Deeper Waters Podcast 12/7/2013: Christmas Beginnings

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christmas is coming and so it’s time to have a series of shows where we’re going to talk about just Christmas! As has often been said about stories, the most important part of them is to begin at the beginning. Thus, we’ll start with looking at the birth narratives!

But aren’t those confusing? Look at what’s in them? We have the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem that is recorded by no other historian at the time! We have these genealogies that can’t even seem to get themselves straightened out! What on Earth is going on with this census here? Can that be historically verified in any way? And of course, all of this centers around a virgin birth! What’s going on with that?!

And to discuss such issues, we need a scholar who really knows his stuff. Fortunately, I have just such a guest. Now he’s only able to give an hour of his time and that will be the second hour of our program, but what a guest we have for you!

My friends, Ben Witherington will be our guest for the Deeper Waters Podcast!

Ben Witherington is one who has contributed much to biblical scholarship and is a force to be reckoned with. Mike Licona has in fact told me that Ben Witherington has an excellent memory for the many materials that he has read. Of the books that I have read by Dr. Witherington, they are lively and engaging. He has well surveyed the field and has a serious devotion to Christian truth.

As something that makes it especially important with me, Witherington is very well familiar with the social context that the NT was written in and many of his writings have been centered around looking at the NT from a socio-rhetorical perspective. It is my understanding that this is in fact what he talked about at the recent ETS conference that was built around the topic of Inerrancy.

For those who are not familiar with the work of Witherington, I hope this will surely open your eyes to a scholar who is someone that you must read in the field. The birth narratives are an excellent way to demonstrate this as these are some of the accounts that are the most challenged in the life of Christ. Our look at these chapters will be brief and cannot be exhaustive, but I hope it will give people a little taste of how the Christian can answer the challenges that are given.

The show will be at our usual time from 3-5 PM EST on Saturday, December 7th. Our call-in number is 714-242-5180. As I’ve said, Dr. Witherington will only be joining us for the second hour of the program so I ask that if you do decide to call in tomorrow, that you try to be as brief as you can as we have much to discuss and little time to do it in.

I hope you will join us!

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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19 Responses to “Deeper Waters Podcast 12/7/2013: Christmas Beginnings”

  1. David C. Says:

    I was not able to catch this episode and I do have a question about the birth narratives that hopefully was answered.

    I have encountered online skeptical material that says Jesus was most likely not born in Bethlehem because he was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” and in the ancient world people were known by the place they were born in. Since Jesus is known as “Jesus of Nazareth” and not “Jesus of Bethlehem” there is a strong indication he was not, in fact, born in Bethlehem but probably in Nazareth, since people in the ancient world were known by the place they were born in.

    I have tried to find a rebuttal to this claim by looking at a few different takes from Christian scholars. Even though the takes I have looked at address many claims beautifully, I have never seen this alleged problem mentioned and was wondering if you had an answer or if you know of someone else who might.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  2. David Says:

    The most obvious and simple explanation is that Jesus was in fact born in Nazareth. As time passed and legends/myths developed, a competing narrative had it that the messiah had to be from Bethlehem, and a narrative was invented accordingly. Apologists often invent incredible, ahistorical explanations to achieve harmonization. Occam’s razor cuts out of all of that and instead indicates the obvious- (same for the alleged miracles).

  3. apologianick Says:

    Why would anyone invent a birth in Bethlehem at all? For one thing, we have two sources that say he was born in Bethlehem, nothing else that says otherwise so the burden is on those who disagree to show that he was born in Nazareth. What evidence have they of this?

    Actually, the gospel writers would have preferred to avoid writing about the birth of Jesus. To do so would raise up charges of being illegitimate.

    The best explanation is that he was born in Bethlehem, but it was never considered a residence. He was raised in Nazareth and everyone knew him from there.

  4. David Says:

    “Why would anyone invent a birth in Bethlehem at all?”
    Nick, I really think you need to be honest here. You are well-read, and certainly up on secular critiques of christianity. That means you know good and well the skeptical replies. Why would you feign ignorance? Even if you disagree with that assessment, you need to be honest and acknowledge it. Shame on you. What kind of christian are you? An intellectually dishonest one who will say anything in order to score rhetorical points for your “team,” or one who values truth above all and will argue in good faith?

  5. apologianick Says:

    No. An honest one. One can look at the Micah 5 passage, but Bethlehem was also a small nobody town. It would not accrue honor to a Messiah figure to say that he was born there. Of course the same would apply to Nazareth as well. The gospel writers could just as easily have left out the birth narratives, but the claims about Jesus being supposedly illegitimate would need to be addressed.

    • David Says:

      So you are familiar with the counterarguments afterall? Ah, now the truth comes out; but only with prodding. of course, you mumble it away…
      occam’s razor makes this very easy. but you’d have to be brave enough to re-examine your faith in order to honestly apply it. Man’s fingerprints are all over the gospels.

  6. apologianick Says:

    Whenever TheologyWeb comes back up, you’re welcome to come there and have a debate with me if you think I’m not brave enough. Until then, I’m done interacting with someone who knows nothing about NT scholarship and wants to think they do.

    • David Says:

      Nick, there are hundreds of professional historians who would do do better than me. I’m a professional musician and am fine debating you, but your constant use of the crutches of your pet apologists would make it an exercise in futility since, as stated, i’m not interested in wasting my time on the apologist-de-jour who wildly asserts beyond what limited source material allows. Why don’t you have Tim O’Neil on? Or your favorite bogey-man Carrier? IT shouldn’t be hard- that is, if you are genuinely interested in a public debate featuring BOTH sides…

      • Mr.applemonkey Says:

        David, there’s actually a good reason why his birthplace was hidden from the average Joe. Do you know what was happening in Bethlehem at this time? Have a look at Matthew 2:16 for a hint. I believe this to be one of the reasons why.

      • David Says:

        applemonkey,
        Most serious historians do not believe that account in Matthew is accurate.
        Even if it is, it doesn’t explain the obvious contradictions (which are obviously the result of two different traditions). Fundamentalists cannot admit that their holy books might contain embarrassing errors- hence the ‘art’ of harmonization.
        Instead of admitting the obvious, christians must invent yet more gospel narrative to account for blatant contradictions.

  7. Mr.applemonkey Says:

    @david: Who are these serious historians? Can you name a few so I can check it out?

    • David Says:

      Sure! There are dozens you could find in one minute on google-
      try Bart Ehrman

      • Mr.applemonkey Says:

        Something as important as truth is worth more to me than a minute. It’s anti-professional to make a claim that a minute is enough to find proper answers. A google search can only tell you what is popular, not what is true (some of the first results are wikipedia if that says anything). So I’m sort of insulted that you are insinuating that something like this can be resolved with a one minute popularity poll search that google is. As for Bart Ehrman and serious historians: The only claims I see are arguments of biblical silence. There is nothing saying it’s impossible for Jesus to born in Bethlehem or that Herod’s orders of slaughter were never given. Please give me a more direct source if you are right. I am losing faith in your academia

      • David Says:

        I’m sorry you are sort of insulted. You didn’t indicate what level of knowledge you have of this subject, save that you were ignorant of the common historical view of the bethlehem accounts. Therefore, a cursory google search, if you are good at it (!), will indeed point you towards scholars both respected and popular. If you have patience and skill, you can also find scholars who are not respected and unpopular. It does not take much.
        “There is nothing saying it’s impossible for Jesus to born in Bethlehem or that Herod’s orders of slaughter were never given.”
        Nor did I ever claim such. You seem unfamiliar with historical research in general- ancient history is less a matter of definitives and more a matter of probability. There is insufficient evidence to argue that there was a huge, disruptive census that had people going to places their ANCESTORS were from! There is nothing remotely like it in the historical record (save for the gospels), nor is there any logical reason for people to have to travel to ancestral lands. It doesn’t make sense (except to harmonize conflicting reports of jesus of nazareth with the micah prophesy), so historians discount it as not likely. Nobody says it’s impossible- simply that the more likely explanation is that there was no such census or bethleham birth and instead someone fabricated the harmonization.
        Still clinging to a literal reading of the gospels on this? Explain why would roman rulers require a census in the manner described by the bible. Think for a moment how disruptive to the economy would be- think what would be the purpose. Think why there is absolutely no precedent for such a bizarre census in the historical record- when, to the contrary, there are indeed records of NORMAL census recording where people live (NOT their ancestors…).
        Unless you are ideologically committed to the idea that the gospels cannot be wrong, it shouldn’t be hard for you to admit what most historians plainly see.

  8. Mr.applemonkey Says:

    @david: you seem to be unfamiliar with my request. I asked for a direct source and you gave me long winded sermon that you have yet to back up. I am up for the gospels being wrong, but you need to give me credible proof. not general terms like “serious historians” or “ancient research shows” give me the research if it’s obvious, or a book, a link, give me something if your right. I pleading with you to do so. If you don’t I’ll give up on your opinion.

    • David Says:

      Like Nick, you ask for more than you are willing to do yourself. I asked you questions as well, which have been unanswered. Welcome to the internet!
      At any rate, I’ll go the extra step and do anyway what you refuse to do.
      For Bart Ehrman on bethlehem see “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of The New Millennium,” pages 36-39, 97-98.
      You’re welcome. Now you can respond to my questions and try to explain why the gospels should be taken seriously on bethlehem.
      You are “up to the gospels being wrong?” Uh, yeah. there definitely contradictions. The most pathetic attempt at harmonization are those used to explain away the hilariously contradictory geneologies of jesus- the star of the gospels! In order to believe the silly harmonization accounts of this, of course, you must disregard what the actual text says… Please read more! If you are unaware of the errors in the bible, you clearly have not done any serious reading outside of apologists. I was like that too once. But read more and the truth shall set you free.

      • Mr.applemonkey Says:

        http://christianthinktank.com/fabprof4.html

        http://christianthinktank.com/quirinius.html

        “If you wanted to speak about the powerful Messiah of
        Israel, surely you’d have him come from the center of power, Jerusalem,or possibly Bethlehem” (pg. 98) This author thinks that Bethlehem give as much credibility of social standing as the “center of power” like that of Jerusalem? or that it would be beneficial? huh? The best source you give me doesn’t even consider how a birth in Bethlehem looked. Maybe there is a someone that can sway me, but it’s not you.You had a chance to show me your stuff but instead you give me either no source or one that doesn’t have all of his facts straight about the ANE society. This is my last post since this has become about having the last word and that’s all you want out of this. So enjoy :D

      • David Says:

        typical apologist. move the goal post, declare victory and run away (with your hands tightly squeezed against your ears yelling “the miracles are truuuuuuuuue!”).
        You didn’t even understand the Ehrman quote above! He does NOT equate Bethlehem’s standing with Jerusalem- merely pointed out that Bethlehem had a significance that Nazareth completely lacked.
        Like other confused apologists, you defend what you do not even understand. Faith blinds you to the egregious leaps in logic necessary to pretend that ancient wild miracle claims are more likely than ordinary, COMMON, mundane myth-making!
        Sorry you don’t have proof for your silly claims; that’s your problem, not mine.
        I have to say you apologists are very consistent- just run away after you’ve exhausted your straw-men.
        You are a perfect example of why christians are not looked upon as intellectual. Your default position on ane miracles is one of gullibility, when any serious, critical thinker would instead have a default position of skepticism. Comforting to believers, but illogical and worthy of contempt.

  9. David Says:

    p.s., as noted, you and nick are sons of snakes (using Jesus’s insulting moniker for hypocrites (that’s not very nice, Jesus!).
    You don’t answer my questions, yet you get indignant when I didn’t answer yours!
    What are ya’ll afraid of? haha!

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