Deeper Waters Podcast 3/24/2018: Edward Wright

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

The Gospels are the greatest source we have on the life and teachings of Jesus. These four books have changed the world since the time they have been written and they have been tremendously debated. Christians and non-Christians for a long time have not known exactly how to classify them.

For the most part, the verdict is in. The Gospels are Greco-Roman Biographies. We owe a great deal to Richard Burridge for his excellent work in this area. It would be nice to say that answers a lot of questions. As a fan of the show Monk I can’t help but think of when the captain met Adrian’s brother and said it was nice to meet him and “It answers a whole lot of questions. Raises about a 100 more.”

So we do have a lot of questions now about the Gospels and what it means for them to be Greco-Roman biographies. How does this impact our study of the Gospels as Christians? What does it mean to have the Gospels be of the same style of literature as the pagan writers of the day? Does this do any damage to the doctrine of inerrancy?

Fortunately, a volume has been presented looking at many of these questions. Dr. Keener is one of the main editors of this volume, which alone is enough to tell you it’s excellent, but we are having the other editor on our show today. He will be telling us about the research behind the book and what we can get from it. His name is Edward T. Wright.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I grew up in Austin, TX and attended Baylor University for my undergraduate work. I majored in Business Administration w/ a specialization in Management. I worked in the private sector for a few years in the steel industry before deciding to attend seminary. I did my M-Div at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Upon completion of that I was accepted into Asbury where I am currently a candidate in the dissertation phase of the PhD in Biblical Studies w/ a specialization in New Testament. I am studying/working under Dr. Craig Keener as his TA/mentoree. My dissertation is on the historical reliability of ancient biographies and I hope to complete this work by the fall of this year.

We’ll be talking about the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies. Does this change the way that Christians approach the text? How should we study them? Does it really make a difference to say that the Gospels fall into this genre and why should anyone really think they’re in this genre beyond “scholars think so” to begin with?

I hope you’ll be watching for this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. The nature of the Gospels is an important one for study. Also, if you have not done so, I urge you to please go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I look forward to your feedback!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Biographies and Jesus

What do I think of Keener and Wright’s book published by Emeth Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Burridge caused a revolution of sorts in Gospel studies in the 20th century by making a thorough demonstration that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. Today, most scholars would agree with that. Still, that is the start of the journey. We now have to ask what difference it makes. Is this just knowledge that will answer a question for us on a game show, or are there some ramifications for this?

In this volume, Keener and Wright have brought together several students doing graduate level research at Asbury to talk about the issue. There are some chapters by the editors of Keener and Wright and one by Licona, but for the most part, this is done by students, which I find refreshing. It’s good to see new faces rising up and taking on the task of serious scholarship.

The students look at what difference it makes to say that the Gospels are biogarphies. One at the start is that we have spent so much time trying to trace the communities that received the Gospels that we forgot the point of the Gospels. The point of the Gospels is to tell the story of the life of Jesus. An average person in the pew might not consider this much of a shock, but it does affect how we read the Gospels greatly. The Gospels don’t have a community and then they shape the story. The story is written in such a way about Jesus and telling about Him that hopefully it will shape the community.

Helpful also are notes about the dating of the Gospels. We can accept testimony about historical figures on far weaker grounds than we do the Gospels. Too often, it’s easy to dismiss all the evidence that is there for one position and then say that there is no evidence of the position. It needs to be realized that bias cuts both ways and we must all make sure prior worldview assumptions aren’t changing the way we view the data.

One helpful source in here are the comparisons across other biographies. Those who say the Gospels are unreliable because of differences in the accounts should see differences in other accounts of the same event. Very rarely would we reject the primary event because the secondary details are disputed. Sadly, this is done with the Gospels constantly.

Also helpful to readers will be Keener’s section on oral tradition. He points out problems with the idea of telephone and shows how memorization was taken extremely seriously in the past. Again, this is often a case of a double standard. The Gospels are looked at through one set of lenses and all other ancient history is looked at through another set.

Keener and Wright have put together excellent material that will be helpful for any student of the Gospels. To have new minds going through the material and presenting their thoughts is an excellent treat and as far as I’m concerned, they certainly wrote like professional scholars. I look forward to more research like this being done.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/12/2014: Talking About Plutarch

What’s coming up on this Saturday’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

First off, for all interested, the podcast is now up on ITunes! All interested can find a link to the podcast here. Please be sure to leave a good review of the podcast so that others will be encouraged to listen to it as well. So now, let’s get to what we’re going to be talking about.

We’re going to be bringing back one of our favorite guests to the show, at least considering that so many people wanted to call in and ask him a question last time he was on! In fact, this is a guest that I can call family and mean it. My guest is going to be my father-in-law, Mike Licona, and we’re going to be talking about the works of Plutarch and how they relate to the study of the Gospels.

Some of you might not know who Mike is, so let’s get some introductions in.

Mike

According to his bio:

Mike Licona (Ph.D.) is associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus, Inc. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of Pretoria, which he earned with distinction and the highest mark. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He has spoken on more than 60 university campuses and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs. For more on Mike’s ministry, visit www.risenjesus.com.

Mike’s latest studies have been of Plutarch to see how Greco-Roman Biographies were written at the time and how that can help us understand the Gospels better, especially when dealing with the idea of “contradictions.” This of course will spark some inevitable questions.

Are the Gospels really in the genre of Greco-Roman biography? Why should we study something like Greco-Roman Biographies? Why think the Gospel writers would use a form of literature that could be considered pagan to get the message of Jesus across? Can studying something from the culture really help us to understand what is going on in the Gospels themselves?

Then of course, we’ll be looking at some favorite “contradictions” and seeing how it is that studying the Gospels as Greco-Roman Biographies can in fact help us to figure out what the solutions to these contradictions are. Mike is a thorough scholar and one who you will appreciate getting to listen to so I hope that you’ll be looking for this podcast to show up in your ITunes feed as we talk about the study of Plutarch.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Harry Potter True?

Can one dismiss the gospel accounts by pointing to the boy wizard? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s amazing that the group that likes to call themselves freethinkers all seem to think exactly alike and follow the exact same thought patterns. One idea catches on in the group and those who make the most out of condemning gullibility are immediately shouting it from the rooftops unaware that a few minutes worth of research could have prevented them from making such blunders.

A major one going around today is to say that if you believe the stories of Jesus are true, what about the stories of Harry Potter?

Because we all know there’s just a one-to-one parallel right there.

If we are to say it’s because of fantastical elements, well nearly every ancient writing of the time had some fantastical elements. We would have to throw out all of ancient history by this. Of course, not all did this, but it was something common still.

For instance, biographies of Alexander the Great that we have and even consider authoritative state of him that he was virgin born. Do we throw them out? No. We just look and say “Well this is a late tradition with not much behind it and we should be skeptical.” A mistake many critics make is thinking that history is an all-or-nothing game. An account is totally reliable in everything or it’s totally false in everything.

Unfortunately, many Christians make the same mistake with Scripture.

For the sake of argument Christian, what would it mean to you if you found out that there was one error in the Bible? Would you pack everything up immediately, conclude Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and that you can’t know anything about Him, and then abandon your Christian faith?

If your answer is yes, then you have a problem.

For me, if it was true, I’d still have an incredibly strong case for the resurrection, but I would have to change my views on inspiration and inerrancy. My overall method of historiography however would remain unchanged. I would just say I’d been wrong in some usages of it.

Now the comparison going around the net just doesn’t work. It says that Harry Potter has stories in it that are magical and therefore, it is untrue. The gospels also have stories in them that are magical. If we were being consistent, we’d say the gospels are untrue.

To begin with, the objection assumes that such a thing as magic does not exist. We do not know that for sure. Now is it fine to be skeptical of such a claim. In fact, I encourage skepticism, but if your worldview automatically precludes such a thing, then you are reaching a decision before examining the evidence.

Furthermore, the Harry Potter novels are in fact written to be fiction. No one has any idea that Rowling considered herself to be writing an authentic account of events that were taking place. The gospels by contrast are Greco-Roman biographies. They are not hagiographies, those came later. They must be judged by what was there at the time and at the time, they were written as Greco-Roman Biographies, accounts written to be historical. (The only exception could be Luke which could be a historiography with Acts being part 2 of it.) Those wanting more information on this are encouraged to read Richard Burridge’s “What are the Gospels?”

Now if we are to say that the problem is the gospels contain miracles, we come to the same objection. Has it been shown that miracles cannot happen? In fact, given Craig Keener’s book “Miracles” we can have a strong case that miracles do in fact happen and are still abundantly claimed today.

“Yeah. Well you’ll accept miracles in Christianity, but what about those outside your Christian tradition?”

That’s simple. If you show me a miracle that has good evidence backing it, I will believe it happened. It doesn’t have to be within my Christian tradition at all. If you can show me there’s a strong case that Vespasian healed blind men for instance, I’ll be more than happy to say that he did even if I can’t explain it, but good luck doing that.

Incredulity is not an argument. You may think miracles are ridiculous. Fine. It doesn’t work against my worldview to say that your worldview is different. You will need to give me an argument for your own worldview.

In fact, whenever I see someone use the Harry Potter analogy to explain away the gospels, I already am certain that I am meeting someone who is unfamiliar with historiographical standards at all. To skeptics of the NT, I encourage you to get a better argument. Start by reading good scholarship on both sides. Maybe in the end you’ll still disagree with me, but I hope it will be an informed disagreement.

In Christ,
Nick Peters