How shall we begin this one? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Rather than continue going through the 101 reasons book, we’ll go through this one seeing as it seems a bit meatier. As I started reading through, I was pleased to see the topic seemed to be taken seriously. It’s sad that I was relieved that nothing was said about Jesus existing at the start of the work. Too many atheists out there think that is some hot debate in the academic world. (Spoiler alert. It isn’t.)
The book is by a guy named John Campbell who I think says he is a lawyer, which got me thinking this could probably be a bit more rigorous. In some ways, it is. In others, I do find myself being disappointed again.
Today, we’re just going to look at the introduction. First, one noteworthy point is that he says Christians have their view of Jesus too colored by Paul. In some ways, there can be a sense in which we ignore the Gospels and go to the epistles where we think the doctrine is. However, the main point to establish is that Campbell says never met Jesus or heard His teachings.
To begin with, this is just an argument from silence. We don’t have any record of Paul encountering Jesus, to be sure, but that is a far cry from saying it never happened. Arguments from silence like this are just weak. Not only that, we have Paul’s work in Galatians that no one disputes that says that he met with the disciples for a prolonged period and as has been said, we can be sure that they weren’t talking about the weather. Paul would have known the teachings of Jesus.
Not only that, Clement of Rome was the disciple of Peter and Polycarp that of John. Both of them praised Paul. Hard to think they would praise someone who got the teachings of Jesus that their main mentors had taught them wrong.
Of course, there is a statement against miracles.
This is the primary reason historians reject miracle claims–miracles have no demonstrable analogy in the present. They don’t reflect the way we currently understand the world to work. They violate natural laws for which scientists have never demonstrated a violation. Because historians work in probabilities, the principle of analogy requires that miracle claims be assigned very low probabilities.
To begin with, this book came out this year. Keener’s work has been out for some time on miracles and yet, there is no interaction with either of his books on the topic. Second, one can say they don’t reflect the way we understand the world to work. I shall blow Campbell’s mind and say they don’t reflect the way ancient people knew the world to work either. They recognized miracles as exceptions for a reason.
Finally, it is question-begging to say we have never observed a violation of natural laws. If anyone does say they have seen a miracle, their testimony is discounted. Why? We know that’s not how the world works. How do we know that? Because it’s never been seen. One would think that Hume would be evoked so at least he wasn’t. It’s not a shock that Earman’s work on Hume was not referenced either.
We are also told Jesus did not write anything down. Indeed! Most great teachers didn’t as Sandy and Walton show in The Lost World of Scripture. Then we are told that the writings in the Gospels are anonymous, despite the church fathers practically agreeing universally on who wrote them. As to why they are anonymous, E.P. Sanders wrote that
The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’ – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.
He also says the Gospels contain fiction since even Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, and Bill Craig all say the resurrection of the saints didn’t happen in Matthew 27. That doesn’t mean first that those people are interpreting it as if it was a fictional account made up. They all say there is a reason for it being there. However, even more concerning is that Gary Habermas has never said it’s a fiction at all. I even emailed him to ask him if he had ever said that and received a reply of no, he had never said the resurrection of the saints is a fiction.
He does say that after Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus’s brother James took up the movement. There is no interaction with N.T. Wright pointing out that James was never said to be the Messiah, which would be an easy claim to make if one Messiah figure falls. Perhaps that is addressed later, but here, it is not. He does go further though and say that James established a movement called the Nazarites, or the Way, or the Ebionites. No evidence is given for any of this.
He says Mark presents Jesus as entirely human. No effort to interact with the scholarship that disagrees. After all, there are plenty of ways for Jesus to show His deity besides getting up on a mountain and saying “Hi, everyone! I’m Jesus, but you may also know me as God!”
He also says Jesus’s family being shocked at what He was doing doesn’t make sense in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke since they mention a virgin birth (Which I do affirm), but he gives no reason for this. Was the family to have perfect theology and know entirely the plan of the Messiah from the get-go? The oldest son anyway was to provide for the family and Jesus wasn’t doing that. He also wasn’t acting the way the Messiah was supposed to act.
He does say that we can be sure Jesus taught the Kingdom of God since it would be embarrassing to put it in since that Kingdom didn’t come. As an orthodox Preterist, I contend that that Kingdom did come. Jesus is king right now. We will see if this is dealt with any more when we get deeper into the book.
Again, this book is better than most, but considering the most, that might not be saying a lot. We shall see more as we go on through and see how it holds up in the end.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)