Book Plunge: The Living Paul

What do I think of Anthony Thiselton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Paul is always an interesting figure to discuss and opinions can be very divided on him. Still, if you are going to talk about the New Testament and the rise of early Christianity, it is essential that you talk about Paul. Thiselton’s book is an aim to bring an easily readable work to the layman audience to better understand Paul. He takes a number of issues and looks to see what Paul says about them.

The book starts with simply looking at the life of Paul. What is the relationship with Paul and Jesus? For instance, a number of people think that Jesus could have very well had this great idea and then Paul came along and messed everything up. Was this true? What did it mean for Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Who was the man Paul and what was his methodology for going through the Mediterranean world and spreading Christianity? There are many of us that like to look at the teachings of Paul without considering Paul the man. We could perhaps better realize how seriously he took the teachings of Jesus if we realize how much he went through to share them.

But of course, doctrine has to be there. We in the West do tend to like that. Thiselton takes a number of issues. Some of them are ones that we would expect to see regularly, such as the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus and looking to see if there’s Trinitarianism in the writings of Paul. Others are definitely worth mention but sometimes ones we don’t emphasize enough, though there are no doubt groups out there in Christianity that do. These would be his views on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Thiselton also writes on the ethics of Christianity especially including our sexual ethics and Paul was well ahead of his time with those.

Naturally, there are issues related to salvation, the nature of the church, and eschatology. These are all big debates today and Thiselton does present some of the latest work and speaks about it, such as looking at the idea of justification that is presented by N.T. Wright. He also deals with some objections such as the idea that Paul uses the term “we” in 1 Thess. 4 to describe what happens when Jesus returns and asks if Paul was off on his timing.

Some might be surprised that the last section in the book is a look at Paul and postmodernism. There were ideas back in the time of Paul that could be considered postmodern or at least pre-postmodern (There’s an odd concept to think about) just like there was a proto form of Gnosticism going around in Paul’s day. Thiselton looks at some of the postmoderns today and sees what Paul would have to say in relation to their claims about reality.

Thiselton’s read is one that will help inform the layman on the life of Paul. There were times I would have liked a little bit more and the pace seemed to move a bit slowly for me, but much of the information is quite good and would be helpful to any student wanting to study Paul.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Elements of Biblical Exegesis

What do I think of Michael Gorman’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Elements of Biblical Exegesis is meant to be a guide for students who are writing exegetical papers, and indeed it will be a helpful one. Gorman works with writers on all levels, including those who know the Biblical languages well and those who have no real knowledge of them. The rules listed in this book can help you if you’re writing an exegetical paper, but they can just as much help you out if you are sitting in a Sunday School class or small group meeting and you’re discussing a passage of Scripture and people are sitting together all talking about what the passage “means to them.”

Of interest from an apologetic nature is the discussion on textual criticism as well as the listing of Bible translations and dealing with the hermeneutic of suspicion where the text is seen as guilty until proven innocent. In fact, Gorman rightly says we should read from all perspectives, not just our own. After all, it is the critics of our position that can often open our eyes the most to the problems that we need to answer for our position. Gorman regularly says that all such reading is going to be beneficial. (Even reading mythicist material as that shows you just how crazy you can go when you don’t really know how to do history.)

Of course, internet atheists I regularly encounter will want nothing to do with a work like this, and sadly too many Christians won’t either who just have this idea that the text should be plain and clear to them. One of the great problems we have in the church is that people no longer work at the text. We go to seminars to learn how to improve our marriage and work at that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to be better parents and work on that, and we should! We go to seminars to learn how to better manage our money and work on that, and we should! We go to all of these and while we think we should work at every other area of our life, when it comes to understanding what we say is the greatest facet of our lives (Or we should say it is), we think all the answers should be handed to us.

Also, towards the end of the book, Gorman gives a long list of recommended resources. I am sure that the list is helpful, but if you go straight through a book like I do, then it can be a bit tedious in reading. Still, if you just pop open the book and want to know if a resource is a good one, then that is a helpful tool to have.

Finally, the book concludes with three exegetical papers, two on a NT passage and one on an OT passage. These are helpful examples to have nearby and the reader of the book will be pleased with how simple the final product looks and even without thorough knowledge of the original languages.

This will be a helpful guide to those who really do want to study the text for all that it’s worth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is Hermeneutics?

Is hermeneutics a way to avoid accepting what the text says? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is often a rabid fundamentalism that takes place in America and other Western societies. Because we are so individualistic, we think everything is about us and so when it comes to a text, such as the text of Scripture, well that is about us. Since this is also God’s Word to us supposedly, God would obviously write it in a way that is easy for us to understand. I mean, if we were God, we would do that. Right? Surely we wouldn’t deliver a message that is essential for our eternal salvation and then have it be hard to understand? No. The text must be understood easily and we absolutely then must read it literally. By literally, I do not mean according to the intent of the author, but in a more wooden sense of “The text says what it means and it means what it says.”

The ironic thing is there are Christians and atheists who both agree on this and they are both fundamentalists. The fundamentalist Christian believes everything in the Bible is absolutely true and usually does so on just “faith.” If it says six days, it means six days and keep that science stuff away from me. We’re going to go with what the Word of God says. The atheist meanwhile looks at the text and says “If the text says slavery, it means slavery. I don’t need to hear anything about historical context.” The atheist will tend to disbelieve everything in the Bible. Both approach the text with the same mindset in many ways.

And both of them resist any notion of hermeneutics.

So what is hermeneutics?

In ancient Greece, the gods were way up there and we humans were down here below. Who would be the go-between? Quite often, Hermes was the messenger of the gods. His name is behind the word. Hermes was the one who interpreted the message of the gods for us. The word Hermeneutics comes from that and it means the art of interpretation. Some of you might be tempted to say that that applies only to the Bible. It doesn’t. It applies everywhere. You’re using hermeneutics right now to interpret what I say. You use it to interpret body language or oral communication as well. Let’s go with the example of a newspaper.

When you open the newspaper, you expect most stories you read in there will be at least attempts to write out truthful accounts. Yet even in these accounts, you could expect to read some metaphorical language. For instance, if you go to the Sports team and you read about a game that was played where one team massacred another, you don’t expect that you’ll find that on a page talking about crime. You know it’s metaphorical language. If you turn over to the comics, you’ll suddenly find you’re reading the language differently. If you go to the advice column, you find still something different. If you go to the letters to the editor, you will find different language and perhaps even opinions that disagree with the perspective of the newspaper as a whole.

All of this is hermeneutics.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am assuming the text has a meaning. The words on the page really mean something and some interpretations are right and some are wrong. It’s important to realize also that just because you think a text means something, that does not mean that what it says is true. You could be a Muslim for instance, and interpret the NT to teach that Jesus died by crucifixion. You’d agree that the text is teaching this, but you would just say the text is wrong. You could be a pluralist and say that the text teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation. You’d disagree with this, but you’d say the text teaches this. You could be an atheist and say the text teaches Jesus did actual miracles. You’d disagree, but this would be what the text is saying.

When saying that the Bible needs to be interpreted, this is because it is from a different time, culture, place, and language. In fact, if you want to go with what the text says, unless you read the original languages, you’re not reading what the text says. You’re already reading an interpretation. Even in the same language, there can be difficulties. Many of us could not read Shakespeare as he wrote it. For an illustration of this, just consider the KJV. It was just fine for the time it was written in, but many words have changed meaning since then and there are figures of speech that we no longer use. It is for this reason that translations have to keep being updated. Languages do not stay static like that.

Now is this an exact science? Can you reach a point where you say it is absolutely definitive that this is what the text means? No, but if we follow those standards then science itself is not an exact science. Any interpretation of the scientific data could be overturned. It is not written in stone. The more we study it, the more likely it looks that a certain viewpoint is correct. For instance, the huge majority of biologists today agree evolution best explains our origins. That means that if this is overturned, there must be some powerful evidence otherwise that evolution did not occur. That does not mean that such is impossible theoretically.

In the same way, there are many interpretations we can be quite sure of. There are also many Biblical passages that will leave us scratching our heads and wondering what the heck is going on in them. It would be a mistake to hang your Christianity on every single issue in the Bible and on every one of your interpretations being correct. It requires work. If you want to say your interpretation is correct, you need to give a reason why you think so and then leave it to others to respond. Unfortunately, with the fundamentalist mindset, we’ve grown lazy and prefer that the text should do all the work for us.

But in interpretation, there is no excuse for laziness.

Hermeneutics is not a dirty word. We all do it everyday without realizing it. The question is not are you going to interpret the text. You will. The question is if you are going to do a good job or not.

And if you take the fundamentalist attitude, you’re already saying you’re not going to do a good job.

And if you’re not willing to study a text, don’t bother debating it. There’s no reason to take anyone seriously who has not studied the issue.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus Inquest

What do I think of Charles Foster’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus Inquest is a remarkable book that you’ve never really heard of most likely, but you honestly should have. The book is written by Charles Foster who is a barrister in the U.K., which if you don’t know means he understands the rules of law quite well. He was a believer in the resurrection of Jesus but found many defenses quite lacking. His questions weren’t being answered and he doesn’t care much for many works of apologetics by Christians. He wanted to put forward the case from the opposite end as strongly as he could and see how he could respond.

Thus, you have a dialogue between two people, X and Y. Foster writes out both dialogues and Y is the position of the Christian defending the resurrection of Jesus. X throws out most any objection that he can which means sometimes he will hold contradictory positions, but this is because Foster is trying to be as thorough as possible. X will use popular objections, such as ideas that Jesus traveled to India after somehow surviving the crucifixion, as well as more scholarly objections. He’ll use crank theories like the Talpiot Tomb as well as real theories like the hallucination hypothesis.

X’s case is quite often indeed impressive. One can read his side and think “I wonder how Y will answer that when he gets there.” Due to the wide range of subjects covered, there’s no doubt Foster did a lot of research for this book. In the end after examining both sides, Foster still has a strong case that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and the objections from the other side can be answered and for the most part, they are answered quite admirably.

Some readers might be troubled that Foster doesn’t take an approach of Inerrancy, but that could also be a help since so many Christians marry Inerrancy to Scripture. Foster does not believe the accounts of the resurrection in the Gospels can be reconciled, but oh well. That does not damage one iota his central trust based on the evidence that the resurrection is a historical event, which should be a wake-up call to all the people out there who think it is absolutely essential to have Inerrancy if one is going to proclaim the resurrection effectively.

I would have liked to have seen something more said about the honor-shame aspect of the resurrection. I hope that in the future, this will be something spoken of more. There are hints of it here and there, but I think these hints can be refined into an argument that is much more powerful than people realize. Christianity after all broke all the rules of the culture and it should have died out just as soon as it started and yet somehow it dominated the Roman empire and thrives today. This is something else that needs to be explained.

Foster’s book is excellent and I would place it as essential reading for anyone wanting to defend the resurrection. Included also are appendices on how Jesus died on the cross, The Shroud of Turin, the Talpiot tomb, and the Gospel of Peter. Get this book and read it today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/29/2015: Rodney Reeves and Randy Richards

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

Paul. Our world would be different without him, and yet there are a variety of opinions about him. Some people see him as the one who got the Gospel right and was the world’s greatest missionary. Some people see him as the one who took the wonderful Jesus movement and turned it into something it wasn’t. Some see him as a man with a guilt-stricken conscience who wrestled against the pain of what he had done to the church. Some see him as a lunatic who was caught up with having visionary experiences on the level of a mad man. So who exactly was this man that has produced such varying degrees of either admiration or hatred for him?

Awhile back, I reviewed the book Rediscovering Paul. I conclude it is one of the most thorough books that I have read on Paul and his impact in the world. I am also pleased to state that two of its authors will be on the show this Saturday. One is a returning guest, Dr. Randolph Richards. The other is making his first appearance and that is Dr. Rodney Reeves. So who are they? Let’s start with Dr. Reeves first as it will be his first time on the show.

publicity photo

In his own words:

I’ve been married over thirty-six years to Sheri (Richardson) Reeves, who is a Speech and Language Pathologist for Citizens Memorial Hospital, Bolivar, MO.

We have three children: Andrew (28) lives in Kansas City, MO; Emma (24) lives in Chicago, IL; and Grace (19) who is a first-year student at Belhaven University, Jackson, MS. Sheri and I are members of the First Baptist Church, Bolivar, MO.

I’m in my sixteenth year at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, MO, as the Redford Professor of Biblical Studies, also serving as Dean of The Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry. I teach courses in New Testament and Greek.

I’m an SBU alumnus (1979), and I graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX (MDiv, 1982; PhD, 1986). I did part of my doctoral study at Oxford University, UK (1985-86).

Prior to coming to SBU, I served as Senior Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, AR (1995-2000), and associate professor of New Testament at Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, AR (1987-1995).

I have written several articles for scholarly journals, textbooks, dictionaries, handbooks, and magazines. I’ve written four books: A Genuine Faith: How to Follow Jesus Today (Baker Books, 2005); Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology, co-authored by David B. Capes and E. Randolph Richards (InterVarsity Press, 2007); Spirituality according to Paul: Imitating the Apostle of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 2011). My newest book, Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ (once again co-authored by Capes and Richards, InterVarsity Press, 2015) was released this summer. And I’m currently working on a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Story of God Bible Commentary, ed. Scot McKnight (Zondervan Publishing, 2016?).

My hobbies are fishing, camping, golfing, and reading.

I made a vow to God many years ago to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to minister to the Body of Christ. I have tried to keep that promise as a member of a Baptist Church, as a minister, and as a college professor. I study Scripture because I want to be a committed disciple of Jesus. I teach biblical studies in an effort to serve the needs of the Church. I’m a part of the academic community here at SBU in hopes of advancing the Kingdom of God, trying to encourage each other to fulfill Jesus’ commandment: to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, I see my work here as part of the whole kingdom enterprise of teaching students to be servants of Christ for a world that needs him.

And moving on to Dr. Richards:

Richards arms crossed smallest size

Dr. Randy Richards loves training students for ministry, both domestically and internationally. He has been teaching since 1986, originally at a state university and then abroad at an Indonesian seminary. Upon returning to the States, Dr. Richards has served at two Christian universities before joining Palm Beach Atlantic University as the Dean of the School of Ministry in 2006.

His wife Stacia has joyfully accompanied him from jungles of Indonesia to rice fields in Arkansas to beautiful South Florida. They have two fine sons. Josh (Ph.D. 2012, University of St Andrews, Scotland) is a university professor in English. Jacob (Ph.D. 2014, College of Medicine, University of Florida) is a medical researcher.

Dr. Richards has authored or co-authored seven books and dozens of articles. Recently, he has published Rediscovering Jesus (InterVarsity, 2015; Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, with Brandon O’Brien (InterVarsity, 2012), “Reading, Writing, and the Production and Transmission of Manuscripts” in The Background of the New Testament: An Examination of the Context of Early Christianity (Baker, 2013), “Will the Real Author Please Stand Up? The Author in Greco-Roman Letter Writing” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (B&H, 2012), “Pauline Prescripts and Greco-Roman Epistolary Convention” in Christian Origins and Classical Culture: Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament (Brill, 2012), and a dozen articles in The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Baker, 2013).

He has just finished another popular book, Paul Behaving Badly, and is finishing A Little Book for New Bible Scholars, both with InterVarsity Press and due out in 2016. He is also completing chapters in two other books and several dictionary articles.

Dr. Richards is a popular lecturer, speaker and preacher, recently in places as diverse as Wycliffe Hall (Oxford), Kathmandu, and Kenya. He was a Senior Scholar at the IRLBR Summer Summit at Tyndale House (Cambride) in 2013. He regularly conducts missionary training workshops, and currently serves as a Teaching Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach.

We’ll be talking about this fascinating book and the life of Paul. What kind of world did he live in? What was it like writing his letters? What can we learn from them? What about his relationship with Judaism? What difference does he make today?

Please be listening to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and go to the ITunes store and leave a review.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Our Father Abraham

What does it mean to be children of Abraham? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few nights ago, I was reading in Matthew’s Gospel and got to the appearance of John the Baptist. If you remember, John warns the Jewish leaders to not say they have Abraham as their father and therefore they will be safe when God’s wrath comes. God could raise up children of Abraham from the very stones. It’s quite a fascinating remark and one that we don’t think about often, but as I read it this time, my mind went back in time decades ago to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

“Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”

Yeah. Many of us remember that song and remember the silly motions that we all did with it so much so that we were in hysterics, and yet I look back and see it as a wasted moment in many ways. Did we ever stop to think about what we were singing? I didn’t. (And it sure is a good thing when we reach the level of adulthood we start really thinking about all those songs that we sing and take the message of them very seriously!) Did any of my teachers bother to teach me how important the message of that song is? Not that I remember. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually change as we grow in the Christian faith if we are raised up in it. Education never gets serious.

What would it have been like if we had thought about that little song?

First, we would have thought that Abraham was a Jew, but it’s clear in Scripture that not everyone is a Jew, yet we’re supposedly children of Abraham? How does that work? Does that mean that we become Jewish? Perhaps in a sense we do. Look at 1 Cor. 10:1-5.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Some of you might be looking and saying “Yeah, and?” Well look at how it starts. “Our ancestors.” Paul is writing to a church consisting of Jew and Gentile both and yet he refers to the Israelites as our ancestors. In fact, some translators look at 1 Cor. 12:2 when it speaks about once being pagans as once being Gentiles. These people are no longer outsiders to the message of Christ. They are included in the one body that Paul speaks of in that same passage and the one tree that is spoken of in Romans 11. This should strike us also as a great call to unity not only with those of us who are Gentiles and Christians, but Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.

You see, Paul says in Gal. 3:29 that if we belong to Christ, we are children of Abraham. We are inheritors of the promise that he received. If we are not, then we do not. Being a child of Abraham is incredibly important then. It means we are recipients of the promise that was made to Abraham. We are part of the covenant made so long ago and then part of the new covenant in Christ. This is how we are all one.

John the Baptist had a serious warning for the people of the time. Show yourselves to be true children of Abraham. It’s a shame the Jewish leaders would have been stunned back then and we hardly even think about it today. How far we’ve fallen from a good Biblical education. By all means, teach the song to your youth at church and have some fun with it. There is no objection to that. Make sure that fun is a vehicle to learning. There is much to be known about the way of Christ and that includes knowing how the promises found in the Old Testament thousands of years ago apply to us today thousands of years later.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jesus The Son of Julius Caesar?

Is this a valid idea? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The internet is a mixed bag. You see, I happen to hope someone like myself has good ideas and that they’re worth sharing and the internet does give a platform whereby those ideas can be shared. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of crazies out there with their own ideas. Unfortunately, from all persuasions a lot of these ideas are crazy. Yes. A lot of my Christian brothers and sisters unfortunately also get caught up in conspiracy theories. Yet this time, I am not dealing with a Christian theory. I am instead dealing with a theory by a Moe who runs a site under the name of Gnostic Warrior. The theory can be found here.

And this theory is that Jesus is the son of Julius Caesar.

Yes. You heard right.

Naturally, it’s not too long in the piece before that word “conspiracy” comes out. I’m becoming more and more convinced that you can come up with any crazy idea whatsoever and refer to it as a “conspiracy” and people will go along with it. It doesn’t help that the first several links in the body of the work all refer to Wikipedia. Yes. Wikipedia. That great abomination that causes misinformation. Will you find works of scholarship being cited? Forget it! All this means is someone sits down with Google and thinks that they’re an authority. (How amusing to be told that you’re not educated enough on the various topics later on when all that is being cited is Wiki.) Ultimately, the idea hinges on that Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had a son and that son later became Augustus and thus Jesus.

There you have it. The greatest conspiracy ever told was between Rome and Egypt. Julius Caesar, the Imperial Roman Emperor and Cleopatra, an Egyptian Pharaoh who had a mixed race son, Giaus Octavian Caesar. Octavian would later change his name to Augustus to become the official son of the Roman God, Julius Caesar. As the anointed messiah, the allegorical Jesus Christ , Augustus had formed the Universal Brotherhood and a new Empire. Later in Biblical text, Jesus is the name given him in order to conceal his identity because the Roman Imperial facts are that there was no way in Hades that the Catholic Church would be able to get the whole world to worship Caesar. Hence, the reason he would forever be known in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.

Yes. There you have it. It’s a wonder that all the Roman historians, classical historians, and NT historians missed this. Well they must all be in on the conspiracy and cover-up. There can be no doubt that Bart Ehrman then is secretly a pawn of the Catholic Church. Perhaps the Jesus Seminar is being secretly controlled by the Vatican. Who knows where it all goes? What’s the great evidence for this?

For these changes Gaius would be deemed by the priesthood as the successor to “Divus Iulius” (Latin for “Julius is God”) to become Divi Filius(Latin for the “Son of a God”) to forever be immortalized as the cornerstone to the greatest empires that the world has ever seen. Augustus is the Prince of Peace who had brought in the Age of Pax Romona with Jesus as Grand Master.

Yes. Jesus as the grand master. Of course, D.M. Murdock might have something to say about that since she thinks the Pope is the Grand Master, as she says in The Christ Conspiracy.

It is clear that scholars have known about the mythological nature of the Bible, yet they have gone to immense lengths to hide it, including using sophisticated language, like the priestly counterparts who have utilized the dead language Latin to go over the heads of the uneducated masses. It is possible that any number of these scholars are also Masons or members of some such secret brotherhood who are under the blood oath. Or they may merely be products of their occupation, in that many universities and colleges are under the dominion of the fraternities and the grand master, the Pope, i.e., the Catholic Church.

Of course, this all assumes that Son of God would mean the same thing in a polytheistic system like Roman religion as it would in a monotheistic system like Judaism. (For those playing along at home, it wouldn’t.) There is no doubt that a Caesar took upon Himself divine titles. There is also no doubt the Christians applied divine titles to Jesus. Why wouldn’t they? It would be these challenges that would in fact make them a challenge to the Roman Empire and not best friends with it. It’s simply bizarre that someone would think a conspiracy would be put afoot to turn the empire into monotheists hailing a Jesus Christ and no one would have bothered to check the claims.

These Latin names for the Father Caesar and Son were ordained first after Julius Caesar by his senatorial consecration as Divus Iulius in 42 BC, the dictator perpetuo bore the posthumous name Imperator Gaius Iulius Caesar Divus (IMP•C•IVLIVS•CAESAR•DIVVS, best translated as “Commander [and] God Gaius Julius Caesar”), which is mostly given as his official historical name. Suetonius also speaks of the additional cognomen Pater Patriae. As I have detailed in my article titled, Meaning of Peter (Petra), Ju’Piter (Ju-Peter), Pator (Pater) or simply Peter means “Father, Parent or Rock.” The Greek pronunciation is Petra which also means Father, but also refers to an allegorical religious meaning “any large stone.

Unfortunately, all of this relies on English pronounciations being the way things would have been back then, which ranks up there with the people who say Jesus is a way of saying “Hey Zeus.” Jupiter we know refers to Zeus. It does not refer to “Jew Peter.” Note also there are a number of languages at play here such as Aramaic, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and English. Assuming a similarity across the board is stretching.

This brings us to this reference of his.

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Obviously this is referring to Peter then. Right? Well the context as a whole is talking more about Paul and Apollos (Obviously for these people a reference to the god) but it gets even worse. The word Petra isn’t even used in the passage. The Greek word is Themelios and refers to a foundation. Every usage I see of this word gives it one meaning.

Foundation.

As we go on:

Saint Bede, the Father of English History is his Biographical Writings and Letters written in the 7th and 8th century said this about Augustus: “In the forty-second year of Augustus Caesar, in the twenty-seventh from the death of Antony and Cleopatra. when Egypt became a Roman Province, in the third year of the 193rd Olympiad, and in the 752nd from the building of the city, in the year when all the commotions of nations were stilled throughout the whole world, and by the appointment of God, Caesar had established real and durable tranquility, Jesus Christ consecrated by his advent of the 6th age of the world.”

You can read the work of Bede here. Good luck finding that quote. I couldn’t and I didn’t with a web link. I would be glad to rescind this point if it can be found, but it hasn’t been. (It’s also interesting that we would likely be told by skeptics the Gospels are too late sources, but someone from the 7th and 8th century will be just fine.)

Queen Dynamis of Phanagoria on the Bosporus dedicated an inscription to “the absolute ruler Caesar, son of god, Augustus, the ruler of all land and all sea and savior of them.”

Let’s assume this is true.

So what?

Of course this is how a Caesar saw himself. Is there supposed to be some argument here?

Unfortunately, there’s not much after that just saying that this is an allegory including references to the book of “RevelationS.” (Real scholarly work here.) Do we have any reference to credentialed scholars? Nope. Do we have any interaction with writers like Tacitus and Josephus and Lucian and others who speak about Jesus crucified? Nope. Do we have anything dealing with whether the Gospels are historical or not? Nope. Do we have anything dealing with the facts of the historical Jesus in the writings of Paul? Nope. All we have is some twisted bits here and there and a whole lot of imagination.

And yet people will believe this kind of stuff.

So why do I write this? Because I had someone contact me about a theory of Jesus as the son of Julius Caesar. I don’t look into such things because I think they’re serious threats, but because misinformation can easily mislead others who have not studied the subject well especially if they think someone writes well and has a colorful blog or web site or a good podcast or something of that sort.

Check the claims every time. Always check the claims. Look and see if all sides are being examined or just one.

This one falls drastically short.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Rediscovering Paul

What do I think of the book by Rodney Reeves, E. Randolph Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Paul. He’s a fascinating figure. Who is the man and what shaped him? What can we learn from him today? There are many fine books out there about Paul and many fine ones from a Christian perspective, but now we have an extremely thorough one that seems to hit Paul from all angles and the church owes Reeves, Richards, and Capes a debt of gratitude for this excellent gift. It is a book that is highly readable and with solid content. While it could be seen as a primer of sorts with further reading at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to study further, it could easily be seen as a reliable guide in itself and one who reads this will have an excellent understanding of the world of Paul.

The book also includes several sidebar statements where the authors ask about a claim “So what?” Students often want to know what difference that something that can be often thought to be a tangential point. Isn’t this just something that nerdy scholars would care about? What difference will it make in my own life. The authors want you to know what difference it does make. There also are “What’s More” sections. In these, the authors add in additional details and sometimes even post ideas that would be challenging to our modernistic ways of thinking and say “Maybe we should take Paul a little bit more seriously here.”

It is incredible how thorough this book is. I particularly enjoyed the first part with reading about the honor-shame culture. This is a favorite area of mine to study and I wish more people spoke about it and I’m encouraged to know that NT students who are beginning their studies will be learning about this fascinating area. In fact, there are a number of times in the book I was thinking an area had been left out. For instance, when it comes to the section on the writing of letters I knew I was getting to the end and was thinking “What would be really nice is if they had included something on how much it cost to write one of these letters.” What do you know? Right towards the end there’s a section on the cost of writing the letters.

The authors also spend time going through each book of Paul’s. Some of these are handled in sections, such as the Pastorals. Some of them have their own chapters, which is fitting due to the influence of these books. The student who comes to the text will have a greater knowledge of all of the epistles of Paul as a result. It rounds off with a look at Paul’s theology as well as an excellent look at how it is that Paul’s letters came to be collected and made into a canon. The final section is on Paul’s legacy. What difference has Paul made? How has he been seen in history? What does he have to say to our world today?

It’s hard to think that a book could be so thorough on the life of Paul and his work and impact, but indeed, it is. I absolutely stand behind this book and hope that it is put into the hands of students going into ministry. The student who reads this book will be better equipped to understand Paul the man, the works of Paul, and be able to even make a defense for the works of Paul today. Even better, he will be able to take his own personal holiness much more seriously and consider how Paul is to have an impact on his life today. Hopefully he’ll have the same focus that Paul had, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

This is a must read book for all interested in Paul.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/28/2015: Justin Langford

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

One of the benefits of being at Defend The Faith 2015 this year was getting to meet so many apologists, and meeting them for the first time. Some I’d never got to meet or even heard of before. Last week we interviewed Tawa Anderson for instance, and that interview will be up on our site soon. This Saturday, we’re interviewing someone else I met at the conference and that is Justin Langford. Who is he?

Justin Langford smaller and cropped

Justin Langford is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Louisiana College in Pineville, LA where he teaches New Testament and Greek. He received a B.A. in Sociology from Louisiana College, and the M.Div., Th.M., and Ph.D. degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Justin’s areas of interest are the general epistles, hermeneutics, Koine Greek, and intertextuality. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. Justin is married and has three small children. Other than teaching and spending time with his family, Justin enjoys music, football, and coffee.

(For the sake of interview, we will be nice and try to overlook the fact that he likes football and has fallen for coffee, the great diversion of satan to take us away from tea.)

Langford gave a quite fascinating presentation on forgeries in the Bible. One interesting exercise that he did was that he put up two passages. Naturally, he didn’t include anything like verse numbers or anything of that sort and said “Okay people. Which passage of these two do you think came from the Bible and which one came from something outside of the Bible?” Honestly, there were some I didn’t even recognize immediately, which shows how easy it can be to be taken in.

So Langford gave some tips then on how forgeries are detected and what steps are to be taken. We also had an interesting discussion which said “What if we found a book today that we could all agree was Pauline, even the most liberal scholars, such as a 3 Corinthians? Should we include that in the canon?” I was actually on the side of people who said “No. We should not include that in the canon. A part of canonicity is that the text needed to be accepted by the church as a whole. If a letter was not accepted by the ancient church, we should trust their wisdom and have a closed canon.” Others disagreed but the most important part of it all is that we had a good discussion on the topic.

With works out there like Bart Ehrman’s Forged (Which I have reviewed here and here.), we have to be doing better. These kinds of charges are only going to keep coming and the church needs to have a good line of defense. We can be thankful that there are people like Langford out there who are answering those kinds of charges. I urge you to be watching your Podcast feed for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters