Book Plunge: Not Afraid of the Antichrist

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

I used to be a futurist pre-trib dispensationalist. I’m not proud of it. I grew up in the Bible Belt and I heard Southern Gospel music and I never heard any other view. Christians believe in the rapture. It wasn’t until I got the internet that I heard a contrary view.

And I went kicking and screaming into that contrary view. Who would want to disbelieve in the rapture? Who would want to go through a great tribulation and face the antichrist?

However, there were still questions I had. Eventually, I found my eschatological home. Today, I am an orthodox preterist. I realize Keener and Brown don’t come from this position, but I wanted to go through their book to see what they had to say about the dispensationalist position which is still extremely prominent in the church.

I describe them as firm and gentle. They start out telling their stories on how they came to believe in the rapture and then in how they came to disbelieve in the rapture. They have nothing but respect for their friends who are still dispensationalist and pre-tribulationists. They are just writing this to answer questions that they have often received.

Let’s also go with a positive. The application aspects of this book are excellent. Keener and Brown write about how Christians all over the world are already going through suffering. It can be comforting if you think you could be excluded from such suffering by a rapture, but no one is guaranteed this. Keener and Brown stress that even if Christians have to face the antichrist, they have nothing to be afraid of because Jesus is greater. With these, all Christians be they pre-tribulationists or orthodox preterists should say amen. I think all of us need to read this section of the book because many of us in the West don’t have any real idea of what persecution is like from experience.

When the pair look at the arguments, they are again firm, but gentle. Michael Brown specializes in Old Testament arguments. No. I’m not going to give his answers here, but he looks at questions like “Doesn’t God regularly deliver his people from suffering in the Old Testament such as in the case of the flood or Sodom and Gomorrah?” Keener deals with New Testament passages like 1 Thess. 4 and others.

They also stress that the Second Coming is a one-stage event. The idea of the rapture breaks the second coming into two different stages. It also has a problem with the idea of the resurrection being on the last day and then a resurrection happening before the last day.

That being said, I do have some criticisms. For one, preterism is nowhere mentioned in the book. Neither is futurism. I would like to know what reasons Keener and Brown have for not accepting this viewpoint.

Next, I think as a Preterist that while Keener and Brown rightly reject pre-tribulationism, they still have many of the ideas in it. For example, what about the antichrist. The term antichrist only shows up in the epistles of John, and yet the Beast in Revelation is thought to be the antichrist as is the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians. That could be right, but it needs to be argued for.

I also think 2 Thessalonians presents a problem with this since we are told about this man entering the temple. There is no reason to think Paul has in mind a third temple that will supposedly be built sometime in the future. If that is the case, then that would mean the Man of Lawlessness has already come and if he has, then if he is the antichrist, then antichrist has already come.

Let’s also remember the Olivet Discourse. This begins with the destruction of the temple. It concludes with Jesus saying “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass until some of these things have taken place.” Oh wait. That’s not what it says. He says “All of these things.” That means the generation that sees these things start will see them end and how did the questioning start? The destruction of the temple. The generation that sees that will see the coming of Jesus.

By the way, let’s note in the passage it is about the coming of Jesus, but not to Earth. Jesus refers to Daniel 7. That shows Jesus coming to His throne in Heaven. The disciples asked Him for the sign of His coming, not knowing He would die let alone die, rise again, and then ascend into Heaven and return in the future.

I also think the authors assume a great tribulation. This is still like taking part of the pre-tribulation paradigm and running with it. We have a great tribulation referred to in Rev.7 and in Matthew 24, but why not think that that is the destruction of Jerusalem. Why assume a future event?

The authors also state that satan always has his antichrist ready for each generation since he doesn’t know the hour. I found this a very weak point. For one, satan would always be thinking that he is going to overcome the plans of God, such as in the crucifixion. Here, he is acting like he has to play along. Next, how could you establish this? How can we go and look in each generation in history and find someone who would be the antichrist of that time? Keep in mind I think this is the weakest argument in the book and I even hate having to mention it because the rest is excellent.

Again, the best part of this book is the section on overcoming suffering and being willing to for Christ. Even if pre-tribulationists disagree up and down with the rest of the book, they need to read that part. Every Christian does. I would be thrilled if future editions of the book would include more about this.

Christians who are pre-tribulationists need to read this book to receive a kind criticism. People who are not can read this to realize why they abandoned it. Orthodox preterists like myself should read this to get the criticism and for the blessing at the end. In other words, read this book.

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

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. Médine 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

Book Plunge: Impossible Love

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

If you’re married, do you remember dating your current spouse? Like so many relationships, there were barriers to overcome. There are many events in life that can present so many challenges for a couple just to spend time together. We’ve all seen them.

Take my own relationship. My wife and I had it so that one of us had to travel about 250 miles to get to go on a date together. What a burden! Or take the Keeners! They had to overcome divorces from previous painful marriages, international war, and travel through a war-torn region where you had to eat bugs and scrounge for food and water to survive.

Okay. Now that I think about it, those two aren’t exactly comparable.

This is the love story of Craig Keener and his wife Medine. I have had Craig on my podcast before and he is a real individual. He has responded promptly many times when I have emailed him about something and reading this was a fascinating look into his life.

When I read this, I saw someone who strove to please God, but many times was broken and insecure. I suspect that that played a part probably in his diving into scholarship and producing excellent works, but it didn’t change that there was something he was lacking in his life, which I remember from my own experience, a woman to love.

Many of us who know Craig have not got to know his wife Medine, and yet her story is fascinating as well. You get introduced to Medine’s family and her parents in the book are such incredible people especially. Many people who complain about suffering and evil today can’t begin to imagine what Medine and her family went through and yet her parents had more faith and joy than many of us do today. We are truly a shameful people.

I cannot tell much about the story, but it involves Craig meeting Medine when she came to America as a student and never losing touch with her. Always there was a physical and romantic draw between the two of them, but both of them were hesitant. Also, many people around them were making prophetic statements about their lives and they inevitably led to the two of them coming together.

That being said, I do have this concern about that in that so many people might come away as we often do today thinking that this is how it should be for all of us. We should all receive messages of prophecy telling us who we are to marry and thus make the right choice. I doubt the Keeners would agree with such a sentiment. I think sometimes there are some individuals that need a specific spouse for a specific task and God does the work to bring them together, but I don’t think that’s the case for everyone.

One addition I thought would have helped would to have as much as possible a timeline of what happened. I was wondering when the events took place and one clue I did find was when 9/11 was referenced. Most of us don’t know about when a Civil War hit the area of the Congo. I am sure the Keeners did not take explicit notes of when everything happened, but some idea of chronology would be helpful.

This story is incredibly touching and will leave you thinking of the love that you have. It’s also helpful for those who often are perceived as living in the ivory towers to come out from time to time and speak to us on their own inner lives. It is good to know Craig the scholar, for instance, but it is better to know Craig the man, and now I have a deeper knowledge of his wife as well.

Congratulations to the Keeners on their impossible love and may all who read this be blessed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Case For Miracles

What do I think of Lee Strobel’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lee Strobel holds a special place in my heart. It was his books that really lit my fire in the area of apologetics. Not only does Strobel present great information, he also does it while introducing you to the best scholars in the field so you know where to go to next for more information. It was through him that I came across scholars like Craig Blomberg, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kreeft, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington III, etc.

This book is no exception, though in some ways it is quite different. One obvious way is that it does start off with interviewing a skeptic. The interview is with Michael Shermer. While Shermer is a lot nicer and more real than many other skeptics, many of his arguments are really just as weak. As I read through the chapter, I kept thinking that if this is one of the leading faces of skepticism, then we’re in good hands.

Still, I think it’s a good change to have taken place. I would like to see in his books Strobel interviewing both sides. It’s also quite impressive to realize Strobel resisted the urge to be a debater with Shermer and just let him speak.

From there, Strobel goes on to interview other scholars. Big shock that on this topic, the first person on the list is Craig Keener. Keener wrote an epic two-volume work on miracles called Miracles. Anyone skeptical of the reality of miracles should read it. The good news is if you have read it, you will find still new stories in this one. Craig Keener has more miracles and I understand from my interactions with him that he collects them regularly now.

The next interview is with Candy Gunther Brown on prayer studies. Now I will say that these kinds of studies have never really convinced me. There are too many variables that can’t be tested and you’re dealing with a free-will agent. What is much more convincing with prayer are testimonials like the ones Brown talks about where she goes to third world countries and sees people being healed after they are prayed for in the name of Jesus.

Other interviews on topics related are J. Warner Wallace on the resurrection and Michael Strauss on the origins of the universe. Both of these are interesting and to be expected. Both are also highly enjoyable chapters.

Roger Olson was a chapter that was really convicting. The chapter was on being ashamed of the supernatural and while I don’t care for the term supernatural, the point is still there. We often pray for wisdom for doctors in operations instead of for healing. It’s as if we expect God to not do miracles. This really caused me to look at how I approach prayer.

Then there’s the chapter that could be the hardest one to read in the book. This is the chapter about what about when miracles don’t occur. Douglas Groothuis is the person interviewed for that one. His wife Becky had a disease that was killing her memory and brain function bit by bit. Sadly, Becky has since the time of publishing passed away. Groothuis is there to remind us that miracles don’t always occur and how to handle it.

If there was one chapter I would have liked, it would have been one on the philosophy of Hume. Keener touched on that some, but he’s not a philosopher. Perhaps it would have been good to have had someone like John Earman as an interview to talk about it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Christianity Is Not True Chapter 2.

How do skeptics respond to miraculous healings? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I count Nabeel Qureshi as a friend. My wife and I prayed for him every day when we found out he had stomach cancer of the most advanced kind. There were several people praying for Nabeel all over the world.

Despite this, Nabeel died.

So yes, I am familiar with people talking about faith healing. I do believe that it can happen, but it’s not a necessity. God does things for His own reasons. It is my duty to trust when I don’t know those reasons.

In this chapter, David Pye looks at miraculous healings. I find this an odd place to go to so early on. I do believe there is good evidence that miracles have happened and do happen, but generally, it’s not the best starting point. If you’re a hardened skeptic, you will find a way to explain everything in that lens. If you are a Christian, you are far more prone to see the miraculous.

So let’s go through David Pye’s chapter.

At the start, he does list several conditions people are said to be healed from, but then we get to a problematic statement.

“But what about conditions like Alzheimer’s disease? Huntington’s chorea? Cerebral palsy? Why are people diagnosed with these conditions never healed?”

How does Pye know this?

To begin with, if you don’t believe miraculous healing is possible, then of course, miraculous healings of these have never taken place, but alas, we are arguing in a circle at that point. For Pye to know this, he would have to have exhaustive knowledge of all the Earth past and present. Even if the claim was true, that would not rule out that it could happen. There could hypothetically never have been a miracle in Earth’s history, and yet miraculous healing could still be possible.

In all this chapter, there is never any interaction with the best sources on this. Of course, such a work could have been written before their release, but it would be nice to see more miracle claims looked at. Only one is really examined. There is no interaction with a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles. Keener in this work traveled all over the world collecting accounts of miraculous healing, some with medical documentation.

Pye prefers to speak of surprising or astonishing healings. He does say that these happen in other religions and happen in hypnosis. I believe we are getting into the whole “Why do miracles happen in other religions?” I do not know why that would be a problem for me.

You see, if a miraculous healing takes place, then miracles are possible and the position of atheism is in serious trouble. As a Christian, I can think of any number of reasons. Perhaps it is a demonic interaction taking place. Perhaps God is extending some grace outside of Christianity to bring someone to Christianity. We don’t know. For the former, there is even a Biblical precedent. One could look to the beast being healed in Revelation 13 for an example. Of course, I read Revelation differently than most Christians, but the idea of a healing from a dark source is still there.

He goes on to say that

“If Christianity were true we might expect miraculous healings to occur only through Christian healers. Or we might expect Christian healings to be far more impressive than  healings in other contexts – for example, there being conditions which only Christian healers, but no-one else, are able to heal. I am not aware of any definitive investigation of comparative success at healing in different religions but my strong impression is that all have about the same success rate. Christianity doesn’t stand out as noticeably superior (nor does any other religion).”

I find this again quite odd. He is not aware of any definitive investigation, but he wishes to make a universal statement on a “strong impression.” How is this done? If I say I have a strong impression that many skeptics don’t come to Christianity because they want to continue living in sin, would anyone really accept this?

He also quotes from John Dominic Crossan on Wikipedia about healing shrines. Absent is any data directly from the shrines themselves. Someone like Keener actually did the hard work on that level.

He then tells a story about a man healed from a chronic skin disease. Then, he describes a similar story with someone healed under hypnosis. I do not see how this is meant to be a rebuttal. God could do through miraculous means what could be done through natural means. In understanding miracles, there are first-class and second-class miracle. First class are things that cannot happen by any means we know of. Jesus rising from the dead would be one. For a second, consider Israel crossing the Jordan to enter the Promised Land. The waters stop so they can pass. That in itself is not a miracle. The waters had stopped before and probably have since then. What is a miracle is that it happened when it happened. Keener lists several times in his book where something was healed because of a prayer in the name of Jesus specifically.

The next section is about exorcism. Pye does think something happens, but it is certainly not the expulsion of a demon. I invite Pye to really look at such accounts of demonic possession, such as the ones with super strength and such. Note also exorcism was common in the ancient world and it wasn’t just Christians doing it, but Jesus was the one deemed the most successful and it is widely agreed among New Testament scholars today that Jesus had a reputation as both a healer and an exorcist.

It’s worth pointing out that Pye regularly speaks of the natural and the supernatural. I will not speak of the supernatural save when he does. I do not really like the term supernatural as it is way too vague. My thoughts on that can be found here.

Pye does list many realities of life about suffering. The problem is while these may seem foreign to a Western audience, to the audience Jesus spoke to and Christianity rose up in, while the science would not be there, the reality would be well known. Suffering is real. Many of these people encountered death on a regular basis. Pye thinks Buddhism is more real in admitting these realities up front. Chrisitanity does too though. It has no reason to deny them. This was the world Jesus lived in. The problem for us is our modern Western world treats suffering like an exception. People in many countries today risk their lives if they walk to church. We consider it suffering if we don’t get a parking spot near the church on Sunday morning.

There is something on church politics and how that some people don’t talk about healing lest they be seen as immature and such. My wife and I are both part of Celebrate Recovery at our church. That leads me to think that this is not really valid. In a group like this, people are encouraged to come and let their guard down. In turn, through this, I have come to know this group of people much better than others. I think the church could learn a lot here.

Finally, Pye has something on the disabled. Readers of this blog know that my wife and I both have Aspergers. That awareness is near and dear to my heart. I rejoice at seeing Autism coming into the mainstream through such shows as The Good Doctor.

Pye says here

“So, here we have two viewpoints, two approaches, with regard to disabled people – and the results of both approaches can be evaluated.
On the one hand many Christians have said that disabled people can and should be healed of their disabilities. But, in practice, such healing doesn’t happen.

And on the other hand you have a primarily secular initiative which sees disabled people as full people who have full human rights and who deserve respect, acceptance and opportunities just as much as non-disabled people. And this sort of outlook has changed society for the better (and continues to do so) giving disabled people a better chance of fulfilling lives.

Which position is better? One that promises much but delivers little (and may even cause harm)? Or one that is more modest but has, nonetheless, delivered significant changes for the better?”

I find this to be a radical dichotomy. There is nothing wrong with praying for someone to be healed who has a seriously debilitating disability. (At the same time, I have no wish to be healed of Aspergers. Others would, but not I.) That does not mean that they are any less human. If someone thinks so, this thinking does not come from Jesus.

Yet I have to ask, where does the secularist position come from? Disabled are full people who deserve full human rights? I agree, but upon what are these rights grounded? What makes a human so valuable? Are we not all the result of a cosmic accident? Why should any of us “deserve” anything? It looks to me like a morality floating in air.

This does not mean that I am not thankful that Pye takes the position that he does with the disabled, but I wonder how he could ground it. I think too often skeptics have taken the morality that comes from Christianity, assumed that it is just something everyone really knows, takes it for granted, and then acts like it fits in right at home with their worldview.

When we return to this book, we’ll look at chapter 3 on evangelism and eternity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/24/2018: Edward Wright

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

The Gospels are the greatest source we have on the life and teachings of Jesus. These four books have changed the world since the time they have been written and they have been tremendously debated. Christians and non-Christians for a long time have not known exactly how to classify them.

For the most part, the verdict is in. The Gospels are Greco-Roman Biographies. We owe a great deal to Richard Burridge for his excellent work in this area. It would be nice to say that answers a lot of questions. As a fan of the show Monk I can’t help but think of when the captain met Adrian’s brother and said it was nice to meet him and “It answers a whole lot of questions. Raises about a 100 more.”

So we do have a lot of questions now about the Gospels and what it means for them to be Greco-Roman biographies. How does this impact our study of the Gospels as Christians? What does it mean to have the Gospels be of the same style of literature as the pagan writers of the day? Does this do any damage to the doctrine of inerrancy?

Fortunately, a volume has been presented looking at many of these questions. Dr. Keener is one of the main editors of this volume, which alone is enough to tell you it’s excellent, but we are having the other editor on our show today. He will be telling us about the research behind the book and what we can get from it. His name is Edward T. Wright.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

I grew up in Austin, TX and attended Baylor University for my undergraduate work. I majored in Business Administration w/ a specialization in Management. I worked in the private sector for a few years in the steel industry before deciding to attend seminary. I did my M-Div at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Upon completion of that I was accepted into Asbury where I am currently a candidate in the dissertation phase of the PhD in Biblical Studies w/ a specialization in New Testament. I am studying/working under Dr. Craig Keener as his TA/mentoree. My dissertation is on the historical reliability of ancient biographies and I hope to complete this work by the fall of this year.

We’ll be talking about the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies. Does this change the way that Christians approach the text? How should we study them? Does it really make a difference to say that the Gospels fall into this genre and why should anyone really think they’re in this genre beyond “scholars think so” to begin with?

I hope you’ll be watching for this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. The nature of the Gospels is an important one for study. Also, if you have not done so, I urge you to please go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I look forward to your feedback!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Biographies and Jesus

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

Richard Burridge caused a revolution of sorts in Gospel studies in the 20th century by making a thorough demonstration that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. Today, most scholars would agree with that. Still, that is the start of the journey. We now have to ask what difference it makes. Is this just knowledge that will answer a question for us on a game show, or are there some ramifications for this?

In this volume, Keener and Wright have brought together several students doing graduate level research at Asbury to talk about the issue. There are some chapters by the editors of Keener and Wright and one by Licona, but for the most part, this is done by students, which I find refreshing. It’s good to see new faces rising up and taking on the task of serious scholarship.

The students look at what difference it makes to say that the Gospels are biogarphies. One at the start is that we have spent so much time trying to trace the communities that received the Gospels that we forgot the point of the Gospels. The point of the Gospels is to tell the story of the life of Jesus. An average person in the pew might not consider this much of a shock, but it does affect how we read the Gospels greatly. The Gospels don’t have a community and then they shape the story. The story is written in such a way about Jesus and telling about Him that hopefully it will shape the community.

Helpful also are notes about the dating of the Gospels. We can accept testimony about historical figures on far weaker grounds than we do the Gospels. Too often, it’s easy to dismiss all the evidence that is there for one position and then say that there is no evidence of the position. It needs to be realized that bias cuts both ways and we must all make sure prior worldview assumptions aren’t changing the way we view the data.

One helpful source in here are the comparisons across other biographies. Those who say the Gospels are unreliable because of differences in the accounts should see differences in other accounts of the same event. Very rarely would we reject the primary event because the secondary details are disputed. Sadly, this is done with the Gospels constantly.

Also helpful to readers will be Keener’s section on oral tradition. He points out problems with the idea of telephone and shows how memorization was taken extremely seriously in the past. Again, this is often a case of a double standard. The Gospels are looked at through one set of lenses and all other ancient history is looked at through another set.

Keener and Wright have put together excellent material that will be helpful for any student of the Gospels. To have new minds going through the material and presenting their thoughts is an excellent treat and as far as I’m concerned, they certainly wrote like professional scholars. I look forward to more research like this being done.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/5/2015: Craig Keener

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

Acts. It forms a connection between the Gospels and the Pauline epistles. It is in this book that we are introduced to the man who is the apostle to the Gentiles and we get to see how the early church spread. It’s a wealth of historical information and it has also been of great apologetic significance. We can track down many of the dates in the book of Acts and many of the places and there are claims that Luke is certainly an excellent historian. So how accurate are these claims? To discuss that, I figured I’d have someone on the show who has recently written a little bit on the book of Acts.

That is, if you consider a little bit to be a 4,000+ page commentary that is so large it fits on four volumes and the bibliography is on CD.

And the author is of course, Craig Keener. (Might I add that I was surprised to get a brief bio.)

C-head-Africa

According to his bio:

Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of seventeen books, four of which have won major awards, more than seventy academic articles, several booklets, and more than one hundred fifty popular-level articles. One of his books, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, now in a second edition, has sold more than half a million copies. His books include commentaries on Matthew, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Revelation, a two-volume commentary on John and a four-volume commentary on Acts, plus a two-volume work on miracles, works about the Spirit, ethnic reconciliation, women in ministry, divorce and various other topics. (These include works published by Baker Academic, Cambridge, Eerdmans, InterVarsity and Zondervan.) Craig is also the New Testament editor for the forthcoming NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Craig is editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research and the former program chair for the Institute for Biblical Research; he is coeditor with Michael Bird of the New Covenant Commentary series, and coeditor with Daniel Carroll R. of Global Voices, which includes interpretive contributions from readers from various cultures. Craig is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who was a refugee in her home country of Congo for eighteen months. His blog site is http://www.craigkeener.com/.

Let me also say that normally, I have read the books that are talked about on the show (Yes. I read a lot), but in this case, I just could not pull myself to read through 4,000 pages, especially with my own schoolwork going on.

We’ll be talking then about the book of Acts and the information Keener learned while doing this research. (I also am wondering if Craig Keener is secretly the Flash that Allie and I watch on Tuesday nights because I can think of no other explanation for how he produces so much material.) We’ll be discussing its relevance for apologetic discussion and quite likely discussing some of the classical situations, such as what really happened in the Damascus Road case of Paul since we have three accounts that all seem to differ and what is the relationship to the book of Acts and Paul’s letters.

I hope you’ll be listening!

Book Plunge: Keener’s Historical Jesus

Who does Keener say the Jesus of the gospels is? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener is a massive work showing Keener’s highly impressive scholarship in the area of Historical Jesus studies. As with many of the books, the bibliography, indexes, etc. are about as massive as the book itself. In this case, I’d say about half the book is the last half listing all of these numerous references. If there’s one thing Keener cannot be accused of, it is not doing sufficient research.

Keener starts with a brief history of NT scholarship on the historical Jesus and then moves to modern ideas, dispensing at the start with one of the easiest to deal with, the idea of Jesus as a cynic sage. Keener deals with issues such as the life of peasants, the nature of the cynics, and the Greek problem. No stone is left unturned for Keener.

Keener moves on then to talk about the relationship of Jesus to Judaism, which is where the third quest has landed us. I, for one, anticipate a fourth quest soon that will look at the social context even more of Jesus and see how he fits into an agonistic society.

From there, he deals with the objection of other gospels and why it is that the four canonical gospels that we have are in fact the best sources for information about the life of Jesus. As you can tell, Keener has made it a point to deal with common objections today. In fact, if you are familiar with internet debates on Jesus, the ideas that others consider so powerful in refuting Christianity, Keener deals with in just a paragraph or a footnote with the idea of “This idea is so far out there it’s not even worth serious time.”

Next, we deal with the nature of the Gospels and in this case, Acts as well since Luke and Acts are seen as one volume. Keener lists the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies with the possible exception of Luke which would be more historiography. Even if one says that, I would still contend there are Greco-Roman biographical tendencies within the work of Luke. The position of the gospels as Greco-Roman biographies is held by the majority of scholars today and is in fact growing. This further gives us evidence to treat the Gospels as serious historical works.

Keener also deals with the nature of them then by explaining how they would show their sources, which is not by modern styles today, and also how they would be read as works of rhetorical writing. This is not to say they’re all just word games, but rather they were written in a style to engage their reading audience and their listening audience since more people would hear the gospels rather than read them.

Speaking of the oral factor, Keener does deal with how oral tradition would be spread and why we should trust its reliability in the case of the NT. This is an important aspect for scholars and apologists both to grasp since in our world more modern analogies are drawn to ancient events when such comparisons really don’t fit.

At last comes the heart of the matter with the discussion of who Jesus was. The heart of this I leave to the reader who wants to find out more, but the reader will find the teaching of the Kingdom, how Jesus interacted with others, and Jesus as prophet, teacher, Messiah, and perhaps, something more.

The main body of the work concludes with a look at the historical events surrounding the death of Jesus and his resurrection, although there will not be a full apologetic for the resurrection. That has been written elsewhere.

After this main body, there are a number of appendices that deal with issues not fully argued for in the main text itself. These will provide helpful insight to the reader who wishes Keener had been fuller on some topics. (Whoever such people might be. It’s hard to imagine what more he could have said)

The only possible downside I can think of is that Keener does give a bit of how he came to Christianity by examining the arguments and hints about an experience that led to him becoming a Christian and abandoning atheism. This is all well and good, but my fear is that too many atheists would get to this part and say “Ah! Now I have a reason to just dismiss everything!” Of course, this would be fallacious to do as the arguments stand on their own independently of why one holds them, but I do see it as a possible reason some will give for discounting Keener’s work.

This book is definitely a must-read. If someone was wanting to start historical Jesus studies, it would be harder to think of a reason why a work like this would not be listed as essential reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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