Deeper Waters Podcast 12/28/2019

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

What are the Gospels? I understand that we can say they’re the accounts that we have of the life of Jesus, but what are they? What purpose do they really serve? What did the writers want us to get out of them?

Not only that, what purpose did they serve? How did the ancient people view the Gospels? What did they expect when they read the Gospels? Did they think the authors really believed there was a historical figure who did these things or did they think this was a nice set of novels?

Let’s go even further. What were the writers of these works thinking? Did they have any ideas for the best way to go about telling the accounts of Jesus? What liberties did they have with the source material? Why didn’t they cite source material? What sources did they even use and were they right to use them?

These are questions we can ask when we approach the Gospels. We can also ask then about the reliability of the Gospels. Was memory that reliable? What about the distance in time? What about the Gospels being anonymous?

If only we had someone who had really studied all of these kinds of questions and was an excellent scholar in the field.

Oh, wait. We do have such a person, and he is my guest this Saturday for the Deeper Waters Podcast talking about his latest book (Although he’s sure to have written another one in the time it took me to write this blog), Christobiography. Returning to our show is Craig Keener.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Bio sketch: Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of twenty-eight books (thirty-three volumes), six of which have won awards in Christianity Today, plus other awards. He has also authored roughly one hundred academic articles; seven booklets; and more than one hundred fifty popular-level articles. His IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, which provides cultural background on each passage of the New Testament, has sold more than half a million copies. Craig is the New Testament editor for the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, which won the International Book Award for Christianity and Bible of the year in the Christian Book Awards. In 2020 Craig is president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he is married to Dr. M├ędine Moussounga Keener. His blog site is http://www.craigkeener.com/.

Now that the holidays have passed, hopefully, we’ll be able to devote the time to getting the shows back on schedule again. I hope you’ll be waiting. Be there for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christobiography

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

Remember decades ago when there was a much talked about book called “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask?” Now Craig Keener has published Christobiography and it could just as well be, “Everything You Wanted To Know About The Gospels As Greco-Roman Biographies But Couldn’t Even Think To Ask.” It’s hard to imagine a more thorough treatment and yet Keener somehow did it in only 500 or so pages of content. (If you think saying only 500 is something, keep in mind his Acts commentary has four volumes of around 1,000 pages each, his commentary on John is 1,600 pages, and his two-volume Miracles is over 1,100 pages.

So what do we have in this book? We have an expounding on the work of people like Burridge and Licona and Aune and others. It is a look at what is meant by the Gospels being Greco-Roman biographies. Too often, it is thought that if they are biographies, they should read like modern biographies, which just doesn’t work. The past is a funny place after all. They do things differently there.

Reviewing a book like this is so hard because there’s just so much. At the start, Keener looks at what these biographies are and then gives a case as to why the Gospels are these kinds of biographies. He looks at other considerations like novels and other fictional writings to show that the Gospels are quite different from those kinds of works.

After looking at some biographies from the ancient world and what kinds of biographies there were, he looks at what ancient audiences would have expected from a biography. If you turn on the TV to watch a sitcom, you expect an entertaining show but nothing that will be a real drama or that gives a historical account. If the ancients thought the Gospels were Greco-Roman biographies then, what did they expect?

How did biographies approach historical information and what was expected of a history in the ancient world? Keener looks at this. Were they expected to give intricately detailed accounts? How were they to be written? How did one do the research when writing a history? Also, what sources are used? This is relevant since so many people say the Gospels didn’t cite their sources. Keener deals with this kind of objection.

He also looks at what was allowed when writing these kinds of works and how flexible one could be. In one part, he looks at three different lives of Otho to show how there were differences and similarities on key points. Then he looks at what kinds of flexibilities could be allowed in the Gospels.

There are objections that can be had? What about miracles and what about John? Keener has written profusely on both of these so he doesn’t give much here and encourages looking elsewhere, but the information here is still quite good.

Then we get to sections on memory and eyewitness testimony. This is a favorite of many skeptics, but Keener makes a good case for the reliability of eyewitness testimony and why we should trust not just memory but especially community memory. He has much to say about oral tradition as well. These sections I found incredibly helpful.

As you might have guessed, this is just being a brief summary. Why? Because there is so much in this book that anyone who wants to take the Gospels seriously needs to read it for themselves. Nothing I say can do a volume like this justice. Go get it today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters