What more is there in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
One of the first new facts of Hall’s is about the incident in 1 Samuel with 50,070 people dying for looking in the Ark. He pictures people lining up and all dying when they look or an event like a football stadium and everyone dying at once. Funny. I picture someone who doesn’t bother reading scholarship and now agrees that the text should more accurately read 70. Of course, Hall has never been one for reading contrary thought. He has to avoid that cognitive dissonance after all.
There is something in there about an iron axe head floating. Again, this is called a miracle. I really don’t understand this technique of atheists. “Look! Your account contains miracles!” Yeah. It does. That’s only ipso facto stupid if it is shown there is no God, which is really what is the question under dispute. This makes as much sense as me going to atheists and saying “Look! Your account requires naturalistic evolution!”
He then goes to Jesus’s command that if you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already done it in your heart and since adultery is punishable by death, everyone should die multiple times over. First off, yes. Everyone deserves judgment for their sins. Second, Jesus is telling to stop the problem in the heart, but there is definitely a difference between real adultery and desire to commit adultery. One cannot be punished for a thought like that in the court of man at least.
He then looks at the Exodus. First off, he says the population would be about 2,000,000 Hebrews not counting women and children. On this, he’s unaware that even that is disputed in evangelical scholarship where it’s asked if it means that many people or a large number of chiefs. He says there is nothing recording the death of the firstborn in Egypt, but why would there be? Most cultures didn’t record what could be perceived as failures of their gods.
As for lack of evidence of slaves wandering the area in the wilderness, the Scythians were a large group and wandered much longer. What did we find of them? The tombs of their kings. In other words, we only found the stuff that they built to last. The Hebrews didn’t build any such things to last in the wilderness.
He then goes to a list of ways to identify a false religion.
● Its deity never appears in person ● Its claims are unverifiable ● No documented physical evidence ● Praying to its deity has no measurable real-world effect ● Rewards are promised for belief; punishments are threatened for unbelief ● Regular group-think meetings are held to reinforce the belief ● Believers never ask critical questions
Let’s go through this list.
Yes. Our deity did appear in person. He was crucified.
Our claims can be verified using philosophical methodology for the question of God and as verifiable as you can get using historical methodology.
We have plenty of archaeological and documentary evidence for Biblical events.
Hall will not interacted with the research of Craig Keener on mracles of Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies.
People are not punished for unbelief. People are punished for their sins. Trust in Jesus is not just mere intellectual assent. It’s a lifetime of treating Jesus as Lord.
Church is not meant to be a group-think situation but a time to worship. All people to some extent tend to like to hang out with like-minded people. I have no problem with atheists coming together to meet.
And Hall, I have no problem with critical questions. If you don’t, then by all means maybe you should respond to my review of your past book or this current review. Could it be you don’t like being challenged?
He wonders why Mary was confused by Jesus being in the temple when He was 12 years old. Mary likely still had in mind the traditional views in Judaism of the Messiah. The plan was not spelled out for her.
He says the Israelites used to be polytheists. Wow. Really? I mean, don’t we know in the Old Testament that they were perfect holders of monotheism who never ever once deviated in worship from YHWH?
Hey everyone! Cool scientific fact! This morning, the sun rose in the East.
He has also the usual God doesn’t heal amputees and says this never happens. How does he know? There was controversy on the Unbelievable? page a few years ago when someone contacted the radio show about praying for someone and they had an eye regrow back. Now Hall can say that this never happens, but it will become circular.
“Prayer never causes an eye to grow back.”
“But this person says it happened.”
“It didn’t happen.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that never happens!”
He then says it was common knowledge to the early Christians that Jesus was a copy and paste job from other deities. After all, Justin Martyr said to the emperor that the Christians didn’t believe anything different from their pagan neighbors. Here’s the problem. Justin is trying to show that Christianity is not shameful and if Christianity is persecuted, then other beliefs should be persecuted. It is not saying the Christians copied. This is an idea that has been dropped by scholarship for about a century.
He points to Romulus as a copy. He says he was a son of God, preached to followers on a hill, corpse went missing, returned from the dead in an immortal body, witnesses were frightened, appeared to one follower in a spiritual form in a bright light on a road into the city.
Not a single source is given for any of this. I challenge Hall to find the source and demonstrate his claims. I also want to know how close the claims are to the original events. I think Hall will be disappointed, but he won’t look. Hall can’t take the cognitive dissonance.
He also says if you have enough faith, you can literally move a mountain. Hall doesn’t realize ancient Israelites spoke in topographical language about political events. Of course, God could move a mountain, but rearranging topography is not in mind. More likely, Herod is in mind.
He also says,
“Philosophical arguments don’t win debates; evidence wins debates. Moreover, gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing in here that is evidential and it is really philosophical. He also says gods who exist don’t leave their existence open to debate. Does he have any evidence for this? It will have to be philosophical argumentation, but for him, that doesn’t count as evidence, so he has a belief without evidence.
Lesson for you Hall. Any time you disparage philosophy, you will wind up hoisting yourself on your own petard.
He also has something about Attis who was supposedly around in 1250 BC. He was born on December 25th (Which by the way, is nowhere in the New Testament about Jesus), had names like the only begotten son, savior of mankind, most high god, and the logos. He was the son and the father, crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead three days later, and eaten as bread by his followers.
Again, I defy Hall to come here and source any of these claims from primary sources.
He tells about the story of the woman caught in adultery and says this isn’t found in the original manuscripts. The same with the ending of Mark. Well, yes. This has been known even in the times of the Church Fathers. Hall then wants to know what more could be suspect. How about we see what Bart Ehrman says?
If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is. Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html
In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.
“The manuscripts of the New Testament do indeed have large numbers of variations in them: alternative ways of reading a verse in a passage; omissions of words or sentences; additional insertions of words and sentences here and there. But the problem is not of such a scope as to make it impossible to have any idea what these ancient Christian authors wrote. If we had no clue what was originally in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels, this objection might carry more weight. But there is not a textual critic on the planet who thinks this, since not a shred of evidence leads in this direction. And I don’t know even of any mythicist who is willing to make this claim. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, the wording of these authors is not in dispute. And where it is, it rarely has anything at all to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.” -Did Jesus Exist, p. 181
Again, I’m not covering everything, but there is more than enough evidence thus far even that Hall doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’ll continue perhaps more next week.