Book Plunge: Jesus Is No Myth

What do I think of David Marshall’s book published by Kuai Mu Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

If you’re on the internet and you’re completely unaware of scholarship, you might think mythicism is the next big phase of historical Jesus studies. You’d be completely wrong on that. Mythicism was, is, and will be a joke still. There are three figures that have stolen the spotlight recently and although only one is a mythicist (One is in fact strongly an anti-mythicist), all have had their impact.

Reza Aslan stirred some of the waters by publishing a book called Zealot. In this, he argued that Jesus belonged to the group at the time known as Zealots. Some of you might have even seen him on Fox News. Is Reza Aslan a scholar worth taking seriously?

If you’re a skeptic on the internet, usually you take Richard Carrier as the alpha and omega of Biblical scholarship. Why not? He’s a world-renowned philosopher and historian. I know this because hey, Richard Carrier said so. Is Carrier thus shaking the boat seriously and causing scholars to rethink their views on the historical Jesus?

Finally, many already use Bart Ehrman and have done so. Normally, if your skeptic isn’t pointing to Richard Carrier, they’re pointing to Bart Ehrman. He’s definitely not a mythicist, but he is definitely not an evangelical Christian either. He’s made some claims of Jesus being similar to other great figures. Is he right?

Marshall takes on all of these, the group that he calls ACE in this book. The book is a lively and engaging read. Marshall is an unusual mix. He is well-read in ancient literature and knows what was going on in the times of the Bible, but he’s also brought something else interesting, and that’s a knowledge of Chinese and other Far Eastern histories. After all, one can step outside of the world in the Bible to see what other cultures were like for comparison and how history was done in them.

Not only that, he also comes equipped with some great pop culture references. The closest that comes to his style of writing in scholarly works is actually Michael Bird. Marshall manages to make references in his book to Dr. House, epic rap battles, and Pokemon. A reference like this can bring an extra smile of delight and humor. Marshall is heavy on substance, but he brings light humor as well.

Still, let’s focus on the substance, and there’s plenty of it. Marshall takes on all three of these. Aslan is probably the simplest one seeing as he really isn’t a scholarly in the field and makes some simple mistakes that real scholars have corrected him on, but he does serve the purpose of showing us what not to do. Marshall shows how Aslan cherry picks the evidence so that Jesus comes out the way he wants him to.

Carrier is a different story. If you’re like many skeptics on the internet, you think Carrier is everything. Most in the scholarly world really have no idea who he is. That’s right. Not only is he not shaking the boat, he’s not really making any ripples in the water at all. Still, Marshall takes him on, particularly on the point of parallels to the Gospels in older literature. This also includes a great admirer of Carrier, Matthew Ferguson.

Marshall also takes on the mythicism of Carrier and others. For Carrier, there is a look at the whole Rank-Raglan idea and Marshall shows that it just doesn’t apply well. He also pays attention to the claims of the arguments of silence as well as shows that the methodology of Carrier in history would lead to disastrous results and no, ideas like the criterion of embarrassment have not been thrown out.

Dealing with Ehrman means dealing with a lot of parallels. One favorite one to use is Apollonius of Tyana. Marshall goes through this work showing that Apollonius is not a valid parallel to Jesus. This is material quite helpful for anyone encountering this kind of claim.

Another figure he deals with is the Baal Shem Tov. This was a historical Jewish figure that lived in Poland that Ehrman brought up in a debate with Tim McGrew. Unfortunately, Ehrman didn’t get out all the facts about the Baal Shem Tov and if listeners knew what Marshall shares in this book, they never would have taken Ehrman’s claim seriously.

I should also point out that Marshall writes not just with an intellectual blowtorch that burns through the rubbish in bad arguments, but he writes from the perspective of a devout Christian who sees Jesus as far greater than any other figure. That’s another benefit of this book. It allows you to see Jesus as different and how weak the attacks are against Him. If anything, they only make the Christian faith all the stronger.

This is a book I highly recommend you read. Marshall has given us a gift with this excellent work. You owe it to yourself to partake of it and if you are a fan of ACE, you need to consider the arguments in this book.

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.

DavidMarshall

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

Book Plunge: How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test.

What do I think of David Marshall’s latest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the interest of admitting bias at the start, I will say I consider David a friend and he did send me this Ebook to review. I will still try to be as objective as I can, though I must admit the book is a joy and delight to read so it might not seem that way.

As I was going through Marshall’s book, I tried to think of a book that I could compare it to. Here we have a work dealing with the negative arguments of the day with a good touch of humor and stories and in simple layman terms that expresses the joy of who Jesus is. Mere Christianity as a comparison came to my mind a few times and I can’t help but wonder if a work like this if properly appreciated by the public could be a work like that of our own time.

In the book, Marshall is responding to John Loftus and his Outsider Test For Faith (OTF) as he calls it. Now Loftus has been criticized numerous times by even his fellow skeptics on this one, but still he trudges on with it. Marshall has taken a different approach and said “Let’s not go against the argument. In fact, let’s improve and refine it and see just how it is that Jesus stands in response to it.”

Marshall does remind us that this should change how we look at Jesus as well. We have made him so familiar and he quotes Dorothy Sayers in saying that we who follow Jesus have “declawed the lion of Judah and mad him a house-cat for pale priests and pious old ladies.” (Location 85)

Indeed, this is a benefit of Marshall’s book. You will come away from it with a greater wonder of exactly who Jesus is and frankly, that can be a sad rarity in many works today. We get so caught up in the academic side but Marshall’s book covers that as well as getting into the personal side which as I have said earlier, is because Marshall will regularly throw in some great humor and speak just like the man on the street speaks.

For an example of the humor, consider how he speaks about the OTF at location 378 and says “Is it simply an Ad Populum argument in a cowboy hat off the rack of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Wal-Mart?” For those of us who do know about Loftus and know about his signature cowboy hat, this is a passage that cannot really be read without cracking a smile and it comes at the reader unexpectedly. Regular dashes of humor like this keep the book moving smoothly. Michael Bird would be pleased.

It’s style like this that makes me think that this book could be easily read by non-Christians. Consider when talking about the sex market in Thailand at Location 905. Marshall says many Japanese and Westerners seemed welcome to the idea of the sex market. As Marshall says “And why not? Whatever feeble instinct we might have towards universal compassion, the male instinct for getting laid (our “selfish genes” on the prowl!) is visceral!”

Indeed it is, which is what makes the fact that Christianity has often overcome this so incredible. It is not because Christians are anti-sex, though no doubt some have been, but because Christians recognize the value of every human being, including the women that we are so often accused of being misogynistic towards. It is a Christianity that says every person is valuable for who they are that makes a Christian want to destroy the sex market.

Marshall also shows that he can have a touch of sarcastic humor and get his point across. In a criticism of Hector Avalos who actually thinks Luke 14:26 means that Jesus taught us to hate our family, Marshall says “And that was the only such passage Avalos could locate. With a little imagination, cults are largely (able) to find more convincing proof texts to show Jesus eloped and ran off to France to start a dynasty, or rode to Earth on the comet Haley-Bopp. But perhaps the best response to Avalos’ entire attack on the Christian tradition lies in Jesus’ own words also in Luke: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!’ (Luke 23:34)”

I could go on throughout but there are several places this occurs. That being said, what are many of the main arguments.

I will not cover everything and certainly not in the same detail. Marshall starts with the boldness with which Christianity spread and it must be said that aside from Jesus’s followers, everyone was an outsider at this point, and yet this outsider religion which would have been viewed with suspicion due to its being new was within a few centuries the dominant faith and began to go on to shape Western Civilization. In this chapter, Marshall does deal with objections from people like the prominent blogger Carrier. I leave that for the reader to see for themselves.

But this also ties in with another idea that Christianity fulfilled prophecy. One might think at this point that Marshall will go to Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 and say “See? Look! Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies!” He does not. His point is that from even Genesis on, long before Christianity showed up, even if we went with a JEPD hypothesis, it was predicted that all the world would be blessed through Abraham. Messages of reaching Gentiles show up regularly in the Old Testament and when Christianity came, lo and behold, that happened.

But it wasn’t just Hebrew prophecies that were fulfilled! Marshall will show throughout the book that it was the hopes and dreams of pagans that were fulfilled too! So many of our myths rather than making the mythicist claim show a longing for the true God to intervene and save the world. Later, he will point to people like Buddha and Confucius who predicted that a great sage would come to speak. Confucius even said it would take place in around 500 years. Now one could go with a zany mythicist hypothesis that says all these cultures were being borrowed from, or one could go with a view more akin to Lewis and Tolkien that says that this is true myth being fulfilled.

Marshall also shows the gifts Christianity brought to the world. There was no dark age period where science was being oppressed. Christianity had been encouraging the usage of science. It was Christians who were building hospitals and universities and cathedrals and ending slavery and encouraging literacy. Of course, there was bad that came with the good and Marshall does deal with that in the book, but let us not ignore the great good, such as the efforts to shut down sex markets as spoken of earlier.

In fact, many who are non-Christians and reading this could be thinking it is good to get rid of slavery and the sex market, but why? Do we stop to think about that question? How many people today have been shaped by a Christian ethic and don’t even realize it? Now if one wants to point to Scandinavia as a sort of secular paradise, be prepared. Marshall has something to say about that too.

Marshall also does show that this does not show Christianity is true, but the hopes of all peoples being found so well in Christ and his answering the Hebrew and pagan longings of the day and the impact He has had on the world should at least give pause. While the approach is more of a defensive one, he does include a bibliography to look up claims made in the book that he has not had the time to address but that other scholars have.

This is one of the really good ones to read and it is very difficult to put down. If a print version comes out this year, I would rank that book as one of the best books already in Christian apologetics to read in 2015. We can be thankful that while atheists like Loftus try to undermine the teaching of Christ with objections like the OTF, that apologists like Marshall are able to put them to the service of the kingdom. In the end, because of Loftus, we now have a greater reminder of how awesome and unique Jesus is and that yes, he does pass the OTF.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: True Reason

What do I think of Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TrueReason

True Reason is being released today as a response to several of the new atheists. Why? Because the new atheists have championed themselves as the heroes of reason and as a result of reason, they’re atheists, and those who are reasonable will also be atheists.

Yet as I have observed, those same atheists making that claim are usually guilty of the greatest crimes against reason. This was best exemplified to me recently when a street epistemologist on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page was asked if she’d read any books on logic and she replied by naming the new atheists that she had read.

This also consists in what I call “The Jesus Allergy” where atheists are afraid to admit anything whatsoever could be true in Scripture or that there could be anything good about religion or that intelligent people can be within their epistemic rights while being Christians. Want to see this best shown? Look at how many atheists are Christ-mythers. Even those who aren’t can often say that a reasonable case can be made that Jesus never existed.

No. No it can’t.

True Reason is meant to expose this. Now to be sure, this is a volume that I think is meant to be an introduction to people who are not familiar with the apologetics world. For those of us who have been in it for years, there won’t be much new here, but there will be a new formatting of it and a new presentation.

The book certainly has its range of excellent authors. William Lane Craig, David Wood, Sean McDowell, David Marshall, Matthew Flannagan, and Tim McGrew, for instance, each have their own say in it. There are also several chapters by people that you might not have heard of, which is fine to me because I think the apologetics community does need to promote from within.

Many of the chapters do cover subjects that I am pleased are being discussed. Slavery in the OT, for instance, is not often addressed in apologetics books. Flannagan’s chapter on the genocides of the OT will be extremely helpful as well. I enjoyed as well Tim McGrew and David Marshall’s chapter on the history of reason in Christianity and I appreciated that Marshall had a chapter devoted entirely to John Loftus’s “Outsider Test for Faith.”

There are areas I would like to see some more on for another edition of the book.

I think despite it being absolutely bunk, there needs to be a section on Christ-myth thinking and why historians and scholars view it as a joke. That could be a good focus on Richard Carrier and Robert Price. The Christ-myth idea is I think one of the greatest examples of the lack of reason in the new atheist movement.

I also think that since the new atheists target Christianity, we need a chapter on the central claim, the resurrection. There is one on the reliability of the NT overall, but we need something that is devoted to solely defending the resurrection and answering criticisms of it.

Yet since this one is also engaging several apologists together and some of them being new, I think that gives readers plenty of places to go to and I encourage that. We need to be building up others and it’s excellent to see noted names in the field working with names that haven’t been as well established yet, but are well on their way.

If there is someone out there who is wanting a good case against the new atheists claim to be the bearers of reason, I recommend this one. It will be a good start to demonstrating that the emperor truly has no clothes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 14

How does Secular Humanism compare to Christian theism on morality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing our look at Richard Carrier’s book “Sense and Goodness Without God.” Any book wanting to give a full view of atheism will have to cover morality, especially one that claims to have goodness without God. So today we’re going to be looking at those sections.

Much of this section has Carrier critiquing J.P. Moreland, to which I doubt Moreland is paying attention. Why should he? There are several ins and outs that I have no desire to get into, but I do want to get into some broader overlapping concerns.

Let’s start also with dealing with a common misunderstanding. No one is saying atheists cannot be good people. No one is saying you have to believe in God to be a good person. No one is saying you have to know that God exists to know the difference between right and wrong. These are common objections brought forward against the moral arguments that I have never heard any defender of such arguments use.

The moral argument instead argues that if there is no God, there is no foundation for moral truth claims. Now this argument is either right or wrong, but let us please be clear on what the argument is. This is not about any one person’s morality.

To begin with, on the Biblical front, it is amazing that the writer who spoke about using the principle of charity wants so much to speak about ideas in the Bible that he thinks are abhorrent, which is the usual argument from outrage. “God does something I don’t like, therefore He’s not real.” There is never an attempt to look at the culture and social context and see what is going on. “Well I don’t need to do that! It’s just obvious it’s wrong!” If you’re sure your case is right, you should have no hesitancy to look at further arguments. After all, suppose you met someone who said “I don’t need to look at evolutionary theory! It’s just obviously wrong!” Such a person would be seen as close-minded.

I suspect the major difference is that one area is science and one area isn’t. This could be a shock to some readers, but you can actually know things apart from the sciences. Yeah. Simply amazing thought isn’t it?

So what are some objections?

The first is picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Now why was this punishable? The reason is that the Law had already been stipulated. If you work on the Sabbath, you are to die. Israel had already agreed to this Law. This man doing this was in fact acting in defiance of the covenant and acting in such a way in a society built around the covenant was in fact an act of treason and if left unchecked, would lead to disaster for the whole community as the patron, YHWH in this case, would withdraw His blessings.

Also included is profanity as a cause of execution, yet the passage cited is not about profanity but about blasphemy. Carrier might think it odd to execute someone for words, but even in our society today, if you even made a joke that hinted at killing the president, the Secret Service would be knocking on your door before too long.

Blasphemy in this case again involves a severe treasonous offense against the good of the community.

Carrier also says Jesus is never said to have laughed. Apparently, this is a good argument against Jesus laughing. In other news, Jesus is never said to have used the bathroom, so obviously, Jesus never had to go to the bathroom. There is a reason arguments from silence are weak.

Finally, Jesus was apparently not a peace-loving man due to Matthew 10:33-36 and not restraining Himself from violence in the marketplace.

“33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Carrier ignores that the passage is about what it means to be a follower of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is to be your first priority and if you accept the message of Jesus and your family doesn’t, you will be on the outs with your family. This is not saying Jesus supports this. It is not saying He endorses it. It is not saying He desires family division. It is a simple reality of the statement.

As for Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, this is an action that would have been understood by His contemporaries as a judgment on the temple. It also would have involved the wrongful use of the temple which was the sacred space of YHWH.

On page 303 Carrier also speaks about how moral our society is.

“In fact, when we look objectively at history, Americans are more moral as a society today than any society at any time ever in human history, apart from our free democratic cousins around the world, who tend to be far less religious than we, yet somehow enjoy far lower rates of crime, and sometime even greater economic equity and social justice, contrary to the very thesis Moreland is defending. But focusing solely on America, what do we really see? We see an amazingly progressive culture that has crawled out of an age of violent expansion and bigotry, and is starting to show incredible promise as an enlightened society.”

Try to watch the evening news tonight and keep this in mind.

Yes. Our society is so much moral. So how many school shootings did we have fifty years ago? How many cases of single mothers did we have? How high was the divorce rate? How many STDs were going around? How many people were living in poverty? How many murders were taking place?

As for these other places, David Marshall has done some excellent looking into the topic especially since he has debated Phil Zuckerman on this. I was thinking of linking to one article, but since there are several, I will include a link to the search I did for Zuckerman that you can peruse here.

One aspect to be considered is one should compare the societies not with others, but with themselves. How do they look by that comparison? How do Sweden and Denmark look compared to where they were, say, thirty years ago. How will they look thirty years from now?

Too often, we make long-term conclusions on short-term data. We take a little bit and look at how things work in the short-term and say “See! It will be fine in the long-term.” It doesn’t follow. Many ideas we need at least a generation to test their effects.

So for now, that will be it and keep in mind, we are coming into the final stretch of this book and already, I have another project in the works that I shared with my pastor as well who is quite excited about it. Be prepared!

In Christ,
Nick Peters