Was God’s Name Known?

When was the name of YHWH known? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I was browsing Facebook and saw that Bart Ehrman had shared something about the Old Testament (Is that going to be the subject of his next book?) and contradictions. One such was in Exodus 6. The name YHWH is shown in the book of Genesis, but then we get to Exodus and we read the following in verses 2-3.

God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them.

So which is it? Did Abraham know the name of YHWH or was it not known until the time of Moses? This does seem like it could be an inconsistency, but it isn’t.

First off, when Moses asks the name of God in the third chapter, God gives it. It’s not some unknown there. The whole idea is you go back to Israel and say “YHWH” and they will say “That’s Him.” Not only that, in that chapter, God says He is going to do something great. This will be something unheard of before.

And whether you believe in the account or not, the account does show God consistently letting the people know that something powerful was coming. As He judges Egypt, He keeps pointing out that He is doing something new. When the people are in the wilderness, Moses regularly asks “Has anything like this ever been done before?” Gods were normally localized to certain areas. Egypt already had gods and those gods should have been sovereign there, but YHWH was trouncing their gods regularly.

God was going to then be revealing Himself as a God who keeps His covenants. He would be a God who would bring salvation to His people. Never before had God acted to deliver His people en masse from another empire in order to fulfill His covenant and never before had it been done with such graphic miracles.

It had its effect. This became the defining moment of Israel. It defined them so much so today that Jews today still regularly celebrate the Passover. Yes. I realize that many of them probably don’t believe it actually happened, but this is the moment in Jewish history that is central.

Ehrman’s mistake here is thinking that by name, God means the phonetic name being revealed. He doesn’t. He means the meaning of the name will be revealed in that God will show His reputation and who He is to His people as the God who will deliver and provide salvation in fulfillment of the covenant.

There are plenty of Old Testament scholars who have dealt with this. If Ehrman is going this route, I hope he will interact with them. Sadly, I notice he has a tendency to not interact with his best critics.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Is Ehrman Among The Mythicists?

What about the Ehrman quote on the lack of references to Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I am browsing Facebook and see someone share this quote again.

“In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

It is a real quote from Bart Ehrman. Unfortunately, the problem is too many people look at this and think that Bart Ehrman is endorsing mythicism. Hardly. Besides that, if some of the epistles in the NT are first century and mention Jesus and are private, such as Philemon, the pastorals, or perhaps some of the Johannine epistles, do these count as private correspondences?

However, to get to the point, no Ehrman is not a mythicist. He wrote a whole book to argue that Jesus did exist partly to deal with this claim that he is a mythicist. It’s a good book, but reading it, you can almost get the idea that he’s thinking, “I can’t believe I have to write this book.”

He has also spoken at the Freedom From Religion Foundation where he told mythicists that they just make themselves look stupid with that position. He has also debated Robert Price on the topic of did Jesus exist. So either Ehrman is massively in contradiction to several actions he’s done and is really a mythicist, or else the mythicists are misunderstanding Ehrman.

However, let’s also look at another approach. Let’s suppose this is the standard Mythicists give. Surely someone should have mentioned these people! Let’s see who else is unmentioned.

Hannibal was a general in the Carthaginian Empire and nearly conquered their great enemy, the Roman Empire. If anyone ever put fear into the Roman Empire, it was Hannibal. Many of us know about his crossing the Alps with his elephants on the way to conquer.

First reference? About 40-80 years later in Polybius. Think that’s not too bad? That’s also the date that would be given to the Gospels by liberal scholars.

Queen Boudica led a revolt in her time also against the Roman Empire. Keep in mind, this is a queen who did this. Contemporary references to her? None.

Arminius was a German general who in one battle defeated 1/10th of the Roman army. Where do we see him mentioned? About a century later in Tacitus.

In 79 A.D., the volcano Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii and killed a quarter of a million people. Historical references from contemporaries? One off-the-cuff remark between Tacitus and Pliny the Younger about how Pliny’s uncle died. We have some references in poetry and other places, but those are anecdotal. We don’t even learn about Herculaneum which was also destroyed until Cassius Dio in the third century.

In my debate with Ken Humphreys, he told me that he was absolutely certain Josephus existed. I asked him what contemporary references we have to Josephus. Answer? None.

These are just a few arguments and there are many more. The argument from silence is notoriously weak for something like this. It also assumes that these people should have written about Jesus, something I have written about elsewhere.

Note that I am not defending her the idea that Jesus is the Son of God who did miracles and died and rose again in the body on the third day. Affirming Jesus’s existence does not mean you have to affirm everything an orthodox Christian affirms about Him. I would think you’re wrong, but it is a more realistic position than mythicism.

When you see someone share this quote from Ehrman, put them back here. Odds are they don’t have a clue what Ehrman really believes and have never interacted with his work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Did Constantine Change The New Testament?

Is the favorite bad boy of ancient history at it again?

When talking about Christian history, it seems like every vile and evil thing in church history goes back to Constantine. Before too long, I’m anticipating I will hear that Constantine was responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials. Most people have no real historical idea of what Constantine did and just know what they have read about him in popular media.

Yesterday I was talking to an atheist on Facebook who gave me the line of “Who knows what Constantine took out of the New Testament?” Well, anyone who knows anything about church history and textual criticism knows the answer to that question. Nothing.

You don’t have to take my word. Listen to what Bart Ehrman says on his blog.

One of the reasons I’m excited about doing my new course for the Teaching Company (a.k.a. The Great Courses) is that I’ll be able to devote three lectures to the Arian Controversy, the Conversion of the emperor Constantine, and the Council of Nicea (in 325 CE). It seems to me that a lot more people know about the Council of Nicea today than 20 years ago – i.e., they know that there *was* such a thing – and at the same time they know so little about it. Or rather, what they think they know about it is WRONG.

I suppose we have no one more to blame for this than Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code, where, among other things, we are told that Constantine called the Council in order to “decide” on whether Jesus was divine or not, and that they took a vote on whether he was human or “the Son of God.” And, according to Dan Brown’s lead character (his expert on all things Christian), Lee Teabing, “it was a close vote at that.”

That is so wrong.

There are also a lot of people who think (I base this on the number of times I hear this or am asked about it) that it was at the Council of Nicea that the canon of the New Testament was decided. That is, this is when Christian leaders allegedly decided which books would be accepted into the New Testament and which ones would be left out.

That too is wrong.

So here’s the deal. First, the canon of the New Tesatment was not a topic of discussion at the Council of Nicea. It was not talked about. It was not debated. It was not decided. Period. The formation of the canon was a long drawn-out process, with different church leaders having different views about which books should be in and which should be out. I can devote some posts to the question if anyone is interested (I would need to look back to see if I’ve done that already!).

https://ehrmanblog.org/widespread-misconceptions-council-nicea-members/

For Constantine to do this, he would really have to know more about the New Testament than we do today. He would have to know where every copy of every New Testament manuscript could be found and then he would have to have soldiers or other servants who could go and track down all those copies and somehow either destroy them or edit them so that no hint of them was left behind. It they were destroyed, then there could be no evidence that this happened since we cannot point to evidence that was destroyed.

People who say this really demonstrate that they don’t know what they’re talking about and play their hand. It was kind of ironic since this was in a conversation where I said too many atheists online refuse to read what disagrees with them. I stand by that. This is not to say that none of them do, but when I meet an atheist who actually engages, it’s a refreshing exception.

So what evidence is there Constantine edited the New Testament? Really, none. It’s a popular myth in the world of internet atheism and really, internet atheism does itself no service as saying it is a position of reason and evidence. To paraphrase Jesus, these people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it. If you are such a person, you owe it to yourself to read contrary thought and see where you might be wrong.

And if you don’t, you don’t have a commitment to reason and evidence. You have a commitment to your own personal faith.

No. Constantine did not edit the New Testament. He did not determine the vote at Nicea. He did not pick the NT canon. None of those are true. If you are an atheist who wants to go about eliminating what you see as myths, start with your own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Heaven and Hell

What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s latest published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Generally, I have enjoyed reading through Bart Ehrman books. I thoroughly disagree, but I like the books. However, when I read the one before this, The Triumph of Christianity, I found myself walking away disappointed. There just didn’t seem to be anything there like the last ones. I started reading Heaven and Hell when it came out, got caught up in other books, and it was just awhile before I came back. Perhaps it seems more like Ehrman is moving away from Jesus to an extent and going to other areas in history and philosophy and there just doesn’t seem to be as much there. I can’t say entirely.

This book is a look at the formation of the doctrine of the after-death, as I prefer to call it, in Christian thought. Ehrman starts with the way the pagans in the world viewed death. From there, he goes to the Old Testament and then to Jesus and on to Paul and looks as well at Revelation. From then on, he looks at the church throughout history and then gives some concluding remarks on how he views heaven and hell.

This also leads to questions of the nature of heaven and hell. Again, these are more theological and philosophical questions so it could be that this just isn’t Ehrman’s area and so it seems more like just personal opinion at that point. However, there are some interesting points worth noting in the book.

Ehrman does show that in the pagan world, generally speaking, resurrection was not a good thing. The body was a prison to be escaped. Thus, resurrection in the Jewish or Christian sense also did not fit in.

For many skeptics who think that resurrection was the Jews copying from Zoroastrianism, which shows up on the net at times, Ehrman cannot agree, which is refreshing. As he says:

More recently scholars have questioned a Persian derivation for the Jewish doctrine because of certain problems of dating.1 Some experts have undercut the entire thesis by pointing out that we actually do not have any Zoroastrian texts that support the idea of resurrection prior to its appearance in early Jewish writings. It is not clear who influenced whom. Even more significant, the timing does not make sense: Judah emerged from Persian rule in the fourth century BCE, when Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) swept through the eastern Mediterranean and defeated the Persian Empire. But the idea of bodily resurrection does not appear in Jewish texts for well over a century after that.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 104-105). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Also, on a humorous note, he gives the story of how in an account Jesus said people would hang by their teeth in Hell over fires. Some disciples asked “What if someone has no teeth?” Jesus would then reply, “The teeth will be provided!” This was a joke done by a professor not to be taken seriously.

Also, for those discounting the Gospels as sources for Jesus, Ehrman has the following:

Even the most critical scholars of the New Testament agree that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are by far our best sources of information for knowing about the historical Jesus.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 150). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately though, at times he lapses back into his more fundamentalist days of reading the text. As commenting about Mark 9:1 where Jesus says some standing here would not taste death before they saw the Kingdom of God come in power:

Jesus is not saying that people will go to heaven. He is saying that some of his disciples will still be alive when the end comes and God’s utopian kingdom arrives on earth. Or, as he says elsewhere, when his disciples asked when the end of the world would come: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place” (Mark 13:30, emphasis added).

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 154). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

As I have argued, Jesus nowhere says when the Kingdom comes, it will be a utopia immediately. Jesus does not speak of the end of the world either, but of the end of the age. As an Orthodox Preterist, I’m convinced Jesus’s prediction was stunningly accurate.

Interesting also is what Ehrman says about 1 Cor. 15.

And so, for Paul, there will indeed be a resurrection. It will be bodily. But the human body will be transformed into an immortal, incorruptible, perfect, glorious entity no longer made of coarse stuff that can become sick, get injured, suffer in any way, or die. It will be a spiritual body, a perfect dwelling for life everlasting. It is in that context that one of the most misunderstood verses of Paul’s entire corpus occurs, a verse completely bungled not just by many modern readers but throughout the history of Christianity. That is when Paul insists: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). These words are often taken—precisely against Paul’s meaning—to suggest that eternal life will not be lived in the body. Wrong, wrong, wrong. For Paul it will be lived in a body—but in a body that has been glorified.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 182). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Ehrman also thinks the beast in Revelation 17 is the same as the beast that came out of the sea in Revelation 13. I disagree with this. Looking at the passage, it talks about a great harlot and the beast himself actually attacks this harlot after a time. Who is the harlot? Look at your Old Testament. One nation is repeatedly referred to as a harlot and that’s Israel. Israel would work with the Beast for a time, (Being Nero) in killing Christians, but in turn, the Roman Empire would eventually turn on the harlot, as Israel was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Yet at the end of this look on Revelation, Ehrman gives a paragraph that aside from the opening remark could easily be said in any evangelical church. As many preachers I know would say, “That’ll preach!”

Even if parts of the vision are difficult to unpack and explain and others simply do not cohere, the author’s main points are clear. His overarching message is that God is ultimately sovereign over this world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. We may live in a cesspool of misery and suffering, and things may be getting progressively worse. But God is in charge, and it is all going according to plan. Before the end, all hell will indeed break loose, but then God will intervene to restore all that has become corrupt, to make right all that is wrong. Good will ultimately prevail.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (p. 230). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

In the end, where does Ehrman fall? While he rightly tells us to try to avoid emotional reasoning, it’s hard to not see this in his response.

Even though I have an instinctual fear of torment after death—as the view drilled into me from the time I could think about such things—I simply don’t believe it. Is it truly rational to think, as in the age-old Christian doctrine, that there is a divine being who created this world, loves all who are in it, and wants the very best for them, yet who has designed reality in such a way that if people make mistakes in life or do not believe the right things, they will die and be subjected to indescribable torments, not for the length of the time they committed their “offenses,” but for trillions of years—and that only as the beginning? Are we really to think that God is some kind of transcendent sadist intent on torturing people (or at least willing to allow them to be tortured) for all eternity, a divine being infinitely more vengeful than the worst monster who has ever existed? I just don’t believe it. Even if I instinctually fear it, I don’t believe it.

Ehrman, Bart D.. Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (pp. 293-294). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Of course, this would all depend on how you view heaven and hell. I have written about my views elsewhere. Ehrman does say he doesn’t think this is what God is like. While I don’t think it’s accurate to say God is actively torturing people or even allowing it, seeing as I think torture and torment are two different things, I have to wonder that it’s incredible that Ehrman is willing to take the risk. Seriously, if Heaven is possibly there to gain and Hell is possibly there to avoid, I think it behooves anyone to seriously consider the question and when you decide, it needs to be more than “I just believe it” or “I just don’t believe it.” Some might think Christians should then read other religions as well. I have personally read the Mormon Scriptures and other of their books, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, and the Analects of Confucius.

Overall, there is some good stuff in the book, but there seems to be something missing. I can’t help but see an Ehrman who I think after all these years is still searching. Perhaps a book on the afterdeath is coming as Ehrman is seeing himself getting older and thinking about these questions a lot more. I still hold out hope that one day he will return to the Christ he has since rejected. I am pleased when in the end he says three of his great heroes are Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jesus. He would love to get to meet them in an afterdeath.

I am sure Jesus would love to meet Ehrman also.

Hopefully, it will happen, and on good terms.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Myths and Mistakes of New Testament Textual Criticism

What do I think of Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Textual Criticism is a fine science. There are many nuances to it and it’s easy to make mistakes in it. Fortunately, this book has been written to address many of the myths that one finds out there so that the apologist, scholar, and pastor can be better equipped.

About time isn’t it? Yep. Bart Ehrman has been putting some misinformation out there. It’s great to know that a work has been written to address his mistakes. Right?

Well, no. Ehrman is mentioned, but if anyone is in the sights of these authors the most often, it’s fellow Christian apologists! Does that make any sense? Why would a book devoted to errors in textual criticism be targeting people who are on their side?

Because many people today who are apologists and scholars and pastors are getting things wrong and if we want to be people of truth, we have to be willing to call out our own.

You could think that textual criticism is a big field, and you would be right. You could think that no one can be a specialist in everything out there in this field, and you would also be right. You could then think that two people couldn’t write a book addressing those areas, and you would again be right. That’s why Gurry and Hixson have gathered a team to write about these myths, each person having a specialty study in the field.

I am so sure of the importance of this field that I went to my father-in-law, who many of you know is Mike Licona, and told him that he needs to read this book before he goes anywhere and answers a question on textual criticism again. Many great scholars have bought into these myths. I even found some that I have held before, such as the idea that you could re-create a strong majority of the NT from the writings of the church fathers alone.

The reader will find several other topics here. Exactly how many manuscripts do we have and how does that compare to classical works? Are earlier works really necessarily better? Were the texts of the NT copied by amateurs who just weren’t competent as scribes? How many variants are there and how do we date manuscripts?

If you have spoken on textual criticism at any time and go through this book and don’t find you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way, you are a very rare person indeed. I would recommend every apologist and scholar out there read this before speaking on the topic. We will still make mistakes, but let’s not make these mistakes again.

If you want to know how to avoid mistakes in the field, buy this book. If you want to know better information about how we got our text and its reliability in transmission, buy this book. If you just want to be better informed, buy this book.

Bottom line. Buy this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 5

What else can we find in Jim Hall’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return again to Hall’s treasury of comedy, for lack of a better word, to see what arguments he has. Getting back into the matters, one of the first is the problem of evil. This is about how 25,000 children are dying everyday in fear, pain, and hunger. We are to remember this when we win some money in a scratch-off lottery ticket and give thanks or on Thanksgiving dinner.

We could just as easily ask Hall what great atheist organizations are doing to help combat the evil. Christians are normally right there on the front lines whenever disaster strikes and we are the ones that run the organizations helping children in need. Not all of it is Christian, but a large portion of it is.

Hall has nothing here on interacting with any scholarship on the problem of evil. Nothing about Clay Jones or Peter Kreeft or Alvin Plantinga or anyone like that. It’s simply the emotional appeal. While one would hope there is genuine concern for children, it looks more often like these children are trotted out to score personal points against theism.

He also says God violently drowned the world because they were too violent. This is supposed to be irony. What’s ironic is I went to Biblehub to do a search of the main passage, Genesis 6:5, and not one of them mentioned violence. Instead, it referred to man having a continual inclination towards evil. That could include violence, but it would not be limited to it.

Furthermore, God is the judge and ower of life and has the right to end the life He created. We do not have such a right. Hall just has a bad case of theistic personalism going on here. He views God as a big man just like the rest of us and under the same moral rules. God is good, but He is not a moral agent since there is nothing that He ought to do.

While I’m not Catholic, I find it amazing to hear him say Catholics practice cannibalism with transubstantiation. Hall is going back to older claims about eating the body and blood of Christ that Christianity’s first opponents used. Some arguments just never die.

He asks about how many pairs of animals Noah brought onto the ark. Was it two or seven? It’s amazing such a weak challenge is taken seriously. The clean animals would be extra for sacrifice and the number refers to how they were to enter the ark.

He quotes Matthew 6 to say Jesus was against public prayer. No. Jesus was against prayer to be seen. Pharisees would let it be known to everyone that they were praying so they could get the honor for it. Jesus Himself prayed in public, such as at the tomb of Lazarus.

He has that a 90 year-old woman gave birth. News flash to Hall, but everyone at the time also knew that this was generally impossible even without knowing why. That’s why it was called a miracle. I still do not understand how it is supposed to disprove a claim to someone that believes miracles are possible to show that a miracle occurred.

He also says one man circumcised 300 of his slaves in a day. As if to say that because the text says Abraham did this, he had to do it all directly. You might as well say that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged, that Pilate did it directly. What is it with fundamentalist atheists and literalism?

He tells us the oldest bit of text we have from the New Testament is P52 and it is about the size of a credit card and dated to about 225 CE. Not sure where he’s getting the date at. Most sources I read say mid-second century. Furthermore, there is really no reason to call the text of the NT into question. We don’t have any original manuscripts of any ancient work and the NT is far and above better with dating and manuscript number than any other ancient work. Hall cites no scholars for his claim. For my position on the NT text, I will.

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

He also says that insects have four legs according to Leviticus. Keep in mind these were people who regularly hate these insects and knew how to count. What’s going on? Simple. The back legs are not counted as regular legs like the others.

He says that God cursed humanity with multiple languages for trying to build a tower to Heaven. Why isn’t NASA judged yet? Because the tower was built after the flood when mankind was supposed to disperse throughout the Earth and instead they were acting in pride to build a tower to keep themselves safe in defiance of the flood in their recent history.

“The gospels were not written by simple, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking fishermen and peasants who knew Jesus, but were written decades later by literate, educated writers who wrote in Greek and were, incidentally, rather hazy about the Jewish landscape” – Kenneth Humphreys

Yep. Ken Humphreys, owner of Jesus Never Existed. We are getting into some first-rate scholarship here, folks. First off, in the ancient world, most works of history were written decades later. Actually, that’s not really accurate. Many times it was at least a century later. Hall and Humphreys obviously hope their audience is as ignorant as they are.

Second, most everyone who could write back then even used a secretary when writing. That the apostles might have still been illiterate is irrelevant. Literate people used secretaries.

As for errors in the Jewish landscape, none are given. I guess Hall just wants us to take it on faith.

Hall lists a variety of seafood that you are forbidden to eat citing Leviticus 11. Well, maybe if you’re observant of Jewish law and kosher practice, but not necessarily if you’re a New Testament Christian who is not under the Law. Again, Hall takes a simplistic approach to a complex topic. It’s alright. We wouldn’t want him to actually work and study a topic.

He shares the story of Jacob working seven years to get Rachel and not noticing that he got Leah instead and how he worked another seven years. What’s the problem here? For one thing, how could he not notice? A number of reasons. One is he could have been likely drunk which would happen at weddings. Another is the woman wore a veil often and he might not have even seen her face until the next day and keep in mind, no lighting really at night unless you used a candle or something of that sort.

There are some accounts in the New Testament that Hall questions how the writer could have known about them. The first is the voice of Heaven at Jesus’s baptism. Yes. It’s a wonder how the author could have access to a public declaration done at the baptism of Jesus. Some such events are conversations with the priests and what they were thinking. Considering Acts 6 says some priests became followers of Jesus, it’s not too hard to figure out how that could have come about. What about Jesus praying alone? The word indicates that Jesus was a short distance away. This could have been easily heard. Pilate and Jesus’s private conversation. Doubtful that when it says they talked together, they were alone. A governor would not be without his aides especially when interviewing someone thought to be a criminal. Another humorous one is Joseph of Arimathea asking for Jesus’s corpse. Well, since Joseph was a follower of Jesus, maybe, and I realize this is stretching, but maybe he told other followers of Jesus what happened.

Could be.

He says that denying a gay customer a wedding cake because of your religious beliefs is the same as a Catholic refusing to sell condoms, a Muslim refusing to sell bacon, someone refusing to sell you cookies because you’re on a diet, someone refusing you a fishing license because they became vegan, and a Jew refusing to sell Christmas cookies.

Again, a simplistic approach to matters. To begin with, I think anyone who has a good or service has a right to refuse that since you do not have a right to anyone else’s goods or services. Second, to supply actual artwork for an event as is often asked is to be forcing someone to endorse that event since their artistic labors are part of their free speech. Would Hall be fine with forcing Jewish bakers to paint a pro-Nazi cake?

He says bats are birds and not mammals. This is going by modern taxonomy. In the Biblical case, the word for bird referred not to a taxonomy class, but a winged creature. Last I checked, bats have wings.

He says Judas refers to a Jew and thus the betrayal of Jesus is obvious fiction since Judah in the Old Testament sold his brother for 20 pieces of silver and Judas in the New Testament sells Jesus for 30. Never mind that Richard Bauckham points out that Judas was the fourth most popular name for Jewish boys in Palestine. Could it be that maybe Judas was the name because that was a common name and not because of some conspiracy theory? We’ll wait to see if Hall takes off his tin foil hat for this one.

We’ll continue another time. Only so much nonsense in a day after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Twelve Painful Facts

Should Christians be in pain because of these “facts”? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So there has been a post I’ve seen recently about twelve painful facts for Christians. As near as I can tell, the author is an atheist named Michael Sherlock. He is apparently pursuing a Master’s in Arts at the University of England majoring in studies of religion. Let’s see how good his studies are doing. Fortunately, he does give sources for his claims.

Fact 1: The earliest official gospel (Mark) was written over a generation (40 years) after the alleged death of Jesus and subsequently, it fails the historical test of contemporaneity.

Source: Paul. J. Achtemeier. Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary Revised Edition. Harper Collins (1989), p. 653; John Barton and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press (2001), p. 886.

Reply: I would actually place Mark earlier and interestingly, so would skeptics like James Crossley who even places it in the 40’s. I did a research project on Mark once and most scholars do date it to before 70 A.D. This is secondary stuff. There’s two things I want to say about this.

First, there is no alleged death of Jesus. Jesus died.

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans. (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate. (ibid. 186)

Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-d…_b_847504.html)

Second, there is no historical case I know of for contemporaneity in the sense that a document must be contemporary in order to be trustworthy. Most of what we have isn’t. This rule about being contemporary is a made-up rule by Jesus mythicists to argue their case. Also, if early dating of the New Testament is accurate, we do have contemporary witness. We definitely do in Paul.

Fact 2: 612 of the 662 verses in the Gospel of Mark can all be found in Matthew, and in largely the same order, thereby demonstrating that the anonymous author of “Matthew” copied heavily from the Gospel of Mark.

Source: Graham N. Stanton. The Gospels and Jesus. Oxford University Press (1989), pp. 63-64.

Reply: Let’s assume this is accurate.

So what? Why would Matthew need to reinvent the wheel if Mark had already spoken? Furthermore, if Mark is the testimony of Peter as an eyewitness, as a member of the three of Jesus’s inner circle, he saw things that Matthew would not have.

Let’s not forget the whole thing about the Gospels being anonymous.

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.

Fact 4: The gospels contain numerous forgeries, contradictions and errors.

Source: Re: Story of woman taken in adultery in “John’s” Gospel; Paul. J. Achtemeier. Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary Revised Edition. Harper Collins (1989), p. 535; Re: Final 12 verses of “Mark”; Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart (1971), pp. 122-126. There are other examples.

Reply: I am not sure how these count in the category, but looking at this, this isn’t news. We’ve known about these verses not being original since the time of the early church. It’s because we have a strong textual tradition that we can recognize where the text has been altered. It’s amusing also that he claims numerous but only gives two.

Fact 5: The four gospels were not selected as orthodox Scripture until 180 CE

Bart D. Ehrman. Jesus Interrupted. Harper Collins Publishers (2005), p. 111.

Reply: I got this book at the library so I don’t have it now, but I wish he would have consulted a work like Who Chose The Gospels? by Charles Hill. There also weren’t really debates about canonicity. From the beginning, the four Gospels we have were recognized as Scripture by the church fathers. Irenaeus made the first formal statement about them, but that was nothing new.

Fact 6: There are no first century witnesses outside of the corrupt and biased gospels that attest to the earthly existence of Jesus Christ, but for a forged passage in the work of the Jewish Historian, Josephus (Testimonium Flavianum), and a second reference in that same compromised work, which is also suspect and in no way represents a specific reference to the Jesus of the gospels. (6)

Source: Re: No first century witnesses to earthly Jesus; Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted. HarperCollins (2009), p. 158; Re: Josephus forgeries; John E. Remsburg. The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidences of His Existence. The Truth Seeker Company (1909), pp. 32-35.

Reply: Bart Ehrman would not agree with this entirely as he does not hold that the statements in Josephus are entire forgeries. Most everyone admits there is some editing, but the majority of scholars believe there is a historical core there to the historical Jesus. This best explains the second reference to James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ. Readers would remember Josephus’s early reference.

There is also no contemporary record of a number of other great figures in history like Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and the German general Arminius. I recommend Sherlock check History for Atheists for more.

Fact 7: Almost all of the myths and moral philosophies attributed to Jesus can be found in earlier mythologies and philosophies, held by people that were proximate to the lands in which the gospels first arose.

Source: Joseph McCabe. Sources of Morality in the Gospels. Watts & Co. (1914). McCabe compiled many of the primary source pre-Christian references to the sources of Jesus’ alleged revelations, so you can go to those works and read them for yourself.

Reply: I’m going to assume this is true for the sake of argument.

So what?

My belief in Jesus does not depend on Him giving some unique mind-blowing teaching. It depends on His resurrection from the dead.

Fact 8: Most of the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was either a phantom (non-human apparition), or a completely human Jewish rabbi.

Source: Bart Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press (2003); Earl Doherty. The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. Age of Reason Publications (2005).

Reply: We have to laugh at Earl Doherty being a serious source here. There is no interaction with the Early High Christology Club such as Bauckham, Bird, Hurtado, Tilling, etc. We don’t have any of the church fathers espousing the position listed here. That would have to mean that the apostles died off and then immediately, everyone got everything wrong about Christianity right from the start. Color me skeptical.

Fact 9: Christianity only rose to power due to its blatant disregard for its own Scripture – meaning, it aligned itself with a psychotic “pagan” emperor, Constantine, who boiled his wife in a hot tub, murdered his own son and executed his co-emperor, and he merely used Christianity to solidify his political ambitions (sole emperorship), evidenced by the fact that he continued to practice his pagan faith and mint his coins with Mithras (pagan sun-god), long after his alleged conversion. 

Source: Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); Phillip Schaff. History of the Christian Church, Volume 5: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294. Christian Classics Ethereal Library (1882), p. 322; J.N. Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall (1969), p. 46; Frank Viola & George Barna. Pagan Christianity. Tyndale House Publishers (2008).

Ellebre is not a scholar in the field and Viola and Barna are really not sources I take seriously on this. Having interviewed Peter Leithart on Constantine, I am skeptical of these claims. Something I still want to know though is how Christianity even got to Constantine. It went through numerous persecutions and should have died out in the first century and definitely the second. Never happened.

Fact 10: The sect of Christians that aligned themselves with Constantine became known as the Catholic (Universal) Church and their chief historian, Eusebius, re-wrote Christian history to present a false picture that favored his sect and made it look as if his group’s theology, found in the four official gospels, was always the dominant and original form, when such was not the case.

Source: Bart Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press (2003); Joseph Wheless. Forgery in Christianity. Psychiana (1930); Bart D. Ehrman. Jesus, Interrupted. New York: HarperCollins (2009), p. 214.

Reply: These people must believe Eusebius was a remarkable man. He had the power to traverse the whole Roman Empire and eliminate documents that disagreed with him and change histories everywhere. Simply incredible.

Since I am skeptical of fact 9, this one follows from that.

Fact 11: For the majority of its history (4th Century – 19th Century), Christianity has been a violent religion, which, like a deadly virus, has taken over its hosts and killed in order to spread.

Source: Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); Rev. J.E. Riddle. The History of the Papacy, to the Reformation (Multiple volume series); Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (multiple volume series).

Reply: There is no in-depth analysis here. You will not find him interacting with a scholar like Thomas Madden on the Crusades or Henry Kamen on the Inquisition. Without specific claims, I really can’t say much here. Sherlock just seems to want to go for emotional points.

Fact 12: When Christianity had temporal authority, it was just as brutal as Islam.  The only reason we see more psychotic behavior from religious nuts in Islamic countries today, versus Western countries, is because the West has become increasingly secularized.

Source: Joseph McCabe. A History of the Popes. Watts and Co. (1939); Rev. Horace K. Mann. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages. Vol. 4. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd. (1910); Rev. J.E. Riddle. The History of the Papacy, to the Reformation. Vol. 2. Richard Bentley (1854); Helen Ellebre, The Dark Side of Christian History. Morningstar Books (1995); John N.D. Kelly. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford University Press (2005); Archibald Bower. The History of the Popes. Griffith and Simon (1845); Johannes Janssen. The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages. Vol. 10. Trans. A.M Christie; Kegan Paul. Trench. Trubner & Co. Ltd. (1906); Preserved Smith, PHD. History of Christian Theophagy. The Open Court Publishing Co. (1922); Jeremy Collier, M.A. An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain. Vol. 6. William Straker (1811); Carl Theophilus Odhner. Michael Servetus: His Life and Teachings. J.B. Lippincott Company (1910); R. Willis, M.D. Servetus and Calvin: A Study of an Important Epoch in the History of the Reformation. Henry S. King and Co. (1877); Sam Harris. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason. W.W. Norton, New York (2005).

Reply: Again, no specific examples are given, but let’s look at the last part. It’s a shame we can’t be like more secular countries, like Russia and, oh….what’s that? Stalin murdered how many of his people? Oh. Or we could look at Mao….what? He did too? Or Pol-Pot….what? Again? Let’s not forget the Khmer Rouge or the church being persecuted in China today.

I challenge Sherlock to find one nation untouched by the Bible where he’d prefer to live instead.

So we supposedly have twelve painful facts, and yet I felt no pain whatsoever. If anything, I felt some laughter in it.

If this is what is counting for atheistic argumentation today, Christianity is in good hands.

I’d also like to note that there’s hardly any interaction with modern evangelical scholarship on the topic. I have no problem with citing skeptics as I do the same, but by all means study the other side seriously. Otherwise, you just stay in an echochamber.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 29

Is Jesus the Son of Man? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to Glenton Jelbert’s Evidence Considered to look at Darrell Bock’s work on Jesus being the Son of Man. Jelbert isn’t too impressed with this essay apparently as this is one incredibly short chapter. Just as soon as I thought I was beginning it, it was over. It’s a shame because in my thinking, Jelbert really doesn’t treat the evidence fairly at all.

Jelbert says Bock seems to take for granted the existence of God and the credibility of the Bible. On the former, yes. Bock is not supposed to give the Kalam Cosmological Argument or anything like that every time. Many Christian Bible scholars could give that, but they won’t be like a William Lane Craig and specialize in it. Still, I don’t even think theism is necessary to make the case. It could be making the case for Jesus gets us closer to the case for theism.

As for credibility, Bock has written several works on this so there is nothing that he just assumes in this. When New Testament scholars make their case, they make it based on the data they have and if they think their case requires treating a text differently or suspiciously, they say so and why. Bock is just fine with what he is doing.

Jelbert says part of the problem is that Bock says the phrase means a human being. This isn’t an immediate problem since Jesus is indeed a human being. Not only that, it’s an essential of Christian theology that Jesus is a human being. If Jesus is not a human being, then there is no Christianity. That’s another point and I won’t go on on that one for now.

Naturally, Daniel 7:13 comes up and Jelbert says that one problem is it’s a dream. So what? The text of Daniel makes it clear this dream was from God. Jelbert doesn’t believe that? Big deal. Jesus and His audience would. The Sadducees could be an exception, but most of the people in Israel would think that.

Jelbert makes much about the statement about like and the use of a. I think these are just common Biblical descriptions. If this is where your strongest argument lies, then your case is pretty weak.

Now though, we get into one of my favorite parts. It’s a topic I love to discuss. This is the best way I think to see the evidence.

Jelbert says that the usage of Son of Man shows that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who thought the end times were imminent. Interestingly, he points to Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? rather than his Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of a New Millennium. I have reviewed the latter book. Jelbert says Jesus thought this, but He was wrong. The end times did not arrive.

On the contrary, (To quote Thomas Aquinas) Jesus did think they were going to arrive and Jesus was right. The question is, what were the end times the end of? If you think the end of the world, then you are mistaken. Let’s consider Jesus speaking about the temple. The disciples want to ask Jesus the sign of His coming and the end of the age.

Odd question isn’t it?

I mean, what do they mean with His coming? Jesus is already there! Did they mean His return after His resurrection? Doubtful. These guys hadn’t even realized Jesus was going to die yet, let alone die, be resurrected, and ascend to come again later. What did they want to know?

And if this is the end of the world, why point to just the temple? Won’t that be the case with everything? A lot of what Jesus says doesn’t make sense if He means the end of the world. “Flee to the mountains!” Because, you know, the mountains will be totally safe if the world comes to an end. Pray that it not be in the winter on a Sabbath. After all, if the world comes to an end, let’s hope it’s in the summer on a Thursday.

Could there be some other way to understand this? Why yes there is. It’s in the sense of what is meant by a coming. A coming refers in the Old Testament many times to judgment. Consider Isaiah 19:1. The Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. So is the Lord going to be like kid Goku riding on a nimbus cloud in judgment? No. Coming and clouds are both tied in. Clouds for deity and coming to refer to judgment.

In Revelation 2:5, Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that if they do not repent, He will come to them and remove their lampstand. Whoa! The second coming is going to take place if this one church doesn’t get their act right? Nope. This is about judgment.

One of my favorite passages on this is in 2 Samuel 22.

1 David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 
2 He said: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 
3my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. 
4 “I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. 
5 The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. 
7 “In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. 
8 The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. 
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. 
10 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. 
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. 
12 He made darkness his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. 
13 Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. 
14 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. 
15He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. 
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils. 
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
You can search all you want through the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel. You will never find a passage with YHWH hitching up on Gabriel and Michael and riding through playing Green Arrow. You will never find a massive event where the valleys of the sea are exposed and we see the foundations of the Earth. Yet here David says all of this took place.
Why?

Because for David, as for other Jews, political actions and such were depicted often using cosmic imagery. We do the same when we refer to an event as earth-shaking, without necessarily speaking about an earthquake. The great mistake is to take apocalyptic imagery as if it was literal.

So what was Jesus talking about?
He tells you. It was the destruction of the temple. Jesus says the temple will be destroyed and all the things He speaks of will take place. (By the way, for those who think this is the same event as 1 Thess. 4 or 1 Cor. 15, where is the resurrection? What timeframe does Jesus give? This generation will not pass away.
The temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Jesus was right.
Of course, some might be wondering about interpretations. I recommend looking up the position I have given, Orthodox Preterism, and see how the passages are interpreted. Even if you don’t agree, realize it is an acceptable view within Christianity.
Jelbert then goes on to say that sometimes Jesus refers to someone else as the Son of Man. This isn’t as momentous as Jelbert thinks. There was a common practice to refer to oneself in the third person. Paul does the same in 2 Corinthians 12 when writing about the man he knew who had an experience of heaven. Paul is speaking about himself. He says Ehrman makes a case that Jesus would have thought a future figure would be this Son of Man.
Ehrman does make such a case, but I think Michael Bird has a better one. Bird has pointed to a passage like Matthew 19:28-30. This passage is after the rich young ruler comes to Jesus and Jesus tells His disciples that when the Son of Man comes, they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. So what’s the big deal? Maybe Jesus is talking about another man coming in the future.
Doubtful. For one thing, this passage is quite likely an authentic one by skeptical standards since it refers to the twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes. A later writer would not have that since that would imply Judas. Yet if this is what happens to the apostles, where is Jesus? Is Jesus just slinking in the background somewhere? If the apostles get this great honor, doesn’t it fit that Jesus would have the glory of the Son of Man?
Furthermore, Son of Man is not a title the early church would make up. It doesn’t show up in Paul and it doesn’t normally show up in the Fathers unless they’re quoting Scripture. It’s quite an anachronism unless Jesus said it. The only times it shows up are in places like Acts 7 and the stoning of Stephen, and in my view, Stephen says that referring to Daniel 7 and the Son of Man standing in judgment. Hebrews tells us that Jesus sat down next to the right hand and Psalm 110:1 which says “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ ” (By the way, that’s the most quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament.) Why is Jesus standing then? I think it’s because Jesus is judging the nation of Israel there as sealing their fate for stoning the first Christian martyr.
Also, another passage that Jelbert points to is the one that before the transfiguration has Jesus saying that some listening to Him would not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come in power. Jelbert again thinks this is about the end of the world. It’s not. It’s about the kingship of Jesus being vindicated in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple showing the age of the Law was ended and the age of the Messiah had come.
Some Christians think this is referring to the transfiguration, but if so, it’s a weak prophecy. Imagine if I went to my church next Sunday and gave a sermon and said, “Some of you will not taste death before next Sunday comes!” I would not be heralded as the most awesome prophet of all. 99.9999% of the time I am sure I would be correct. Even with a higher mortality rate in the past, it wouldn’t be that great.
The transfiguration was a revelation of who the king is, but His rule would be established in the destruction of the temple. Jelbert thinks we have to redefine terms. No. We just have to abandon a Western literalism and go with a more Jewish approach to the text. If Jelbert wants to say I’m wrong, he’s free to engage me on my exegesis, but what he thinks is a passage showing a great weakness in Christianity is one that I think shows one of its great strengths. If I wanted to show a great proof that Jesus was a true prophet, I would go to these passages that Jelbert thinks are such a problem.
In the end, I have every reason to think Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of Man and He spoke truly. He truly was an apocalyptic prophet and He truly was right. I am not waiting for Jesus to be the King. Jesus is the King right now and His enemies are being made a footstool for His feet.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: In Defense of the Gospels

What do I think of John Stewart’s book published by Intelligent Faith Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Stewart is a lawyer who works with Ratio Christi and has written a book on defending the Gospels. Stewart goes through several questions very thoroughly and point by point. He also introduces you to many methodologies and explains why he accepts the answers that he accepts.

He starts off with asking when the Gospels were written. He establishes reasons for His dates but points out that often even on the worst case scenario of a date, the date could still be within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. He points out that this is important and compares this to other works of history as well.

Stewart goes on to use similar methodologies on other questions such as if the Gospels are anonymous or if they’ve been changed or if they’re biased. Many of the objections dealt with are the ones that most people will encounter when they engage with internet atheists. If you are often involved or know someone who is involved with those debates and wants an extra resource, this would be a good one.

The work is also short and easy to understand without using technical language. It can be read in a short time and would be ideal for college students on campuses. No doubt, this is because of years that Stewart has spent with Ratio Christi.

There’s also a brief section on Jesus Mythicism in one of the chapters. This will be helpful for those who regularly encounter this crazy idea that seems to keep popping up its head. While the material there is basic, it is enough to help you out with the average mythicist.

I also like the argument dealing with the question of if the Gospels are anonymous. This is a common one that shows up on the internet, but it is one I do not see professional scholars dealing with, mainly because most scholars don’t use “The Gospels are anonymous” as a reason to think that they are automatically untrustworthy. Stewart rightly points out that it does help us if we can have good reasons to name an eyewitness behind a Gospel, but it is not a necessity to know if the Gospel is reliable or not.

If there were some criticisms I would give, the first one is that the book does need an editor. There would occasionally be seen typos that were distracting. One in particular was to hear about how to respond to Bark Ehrman. This is a slip of the keyboard of course, but it can damage one’s reputation.

I also would have liked to have seen a lot more specifics on ideas that have been overturned in the past 100 years about the Gospels due to archaeology. Mythicism was addressed, but that has never been a reigning theory among scholars. There have been very few isolated individuals who have held that position, although the number today could be greater due to the rise of the internet and the fast spread of false information.

Still, there is much to commend in Stewart’s book. It is a good opening defense one can have in the case of the Gospels and the author does make sure to focus there. He does have a short section on the Pauline epistles, but that is not what the book is about so he does rightly stick with the Gospels. I recommend this one for your college student, especially one who wants to better defend the Gospels.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/5/2018: J.P. Holding

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

Today, we live in a world that has largely been Christianized. While there are still many people that have never heard the name of Jesus, there are billions that have. Christianity is the major dominating force in the world today. Jesus Christ has had more impact on the world than anyone else who ever lived.

How did we get to this point? What is it that made Christianity survive? It’s easy to say Constantine and blame him for everything, but how did Christianity even get to Constantine? It was a highly persecuted faith and a very shameful one.

Bart Ehrman has a theory and he recently discussed his theory in the book The Triumph of Christianity. As readers of this blog know, I was not impressed with this one and found it severely lacking. Ehrman never even touched on many significant issues.

However, there are other theories about how Christianity came to survive. One that is anathema to Ehrman would be that Christianity is true. Even still, how did it survive? What made it difficult to survive? Would Christianity have even been seen as appealing by the people at the time?

One of my favorite explanations for the rise of Christianity comes from my ministry partner. He has talked about it in his book The Impossible Faith. This is that if Christianity was false, it should have died out and it should have died out easily. That Christianity survived is in reality a testimony to its truth. He’s J.P. Holding and he’ll be returning to the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday.

So who is he?

J. P. Holding has a Masters’ Degree in Library Science and is a contributing writer to the Christian Research Journal. He has also written for the publications of Creation Ministries International.

I also want to give a special update. A kind fan of Deeper Waters has donated to us a webcam and some web editing software. Hopefully, we will be able to make videos soon. We will be doing this episode on Facebook live so you can hear the interview live and if you have questions, you can feel free to ask those. It’s up to my discretion if a question gets on the air or not, but it will be good to see your interactions.

We will be talking about the problems of Bart Ehrman’s book and where he goes wrong and anything he might get right as well. We will be talking about his approach to the Gospels and to ancient evidence. One aspect I definitely hope to touch on is why is it that honor and shame get no real traction in his book? Does Ehrman still not understand how the ancient world worked?

I hope you’ll be watching for this latest episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. We can be sure of Facebook Live, but we could also try for YouTube Live. It’s a great way of branching out. Please go on iTunes also and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters