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)

Generous Reading

How do you read a text that’s controversial? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, rather, it only appeared to them. (Qur’an 4:157)”

This is a text from Islam’s holy book that many apologists use to say that Jesus was not crucified. Many Muslims do the same as you will find books about the “Cruci-fiction” out there. However, it was when I was reading a Christian book about Islam that I came to a different conclusion.

It’s not a hard and fast conclusion, but it’s one that is possible. That is that the Qur’an is not really denying the crucifixion, but it is rather answering the Jews who thought they brought it about and is saying it was really the doing of Allah. The author of the book argued that Muslims didn’t make denial of the crucifixion a claim until some time much later than the time of Muhammad.

That could be right. The point is that I don’t know enough about the Qur’an to know if that interpretation is correct or not. However, I do know that there is a right and a wrong way to read a text. If I have read the text and there can be a reasonable doubt that there could be a more generous reading of that text, I will not go with the reading that I have.

This is also a rule to follow with any text, and that includes texts that aren’t written, such as in speeches. If a case can be made for a more generous reading of a text that doesn’t present it in as negative a light as you would like, following the principle of charity, it’s good to be open to that one and not hold dogmatically to the one you have.

I did the same going through the Book of Mormon one time. When I would find something mentioned as existing here in America at the time, I would look and see if it was there. If it was found here, then I would go right on ahead. If I found evidence that that came to America at a later date, I would put it down as an item to use. After all, anachronisms are a powerful argument. For instance, it was either cement or concrete that I did find evidence of being over here. Scimitars? Not so much.

Note that this rule applies with all things being equal. It doesn’t mean the better reading is always right, but it does mean that if there is an equal probability of the two or it’s controversial and you don’t know the subject well, go with the one that is the more generous. If you don’t do that, it could be that you really want that person behind the text to be as bad as you want them to be.

I also want to stress that this isn’t a rule just for the Bible as I started out with texts that I do not think are from God in anyway whatsoever. I will happily debate that many Muslims do deny the crucifixion, which is certainly a fact, but that does not mean that the Qur’an necessarily does. If a Muslim denies the crucifixion in front of me, then I will argue against them on that point.

If you do know the subject well though and you can make a case that this is what the author of the text originally meant, then by all means make the case. This is in no way saying authors and books never say evil and/or stupid things. It’s just a general rule of thumb and it’s good for holy texts (Or claimed holy texts), political speeches, or any other text whatsoever.

This will also help your debates as someone is more apt to listen to you (Not a guarantee mind you) if they know you are really listening to them. Everyone wants to be treated fairly most of the time. If you’re a Christian, you are commanded to. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want someone to be generous with your words, then do the same with theirs.

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

Interpretation and the Principle of Charity

How should we read another text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many people like to find contradictions in the Bible and point them out. They also seem to get upset when something is said to be “out of context.” Now if a Christian says out of context and doesn’t explain how, I think that’s appropriate to be upset about that. However, there are plenty of ways to take any text, ancient or modern, out of context and misinterpret it.

Consider how in Luke, Jesus says that if you do not hate your father and mother, you cannot be His disciple. No, internet atheist. Jesus is not telling us to hate our parents. There are a number of atheists that think this is exactly what Jesus is saying. He’s not. Jesus is making a hyperbolic statement. Your devotion to the Kingdom must make all other loyalties fall away if necessary. The Kingdom of Christ comes first.

Now if we are Christians and demanding that, we also need to do the same. Consider that one of the classical arguments against Islam is that Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus. You go to the Koran and you see this yourself. Let’s look at the text.

“That they said [in boast], “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of  Allah,” but they killed him not, nor crucified him.  Only a likeness of that was shown to them.  And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge.  But  only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not (Surat Al-Nisa 4:157).”

That looks convincing, but I remember reading a book about Islam from a Christian perspective that said no one early on in Islam denied the crucifixion. That came later. Now I haven’t got to research this entirely, but I do know this person is not trying to be liberal in his theology. He’s not a Muslim sympathizer or something like that.

So do I use the point now that the Koran denies the crucifixion of Jesus? No. Do some Muslims use that? Yes. Will I argue against that position? Yes. However, by the principle of charity, if I can interpret the text in such a way that it doesn’t say that, then I will go that way. If you are curious, the interpretation I read also was that the Jews were the ones who thought they killed Jesus, when really Allah is saying they didn’t have that power. The problem is more with the Jews claiming ownership of it.

Let’s suppose I’m reading the Book of Mormon and I see the book talking about something that existed in the ancient world supposedly. If I look it up and I find that yes, that really did exist, that doesn’t mean I believe the Book of Mormon, but it does mean by the principle of charity I don’t use that as an argument. This isn’t about being light. This is about being fair with a text like we want people to be with Scripture.

In the same way, it’s important for skeptics to consider how they are interpreting the text. If there is a way that can put the text in a better light and there is sufficient evidence for it or it’s plausible, should you not be open to that interpretation. If you are not, does that mean you want the text to be false more than you want your reading to be accurate?

Consider it especially if it’s likely the person you’re dealing with knows the text better than you do. I don’t debate Muslims regularly, so I am going to take it that a debater defending Islam knows the Koran better than I do. I will take it the Mormon missionaries know their Scriptures better than I do. Odds are also if you’re the regular internet atheist, that person who reads the Bible every day might know it better than you do. (And I mean a specific type of internet atheist of course. There are plenty of atheists that know the Bible well.)

C.S. Lewis once said years ago if you read something bad in the newspaper about someone you don’t like and think “That doesn’t surprise me” and then later on see a correction, is your tendency to be relieved that at least they weren’t that bad, or is to get upset something was taken from you. We could ask the same about a text. If you are given an explanation of a text that is still plausible even if you’re not familiar with it, are you open to that, or would you prefer the text to just be wrong?

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

Olivet Discourse Matthew 24:37-42

Do you want to be taken or left behind? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We all remember the Left Behind series. I tried to go through it listening on audio. I couldn’t. I got through about three books and found the whole thing abysmally boring. The book I read even ended on some cliffhanger and I never cared for how it would work out.

It’s not just because I disagreed with the whole theology of the book. The Da Vinci Code was awful history and ridiculous, but I actually thought the story was enjoyable. On the other end, I think the Harry Potter books are just awesome literature and I thoroughly enjoyed them. All of these books I also read audio.

However, the whole thing about Left Behind is that you don’t want to be left behind. When Jesus comes, He comes to take away the righteous and those who are Left Behind get to go through the tribulation period. After all, look at what these verses say.

37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. “

These people miss the rapture. Right? They’re left behind. Right? Well, no. Jesus has said nothing in the text about coming and taking away people. If anything, this is a passage of judgment. We see this in the parallel in Luke 17.

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

This is all about how to avoid judgment. Vultures gather at corpses which means there are going to be a lot of dead people here. That’s just like in the flood of Noah. When people are taken, it means that they have died. In reality, you do not want to be taken. You want to be left behind.

The series has it wrong. Those who are left behind are the ones who are fortunate. It’s the ones who are taken who are the victims of judgment.

When Christ returns one day, I want to be left behind.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Not Liking Scripture

Should you always enjoy Scripture? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I meet people who tell me they just look forward to getting up and reading the Bible every day. They just find such great delight and get a new insight every time they read it. Personally, I don’t really believe such people. The more prone someone is to tell me how spiritual they are, the less I am likely to believe them. The more someone tells me what a struggle their Christian walk is, the more I believe them.

Last night, I talked to someone who told me they recently read the Bible for the first time and as a Christian, there was a lot of stuff they didn’t like. I think this is something very real. If anything, I admire it. I don’t think highly of people who read through the text and never have any questions about it or get troubled by it whatsoever.

This person was wondering why Abraham would decide to sleep with his concubine or why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land. I really think these are good questions. I don’t want to go into them here, but I think they are good questions.

The point I wish to establish with this is someone who is wrestling with these questions is someone who is taking the text more seriously. Sadly, by those standards, some atheists online take the text more seriously than some Christians. The problem is most of those atheists never bother looking for answers to the questions. It just becomes, “I don’t like this, therefore the Bible is wrong and Christianity is false.”

When we read the Bible, we see the blemishes and faults of the characters. It’s not a pretty picture. David, the man after God’s own heart, is a murderer who can’t keep it in his pants. Moses is a murderer with a temper. Solomon, well, we all know how much he loved the ladies. In the New Testament, the apostles many times seem to be bumbling idiots that even Jesus Himself is exasperated with.

But there are also other parts of the Bible I don’t like. I don’t like being told I need to love my enemies. I’d like to do many things to my enemies, but love isn’t one of them. I don’t like being told I have to put others before myself. Personally, I’d love to be at the center of my own universe. I don’t like being told I have to forgive those who wrong me. I think it would often be more fun to sit back and plan a nasty revenge.

These are all things I am told to do though, and when I do them, I find I grow to be a better person regardless. Are they easy? Of course not. If they were, everyone would do them.

And honestly, I think this is the real problem many skeptics have with the Bible, especially in the area of sex. So many times when questions begin to arise, it can be because a member of the opposite sex is involved. If Christianity did not have high standards such as sex only within marriage and marriage is to be for life, then I think it would be more popular to people, but God’s ways are indeed not our ways.

As you read your Bible, realize it’s okay if it’s difficult or boring sometimes or you find things you don’t like. Still, I encourage you to keep wrestling with the text and asking the hard questions. They have been asked for years. However, it is foolish to ask a question and not seek an answer. That’s where too many atheists stop. Go find the answers. You might find that in the end, though you still don’t like everything in there, you respect the text a lot more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Olivet Discourse—Matthew 24:7

Have there been more earthquakes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I remember being in a Bible study group for men in high school and sometimes we would talk about end times. Our leader told us that there was an increase in earthquakes. This was seen as a sign of the end times. Why would anyone think that? Look at verse 7.

” Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. “

We covered wars last time, so let’s look at famines and earthquakes. Note that the text doesn’t say there will be an increase in earthquakes. Even if we went with that, the truth is that there hasn’t been an increase in earthquakes at all. We just have a better means of detecting earthquakes and we hear reports of them from all over the world, something that wasn’t possible in the first century. See here for details.

Yet even in Scripture, we see earthquakes. There is one at the crucifixion of Jesus and there is another around the time of the resurrection. When Paul and Silas are in prison, there is an earthquake.

Various writers also wrote of earthquakes. You’ll find them in Tacitus and in Josephus. There was an earthquake before the eruption of Vesuvius. Earthquakes were happening. Thus, if we are looking for earthquakes as a sign, this can still fit in to the first century very easily.

How about famines? Yep. We have those too. The big one was the one Agabus talked about in the book of Acts. This is also likely the situation going on in 1 Corinthians 7 and the present situation where Paul said it might not be good to marry. After all, if you can’t provide for yourself, providing for a wife also will be much harder.

If anything, we have far more means to battle famine today. When they happen, it is likely because of evil governments ruling over innocent people. After all, we could airlift food anywhere in the world that we really wanted to.

So for those who are thinking what we see today could be a sign that Jesus is coming, don’t be too sure. We’re still well within a first-century context here. Some might be thinking later verses will sink this theory, but we’ll see when we get there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To David Cross

How did we not get the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let me tell you the story about how we got the idea of evolution.

Once in history Charles Darwin was sailing around in the Beagle Boat and saw a bunch of birds who had different beaks and came up with an idea of animals mutating into different forms, kind of like Pokemon, and then decided to extrapolate all the way back to the past. Modern scientists today think that there was a pond somewhere on Earth and a lightning bolt struck it and some cells came together and a bunch of them turned into a fish that crawled out of the ocean and turned into every other animal that we see over time. Unfortunately for the theory, Darwin recanted of it on his deathbed.

Anyone who is an evolutionist be it an evolutionary creationist or a naturalistic creationist would think I am a total moron on the theory saying that. You know what? They would be right. That would be one of the worst presentations I could give of evolution. That doesn’t mean that evolution is true, but it does mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about with it.

Now imagine if someone said the same kind of thing about the Bible? What if someone made a statement presuming to be an authority on a subject and yet it was nonsense? Such is the case with a meme I saw recently. I went to my site here to see if I had said anything about it and I hadn’t. Therefore, I decided I should write about it.

This meme is attributed to David Cross. I do not know for sure if he said the quote or not, but people spread it around anyway. For the sake of argument, I am going to be assuming it was said but even if it was not, the thought expressed, or lack of thought I should say, is one that is commonly shared.

So let’s look at this meme in all of its infamy.

Where to begin?

First off, the Bible is a book that was written over a long period of time so to say when it was written doesn’t really make sense. It’s also unclear about what is meant by when it was editing. Some editing did take place in copying, but this would be to replace an unknown location with what it was known by to the current audience. This is not a change of content.

As for dead languages, not at all. Three languages are in there. Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Today, there are scholars of all three languages so we can know what is said. it would also be false to say a translation was made of a translation of a translation of a translation. Go to the store and get any Bible you want. It has been translated one time. Each translation goes back to the manuscripts that we have to see what it says.

Then given to kings for their favorite parts? Which kings were these? Cross doesn’t say and for good reason. There aren’t any to say. For a king to make this kind of change, he would have to go and change every single manuscript out there that we do have of the Old Testament and the New Testament. With the New Testament, he would also have to change the quotations found in the early church fathers.

Then Cross goes back to the editing and re-editing and then talks about it being given to the Pope for him to approve. Which Pope? He doesn’t say. Again, this is for good reason. There wasn’t a Pope who did this.

We come back to the same refrain again to which he then says that all of this was based on stories told 30 to 90 years AFTER they happened.

Um. Mr. Cross. I don’t know how to break this to you, but most histories are written after the events happen. Some historians have tried writing about it before, but it really doesn’t work that well. It’s best to wait until the events take place and THEN write about them.

I would also think it would be awesome if we could get skeptics to say Genesis was written 30-90 years after the events took place. We could easily dispense of JEPD then. This again is another area where Cross doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Cross’s statement is also unclear. Did these stories just start getting told 30 to 90 years later? Doubtful. These were being told in the lifetime of Jesus even and these were oral societies that knew how to keep stories well. Don’t expect him to cite anyone like McIver or Dunn or Keener or anyone like that.

Also, 30 to 90 years in that time wasn’t a long time. Many of the lives of Plutarch were written over a century later. Many great historical works were written long after the events took place. This sounds like a problem to modern people. It’s not in the world of ancient history.

Finally, most people back then couldn’t read or write, but someone else could and that person would read a letter or Gospel. Normally, the person delivering the work would also know the author and be able to tell some of the details that weren’t written and answer questions. Again, no research is cited in this little meme but hey, lack of research has never stopped atheists from propagating statements of faith like this.

So no, you don’t have to wonder what it would be like for someone to get Biblical transmission as wrong as I got evolution.

David Cross has already done this for us and so have all the atheists who have shared this as if it was a convincing argument.

A Response to Daniel Miessler

What do I think of what Daniel Miessler said about the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone recently shared with me a post by Daniel Miessler to show the Bible is fiction. At the start, this is something even difficult to say. Everything in the Bible is fiction? Every single thing? Nothing in it happened at all? Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Babylon? No one in the New Testament who is a major character ever even existed? (I have taken enough looking at mythicism to show it’s a joke theory I think.)

Still, let’s see what Miessler has to say. He wants to emphasize Genesis and Jesus. Now my main specialty area will be Jesus, but I have a few things to say about Genesis.

First, let’s look at comparisons about the flood. To begin with, much of this is also found in Dawkins’s Outgrowing God which I am writing an ebook response to at the time. One of my main sources I am using for the Genesis part is this one.

My source, in this case, is a researcher at Cambridge who specializes in Assyriology. Now let’s consider that Miessler is an expert in cyber security by contrast. All things being equal, before we even investigate the claims, which person is more likely to know the most about an Ancient Near Eastern culture and their writings? Ding ding ding! That’s right! It’s the one who actually studies those cultures.

I leave it to you to read the article that I shared to see some of the major problems, but let’s look at what Miessler says.

“Keep in mind the level of detail in these similarities. It’s not a matter of just a flood, but specific details: three birds sent out, resisting the call to build the ark, and a single man being chosen by God to build the ark. Then consider that the first story (Gilgamesh) came from Babylon — hundreds of years before the Bible was even written.”

To begin with, I don’t recall Noah ever resisting the call to build the ark. Second, if an event was historical to some extent, we can expect some similarities. The differences will be in the secondary details, but there will still be similarities.

Nothing is said about the differences. Nothing is said about a polytheistic culture living in the great symbiosis system versus a monotheistic covenant theology system. Nothing is said about the size and shape of the boats. Nothing is said about the purpose of the flood. Nothing is said about what happens to the hero of the story afterward. For example, in Noah’s study, he builds a vineyard, gets drunk, and is sexually shamed in some way by his grandson. (The language of the Bible is very euphemistic at this point.) Hardly a way to glorify your hero in the end!

The writing of Miessler is dated to September 18th, 2019. Why did he not avail himself of a study such as The Lost World of the Flood by Longman and Walton? I suspect that it is because this writer, like many non-Christians I meet, and sadly many Christians, has a fear of contrary thought. His source material is horrendous anyway.

Second, he says that this came from Babylon centuries before the Bible was written. Neither of these points is substantiated. Nothing is said about when the Bible was written. It looks like he’s going with a JEPD date of Genesis, but he does not argue for it. He merely assumes it. It would have been nice to see some effort here.

He also has in the footnotes that all of this is to show that God is fiction and was made up because we are scared of death and wanted to control people. If so, the plan failed miserably. In the Old Testament, you would think that if death was something that people were scared of, you’d see more explicit statements about resurrection and warnings about Hell and encouragements about the joy of Heaven. If it was to control people, it looks like that failed miserably too because in the Old Testament, the Jews are very rarely under control.

Such thinking anyway is quite fallacious. Imagine if I said, “Atheism is a system that exists because people don’t want to be under authority and they don’t want to be bound by God and live a life with the sexual freedom they want.” Could that be a motivation for some? Sure. Could some people be Christians because they fear death? Sure. Nothing in this really addresses the arguments for the beliefs.

By the way, Miessler, if you want to show that God is not real, it would serve you well to deal with some arguments for God. You do not do so in this piece. Now it could be you have elsewhere, but if you are making an argument that God is fiction, perhaps you could link to an earlier writing on your part.

It’s also worth noting that his information on Noah comes from ReligiousTolerance.org. Yep! This is first-rate research we are seeing right here!

Now let’s move to the fun part. Jesus. HIs source is Bandoli and even then, he doesn’t get the link right on his post. Fortunately, I was easily able to track it down. You can see it here.

If you go through the list, you will see that none of them have any documentation. The one exception is a book about Alexander the Great and not even a page number is cited. Everything else, the writer expects us to just take by faith, which apparently Miessler did and then the person who shared it with me. I often say that when an atheist looks at an argument, he doesn’t look to see if the argument is true. He just asks a question or two.

Does the argument argue that Christianity is false?

Does the argument make Christianity look bad?

If so, it is absolutely true and no research is needed. Now if anything is brought up contrary to atheism, that requires evidence. If anything is brought up contrary to Christianity, that requires no evidence. I, meanwhile, prefer to demolish a bad argument period regardless of if it’s against atheism or Christianity, and yes, there are plenty of bad arguments against atheism and plenty of bad arguments for Christianity.

Scholarship for the most part, even skeptical scholarship, doesn’t really take the copycat idea seriously anymore. The grand central hub of resources on the pagan copycat claim can be found here. Still, let’s go through the list and mention a few interesting ones.

Osiris is said to be the only true God, which is interesting to say since the Egyptian religions are very polytheistic. Osiris also didn’t rise from the dead. He was reconstructed by his wife, except for one particular body part she couldn’t find which she made a substitute of, and then ruled from thereon in the underworld and not the land of the living.

Horus doesn’t fare much better. Egyptologists have looked at the many claims given for him. As is said at one point in the article:

While all recognize that the image of the baby Horus and Isis has influenced the Christian iconography of Madonna and Child, this is where the similarity stops. There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born.

Of course, evidence is a small thing for internet atheists to consider. This argues against Christianity so it had to be true. Most atheists will share it without bothering to check it out.

Mithra is also amusing. We have NO writings by worshipers of Mithra. There are also three different versions. Which one is had in mind? Since we don’t have writings from his followers, our main sources are artwork and the writings of the church fathers about Mithra. So much of this is nonsense. They did not practice baptism (Not babtism) but rather the followers were put under a bull and had its blood poured out on them. That is obviously a one to one parallel with going into the water and being submerged into it.

For claims about Buddha and Krishna, Mike Licona interviewed two scholars in those fields who found these kinds of arguments far less than convincing. You can read that here. Again, there’s a reason the copycat thesis is not taken seriously.

Let’s look now at Bible contradictions. The first is about the flood. This is not so much a contradiction as a supposed falsehood. Miessler is under the impression the text requires a global flood. It doesn’t. The flood I contend was local, though the scope would be considered the known world of the time. Hence, questions about foreign animals and the like will not be something that concerns me. That means there’s nothing left.

He then says in Luke, the angel spoke to Mary. In Matthew, to Joseph. Which is it? These don’t contradict. The angel tells Mary she will give birth while being a virgin (Which I do affirm) and then tells Joseph later on when he hears the news that Mary is telling the truth and don’t be afraid to marry her. That doesn’t mean the story is true, though I affirm that it is, but this is hardly a contradiction.

He says the word for virgin is Almah and means young woman of marriageable age. In Isaiah, definitely. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is parthenos and definitely means virgin. He also says Jesus had other brothers and sisters. Most Protestants would agree and say only Jesus had a virgin birth (Which I do affirm) and the rest came the natural way. Even a Catholic or Orthodox who holds to perpetual virginity should at least have no problem seeing that this wouldn’t violate the virgin birth as held by Protestants.

As for the census, the wording in Luke 2 is quite difficult. Ben Witherington in my interview with him indicated it could mean a smaller census taking place before the great census later on. Further, if Luke was really fabricating something, I see no reason to think he would fabricate something everyone would know was false.

He says the Bible says to honor your father and mother, but Jesus says to hate your parents and call no one father. It’s incredible that people still have such a hard time reading basic instructions. No one ever took Jesus to mean that we must actually hate our parents until internet atheists came along. Jesus’s statement there is one of comparison. Your love of the Kingdom must come before even familial obligations.

He then says God says killing is wrong, yet advocates genocide. To begin with, the Hebrew word is Ratsach. There are a number of other words that refer to killing. This kind of killing is being forbidden. Killing, in general, is not. As for genocide, we are sure that Miessler will never read a work such as Did God Really Command Genocide? After all, contrary thought is way too frightening. You can listen to my interview with Matthew Flannagan, one of the authors, here.

He also goes after slavery. Nothing is said about how Israelites in the wilderness were supposed to make their living. Slavery is never defined. He also says we all know it’s wrong, which is really a recent innovation. I would like to know how on atheism Miessler would know that slavery is wrong. Again, at any rate, he could have talked to a scholar about the topic like I did here.

He also says about the genealogy of Jesus that if Joseph isn’t the father, why give a genealogy to someone who isn’t related to you? Joseph’s is given for legal reasons. Joseph would be seen as the legal parent of Jesus. Keep in mind, an adopted son became Caesar after all.

He then asks about the Passover. Wouldn’t an all-knowing God know who was faithful and who wasn’t? This is more a judicial review of sorts. Those who were faithful were to make a sacrifice to show to everyone else they were and to make a public demonstration of their trust in the promises of YHWH.

Finally, what about Abraham being asked to kill his son? To begin with, Isaac was the child of promise and had a miraculous birth in the account. Isaac was also promised to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessings would come. When Isaac and Abraham go to offer the sacrifice, they are accompanied by others. Abraham stops them at one point and tells them they must wait. Abraham and Isaac will go alone and they will both return.

Isaac is also not a wimp here. He’s carrying the wood himself for the sacrifice. Keep in mind Abraham was well over 100. Does anyone really think Isaac couldn’t have outrun him or fought him off or something like that? Would Isaac be willing to be sacrificed? Apparently. Death wasn’t the big deal to people back then that it is today. People faced death everyday on a regular basis.

Abraham instead was trusting God’s promise. Either YHWH would stop him somehow, or YHWH would raise him from the dead. As it is, Abraham was stopped.

He asks how is Jesus’s sacrifice the ultimate one if He didn’t stay dead. That’s not a requirement though. The sacrifice is offered to God. God can do with it what He wants. The giving back of life to Jesus is saying that God approves of the offering and of the life His Son lived. Justice has been paid.

He then asks if Jesus removed our sins, why do we have to avoid sin and accept Him to avoid eternity in Hell? This is really such a simple question I can’t believe anyone is really asking it like a stumper. We avoid sin because sin dishonors God and because it goes against our own purpose in this world. We are to live holy lives. Why do we have to accept Jesus? Because in accepting Jesus, we agree with God’s verdict and seek His forgiveness. It is never forced.

He also says why does the Bible say so much about treating slaves, how to kill enemies, and how to avoid angering God, but never anything such as not to harm a child. Probably because the ways of YHWH on many things were counter-cultural and different. Not harming children is largely basic, though Israelites were forbidden from sacrificing their children unlike their pagan neighbors.

The next two assume a worldwide flood. I have no need to reply since I don’t hold to that.

The next is about the problem of evil and the suffering of children. To begin with, the logical problem of evil is no longer used as a disproof of God. The probabilistic problem of evil and evidential problem is. Evil cannot disprove God, but it can make His existence seem unlikely.

There is no easy solution to this and I recommend reading works, especially Clay Jones’s book Why Does God Allow Evil? which I interviewed him on here. What I want to know is why Miessler considers this an evil. If we are all just a cosmic accident, we have no meaning and purpose, so what difference does it make? A child dies or an old man dies. Their lives are meaningless and they will both go to nothing.

Finally, he says Wikipedia can be updated. Why not Scripture? For one thing, Wikipedia regularly gets things wrong, such as the Shane Fitzgerald incident. Second, imagine the chaos if all around the world people had different books all said to be the Bible and they were different for that culture or the manuscripts were radically differing. The system God has works now.

Miessler then tells us we have two options.


God created all these stories and characters thousands of years before the Bible in order to trick people, and then created new stories and characters that were almost exactly the same. But the version that went into the Bible—even with all the contradictions and immoral teachings—is the actual word of God. …OR


The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years. Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these. This is why it has the nearly identical flood story from Gilgamesh, and why Jesus has the same characteristics as Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Mithra, and Krishna. The contradictions and immorality in the stories are not evidence that God is flawed or evil, but rather that humans invented him, just like the thousands of other gods that we used to but no longer believe in.

Let’s go with #3.

Miessler is someone who wouldn’t recognize good scholarship if it came up to him and smacked him in the face. He is highly ignorant of the evidence for Christianity and believes anything found in atheist works without reservation. The real case is the Bible needs to be studied contextually and when this is done rightly, one can see it’s true and Jesus rose from the dead.

He then concludes:

If you hadn’t been taught Christianity since you were a young child, which of these two explanations would make the most sense to you?

Well, none of the earliest Christians were taught Christianity since they were young children and yet the faith thrived at that point. What makes the most sense to me is Miessler doesn’t ever study what he seriously disagrees with and believes anything that argues against it. Christians who study these issues don’t even blink anymore. Those who believe Miessler are just as much people of faith as he is.

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

My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts

What’s going on in Isaiah 55? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times if you see Christians talking about ideas they have, they will often say that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Any mystery can be appealed to by going to this passage. Unfortunately, if we follow it to that conclusion, we can often get into some really contradictory messages.

Let’s look at the passage in question in Isaiah 55:8-9.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Okay. Seems straightforward enough. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. Yet how far does that go? I have a thought that Jesus is Lord. Is that not what God thinks? I have a thought that 2 + 2 = 4 and that red is a primary color and that English is the language I speak. Does God not think those things?

You see, if we go this route, we can end up with a bunch of nonsense. It’s the idea that if we think something, then automatically God is not thinking it. Now of course, how God thinks something is radically different from how I think it and there are great differences between us, but when it comes to truth, we can think God’s thoughts after Him. It’s what we’re to strive to do.

It’s been said before that if you misunderstand a verse, not only do you misunderstand it, but you also do not get the true understanding. If this is the case, then the true understanding of this could be something great that we’re missing. Indeed, it really is. This passage is a powerful message of forgiveness and we have missed it.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

The passage starts with God as it were wooing His people. he wants them to come to Him. He’s offering His blessings to them regardless of their income level or what they can bring to Him. Yet there is always some hesitancy, and isn’t that often the case? Many people today can be hesitant to come to God because of fear of being judged.

So the passage goes on.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

This immediately precedes the idea of my thoughts are not your thoughts or my ways your ways. The question to ask in exegesis is “What is the passage talking about?” It’s talking about God wanting the people to return to Him. Many of them will be thinking “God will judge us. God will destroy us. God will not have mercy on us.” Why would they think that? Because that’s the way life is for them. God is someone to be scared of. God is a judge. God will destroy them and punish them. In essence, God is a big man.

God then says His ways are not their ways and His thoughts are not theirs. Their thoughts are like that, but God’s ways are to forgive and show love and mercy. It’s not to judge.

Do you see what has happened? We’ve taken a passage about love and mercy and now it has been made that most people do not see the love and mercy in it and the way of forgiveness. If anything, we’ve made God virtually unknowable by using this passage. After all, if His thoughts are not mine, then anything I think about God by definition cannot be true nor can anything you think of Him. That would be absurd and self-contradictory. After all, “None of my thoughts about God are true” is itself a thought about God. If none of them can be true then that thought can’t be true and well, it gets confusing from there if you try to keep following it.

Please be watchful of Biblical texts and how they are used. Try to approach the text and see what is going on in the larger context. You might miss a blessing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters