Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Obstacle 4

Can we know what was written? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Madison gets to his fourth obstacle which is certainly a doozy! We don’t have any original manuscripts!

Which I don’t think any ancient historian gets in a panic about concerning the ancient documents that we have, to which I don’t know a single original manuscript that we have. But hey, in fundamentalist atheist land, that doesn’t matter. We can know what those other documents said even though we have far fewer copies and those copies are a greater chronological distance from the original.

This isn’t my opinion alone either. Here’s what one New Testament scholar had to say on that one.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Also in a book he has on the New Testament he wrote:

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

So who was this guy? Bruce Metzger? Dan Wallace? Some evangelical scholar?

Nope. Bart Ehrman.

This is the first reference: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

This is the second:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481

In this brief part, Madison cites no scholarship. He points to the story of the woman caught in adultery and the long woman in Mark. He is unaware that this is not new information as even the early church knew about these. The fact that we know that these are not part of the original manuscripts is actually evidence about the reliability of the manuscripts that we have.

He also says something about the sloppy copying process, but there is no data for this and nothing to indicate that even though many scribes in early Christianity were not professionals, that we have a significant loss. There is nothing about the number of manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about the dating of the manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about references in the early church fathers.

And this is the kind of material that internet atheists look at and consider to be powerful arguments. These are arguments that sadly Madison wrote in a book because he thought that they were something worth paying attention to. All he has done is just demonstrated his ignorance of the subject matter.

We’ll move on to the next section next time.

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

 

Book Plunge: Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian Chapter 8

What about Nicea? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Buzzard looks at questions surrounding the Council of Nicea and the sort of Da Vinci Code claims. Thankfully, I can’t think of any place in the book where Buzzard uses the pagan copycat idea. Give credit where credit is due, but it’s a small credit considering how bad the book is.

Unfortunately, he uses Bart Ehrman a lot (Not giving the uninformed any idea of who he is.) of usage. He says Ehrman asks how could Jesus and God be God without there being two Gods? This is still the assumption of unipersonalism and the problem is treating God as a nature in one sense and treating God as a unipersonal person in another. When we say Jesus is God, we are using theological shorthand saying that Jesus has the full nature of God.

He does use Mark 13:32 with Jesus not knowing the day and hour of His return (I think it’s His coming to His throne, but it doesn’t matter). This is at least a substantial argument. In my thinking, Jesus takes on the limitations of knowledge for His ministry where He didn’t need to know the time of His coming.

He brings up the claim later that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there is one God. He declares this problem insoluble when again, it is simple. There are three persons that each have the nature of God.

Later he says:

The great ecumenical councils that formulated the old theology were the scene of unchristian antagonisms, and bitter strife and fightings that were never rivaled in the history of any other religion, and no religion of which history has a record was ever guilty of such cruel persecutions as Christianity, whose founder was the meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth…

Yep. Those were far fiercer than the constant raiding of the Muslims up until the time of Charles Martel and than the Crusades. Thank goodness those Muslims with suicide bombers and raiding parties were at least not as violent as the Christians. Seriously. He makes the above claim in the book and I just can’t help but think he knows NOTHING of world history on religion.

He again brings up the idea that Jesus never said “I am God.” Buzzard constantly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. At one time, he will point out the confusion that would be brought about if Jesus said this. Then in the next point, he will say that He never said this. Then he will make the same earlier point again.

He also brings up Isaiah 44:24 saying that God created all things by Himself. Who was with Him? Good question. This is especially so since we see Jesus is with Him in John 1, Hebrews 1, 1 Cor. 8, and Col. 1. I’d also include Proverbs 8.

At a later point, he says that he is not assuming that monotheism = unitarianism. He says that, but he never makes an argument to the effect to establish that. He looks in-depth at Luke 1:35 and Psalm 110:1, but he never does any in-depth exegesis of the Shema, the main passage he wants to use.

He does say that Jesus said He and the Father are one in John 10:30, but prays that the disciples be one as well. Context as always determines meaning. The Jews there seemed to understand Him and as I have said, He was pointing out that if wicked people sarcastically can be called gods, how much more a right does He, the righteous one, have the right to be called the Son of God, which they understood to be deity.

On Jesus being tempted which shows up, see here.

The next quote I want to bring up is:

The falsehood that Jesus being called “lord  proves that he is the One Lord God needs to be challenged and dismissed. Yes, there are some Old Testament “Yahweh verses” fulfilled by Jesus as Yahweh’s unique representative in the New Testament, but this no more makes Jesus identical in person with Yahweh, than the angel of the Lord is identical with the Lord God. The angel could bear the divine name without actually being God. “An agent is as his master’s person” is the well – established principle known to Judaism and so obviously true of Jesus in relation to God. Jesus spoke of the persecution of Christians as the persecution of himself ( Acts 9:4 ; 22:7 ; 26:14). This does not make Jesus and the Church identical.

No prophet ever spoke as if he were God Himself, but the Angel of the Lord certainly did and those who saw Him thought they were seeing God at least. Also, Jesus is not identical with the church, but there is something about saying the church is His body. It is true an agent can act on behalf of the person, but he is never understood to be the agent himself.

He does go to 1 Cor. 15:24-28 referencing James Dunn with the Son being subject to the Father, but notice this. Paul treats it as a change. Then the Son HImself will be subject. That is what the text says. What does that say about the Son now?

Something to think about….until next time.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Armageddon Conclusion

How shall we wrap this up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The final chapter doesn’t really have much else to add. It’s more of Ehrman asking if the Jesus of history would agree with the Jesus of Revelation. I ultimately then want to conclude with some thoughts about the book and Ehrman’s books in general.

For one, Ehrman doesn’t like the God in Revelation, but this does not show this God does not exist. If anything, if there is a God who is like this, it is a wonder why Ehrman would want to go against Him. If there is a God out there who is capable of judging us, does Ehrman want to risk it? Perhaps he could say “I give to charity and I’m a good person.” That could be so, but he is willing to bet that if there is a god, that is enough to please him.

Better hope he’s right.

However, what is important about Ehrman is not what he does say. It is what he doesn’t say. As I had predicted at the stop, Preterism doesn’t get mentioned one time. I would like to think that as a New Testament scholar, Ehrman knows about it, but considering he never mentions it, I have to wonder. The resurrection in the main body is mentioned only three times, although it does show up in endnotes.

There is no in-depth focus on the destruction of Jerusalem. For people like myself, this is mainly what Revelation is about. Ehrman rejects a futurist reading of the text, at least one that’s dispensational, but he fills it up with nothing in its place. If this book isn’t about the future, then what does it refer to?

Ehrman is really good at giving you the sound of one-hand clapping. Unfortunately, he doesn’t interact with the best critics of his position. There are evangelical scholars who do not have a dispensationalist or even futurist view of the book of Revelation. I do not recall Ehrman interacting with them and unfortunately, there is no bibliography that I saw in the book.

If you read Ehrman, you will definitely get one side of an issue, but that’s sadly the only side of the issue you will get. Ehmran’s book will be quite good at taking down those who do not have any real study in the text, but give this book to someone who has actually familiarized themselves with the eschatological issues and they will not be persuaded by any arguments.

Ehrman is a fundamentalist. He has an all-or-nothing mentality with the text. His mindset has not once changed from the time that he was a Christian. His loyalty is different, but he still has the same thinking going on.

The answer to this is simply to better educate Christians on what they believe. I realize there are readers of mine who will disagree with my take on futurism and/or dispensationalism, but I hope they will agree on this point. Be educated. If you want to be a futurist and/or dispensationalist, fine, but at least be educated on what you disagree with in Preterism.

Probably a year or so from now we will have another Ehrman book and it will still be a one-sided affair entirely from a fundamentalist perspective. We will see what happens.

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

Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 6

Is it all about who gets the money? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

How much power do some people want if they have it? More. How much more money does someone want who has it? Rockefeller is alleged to have said “Just one dollar more.” While that it said that could have been nonsense, we know some people who are like that.

How about Revelation? Is this a hunger of the church for power and wealth? Is the church wanting judgment so they can take money from all of their foes? Does the church look forward to judgment so they can stand over their enemies with a whip?

One passage Ehrman uses to try to show that the historical Jesus didn’t care about the material was the question of taxes. As he says

A passage that confirms this understanding that future heavenly wealth for the faithful is purely spiritual comes in the famous account of the Jewish leaders who ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to the Roman Empire (Mark 12:13–17). This may sound like a relatively innocent question, but in fact Jesus’s opponents are laying a trap for him. If Jesus says, “No, don’t pay taxes to those filthy Romans who have taken over our Promised Land,” then his enemies can turn him over to the authorities for opposing the state. But if he says, “Yes, do what the ruling authorities ask and faithfully pay what they demand,” they can accuse him of being a collaborator and an enemy of the Jewish people. As happens elsewhere, though, Jesus’s opponents do not know whom they are up against. Jesus never, ever gets caught in these traps. On this occasion he asks for a Roman denarius and when it is produced he asks whose image is on it. He already knows the answer, of course: imperial coins were issued with a likeness of the emperor to emphasize his control over all things, even daily purchases. Jesus’s opponents tell him the coin bears the image and inscription of Caesar, and that allows him to demolish their trap: “Then give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and give to God the things that belong to God” (Mark 10:17). For Jesus, the things of this world belong to the mighty and powerful who rule it. God has nothing to do with such trivialities. He does not care about material goods. He wants your soul.

How does this follow? I have looked over this passage multiple times and I do not see it. Ehrman argues as if the body means nothing to Christians and being in the image of God has nothing to do with a body. This is the same God who says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and that all creation belongs to Him. Why would He make a material world if the matter didn’t matter? Why would He make humans with bodies if bodies didn’t matter?

It could just as easily be said, “Yes, Caesar does have some dominion over these for now, but God ultimately has dominion over everything.” Everything Caesar once ruled has passed into other hands now. Everything God rules still belongs to God even if people get to personally lease it to some degree.

He also uses the verse of “If someone wants your coat, give your tunic as well.” This would result though in someone being totally destitute and even nude which would have two results. First, it would be giving a surety of their promise to fulfill an oath to repay in a court. Second, it would shame their opponent for making them look like someone who would make someone go nude. Neither of these is saying material wealth doesn’t matter.

When Ehrman talks about dominion, he doesn’t do any better.

John’s enthusiasm for widespread destruction, in the end, got the better of him. Already in chapter 6 of Revelation, the entire cosmos falls apart. But in chapter 7, the world and the people in it live on. The obvious explanation is that John is not literally describing the end of the sun, moon, stars, and sky. But that creates a problem. If John constantly engages in rhetorical excess, how can we imagine what he actually envisages?

But on page 121, Ehrman argues most people at the time would be able to understand including the Roman authorities, hence he says this was not written in some code. He also has repeatedly said this was not written for our time to us, but we have to understand the first-century setting. However, when he wants to argue against John and Revelation, he puts on his fundamentalist hat again and claims the text is too hard to understand and should be written for us.

For me, I would argue that this book is written in a cyclical form and tells the same story repeatedly. It also naturally uses Jewish hyperbole. This is also describing the destruction of Jerusalem. It’s not about global destruction.

Ehrman has the same reading problem at the end of the book.

So that is that. Except it’s not. As we have seen, after John describes the glorious new city of gold, we learn that “the nations will walk by its light” (21:24). But why are there nations? We also learn that “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into” the new Jerusalem (21:24). What kings? No one “who practices abomination or falsehood” will enter the city (21:27). Who is practicing abomination (idolatry) or falsehood (sin) if there is no one left? The answer seems obvious: for the saints to dominate, there need to be others left.

Let’s be clear on something. However we interpret this, John is not an idiot. He is not going to contradict himself in the span of a few verses. Our inability to understand does not equal a contradiction.

But to get to the questions, these are good questions and worth discussing, but questions are not arguments. I do not have a definitive answer on this point as this is still something I consider, but I do have a view that Heaven and Hell are the same place but differ in that people who love God glory in His presence and people who hate God suffer intensely in it.

However, none of this leads to “John writes this way so that the people of God can have someone to dominate over.” This is the same Ehrman who said people who read the Bible see what they want to see. Ehrman wants to see God the way he wants to and that is what he does.

Ehrman will go on to argue that those in the city do not share their wealth with those outside, but this is not only unsaid, it is even contradicted. The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. Those nations would have to come into the city and can apparently enjoy the blessings of it and can be healed.

So tomorrow, we shall wrap things up, but I contend again that Ehrman is still a fundamentalist in his reading. He has an all-or-nothing mindset. He has not changed it. His loyalty is just different.

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

Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 5

Why is the book of Revelation so violent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re continuing our look at Ehrman’s latest book talking about the violence in the book. At the start, he does say a statement about the Old Testament that is worth repeating.

Many Christians admit they are just not that interested in the Old Testament because its teachings have been surpassed and even superseded by the coming of Jesus and because, well, they find it boring. I wonder what its author would say about that.

There is a lot of truth here. We need to remember the Old Testament is just as much Scripture as is the new. It was the Scripture of the original church and it’s still our Scripture today.

But to the Old Testament we go to talk about the violence. if you expect interaction with people like Flannagan and Copan, you will be disappointed. Walton is not mentioned either. If you want to see Ehrman interact with the other side, it’s not here.

Ehrman paints the picture as if the Israelites were going to these cities and they were just peacefully living out their lives and the Israelites show up and say “God wills it!” and destroy everyone involved. He uses the example of Jericho, which is fitting since this is the most graphic, but it is also not representative. It needs to be established what Jericho was.

For one thing, it could not be that big since Israel could walk around it seven times in one day. Most of these cities were not cities but forts. These would be where the military would be and not the places of women and children. Also, from Rahab, we see that the people knew what had happened and this wasn’t exactly a sneak attack. They encamped outside the city for a week. Anyone could leave if they wanted.

He also brings up the account of the Moabites and the Midianites. In this, the Moabite women come and seduce Israel into sexual immorality. Moses responds by having the leaders of the people killed. Ehrman depicts this as human sacrifice, but this is not what it is. Even if it is done to stop the wrath of God, it is done out of justice in that the people who did the wrongs are put to death for what they did in accordance with the Law.

We are told 24,000 Israelites die and not just those who did the wrong but the innocent. The problem is the text doesn’t say that. It just says 24,000 died. It doesn’t say who they were. Even if they did not participate, this is a collectivist society and each person was responsible not just for himself, but for his neighbor as well. The sin of one could be seen as the sin of all.

Ehrman also speaks with horror about the way that Phineas put a spear through Zimri and Kosbi. What is left out is that this is after judgment had started and the people were weeping. This wasn’t done in private, but was done publicly as the man brought her with him publicly and the text is unclear at least in English, but it looks like they went into the Tent of Meeting, which is a holy place. This is an act of open defiance. Phineas is praised for killing both of them with one thrust of a spear while they were having sex. Violent? Yes, but sin is violent and destructive.

Ehrman is one who complains about evil, but when God does something about evil, he complains about that as well.

Of course, this gets to Numbers 31. I have already written about that here and here.

He also talks about the wrath of God in Hosea and how infants will be dashed to pieces and pregnant women ripped open. Why is God doing this?

Answer: He isn’t. God has laid out the stipulations of the covenant with His people. If they do not obey His covenant, He removes His protection. What happens then? Their enemies have their way and this is what their enemies do. Is God supposed to overrule them somehow so they can do everything else but that? Should the children be made invincible and the pregnant women’s stomachs be indestructible? Ehrman doesn’t answer such questions. Outrage is enough.

Ehrman tells us that when people read the Bible, they tend to see what they want to see. This is true, but it includes Ehrman as well. He wants to depict God as violent. Easy to do. Just cherry-pick some passages and ignore everything to the contrary. It would be just as easy to do the opposite.

He says this is true of laypeople, but it is also true of Christian scholars who see nothing wrong with God destroying people forever in a lake of fire.

Well, it’s Ehrman’s responsibility to show this. Outrage is not enough. Now I don’t think the lake of fire is literal, but is it wrong for God to judge and take life? Why? On what basis? What is the moral code that God is obligated to follow? I can also assure Ehrman that Christian scholars have wrestled with these issues. Unfortunately, we can’t say if Ehrman is aware of these claims since he never cites them. Has he considered Jerry Walls’s dissertation on Hell, for instance?

God is above our understanding of ethics and right and wrong. Whatever he does is right by definition. It would certainly not be right for my next-door neighbor to inject scorpion venom into someone’s veins and allow them to suffer in anguish for five months, refusing to put them out of their misery when they begged to die. And no one could justify a tyrant who chose to torture his people and then throw them into a vat of burning sulfur. But God is not my next-door neighbor or an earthly tyrant, and so he cannot be judged by human standards. If God does such things in the book of Revelation, who are we, mere mortals, to object? We simply cannot judge the Almighty.

But this is an important distinction. We are moral agents put in a universe where we have rules of right and wrong to follow. God is not. There are things God can do that I cannot do. God owes no one life and has all right to take it if He wants to. I do not.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that Ehrman regularly says we shouldn’t read Revelation in a literalistic fashion, but when he wants to depict God as violent, that’s exactly what He does.

It is somewhat ironic that so many readers of Revelation think, as I did, that the God portrayed there is above all human sense of right and wrong. Most of these same readers also believe that our own sense of right and wrong has been given to us by God. This , as you probably know, is a commonly invoked “proof” that God exists. According to this argument, if there were no superior moral being who created us, we could not explain why we have such an innate knowledge of what is good and bad behavior. Our morality, it is argued, must be rooted in the character of God, given to us as creatures made in his image, whether we choose to follow our God-given sense of morality or not.

It is worth pointing out that first off, Ehrman speaks of this as a “proof” of God, but He never shows where it is wrong. He never shows where our ideas of good and evil come from. I also want to say that is not the way I make the argument. I do not say a superior moral being made us. I said a superior good being made us. God is good, but He is not moral. Morality is doing what you ought to do, but God has no ought. God just does what is good. If something is moral, it is good, but just because something is good, that does not mean you have an obligation to do it. It might be good to sell all you have and give it all to the poor (Or it might be foolish), but that doesn’t mean you are morally obligated to do it. It might be good to leave a generous tip that is double what the waitress served you, but you are not morally obligated to do it. It might be good to pay the widow’s electric bill, but you are not morally obligated to.

But if our own sense of right and wrong reveals the character of God, what if God’s moral code requires him to torture and destroy those he disapproves of, those who refuse to become his slaves? (“Torture” is not too strong a word here: Remember those locusts.) 7 If God is like that, and we are told to be “godly” people — told to imitate God in our lives — then surely it follows that we should imitate him in how we treat others. If God hates those who refuse to be his slaves and hurts and then destroys them, shouldn’t we do so as well? Are we to act “godly” or not? And what does it mean to be Christlike if Christ’s wrath leads to the destruction of nearly the entire human race? Are we really to be “imitators of Christ”? Should we, too, force our enemies to suffer excruciating pain and death?

It’s amazing how wrong someone can be in an argument. For one thing, God does not have a moral code. Ehrman will never define what is meant by good and evil. Good then simply becomes that which Ehrman likes and evil, that which Ehrman doesn’t like.

However, I also want to know what is the context in which we are told to be godly and Christlike. I can be told to be godly, but surely I am not supposed to be able to create a universe. I can be told to be Christlike, but that doesn’t mean that I can claim divine prerogatives for myself. I can say I have a mentor I want to be like, but I would not be justified in sleeping with his wife and raising his children.

He also says Jesus is seeking vengeance on those who had nothing to do with his death, but this is embracing the futurist paradigm that Ehrman said is NOT the way to read Revelation. In my Preterist understanding, this took place as judgment on the Roman Empire and especially Jerusalem in 70 AD, which were involved in the death of Jesus and had not repented. Of course, Ehrman has no inkling shown that he is aware of such a view.

In the end, I find this still confusing. Ehrman condemns a futuristic reading of the text and treating it literalistically, but when he wants to condemn the text, that is exactly what he goes to. Ehrman still gives us the sound of one hand clapping. He presents a strong case, but rather a largely emotional one, but shows no indication he has interacted with the best of his critics.

We will continue next time.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 3

What are the effects of apocalyptic thinking? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ehrman beings this chapter talking about the Great Disappointment. This was when William Miller formed the Millerites because he was convinced that Jesus was going to return and he gave a date. Again, he was wrong, and yet from his movement came about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

From here, he talks about Leon Festinger and cognitive dissonance based on the book When Prophecy Fails. (The majority of internet atheists who treat cognitive dissonance like a magic word have no clue about Festinger or the book.) There is a footnote about cognitive dissonance and Christianity, but to his credit, Ehrman doesn’t make the argument himself. It’s as if there seems to be some personal tone in Ehrman’s most recent books.

In more recent times, the off-shoots eventually led to Waco. I can still remember being in middle school in a class and the teacher next door coming in and telling us to turn on the TV and watch the news. That was when the compound was burning. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians was also someone who was caught up in apocalyptic thinking.

Fortunately, most cases don’t get that extreme, but they do happen and we need to take them into account. A far more recent case is that of Harold Camping and his predictions on a date. Real people sell all they have and stop going to college and don’t get married based on these claims.

Ehrman also talks about our policies on Israel. There are many people who are quick to defend Israel in any case because these are supposedly the people of God. There is an irony on how this is done. The following is from page 95:

This has long been the irony of Christian Zionism . Many evangelicals love Israel but believe most of its inhabitants will be sent to the fires of hell . That certainly is the view of the minister chosen to conclude the embassy dedication ceremony in prayer : televangelist and vocal Christian Zionist John Hagee , who has written books with such titles as The Beginning of the End : The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist , in which he argues that the assassination “ fits into events prophesied centuries ago that are recorded in the Bible . ” That is Hagee’s real concern : prophecy . Hagee has claimed that even the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to restore the Jewish people to Israel . Apparently not alert to the implications of the idea , he later apologized should anyone have found his comment offensive.

Hagee, of course, had his books about the blood moons and something is about to change. Nothing happened. Has Hagee got up and repented for what he did? Not at all. Churches rightly hold pastors to account for huge moral failures such as having an affair. When are they going to hold pastors to account for making public statements like this that shame Christianity and are proven as totally false?

A lot of evangelicals seem eager to get the Jews in Israel and the temple built, when this will really in their system result in a bloodbath where these Jews will be mercilessly killed. Could it be sometimes we care more about the prophecy than the salvation of the Jewish people? That’s just something to think about.

This doesn’t mean that one cannot support Israel, but when I do, it’s not because of something to do with prophecy. It’s because they’re on our side politically and because I think they are a buffer against Islam in the area. I also do not have a side on the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

I was somewhat surprised when it came to talking about the rebuilding of the temple and how the Dome of the Rock would have to go for that (Good luck), that Ehrman never mentioned Julian the Apostate. He was an emperor who wanted to invalidate prophecy actually by rebuilding the temple. Strangely enough, he died before this ever came about.

Finally, we get to talk about environmentalism, mainly with Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior James Watt who said he wants to make sure we have enough resources to last until Jesus returns. This seemed like a shocking statement at the time to some. It was consistent for Watt as that was his faith tradition.

This leads to Ehrman’s talk about environmentalism and of course, climate change. I happen to be skeptical. I remember being in school and hearing the next great fear was the coming ice age. Every doomsday disaster about the environment has not come to pass. Unfortunately, Ehrman never references the evangelical Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

That being said, while I am skeptical of this and don’t care for the environmental movement, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of the Earth and our resources. We should. As Ehrman rightly indicates, while Genesis 1 has been used to say we can plunder the planet as we have dominion over it, it can just as easily mean the opposite. We should take care of the planet. I don’t buy into doom and gloom ideas,

Next time, we’ll start looking at least at how Ehrman tells us to read Revelation.

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

 

 

Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 2

How many false predictions have there been? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One can’t say exactly how many false predictions there have been of the end, but one can say they have happened consistently. Just today I was on Facebook and saw the same thing going on based on the news of Trump possibly being indicted. Obviously, the Bible did predict such a thing, even though no one saw it at all. I’m sure since I shared my view of Revelation the charges of heresy are going to come forward, as if I care.

At any rate, Ehrman goes to the history of interpretation and how the early church tended to NOT interpret the book literalistically. Papias was even treated as less intelligent for holding this kind of idea by later church fathers. Unfortunately for us, Papias’s writings have been lost and all we have is quotations of various parts from other church fathers.

Hippolytus was one who actually made a prediction for around 500 AD (Ehrman says CE, but I refuse to use that kind of practice). Like others, he was wrong as we all know now. Unfortunately, he was followed by many others.

Augustine was one who scorned the materialistic view and no doubt, was extremely influential. He didn’t want to think of anything carnal of any sort being in Heaven. As much as I am a Preterist, I do fear we could do a danger by picturing things of this Earth as if they were carnal. Now, this doesn’t mean that there will be things like sexual intercourse which usually comes first to mind in Heaven, but it doesn’t mean also that there won’t be anything there that is more materialistic for us to enjoy. It is usually a good idea to avoid extremes.

Ehrman also writes of Joachim of Fiore who believed he was given a vision of how everything would turn out and based his eschatology on Trinitarian stages. Perhaps, this could be a precursor of dispensationalism. He was convinced things would wrap up soon, and again, he was wrong.

As we move through history, when times of tumult and chaos arise, people naturally think, “This is it!” It happened during the French Revolution. In the time of the Reformation, Luther and others held to views about the Pope matching the book of Revelation.

From here, Ehrman moves on premillennialism.

The term “ premillennialism ” requires some explaining . In the eighteenth century , many British and American Protestants had started to move beyond Augustine’s “ historicist ” approach to Revelation , which claimed that most of the events of the book had been fulfilled and that the millennium , Christ’s reign on earth , was happening now . They instead adopted a “ futuristic ” approach , arguing that the book was predicting what was yet to come , and that the millennium could be expected at the end of the age.

Now I do question here what he has in mind by the historicist approach. A Preterist approach like mine would say that Revelation has largely been fulfilled in the first century. A historicist approach I have thought says that Revelation is going to be fulfilled throughout time as a sort of chronological map. To check, I did so some web searches and found that yes, this is the general understanding of historicism. I think I know what Ehrman is getting at, but I wish his language was clearer or perhaps maybe he’s just not aware of the four main schools of interpretation of Revelation as is shown in a commentary like Steve Gregg’s. (I am leaning this way also because of his failure to mention Preterism in his book on Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet.)

After the Reformation, people noticed a lot of progress going on and thought that surely the millennium was upon us. One influential person was John Nelson Darby who is accredited as being the one who came up with the idea of the rapture, that Jesus would actually come twice again and the first time would be to remove the church before the Great Tribulation and let the rest of the world in a sense literally experience Hell on Earth. Darby was highly influential on Scofield who through his study Bible led this to practically becoming a tenet of faith for many Christians.

Now some might be wondering about the failed prophecies. We have only seen a few in this chapter. There will be more next time, a chapter I am holding off on seeing as I have not finished it yet. Hopefully, I will have by next time.

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

 

 

Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 1

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

We’re going to take a break from KJV-onlyism to look at Ehrman’s newest book which came out yesterday. This is a book about end times, but it mainly focuses on the book of Revelation. A number of people will hear that and think “Obviously. Where else would you go?” There are a number of other places in Scripture to go and we will see if Ehrman deals with any of these.

As it stands, I am only on chapter 3 of this book right now, but I want to cover it in sections seeing as it could be too much to cover in just one big review. However, as I say that, part of the problem is as I went through these chapters, there were a few minor problems, but overall not much I disagreed with.

Let’s start at the beginning, a naturally good place to start. Ehrman talks about moving to North Carolina, the Bible belt, in 1988, and shortly after receiving a call from a reporter asking if it was true Jesus was going to return soon. This was based on a book by Edgar Whisenant offering 88 reasons why the rapture would take place in ’88. Of course, Ehrman isn’t a Christian so he said no, but at that time, many Christians would have said, “Yes.”

Ehrman is then critiquing a rapture idea, though at the same time, he doesn’t really say much about eschatological systems. A word search of the book, and only for this word, shows that Dispensationalism isn’t mentioned until page 65. I have not yet searched for Preterism though like his last book related to eschatology.

Unmentioned at the start is “If a Christian does not hold to this eschatology, what do they hold to?” Ehrman does talk about the rapture scares that took place in the time with young Christians being terrified of being left behind. Naturally, he talks also about the novels of the same name. The technique was effective. Many people did become Christians because of a fear of being left behind. (Which I have as much a problem with as people becoming Christians just because they want to go to Heaven.)

I did disagree with the statement he made about how Paul converted the people of Thessalonica and was convinced Jesus was returning soon. I contend that he was hoping Jesus would, but he had no sure knowledge. Then why does he say “We?” It’s an editorial we. If Paul says “They” then he is making a statement that it will definitely be after his time, which again, he didn’t know. If he says we, it can be used to refer to any in the body of Christ. If someone thinks there is a better way to phrase the text Paul wrote, they are free to suggest it.

However, I did agree that people in his generation were thinking they were the last one and reading the Bible this way since really, it’s all about us. Unfortunately, that continues even to this day. Many of us consider it unthinkable that we will face death someday. Forget that the first generations of Christians and many today face that constantly.

The second chapter is more an overview of the book of Revelation. Ehrman says he will go into more detail on certain aspects of that, like the Beast and the Great Harlot in later chapters. I will save my comments for when we get to those then.

Until then, at this point, the book appears rather tame. Will orthodox Preterism be mentioned and will Ehrman have anything to say about that? I’m not doing a word search for it yet as I don’t want spoilers, but we will see.

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

 

Is Ehrman Among The Mythicists?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Book Plunge: Heaven and Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am sure Jesus would love to meet Ehrman also.

Hopefully, it will happen, and on good terms.

In Christ,
Nick Peters