Book Plunge: Decoding Nicea

What do I think of Paul Pavao’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Council of Nicea and Constantine. These are two subjects where we have a lot of heat and very little light. Look at a work such as The Da Vinci Code and you’ll find nonsense on there such as that the deity of Christ was decided at Nicea by a very close vote. One lady online told me that she abandoned Christianity when she found out the canon was decided at the Council and proceeded to send me a link that said that that was actually a great myth about the Council.

Paul Pavao has a book to help deal with this. A good benefit of his book is at the start, he’s not just trying to tell the facts about Nicea. He wants you to know how the facts are known. As he says:

You don’t have to wonder about what is being said in this book. You can look up every reference I give. There are not any other primary sources. Everything else said about the Council of Nicea that is not from these sources is speculation or wishful thinking.

He does just this. The book is heavily filled with endnotes. He does look at the debate at Nicea and points out it could be more accurately said that it was about what the Son of God was made of, what is His substance. Much was agreed on at the Council, but what was disagreed on was sure substantial.

This book also includes looking at several references in the church fathers to see what they had to say about the deity of Christ before Nicea. It’s easy to see that there were no innovations at the meeting. The appendices are filled with several historical documents as well.

As it goes into church history, there are looks at other questions as well. One such question I liked is the one on the Sabbath, though I wish there had been more on this. The SDA church lists several claims about the RCC supposedly admitting that they changed the date of the Sabbath. Perhaps that was out of the scope of the book though.

There is rather substantial pushback to RCC claims about the Pope. It would be interesting to see some members of the RCC respond to this. I as a Protestant agree with the claims and am skeptical of many of the claims my Catholic and Orthodox friends make about church history.

I also like the response to the idea that Constantine tried to destroy all the Gnostic writings. As Pavao says:

If Constantine was unable to succeed in extinguishing the memory and writings of Arius, just one man, do we really believe that he destroyed all the gnostic writings and there’s no record of his even trying?

What about the canon? Yep. Nothing to do with Nicea. There is an appendix with the canon lists from church history in the back. I do have some pushback here as I don’t think the Muratorian Canon really dates to the time it’s said to date to and is really a forgery.

Pavao also stresses that it’s a shame that Christians got so violent over the question of Nicea. We spent years working on our doctrine, which we should, but we didn’t spend so much time looking at our practice. Sadly, today we are still in the same boat. While we weren’t killing each other, remember the problems from the Inerrancy wars in the past decade? I am not opposed to Christian debate as we should have that, but too often we are ready to shoot our own instead of going after our own common enemies.

That is another great benefit of the book. The work is not only meant to help clear up myths about Nicea, which it does a great job of, but it also is meant to tell us how we should better live as Christians. Not enough study has been done on this topic and definitely not enough practice. What does it matter if we reached the orthodox position at Nicea if we go out instead and live like heathens?

The book is long, but it is worth it. It is also readily readable for the layman. Anyone can pick up this book and understand it. I encourage Christians and skeptics to do so. There are too many myths believed about Nicea.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)
Support my Patreon here.

The Trinity and Acts 2:36

Does Acts 2:36 disprove the deity of Christ? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve had two times where I have interacted with someone online from the group called the Iglesia Ni Cristo, a cult group that seems to have the strategy online of “Say the same thing over and over preferably very loudly and ignore anything to the contrary.” Last night, I encountered someone who seemed to think the only verse in the Bible worth talking about was Acts 2:36. This is one a lot of skeptics of the deity of Christ and/or the Trinity use.

So what does the verse say?

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

The idea is rooted in the word “made.” If Jesus was made Lord and Christ at His resurrection, then He was not these things before. Right?

The Greek word is ποιεο and if you want to base your argument on this word, well good look. Unfortunately, it’s one of those words that has a lot of meanings behind it. Here’s what you can find at BlueLetterBible.com.

  1. to make
    1. with the names of things made, to produce, construct, form, fashion, etc.
    2. to be the authors of, the cause
    3. to make ready, to prepare
    4. to produce, bear, shoot forth
    5. to acquire, to provide a thing for one’s self
    6. to make a thing out of something
    7. to (make i.e.) render one anything
      1. to (make i.e.) constitute or appoint one anything, to appoint or ordain one that
      2. to (make i.e.) declare one anything
    8. to put one forth, to lead him out
    9. to make one do something
      1. cause one to
    10. to be the authors of a thing (to cause, bring about)
  2. to do
    1. to act rightly, do well
      1. to carry out, to execute
    2. to do a thing unto one
      1. to do to one
    3. with designation of time: to pass, spend
    4. to celebrate, keep
      1. to make ready, and so at the same time to institute, the celebration of the passover
    5. to perform: to a promise

So let’s go a different route. Let’s start with Lord and limit our usage to Lukan usage before the resurrection. Luke 1:43 has Elizabeth referring to Mary as the mother of her Lord. In Luke 2:11, the angels say that born in Bethlehem is Jesus, who is Christ the Lord. In 3:4, John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord and then here comes Jesus.

In 5:8, Simon calls Jesus, Lord. A leper does the same in 5:12. In 6:46, Jesus asks why call Him, “Lord, Lord” and not do what He says? The friends of the centurion call Jesus Lord in 7:6 and Luke calls Jesus Lord himself in verse 13 and again in 31.

In 9:54, two of Jesus’s disciples refer to Him as Lord and two would-be disciples do so in verses 57 and 61. Luke again calls Jesus the Lord in 10:1 and the returning disciples in verse 17 call Jesus Lord as well.

Honestly, I suspect at this point this is getting repetitive. You can search on your own and find the numerous places where many people in the Gospels call Jesus the Lord in Luke and this before His resurrection. So what about Christ?

Yep. Luke 2:11 mentioned above and Simeon is told in the came chapter he won’t die until he sees the Lord’s Christ. Demons declare Jesus to be Christ in chapter 4 and in chapter 9, Peter makes his great declaration of faith that Jesus is the Christ.

So now, either all of these verses are wrong or need to be reinterpreted or Acts 2:36 needs to be.

So how do we read Acts 2:36 then?

It’s easy. The resurrection was the action whereby God declared that Jesus was indeed Lord and Christ. It is God’s vindication of the claims of Jesus. It in now way means that Jesus became Lord and Christ at that point or else Jesus Himself is wrong many times throughout the Gospels and surely should have corrected all those people giving Him those titles.

Thus, the INC and the JWs and anyone else using this verse just really doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, such groups will continue to do so because they don’t know better. They will also avoid contrary scholarship that disagrees because sadly, they don’t want to know better.

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

Book Plunge: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Romans 8

What do I think of Ron Fay’s book published by Fontes Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find books on Paul’s Christology, his view of the Lord’s Supper, his view of justification by faith, his eschatology, his pneuamtology, his doctrine of the church, his doctrine of sin, his view of the resurrection, etc. I could go on down the list more if I wanted to. However, how often do you see a book on Paul’s view of the Trinity or at least his doctrine of God?

Fay seeks to change that with this interesting book. In it, Fay looks at Romans 8 and sees what Paul has to say there that indicates at least a proto-Trinitarian understanding of God and to see if the Romans would have seen it the same way. This is not to say that Paul was running around talking about the hypostatic union and quoting the Nicene Creed, but that Paul saw that there was one God and somehow saw the Father, Son, and Spirit as God and did not see them all as one person.

Before even getting to Romans 8 though, Fay looks at the Greco-Roman idea of god. This is not to say that Paul was borrowing from pagan religions, but that Paul spoke a language that would have had a certain meaning to those who came out of pagan religions and were familiar with the concepts, like the Roman Christians. All the while, he would be working with his own Jewish idea of God which Paul would have never abandoned, but would have integrated his new view of Jesus with.

From there, Fay goes on to touch about pretty much every subject in the chapter. He talks about God and creation and God and Law and God and adoption. Again, we could go on and on. Adoption is a key concept since we don’t know as much about Jewish views of adoption as we do about Roman views of adoption and considering a Caesar on the throne had been adopted, the Romans would have understood it.

Then once again, as we went through God and every topic in the chapter, we look at the Son and the Spirit in the same way looking at every topic. It is hard to imagine being even more thorough looking at a single chapter of Scripture. It’s also a great reminder that a look at the historical and social context of a chapter can provide great insight.

Finally, we look at if the Romans would have received this as a look at the Trinity as well and Fay concludes that they would have. Again, the doctrine was worked out over centuries in the church, but the seeds were there.

A caution I would have for every reader though is this is written by a scholar mainly for other scholars. There are many points the layman will not understand, such as Greek words and phrases used that are not translated. This is not to say the reader will get nothing out of it, but some things will be lost. I do not know if Fay is planning a version of this for the average man on the pew, but I certainly think it would be helpful.

Now if you are of the scholarly persuasion and you are reading this, then this will be a helpful book for you to read and one that I hope will spark debate. I would like to see more works on Paul and the Trinity from a scholarly perspective. I hope this is indeed not the end, but the beginning of the discussion.

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

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/11/2020

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

The Trinity is one of those doctrines that Christians get out when they need to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they don’t pay much attention to elsewhere. It’s a shame because the Trinity is a birthright of Christians. It is a teaching that can change everything for us if we let it.

While Jehovah’s Witnesses will say it is a late development, it is all over the pages of the New Testament. One such place is in Romans. Paul moves back and forth from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit. Does a Trinitarian understanding help us in any way here? What difference does it make?

To discuss this, I have brought on a friend of mine who got in touch with me who recently wrote a book on this topic. He is a New Testament scholar and very well informed and also known as the Greek Geek. I can also assure listeners that if for some reason we cannot do the show, it will indeed be his fault. (Inside joke for those who understand it.) His name is Ron C. Fay.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ron C. Fay did his undergraduate work at Calvin College (now Calvin University), where he majored in Physics/Math and Classical Greek. He earned his M Div and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), where he was the New Testament Department Scholar. He has taught at both TEDS and Liberty University, at the School of Divinity, as part of the New Testament faculty. He has taught from Junior High to doctoral level courses. He spent 7 years in the pastorate as well. He currently teaches for both Liberty and the Stony Brook School. He has published on Paul, Greco-Roman Backgrounds, John, and Luke-Acts and is coediting the series Milstones in New Testament Scholarship with Stanley E. Porter. His book Father, Son, and Spirit in Romans 8: The Roman Reception of Paul’s Trinitarian Theology was just released. 

Romans is a great treasure for Christians and we will be diving into it. Prepare yourself to see the Trinity in the book through new eyes. We have also recently uploaded several episodes and are catching up on others so hopefully, we will be up to date soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/9/2020

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

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL!

If there’s any problem that keeps people away from Christianity often, it’s the problem of evil. This is not to say that I think the argument has any real rational ground to stand on. What makes it so different is that it’s so emotionally compelling. Many of us when we encounter suffering that we think is unjust and serves no purpose struggle to understand God in it.

Here’s something to keep in mind though. Christians need to explain evil. Sure. The thing is that everyone else has to as well. Atheists and pantheists and panentheists and every other worldview has to give an answer for evil. Eliminating God doesn’t mean you don’t have to explain things. You still have to. Worldviews are meant to explain as much as possible.

So how does theism explain evil? Beyond that, how is it that Christian theism alone can explain evil in ways other beliefs can’t? To do that, I brought on someone I did get to meet once before and now is paving his own path and has a book out on the problem of evil. He is Dr. Ronnie Campbell and he is my guest Saturday.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ronnie Campbell (Ph.D.) has been involved in higher education since 2006, teaching courses in theology, philosophy, Bible, and apologetics. His research interests include God’s relationship to time, the problem of evil, the doctrine of the Trinity, and religious doubt. He is author of For Love of God: An Invitation to Theology (Emeth Press) and Worldviews and the Problem of Evil (Lexham Press), and he is co-editor with Christopher Gnanakan on the Zondervan Counterpoint book, Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God: Four Views. Ronnie has a forthcoming article on James Orr in Zondervan’s The History of Apologetics: A Biographical and Methodological Introduction. Ronnie lives in Gladys, VA, with his wife, Debbie, and four children. 

This Saturday then, we will be talking about evil. We’re still working on past shows. Things are perhaps starting to get more normal around here so hopefully soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Superheroes Can’t Save You

What do I think of Todd Miles’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m not someone who reads comic books, but I do like superheroes. When Smallville was on the air, I devoured everything I could on that series and I regret that I never got a copy of the comic strips for after the show went off, but alas, I didn’t have the money. Many of you might know I had every episode title memorized in order when it was on.

Fortunately, I also married a wife who likes superhero movies so we can sit down and watch Thor or Iron Man together as well. It is rare I meet a guy who doesn’t like superheroes. For many of us men also, we like to be the protector and imagine being those heroes for the ones we love.

Many times, we can also see these superheroes as Christ figures. To some extent, there’s some truth to this. There are many ways in which Superman is very similar to Jesus. However, there are many ways that they are different.

Those differences could lead to heresy even.

Superheroes leading to heresy? Holy Christology Batman! Yes, indeed. Superheroes can illustrate for us great Christological errors in history.

In this, Todd Miles covers 7. Superman is a docetism of sorts that is so much divine that we do not see him as really human. The humanity is just a facade. We can see Jesus the same way.

Batman is quite the opposite. Of all the superheroes, Batman is a regular guy. He just has a lot of knowledge and a lot of gadgets. In this, many people can say Jesus is just a regular guy. He was just really a man of great wisdom.

Hank Pym has made a comeback in the movies as Ant-Man, but he can also be Goliath and the Yellow Jacket. Three different ways one guy can be. Sounds like modalism? Indeed, it does.

Thor is the son of a great god, but he is just a god in himself. Is there any group out there that teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, but he is simply a god? That would be the Arian teaching and the Watchtower Bible has Jesus described as “a god” in John 1:1.

Green Lantern has an awesome ring that gives him great powers with the use of his will. In the same way, some groups teach that Jesus was adopted and given the Holy Spirit that allowed Him to do miracles. This adoptionism is for Miles, the Green Lantern heresy.

Hulk is a Christological heresy too? Yep. The great Bruce Banner is a brilliant thinker and scientist, but when he turns into the Hulk, he loses all of it and just wants to smash everything. Hulk doesn’t really have a human mind then. If you recognize Apollinarianism, move to the head of the class.

Finally, Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. His DNA is actually fused with spider DNA. At this point, he becomes a mixture of a spider and a human. Yes. We are talking about Euytchianism.

This is a really fun read through church history and at times, the footnotes at the bottom of the page can be just as funny. This book is also designed for small groups, so get a church group together and watch a superhero movie and then read a chapter of the book about that hero and discuss it. It would be great to see more like this. About the only major problem I have is the Superman chapter never mentioned the Smallville series. I don’t understand how a great oversight like that can take place still…..

Theology is a deep field, but it can also be fun. If you like superheroes, you can learn Christology. Give this one a try.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Who God Is

What do I think of Ben Witherington III’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I received this book from Lexham, I was a bit skeptical. After all, Ben Witherington is an excellent New Testament scholar, but I have not heard of him being a theologian. Still. I knew that since he wrote it, it would likely be brilliant. The book looked small as well so I thought it would be a quick read and so I decided to dive in.

First off, I was right on one point. This is a quick read. I started it in the late afternoon and I finished it before I went to bed that evening. If you want a quick read on the nature of God, a primer as you will, this is the one to go to. It’s a short read, but let’s get to the other parts.

Second, my skepticism proved to be wrong. This is really a great book. It’s not a dry read from a New Testament scholar. It’s really a passionate act of worship, something I don’t think I’ve seen like that from Witherington before, but it was an excellent work. It focuses on a select few attributes of God, and not always the ones we normally go to.

Normally, if you pick up something like the Summa Theologica for example, you will get the far more metaphysical concepts of God. I was just looking it up. Aquinas wrote a lot, but in the Prima Pars I don’t see love mentioned. What Witherington covers is five concepts. Love, light, life, spirit, and unique.

This isn’t an apologetics book per se. You won’t find arguments for the existence of God or the reliability of Scripture. All of this stuff is just assumed, and that’s fine. This book is more of a devotional book for those who believe.

At times, Witherington does touch on some secondary issues. Towards the end, some issues I didn’t care for being discussed, but if that distracts you from the overall point of the book, you have greatly missed out. Witherington’s book is a refreshing step out of the ivory tower as it were to a place where theology is meant to meet real life.

Far too long, I have said that a disconnect is there. Too many apologists I think have been doing what Lewis said, been so intent on proving God exists that you would think He has nothing to do but to exist. Witherington’s work reminds us that theology is meant to touch your life. It should change how you live.

Are you worried you won’t understand it because it’s deep talk about God? Don’t be. Witherington’s book is very readable. Like I said, it’s short enough that you can read it in a day, but it will be a day well spent. You will find at least one gem in here that will get you closer to worship of our great God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 37

Is there a case for the Trinity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to the work of Glenton Jelbert. I do agree with him in Bill Gordon’s chapter that on the face of it, I don’t understand a chapter on the Trinity in evidence for God, unless you’re trying to respond to objections about God. Still, the Trinity is an important topic, so let’s see what Jelbert has to say about this.

First, Jelbert says the doctrine says that three is one and declares this to be a mystery. No Trinitarian worth his weight in salt would ever put forward such a ridiculous notion as that. No one who has a clue about this subject will say there is one God and three gods or that God is one person and three persons. Jelbert can say it’s wrong all he wants, but please, let’s dispense with straw men.

He says that Thomas in John 20 displays healthy skepticism, but this is not really the case. Thomas had traveled with these guys for years and lived with them and knew them well and all of them gave the testimony that they had seen Jesus. Thomas’s skepticism was unreasonable in that sense. Jelbert ends this saying it took hundreds of years for the Trinity doctrine to evolve. We’ll deal with that later when it comes up again.

He goes on to say that Mark doesn’t support the divinity of Jesus.

Oh really?

In Mark 1, we have John the Baptist coming forward to prepare the way of the Lord. If you look in the Old Testament, the Lord is YHWH. Who shows up on the scene then? Jesus. Think Mark is making a connection? Mark also has Jesus being able to declare forgiveness of sins in His own person in Mark 2. In doing this, Jesus is being the temple which represented the presence of God. Jesus is then the new place the presence of God is made manifest.

Later in that chapter, Jesus declares Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath. What does that say about how Jesus viewed Himself? We could go on and on, but keep in mind that this is in just the first two chapters. Jelbert really needs to look at Mark more.

In Matthew, we are told that no one called Jesus Immanuel. No, but this is irrelevant. Many people would also have many names and the focus is that God is with us, which is exactly what happens in the last few verses of the book. Matthew is writing an inclusio to show that Jesus is God with us.

Jelbert says Matthew 28 was never quoted to show that one must go to the Gentiles. After all, the apostles all had immediate understanding and accepting of Jesus’s words. Old ways of thinking die hard. As for being baptized in Jesus’s name in Acts 2, that is because Jesus was the one that needed to be recognized as Lord. Groups today that make something magical about the names given at baptism are badly misunderstanding both passages.

I do agree that there can be an overemphasis on John, but Jelbert never seems to bother looking up the best scholarship. There is no citing of Bauckham or Hurtado or Bird or Tilling or anyone else in the early high Christology group. His only reference to the Trinity doctrine evolving is Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. I have already reviewed that book and found it really lacking.

In conclusion, there really isn’t much here. Sadly, even Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to have a bit more substance here. Jelbert should really consider interacting with the best in the field.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Tendency To Be A Marcionite

Do we all have a tendency to go that way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It was within the past couple of weeks that I came to this conclusion. I was going to sleep at night praying myself to sleep as I usually do and I started thinking about my prayers to God. I started thinking about how the Father seems so unapproachable and things of that sort, and many of us I think do think that way.

Then the realization came to me. If Jesus is the one who showed the Father to us, then if we can approach Jesus, we can approach the Father. The thought hit me then that I had been being a Marcionite and I hadn’t even realized it. Was I not implicitly saying God was a God who was ready to judge?

I thought then of the many passages I have read on prayer. We are told to boldly approach the throne of grace in Hebrews 4. That is quite a serious claim. You don’t just come to the throne. You come with courage and confidence. You have all right to be there. God has granted you that privilege because He has adopted you as a son or a daughter.

And what does that tell us? God is supposed to be one that we approach as Father. The New Testament seems to go to great pains to get us to realize that. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:32 that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. He before this even tells us to fear not. Could it be we are told to fear not because we fear the opposite from God?

What about Elijah? James tells us that Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for years. He prayed again and the rain came. Before this, he says Elijah was a human being just like us. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

And if this is the case, the other danger of seeing God wrongly is that we don’t see Him truly. We miss who He really is. If we see God in this way, how can we present Him as truly a God of love?

This isn’t to say that He’s not a judge either. There is some of that judgment in Jesus as well. Just see what Jesus did in the temple or read the book of Revelation. Jesus can be quite tough on those who oppose Him. The Father we are told disciplines us because we are sons and He loves us.

If we see God as a father, what kind of father is He? Jesus tells us that if we ask our fathers for fish and eggs, will we get snakes and stones instead? What kind of father would do that? Yet sometimes we treat God as someone we have to beg and beg just to get one good thing from and we live in constant fear begging for mercy over and over.

And maybe you’re reading this and realizing you’ve had the same tendency. I think it shows up in people who come to me and struggle with doubt. They think that if they didn’t say or do the exact right thing, God will abandon them and say they’re not really Christians. He wants to keep them out of eternity on a technicality. Is that not the same sort of problem? The cross should show us God is willing to do what it takes because He does desire to forgive. Heaven is not for God but for us. God doesn’t need Heaven. He needs no place to dwell. We need a place if we are to be with Him.

So now, I am in the mental process of working on rethinking issues relating to prayer and who God is and thinking more and more about the awesome privileges that come to us who are Christians. I hope some reading this who have the same struggle are starting to rethink. If we are to tell the world about the goodness of God, we need to believe it ourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 32

Did Jesus predict His death and resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Glenton Jelbert takes on Craig Evans with the claim that Jesus predicted His death and resurrection. Now I do agree that Jesus knowing the trouble He was causing was not saying much by predicting His own death. Of course, if He predicted how and when, which I think He did, that makes it a little bit different.

One place that Evans goes to is Mark 14:36.

And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Jelbert says that Evans applies the criterion of embarrassment whereby the early church would not make up a passage that has Jesus being frightened and unwilling to go to His death. Jelbert says that the criterion can be valid in general, but one has to apply it carefully. Did Evans turn every stone looking for other explanations? Let’s see about that.

Jelbert first says this supports the idea that Mark thought Jesus was more man than God. At the start, we have to ask if Jelbert thinks Mark thought Jesus was something like a demigod or what. Christianity has never denied the full humanity of Jesus including the full display of human emotions.

Second, Jelbert says the courage and anguish and sacrifice are beautiful instead of embarrassing and this may be the most moving verse in all of Scripture. Perhaps you might think that if you lived in a modern Western individualistic society. In Jesus’s world, one was to face their death with dignity and a man was to be a man and a king was to be a king. This is not the way a Messiah figure would act. I see no reason why I should really care what Jelbert thinks so far into the future after the event.

Third, Jelbert says embarrassment is resolved by seeing what the story requires. Isaiah 53 would say the Messiah had to suffer, but the question is would Jews and Gentiles really see that, or would they see it as more of a “Jesus was a failed Messiah, but we’re going to come up with this explanation to explain what doesn’t fit for a Messiah.” Jelbert says that applying Isaiah 53 still raises a myriad of problems. How does resurrection work? Was it planned by God? How did Jesus feel about death?

All of these are good questions to ask, but in this case, they’re all irrelevant. If we want to know if Jesus predicted His death and resurrection, none of these questions change the facts. If we want to know if He rose again, none of them change the facts. A police officer can come upon a victim that everyone agrees is murdered. Does he know how it was done? Does he know why? Does he know what the victim was thinking? He could know none of these things and he might want to investigate, and probably will, to see what answers he finds to these questions, but it won’t change that a murder has taken place.

Jelbert also says that if Jesus is God and was sent by God to suffer through the will of God to save us from God’s judgment, was Jesus really suffering? At the start, this is quite a word salad. Let’s be clear on terminology. When we say “Jesus is God” it does not mean that Jesus is the entirety of the Godhead. It’s more theological shorthand rather than quoting and explaining something like the Nicene Creed every time. It simply means that Jesus possesses all the attributes of the divine nature in His person.

Jelbert says God in Jesus has to suffer or there will be no salvation, but no argument is given for this. The early church would have all condemned it. The man Jesus suffered, but God did not suffer. God did not undergo change. God did not die on the cross. (Always be watchful of prayers to the Father that change to “Thank you for dying on the cross.”)

It wouldn’t be an accident that Jesus suffered or else God is not sovereign. Yet surely God cannot victimize His Son, so Jesus did it willingly. Jelbert says that a passage like this tidies it all up. Jesus was hesitant but agreed to go.

And yet, this wouldn’t address the issue at all. How would the outside world see this? Christians could agree that Jesus went and suffered wilingly, but hesitatingly, but why include even the fact that Jesus was in anguish? Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore that? Why give oneself a difficulty?

Evans also points to the idea of Jesus to carry one’s own cross and points out that Jesus didn’t do that. Someone had to help Him with His cross. This argues strongly for the authenticity of the saying.

Jelbert says that all that happened most likely is that stories were spreading and changing and Mark wrote down the two different accounts. We can applaud his not trying to smooth it out and this shows his sincerity but not his accuracy. Unfortunately, Jelbert provides no data from oral tradition. Nothing is given to back this.

As is pointed out in works like The Lost World of Scripture, stories were told in groups and minor details could be changed, but not the central thrust. There would also be gatekeepers of the story who would make sure that the story was being shared accurately. Jelbert instead just gives a just so story with no data to back it and expects us to think it’s true.

Jelbert also says resurrections apparently happened all the time in the ancient world. He then goes to Matthew 27:52-53 on this passage. It is a wonder why a passage like this should lead one to the conclusion that resurrections happened all the time.

One point Jelbert brings up is that these stories of resurrection lack corroboration outside of the Scripture. He ignores that even in Q, which if accurate is the most basic account of the life of Jesus, miracles are included. Scholars now do not really hesitate to agree that Jesus had a reputation as a healer and/or exorcist. This does not mean that they think He actually did these things, but He had that reputation.

Today, you can read the accounts of Craig Keener about miracles where resurrections are said to take place. These do not receive worldwide coverage. Why? Skepticism. It was just the same back then. The most well-to-do writing histories were normally outside of Judaism. How many of them are going to seriously investigate a crucified Jewish rabbi from Nazareth to see if He did miracles or not?

Second, Jelbert says that if everyone was claiming resurrection, it’s not a big deal if Jesus did. Note how far we have gone. Jelbert has taken one passage, and a passage that is often highly debated as to what it means at that, then said based on this passage we know that resurrections happened all the time, and then based on that bizarre idea says that everyone was predicting resurrection. Even if they were, that resurrection would be at the end and not in the middle of the space-time continuum.

Next, Jelbert returns to Matthew 16:28. This is the one that has Jesus saying some standing there would not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Jelbert says this is just false, but many theologians have spilled much ink to explain it. We have to ask if Jelbert did what he asked of Evans. Did he turn over every other stone to find another explanation other than what he thought the text meant? Obviously not, because most any orthodox Preterist could have explained it easily enough.

So what is it? Note that no one there was thinking about Jesus leaving let alone returning. Jesus in talking about His coming would be giving a message of judgment. Jesus would come in judgment before some there would die. The transfiguration would show the disciples He had this authority, but it would not prove to be that event.

Around 2000 I had to get a set of Tyndale commentaries for Bible College. R.T. France did the one on Matthew and said the coming is one of judgment and kingly authority. It is not a coming to Earth but a coming to God to receive His kingdom. Jelbert assumes this must mean the return of Jesus. He gives no argument for that.

This would happen in 70 A.D. when Jesus was publicly vindicated with the destruction of the Temple. Jelbert says Christians must admit Jesus’s prediction is false. Not at all. I must admit it is true based on years of studying eschatology. Perhaps Jelbert should do what he advised Evans to do. Once again, when something comes up in science that seems like a puzzle, well we must investigate and study and if it seems to go against evolution, we must wait and study more. When it comes to Christianity, we must throw in the towel immediately. Keep in mind I have no problem with studying and I have no problem with that even when it seems to counter evolution. I have a problem with a double standard.

Next time we look at this book we’ll study if Jesus died on the cross.

In Christ,
Nick Peters