Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Renew? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

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

 

Book Plunge: Decoding Nicea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need of the Other

What can we not do for ourselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My apologies for a week without blogs. I have had a whole lot going on in my personal life. I am sure it will come out eventually, but for now, I am fighting a private battle with the help of some friends and others and I appreciate your prayers and support in it. I also have some book reviews to do, but I wanted to write on something I was thinking about recently.

It started with my cat actually. I have noticed whenever I am around him, my cat is constantly wanting my attention. I can hardly play a video game or a TV show without him being right up there with me wanting to get attention.

Now in some ways, we could say a cat could survive on their own. Many do in the wild. They can hunt their own food and they can go to the bathroom where they want. Many of them are solitary animals who hunt on their own from what I see.

So yes, I do feed my cat and change his litter box and he can’t do this on his own while domesticated, but even if in the wild, there is something he can’t do on his own. He can’t pet himself. If my cat wants to be petted, he depends on me, a human being.

As we grow up, one of the first blessings we can get in our lives when we step outside of our homes is friends. These are people who have no blood relation to us and come to like us and enjoy our company and are willing to sacrifice their time and sometimes money because they think we are worth the investment. I have plenty of friends who have been there whenever I have needed to make a phone call and it means a lot when someone calls just to check and see how I am doing.

Aristotle even said friends were something not necessary to live, but they were good to have and your life is lacking without them. Friendship has been a great mystery to us, but we are all thankful for it. Even in Plato’s Lysis, it is not known at the end what a friend is, but it is hopeful that we all leave as friends.

This is not to deny family, and it’s interesting that it takes multiple people really to have a family. The family begins with a man and a woman together. Communist societies had a war against the family constantly because the family doesn’t require the government or its justification to exist. Family is the first community we live in and it is a community often vastly different than we are. Our birth parents in reality are people we might not even choose as friends if we didn’t know them, but we have a great bond to them as family.

And now let’s combine those two. Friends and family are best combined in marriage. Again, I cannot give myself that kind of love. If we refer to sexual love, yes, regardless of your moral stance on the issue, masturbation exists, and yet most of us would prefer to be with a member of the opposite sex instead of alone by ourselves.

So sexual love requires someone else and marriage is not only a community, but is a making of a new community that is a reproducing community. If you have friends, you grow the circle from without by bringing in new people that are already there. With marriage, you bring in new people through the act of sexual intercourse. That comes from within.

If we look in Scripture, we find numerous passages in the New Testament in the epistles especially that are commands to do something to one another. The church is meant to be a community. There is no Lone Ranger Christianity in reality. With the Coronavirus, many of us have lost that community. It’s hard to have community when you are alone in your homes watching on a screen. While I have a different interpretation of the Lord’s Supper than my Catholic and Orthodox friends, we all agree it is an important aspect of community.

All of this community shows us how much we need one another. We are not meant to be alone. Even if a person wants to be single, they still need companions and friends. Even Jesus had them on His journeys as did Paul. All of this comes from God above.

And by the way, He is a Trinity. Just think about it.

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

The Trinity and Acts 2:36

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

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

So what does the verse say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do we read Acts 2:36 then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/11/2020

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

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

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

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

So who is he?

According to his bio:

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

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

If there is any objection normally raised up against theism, it is the problem of evil. How can a good God allow so much evil in the world or any evil even? The argument from my perspective is not the most rational or logical, but it does have a strong emotional appeal. As I write this, our society is on lockdown from fear of a virus and even before this point, atheists were already making memes about God allowing or not doing anything concerning this virus.

In this book, Campbell looks at how different worldviews answer the problem of evil. He deals with naturalism, pantheism, panentheism, and theism itself. Each topic is dealt with the same way. In the end, there is more examination of theism since this is where Campbell lies and he spends more time on defenses of it. In each chapter, he also looks at the best defenders of each position.

Each worldview has to deal with the following questions: Life, human consciousness, the metaphysics of good and evil, and human responsibility. At this, I would have preferred the first two be left out. Let’s suppose we grant the positions of life and consciousness as questions to be set aside for the moment. If we look at just evil itself, how well does each worldview explain it?

Campbell does treat each view fairly and then looks at theism. Here, I would have also liked to have seen more distinction. He focuses naturally on Christian theism, but I was hoping in the book to see a comparison between Islam and Judaism and perhaps even deism as well. Campbell makes the Trinity a necessary part of his defense, so Islam would definitely have some problems, but couldn’t Judaism possibly work still since it would be open to incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity? After all, the first Christians were open to all of these and were Jews.

I was pleased to see the engagement with New Testament scholarship when talking about the Trinity. Campbell looked at some of the best research on this and if you’re not familiar with it, you will gain enough to be basically cognizant of the issues. This is explained in a way that is easy to understand as well.

Campbell also has some questions about classical theism. I really did not find them convincing as a classical theist myself. Still, it is not necessary to Campbell’s book that you embrace his view. I did appreciate his critique of open theism, however.

The final chapter also deals with the defeat of evil and looks at questions such as the nature of Heaven and Hell. While I am not a proponent of conditional immortality, I don’t think many of them would find his arguments in this case tenable. There was some said on Heaven, but I think more needed to be said.

If there was something else I would add, it would be a brief chapter on those who are dealing with suffering right now. What advice does Campbell have for us when we are in the midst of the pain? At that time, the intellectual arguments don’t really help out that much. I realize this book is not meant to be a pastoral book, but that would be something good still to have.

Overall still, this is a very thorough work on the problem of evil and atheists who want to use it as an argument need to deal with it. It’s also a rare book that deals with pantheism and panentheism on the problem of evil as well. Now maybe someone who studies this more will go forward and look at Judaism, deism, and Islam more on evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views.

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell and Christopher Gnanakan’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When a Wheaton professor wore a hijab, it led to a major evangelical controversy. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? In this volume, four different views are shared on the topic. If you think the answers are simply yes or no, you’re mistaken. So what are these views?

Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb Jr. both take the view of yes, we all worship the same God. Francis Beckwith takes the idea that in a way, we all do worship the same as a referent. Gerald McDermott holds a shared revelation view where Jews and Christians worship the same God, but not Muslims. Jerry Walls takes the position that none worship the same God.

Now going in, my position was very much that of Jerry Walls. I do think there are generic theistic arguments that can be used for all three of the Abrahamic faiths and you can only know which one is true by special revelation, but when we look at the deities described in the revelation, they’re very different. Namely, it comes down to the view of Jesus. Since Jesus is fully God and fully man, Christians necessarily worship a Trinity.

I found the first view of all worship the same God being the most unconvincing. For instance, it was said that there are many Christianities. At this point, I have to wonder if the authors have any idea what it means to be a Christian because if Christianity can be anything, then it means nothing.

It’s hard to disagree with Francis Beckwith, and as Jerry Walls said in the book, especially when he begins with an analogy involving Superman. (We’ll try to forgive him for never mentioning the Smallville series.) Still, at the end of the day, I just can’t sign easily on the dotted line. It’s hard to think that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.

Gerald McDermott would agree as he thinks there’s a radical division between Islam and Christianity. However, there was not any dispute among the Jews and Christians at the start about which God was worshipped. Therefore, Jews and Christians worship the same God. Muslims do not. This can make sense, but I agree with Walls that McDermott does seem to move too quickly through the doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection, and the incarnation.

Finally, we get to Walls’s view. This is the view I did find the most convincing. Now you could say it’s because I approached the book with this view so yeah, bias is always a part, but also when one studies for years, they don’t form positions lightly. In all fairness, the positions of Beckwith and McDermott I did think made some good points.

Walls also did bring up something else that needed to be discussed. Even if we think they all worship the same God, does that count towards salvation for them? I wish the other authors had said more about that question. I don’t think Beckwith and McDermott would hold to a pluralistic view, but I wonder if the first authors might.

There are also two essays afterwards, mainly on evangelizing Muslims. These are good to have, but shouldn’t we include something on evangelizing Jews as well? Judaism is much smaller in number to be sure, but why not have one chapter on Muslims and one on Jews? Jews need their Messiah too, after all.

If this question interests you, then you should get this book. The extra benefit besides just the replies to the authors on their essay is the author of each essay gives one quick counter-reply to all the others. I like this touch and wish it would be used more often.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 37

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

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

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

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

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

Oh really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 30

What do we make of Jesus being said to be the Son of God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We continue our look at Glenton Jelbert’s work with him taking on the first part of Ben Witherington’s work on Jesus. In this chapter, it is about Jesus being the Son of God. Son of God did not equate to divinity in Judaism. For the pagans, it would have done that, but it certainly would not be in a monotheistic sense.

Witherington does say that Mark quotes “You are my Son” and leaves out “Today I have become your Father” to show that this is not adoptionism. It is recognition of who Jesus is by the Father. Witherington also argues that Jesus did have a unique relationship to God in praying to Him as abba, a term of endearment. Jesus also saw Himself as central to a relationship with YHWH for those estranged from Him.

Witherington also looks at the Johannine thunderbolt. This is Matthew 11:27. In this, Jesus sees Himself as the unique conduit of knowledge between God and man. The only way to know God is through Jesus.

Witherington also offers the parables. In the parable of the tenants, Jesus makes a strong implication to being the Son of God. Jesus understood that in some way, He had a unique connection to God.

Jelbert responds that looking at the argument, it’s clear these were not strong divinity claims. I disagree. Jelbert doesn’t say anything beyond his claim so one could say I don’t have to say anything more.

I will say more. I will say that Jesus approached God in a unique way not seen by any other teacher of His day. Jesus’s statements would be blasphemous on the lips of anyone else. These were the kinds of statements that led to His being crucified and also to nearly being stoned several times.

Jelbert says that in the last essay we were to look at the unquoted context about the Son of Man and assume it applies to Jesus. Here, we are to ignore it and assume it does. I am puzzled as to what is meant by unquoted context. Context of a passage normally isn’t quoted period. It’s just assumed.

Jelbert says that a plain reading shows terms weren’t linked to divinity. Witherington has quoted 1 Timothy 2:5 about one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Jelbert tells us the verse specifically cited says Jesus is a man.

I am sure Witherington would be extremely grateful for this. No doubt, in all of his reading of the text, he had never noticed that. We can expect a strong retraction of his usage of this verse any moment now.

Except Jesus being a man has always been a part of Christian theology. What would we say? The God Christ Jesus? That would lead to something like polytheism.

Jelbert also says we can’t be sure that Jesus said these things because it was written down later while the theology was evolving. Naturally, there is no interaction with scholars like Hurtado, Bauckham, Bird, Tilling, etc. who make up the early high Christology club. Jelbert also lives in a strange world where apparently before a scholar quotes any text he has to make a strong case for it going back to Jesus.

On a side note, Jelbert also talks about Jesus referring to the Canaanite woman as a dog in Matthew 15. In this case, I think Jesus is playing along and showing the disciples where their own hostility towards outsiders led them. Sadly, the text cannot convey tone of voice or anything like that. There was something in Jesus’s statement to the woman that indicated that she should press harder, and she did. Jesus does end up healing her daughter.

Jelbert goes on to talk about the evolution of the person of Jesus. Paul and the early Gospels do not see Jesus as God. It would be good to see some backing of this claim. Philippians 2 and Romans 9:5 and other such passages come to mind in Paul. There’s also the Christianization of the Shema in 1 Cor. 8:4-6.

For Mark, I think it’s all throughout. Jesus, in the beginning, is given a divine title compared to Caesar and then John the Baptist shows up preparing the way of the Lord and lo and behold, there’s Jesus. In the next chapter, Jesus claims to be able to forgive in the name of God and to be the Lord of the Sabbath and such. Perhaps Jelbert lives in a world where you have to come out and explicitly say “I am God” to be seen as making such a claim.

Jelbert says that this also shows a move from monotheism to the Trinity. Absent is any notion that even in Jewish monotheism, there was a question about the possibility of plurality in the person of God. One could see the work of How God Became Jesus for examples. It also ignores that the Trinity is monotheistic.

Jelbert then says that in the words of the immortal Alan Bennett, “Three in one, one in three, perfectly straightforward. Any doubts about that see your maths master.” It took awhile to find who it was, but apparently Bennett is a playwright who wrote a play called Forty Years On. Well, that’s a great place to go to get your scholarship!

Jelbert says that Witherington’s essay shows that Jesus did not teach the Trinity. Of course, it would have been relevant if Witherington had argued any such thing. We might as well say Jesus didn’t teach the Pythagorean Theorem. I don’t think Jesus would have had much success teaching the Trinity to the local people in Israel and it would have only led to confusion. He planted the seeds instead in His own person.

John 10:30, I and the Father are one, merely defines a special relationship. Well, unless you ignore that Jesus said that no one can snatch believers out of the Father’s hand and out of His own hand just before this and you ignore that the people picked up stones saying Jesus claimed to be God. No doubt, Jelbert understands things better than the immediate listeners did.

Jelbert says that it’s unlikely Jesus said the Great Commission since Jesus’s followers didn’t go to Gentiles immediately. Yet why think this? Could they not have thought to go into all nations telling all the Jews in the diaspora about Jesus? Jelbert also draws a distinction between baptizing in Jesus’s name and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but Jesus is not giving a baptismal formula here that must be followed. Peter says Jesus’s name in Acts 2 due to Jesus needing to be the new one to recognize as Lord.

Jelbert will also try to explain the rise of Christianity. He brings up Mormonism and scientology as counter-examples. Never mind that these were based in modern individualistic cultures with a more tolerant live and let live attitude. Never mind that these were cultures that more readily accepted new ideas. Never mind that these built on, especially in the case of Mormonism, previously successful ideas.

So what does Jelbert say made the religion successful? For one, it upheld church authority and gave them control, which would be absolutely worthless as a matter of appeal. All religious people had that authority in a culture that didn’t have separation of church and state. This would also only appeal to people who wanted to be in control and then, why be in control of such a small movement that would be opposed to Rome?

He also says it undermines self-worth making us question our own senses and reasoning abilities. No examples of this are given. Could it be Jelbert is revealing something more about his own psychology than Christianity itself?

It also promoted wishful thinking with ideas of eternal life and eventual justice. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is only appealing if you believe the promises can be delivered on. If you don’t, then it doesn’t appeal. It’s a nice story. Also, it’s worth noting that our emphasis on Heaven and such is absent in much of the New Testament, such as the Pauline epistles.

Finally, it exhorts its members to proselytize, which is surely a great draw! Go out and tell your neighbor who could report you to Rome about your new faith! One wonders why Jelbert thinks this way.

Jelbert then says it’s easy to imagine that a religion with these characteristics would be successful. Of course, it’s hard to imagine a religion with a crucified Messiah, a belief seen as new, radical exclusivity, and a bodily resurrection that would be seen as shameful being successful, but hey, details. Who needs them?

Thankfully, Jelbert doesn’t say that this speculation is accurate. It’s a good thing, but apparently it’s a good just-so story to justify atheism. Could it be Jelbert is engaging in his own wishful thinking?

Jelbert also says on a side note that the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. If the claim is unpersuasive, then atheism is justified. Well, that’s only if atheism is seen as the lack of belief which I do dispute, but what about the problem of who decides if something is unpersuasive? I find the arguments persuasive. Jelbert doesn’t. Why should his view be the rational one? Maybe he’s the irrational one and doesn’t know how to recognize a persuasive argument. Maybe I am. How could we know?

Next time we’ll look at a second essay by Witherington on Jesus as God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters