesus and who heard about Him later on would not want to talk about Him.

He had a low honor birth. He was born in a shameful part of the world in a low-honor town and could have in fact been seen as illegitimate. His immediate parents were peasants.
Aside from Egypt as a small child, He never left the area of Israel.
He never went to battle.
He never ran for political office or held political office.
He did not write any books. (And actually, while Paulkovich considers this odd, rabbis did not write books nor did many great teachers. Their followers often did. See Sandy and Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture.
He was seen as a miracle worker. (Think charlatan. This might convince eyewitnesses, but if you weren’t there, what are you going to think? You’ll more likely treat Him like most people treat Benny Hinn today.)
He did not establish a philosophical school.
He was crucified.

I cannot emphasize that last one enough. Jesus would be seen as a failed Messiah figure. The Jews would have considered Him a blasphemer to YHWH and He didn’t even conquer the Roman Empire and set the Jewish people free like surely the Messiah would do. The Gentiles would have seen Him as someone who challenged Rome and got crushed by them. That He got crucified would put an end to any of His career and thus render Him someone not worth talking about. Add in a bizarre belief in a resurrection, which would have been shameful since most people saw the body as a prison you would want to escape, and well that’s just another example of superstitious people.

The shocking thing is not how few people talked about Jesus. The shock is that anyone did at all.

But now let’s consider some of the people on the list. Many of them were not people who would mention Jesus anyway. Ptolemy was writing about astronomy. Why would he mention Jesus? Why would Philostratus write about Jesus? He was trying to promote his own guy and a great way to shame the Christians would be to not even mention Jesus. Why would Epictetus? These were teachings on stoicism and personal philosophy. Martial wrote poetry and satire. Why would any historian of Rome need to mention a failed Messiah?

So let’s go into some other figures.

Philo is often mentioned, but we need to see evidence Philo had a great interest in writing about failed Messiah figures. It’s also not accurate to say that Philo was in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. He wasn’t. Even if he had been, a crucifixion would have ruled Jesus out as someone worth talking about. Of course, if he had seen him and believed he was resurrected and wrote about that, then skeptics would count that testimony as biased and not accept it.

Plutarch wrote about lives of virtue to be emulated, but they were not Jewish figures. Furthermore, to have Jesus be crucified would immediately put him down as a list of people to not emulate.

For Justus, we do not possess his work. We just have a Christian much later saying Justus did not mention Jesus. Again, why should he? Justus from what we gather was interested in political figures. Herod would be included. Jesus would not be.

Figures like Josephus and Tacitus did mention Jesus but lo and behold, these are interpolations. (Read that as “Idea difficult for my viewpoint so I have to say it’s questionable.) These ideas are not popular with actual scholars of Tacitus and Josephus, but then again, keeping up with scholarly work has not been a favorite pastime of mythicists.

In conclusion, looking at the list, there are several people who would have had no interest and the position ignores the ones who did mention him. Arguments from silence are notoriously bad arguments and if your position hangs on it, you might need to seriously question it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Envy Is Not Jealousy

Can God be loving and jealous both? Let’s plunge into Deeper Waters and find out.

If you ever want to know how not to read the Bible, one of the best things to do is to just go to an atheist web site and look at the attempts to show Bible contradictions. Most of them are outright hysterical. It’s so bad that you can even find satire illustrating the position, and this one is so excellent. I’ve sadly found several people who don’t even realize it’s satire, some of them commenting on the piece itself.

One of the latest fundamentalist atheist hits is this little image going around:


It’s incredible to see how much this image has spread and that anyone finds it to be a convincing argument shows how badly our thinking capacities are being damaged in this day and age.

Let’s start out with something that should be a simple point but is apparently not.

Envy is not jealousy.

You see, when a person is envious, that means that they want something that someone else has that they do not have and they resent the person for having it. Many of us can want something someone else has and so we go out and buy it or work hard to get it or something of that sort. That’s not what’s being talked about. An example in the OT is King Saul and David. David was getting more honor than Saul and Saul thought he had a right to that honor. He decided he needed to kill David to get that honor. This is especially so when the ancient world had the concept of limited good. That meant that all goods were seen as limited, including honor. If you had honor, that meant someone else lost it. David gaining honor would mean Saul was losing it. It’s also the same reason the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus was getting honor and taking it away from the Pharisees.

Now God does desire honor, but He also has the right to all honor for He is the greater good. God is also jealous. This will not be denied as it is said in the Old Testament. God’s jealousy is geared towards His own people and in the ancient world, this would have been seen as something honorable. If you had exclusive rights to something, it was shameful to let it be used for a contrary reason. Many of us today still practice this. I would be more than willing to let you borrow a book from my library. Do you want to enjoy the same rights to my wife that I enjoy? Better not even think about that one!

The jealousy a husband nobly has for his wife is like that which God has for His people. God is in an exclusive covenant relationship with His people and He does not want anyone else intruding on that and in fact, it is for the good of His people. It is because He loves and honors them. The reason I do not let anyone else sleep with my wife is not because I want to ban her from having any pleasure. It is because I do not treat her like a common good and know that she has an exclusive relationship with me and I have one with her and in turn, I do not sleep with any other women.

Once again, we see pitiful fundamentalist atheist hermeneutics at work. I will believe fundamentalist atheists are people of evidence when I see some evidence they learn how to actually research the topics they argue against.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Three Things Youth Need To Relearn

Has youth ministry gone the wrong way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, Addie Zierman wrote an article that appeared in Relevant Magazine about three things she had to unlearn in youth ministry. Unfortunately, looking at the list, it looks like three things that we still need to learn about youth ministry.

So let’s look at the first. The first item to learn is that youth are not going to be persecuted for what they believe. So what is Zierman’s evidence for this?

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian T-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But no one ever did.

What actually happened is that I distanced myself from everyone who didn’t believe like I did. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me—it was that I had barred my arms in an eternal defensive pose, and no one could even get close. So after a while, they stopped trying.

So all we have is her anecdotal evidence. Okay. If that’s what counts, then I will give anecdotal evidence of people coming to me talking about youth or youth themselves talking about how they receive this exact same treatment. I could point to how young atheists like David McAfee are developing followers among their own young people. I could talk about how you can find many teenagers and other young people on YouTube more than happy to tear apart anyone who does anything Christian. I could talk about how many young people on Facebook and even some in ministry that I saw had the equals sign on their Facebook page showing they were interested in redefining marriage and how my own wife had people going after her because she dared to do something horrible like go to Chick-Fil-A on Chick-Fil-A day. I could also point to the numerous people who go off to college and lose their faith because they were not intellectually equipped when a challenge to it came. Yes. All of this is going on.

I could also point to the research done by sociologists like George Yancey on the problem of changing attitudes towards Christianity and Christians, and they’re only getting worse. While I think it’s an insult to call this persecution in light of real persecution going on around the world, it is foolish I think to look at our world and think it’s not coming and each year, people are getting more and more hostile to the Christian message and that is going to affect our youth.

So the first lesson to learn for youth? You are a soldier of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world is radically opposed to the Kingdom of God. If you are not ready, then you will be ineffective or you will be a casualty.

The second lesson is that your friends’ salvation does not depend on how well you can defend Christianity.

It’s a wonder Zierman knows the friends of people she’s never even met before.

Zierman in this part refers to our giving of trite answers which yes, I must admit happens too often, but I would say I’m more impressed that anyone is actually giving answers because when I was growing up in youth group, no one was discussing this kind of stuff, and I know of many who have undergone the exact same situation. Zierman wants us to understand that we are not the savior and we are not going to save anyone. (This despite Paul said he lives in such a way in 1 Cor. 9 that through all possible means he might save some. Apparently, Paul didn’t have the hesitancy of language that many of us have today.) Of course, if this is meant to say no one can give an argument to force someone to convert, then this is absolutely true.

In the same way, no one can do a loving action to force someone to convert either.

So by that standard, we should cease to be doing loving actions for other people as a means of evangelism.

If trite answers are a problem, and I agree that they are, how about giving real and effective answers that will help those outside the faith to be refuted and to provide assurance for those that are within. Zierman goes on to say

Later, when they begin to grapple with the inconsistencies and the doubts and the hard things in their faith, it won’t be trite answers that see them through. It will be that glimpse they’ve had of the beauty of God. It will be the muscle memory of having dived deep into something real. And if and when their friends question them about their faith, it won’t be about showing them a diagram. It will be about showing them Jesus.

It’s really sad that I can picture Mormon leaders saying this to Mormons. It would work just as well. “You might come across challenges to your faith and inconsistencies between archaeology and the BOM or the BOM and the Bible or other such things. When those times come, do remember that you have a burning in the bosom and let it be that people will see that passion you have for Jesus and know that your faith is real. Show them Jesus.”

Of course, I have no opposition to showing people Jesus and I have no opposition to people having powerful religious experiences. What I have opposition to is the foundation being someone’s own personal experience. This feeds into our rabid individualism that is destroying the church. I can already tell you is that if all you have is the love of Jesus, new atheist types out there will chew you up and spit you out. They will not be persuaded. You might get a “Well I’m happy you found something that works for you” or they could just think you’re still a deluded person and your delusion will be harmful if it spreads.

There are people like Peter Boghossian out there who want to get 10,000 street epistemologists out there and each one is to have the goal of deconverting 100 people. These people will not respond if you simply point to feeling the love of Jesus. Well, they will respond, but it will not be in the way you’d like. Also, when someone comes home from college having been hit with Zeitgeist or evil Bible or Jesus mythicism or the problem of evil or any number of problems, it won’t be feeling love that will get them through. It will be having an intellectually robust faith where they know that there are answers and those answers inform how they live.

The third belief we need to get rid of is you have to do something to make a difference for God.

Yes. She actually says that.

Now I do think she is right when she says

The Christian walk is a long journey—so often mundane and difficult, putting one foot in front of another—seeing nothing, feeling nothing. And linking faith with extraordinary actions and extraordinary feelings makes it so much harder for us when we slam into the inevitable ordinary.

Of course, there won’t be constant mountaintop experiences and exciting adventures every day. Not everyone is going to be a famous evangelist or apologist or what have you.

But if you want to make a difference for God, yes, you have to do something and yes, you should be striving to do more than you are. Zierman goes on to say that

You can’t do anything to make God love you more.

You can’t do anything to make God love you less.

You are already enough.

God is already doing amazing things through you—even if it all feels hopelessly average.

How does Zierman know God is already doing amazing things through the reader? Maybe the reader really isn’t growing and striving in their faith at all. Maybe the reader never says a word in evangelism. Maybe the reader has no prayer life and does not study the Bible and simply comes to church because their parents make them. An article like Zierman’s can lead to great complacency and notice where the focus is at the end of this.

God can’t love you more.

God can’t love you less.

You are enough.

You are already being used by God for amazing things.

You. You. You.

And this is part of the problem. Most of us in our culture think way too much of ourselves already. You can’t do anything to make God love you more or less. Okay. I agree. So what? What does that have to do with your evangelism and how you are to live? Do you really do what you do because you’re wanting God to love you more or less? You have a pretty bad theology already if you do. Would such an attitude work in a marriage if you had it? “I don’t really need to strive to do something amazing for my spouse because they already love me as I am and they think I’m amazing enough already.”

God have mercy on me if I ever approach my Allie with that attitude.

Should I give God any less?

All the things Zierman says she thinks we need to unlearn, I would prefer if we relearn them and actually teach them.

We have too many casualties already and it’s only getting worse in America. The individualistic ideologies being thrust onto our youth will only compound the problem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters