Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

December 15, 2014

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

godcommandgenocide

First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Islam Answers

September 16, 2014

Is the Crucifixion A Historical Reality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by a friend to look at the “work” from “Islam Answers” on the historicity of the crucifixion. Some of you think I save my worst condemnation in research methodology for the new atheists. That is false. When I read Muslim argumentation, it is worse. Going through the first part that I went through was a labor of love for my friend.

I do wish to note that I am staying with my area here as well. Seeing as I am not an authority on Islam, I will not be commenting on how well Muslim works pass the standard of historical criticism. That is for those who do study Islam. I will instead comment on their criticisms of the NT. Naturally, it won’t be exhaustive, but it will be sufficient.

The work that I am critiquing at this point is part 1 that can be found here. What I find repeatedly is the same argument ad nauseum and the same failed argument. I find a lack of interaction with the latest scholarly research and the so-called research that I find is extremely poor. This will be pointed out as we go along, especially since a number of times, Wikipedia is cited as their source.

For instance, it is repeatedly stated that the Gospels are anonymous. The writers of this work (Who strangely enough I do not know who they are since they happen to be anonymous) repeatedly state that if they were eyewitnesses, surely they would want to put who they were. It is a shame they did not pick up a work like E.P. Sanders’s “The Historical Figure of Jesus.” On page 66, they would have read:

The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’

Furthermore, it is not as if we have no idea whatsoever who wrote the documents that we have as the Gospels. There is no interaction with Martin Hengel’s suggestion that the original works would have included the authors names somewhere. Hengel could be wrong of course, but it would be good to see the anonymous writers of this piece interacting with it.

Is there any mention of the church traditions that state who the authors are? None whatsoever. Again, the church traditions could be wrong for the sake of argument. Sure. Yet shouldn’t the idea be at least interacted with? We could consider what Tim McGrew says in my interview with him at the start about Gospel authorship or my interview with Andrew Pitts on NT Forgeries.

In fact, for all their concern about anonymity, as I said, it doesn’t bother them that the authors of their work itself is unnamed and even on their web page about the music in the video, one sees this:

Theme Nasheed (by unnamed group from Morocco)
Enjoy, and make some “duaa” for us.

Apparently, the problem isn’t anonymous works. It’s which ones they will accept.

Are we to think anyway that if there was a name on the Gospels, that they would instantly be seen as credible? We have six epistles in the NT that are said to be by Paul that most scholars do not think are Pauline. Why should we think the Gospels would be treated any differently?

And what about other works that are anonymous? How do we know Plutarch wrote his works? One of his grandsons later on says he did. A large number of works in the ancient world were anonymous. Do the authors of this piece want to say that if any of them are anonymous, then we must view them all with suspicion.

In fact, let’s take a look at some points about the authorship of the Gospels. Let’s start with Matthew. The early church speaks with one voice. Matthew wrote the book. The writers of the piece being responded to today make note that the authors don’t use the term “I” but instead, if they speak of themselves, speak in the third person. Traditionally, this would only work with Matthew and John because Mark and Luke not even in tradition would be seen really as major eyewitnesses. (Mark is thought by some to be the young man who runs off naked in the Garden, but that’s only one scene.) Matthew does write about himself in the third person. Is this a problem? The writers of this piece should have known this question was addressed around sixteen centuries ago by Augustine. Excuse a long quote please:

Contra Faustum 17.1

  1. Faustus said: You ask why we do not receive the law and the prophets, when Christ said that he came not to destroy them, but to fulfill them. Where do we learn that Jesus said this? From Matthew, who declares that he said it on the mount. In whose presence was it said? In the presence of Peter, Andrew, James, and John—only these four; for the rest, including Matthew himself, were not yet chosen. Is it not the case that one of these four—John, namely—wrote a Gospel? It is. Does he mention this saying of Jesus? No. How, then, does it happen that what is not recorded by John, who was on the mount, is recorded by Matthew, who became a follower of Christ long after He came down from the mount? In the first place, then, we must doubt whether Jesus ever said these words, since the proper witness is silent on the matter, and we have only the authority of a less trustworthy witness. But, besides this, we shall find that it is not Matthew that has imposed upon us, but some one else under his name, as is evident from the indirect style of the narrative. Thus we read: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and called him; and he immediately rose up, and followed Him.” [Matthew 9:9] No one writing of himself would say, He saw a man, and called him; and he followed Him; but, He saw me, and called me, and I followed Him. Evidently this was written not by Matthew himself, but by some one else under his name. Since, then, the passage already quoted would not be true even if it had been written by Matthew, since he was not present when Jesus spoke on the mount; much more is its falsehood evident from the fact that the writer was not Matthew himself, but some one borrowing the names both of Jesus and of Matthew.

Augustine replied: What amazing folly, to disbelieve what Matthew records of Christ, while you believe Manichæus! If Matthew is not to be believed because he was not present when Christ said, “I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill,” was Manichæus present, was he even born, when Christ appeared among men? According, then, to your rule, you should not believe anything that Manichæus says of Christ. On the other hand, we refuse to believe what Manichæus says of Christ; not because he was not present as a witness of Christ’s words and actions, but because he contradicts Christ’s disciples, and the Gospel which rests on their authority. The apostle, speaking in the Holy Spirit, tells us that such teachers would arise. With reference to such, he says to believers: “If any man preaches to you another gospel than that you have received, let him be accursed.” [Galatians 1:9] If no one can say what is true of Christ unless he has himself seen and heard Him, no one now can be trusted. But if believers can now say what is true of Christ because the truth has been handed down in word or writing by those who saw and heard, why might not Matthew have heard the truth from his fellow disciple John, if John was present and he himself was not, as from the writings of John both we who are born so long after and those who shall be born after us can learn the truth about Christ? In this way, the Gospels of Luke and Mark, who were companions of the disciples, as well as the Gospel of Matthew, have the same authority as that of John. Besides, the Lord Himself might have told Matthew what those called before him had already been witnesses of.

Your idea is, that John should have recorded this saying of the Lord, as he was present on the occasion. As if it might not happen that, since it was impossible to write all that be heard from the Lord, he set himself to write some, omitting this among others. Does he not say at the close of his Gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written”? [John 21:25] This proves that he omitted many things intentionally. But if you choose John as an authority regarding the law and the prophets, I ask you only to believe his testimony to them. It is John who writes that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ. [John 12:41] It is in his Gospel we find the text already treated of: “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me; for he wrote of me.” [John 5:46] Your evasions are met on every side. You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.

  1. Faustus thinks himself wonderfully clever in proving that Matthew was not the writer of this Gospel, because, when speaking of his own election, he says not, He saw me, and said to me, Follow me; but, He saw him, and said to him, Follow me. This must have been said either in ignorance or from a design to mislead. Faustus can hardly be so ignorant as not to have read or heard that narrators, when speaking of themselves, often use a construction as if speaking of another. It is more probable that Faustus wished to bewilder those more ignorant than himself, in the hope of getting hold on not a few unacquainted with these things. It is needless to resort to other writings to quote examples of this construction from profane authors for the information of our friends, and for the refutation of Faustus. We find examples in passages quoted above from Moses by Faustus himself, without any denial, or rather with the assertion, that they were written by Moses, only not written of Christ. When Moses, then, writes of himself, does he say, I said this, or I did that, and not rather, Moses said, and Moses did? Or does he say, The Lord called me, The Lord said to me, and not rather, The Lord called Moses, The Lord said to Moses, and so on? So Matthew, too, speaks of himself in the third person.

And John does the same; for towards the end of his book he says: “Peter, turning, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also lay on His breast at supper, and who said to the Lord, Who is it that shall betray You?” Does he say, Peter, turning, saw me? Or will you argue from this that John did not write this Gospel? But he adds a little after: “This is the disciple that testifies of Jesus, and has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” [John 21:20-24] Does he say, I am the disciple who testify of Jesus, and who have written these things, and we know that my testimony is true? Evidently this style is common in writers of narratives. There are innumerable instances in which the Lord Himself uses it. “When the Son of man,” He says, “comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” [Luke 18:8] Not, When I come, shall I find? Again, “The Son of man came eating and drinking;” [Matthew 11:19] not, I came. Again, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live;” [John 5:25] not, My voice. And so in many other places. This may suffice to satisfy inquirers and to refute scoffers.

This happens in other places. Consider Xenophon’s Anabasis in Book 1, chapter 8.

At this time the barbarian army was evenly advancing, and the Hellenic division was still riveted to the spot, completing its formation as the various contingents came up. Cyrus, riding past at some distance from the lines, glanced his eye first in one direction and then in the other, so as to take a complete survey of friends and foes; when Xenophon the Athenian, seeing him, rode up from the Hellenic quarter to meet him, asking him whether he had any orders to give. Cyrus, pulling up his horse, begged him to make the announcement generally known that the omens from the victims, internal and external alike, were good (3). While he was still speaking, he heard a confused murmur passing through the ranks, and asked what it meant. The other replied that it was the watchword being passed down for the second time. Cyrus wondered who had given the order, and asked what the watchword was. On being told it was “Zeus our Saviour and Victory,” he replied, “I accept it; so let it be,” and with that remark rode away to his own position. And now the two battle lines were no more than three or four furlongs apart, when the Hellenes began chanting the paean, and at the same time advanced against the enemy. (Emphasis mine)

Or consider Book 2, chapter 20, section 4 of Josephus’s War of the Jews.

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command. (Emphasis mine)

Such is sufficient to make our case.

What about Mark? Mark is said to be the testimony of Peter. Note that if the early church wanted to secure Mark as a Gospel, they could have just said it was the Gospel According to Peter since it was essentially Peter’s testimony. They didn’t. They kept the middleman in there, the middle man who would have been a shameful figure seeing as he was a Mama’s Boy who ran back home and led to a division between Barnabas and Paul.

Luke? Luke never claims to be an eyewitness himself, but he interviews those who are eyewitnesses and records what they say. Again, why would the church make up Luke? He’s an unnamed barely mentioned in the epistles.

John is the one who makes the most sense really and guess which one is the only one with some dispute in the early church? It’s John. Is it John the Elder or John the Apostle who wrote it?

Interestingly, in all this talk about eyewitnesses, nowhere is cited the work of Richard Bauckham with “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” I suppose the great research of Islam Answers never included reading the best and latest scholarly material.

What about bias? Everyone who wrote anything back then wrote with a bias. I suppose Islam Answers has a bias as well. They want to show Islam is right and Christianity is wrong. Should I discount them entirely because of that? Not at all. The best holocaust museums are ran by Jews. Do you think they have a little bit of bias. In fact, as stated in my interview with Jonathan Pennington, unbiased history would be viewed with suspicion. You had to have a motivation for writing what you wrote. Mostly, it was to say “This person was a good and virtuous man and you should seek to emulate him!”

Of course, there is an ample amount said about contradictions and one of the main ones they point to is the sign above Jesus’s head at the cross as if to have different renderings of what it says is problematic. To begin with, the message was written in more than one language. Which language was translated in which way? Second, even if it said one thing, a paraphrase is entirely acceptable. What do they say the sign says?

Matthew: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

Does anyone notice a recurring theme here?

We are also told that the Gospels claim Jesus will die and be raised three days later. Why were the Gospels surprised? Chances are, they did not think raised from the dead by Jesus then meant literal bodily resurrection. They probably were thinking along the lines of divine exaltation somehow, such as Jesus being vindicated. Or, they were wondering if He was speaking in parables again since this is the Messiah and the Messiah is not supposed to die.

The writer also asks about the claim that Jesus died (Noteworthy that in this piece he only deals with the Gospels and not Paul or even secular sources like Tacitus) and wants to know if the author could verify Jesus was dead. After all, Pilate seemed surprised.

It is true most victims lasted longer on the cross, but Jesus had also been up all night long, undergone a trial, and been severely flogged. (Many people died in just the flogging alone.) This would only hasten the death of Jesus. If there is still doubt, let us consider that those who would know well, like the American Medical Association, agree that Jesus was dead.

The next point the authors bring up is that in about 50 years according to the historical method, the eyewitnesses would have been dead. This is flawed terminology anyway. The historical method does not speak. Historians speak using the historical method. Nevertheless, what is the great source that the authors use for their information on the historical method?

Wikipedia.

I’m not kidding. They really use Wikipedia.

At least they’re nice enough to tell you what to search for. They recommend looking for R.J. Shafer, although Shafer wrote forty years ago and we have learned some matters since then. Is there any interaction with much more recent work? How about James Dunn’s “Jesus Remembered”? or Walton and Sandy’s “The Lost World of Scripture.” You can also hear my interview with Brent Sandy on the topic.

The writers tell us that the Gospels were written 40-50 years later. Source on this?

None given.

Argument for it?

None given.

Now again, they could be right, but they need to argue that. Also, the testimony of the eyewitnesses would have been told in the context of a community. (Yes. They later on refer to the telephone game not noting that ancient communication was completely unlike that.) In the community, those with the best memories would be the gatekeepers as it were of the information as the stories were told. Now minor details could be altered as long as the thrust of the story was the same. This did not constitute an error in the story to the ancient mindset. For more on the liberties that could be used in Greco-Roman biography, hear my interview with Mike Licona.

The writers also make a claim about the authors having an air of omniscience asking questions that are meant to be stumpers.

“Who shadowed Jesus to report him being carried by Satan from mountain to mountain. Who was with him?”

Strange idea. I’m just going to throw this one out there. Maybe Jesus Himself told them what happened in the wilderness?

“Who shadowed Judas to report him make the agreement about money?”

Simple. Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus could have both had knowledge of the event.

“Who shadowed Judas when he hung himself? and when he died AGAIN (!!!) by spilling his guts?”

Now there are different ways to deal with the discrepancy. Some say the terminology in Matthew is not literal but meant to say Jesus died like a traitor like Athithophel. I’m going to for the sake of argument go for the more common idea that Judas hung himself over a precipice and then after time, the rope broke and he fell and died.

No one needed to shadow him for that. Simple observation after the fact would tell everyone what happened?

Finally…

“Who shadowed Jesus when he prayed remove this cup from me”?

When Matthew says that Jesus went a little farther, the Greek word used is Mikron. That should show how short the distance was. Jesus prayed for a long time. When He returns each time, He finds the disciples sleeping. What’s so hard about thinking they hear him praying out loud just as they doze off? What would also be impossible about if the resurrection is true, Jesus telling them about the prayer afterwards? Either one works.

Later on, we find this excellent piece of logic. We are told the NT was written in Greek, but the language of Jesus and the disciples was Aramaic, therefore, whoever the NT authors were, they never met Jesus.

Yeah. I don’t see the logic either.

Would it have been ridiculous to consider that in the early church, the authors could tell their stories to people who could write and speak Greek and communicate it to them? It would also not be unheard of for them to know some Greek, especially if they were traveling in the Roman world anyway where Greek was the universal language.

WIth this, they bring in 1 Peter which they say is in Greek and too sophisticated to be by a fisherman. (Because we all know fishermen just had to be stupid.) Even if that was so, did they bother to read 1 Peter? What does 1 Peter 5:12 say?

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

It says Peter had a secretary, namely Silvanus, who wrote for him. Peter would have had the final approval to be sure, but it would be just fine to say “This is what I want to say. Phrase it in the best way.” Peter would still be considered the source of the letter.

Amusingly, the writers consider the idea of secretaries as an incredible response. Any interaction with E. Randolph Richards’s work on secretaries? Nope. Well if this level counts as an argument, then I have a response.

Muslim apologists often use the ridiculous argument that the idea that the Gospel writers used secretaries is ridiculous!

If their assertion counts as a refutation, so would mine.

When we get to textual criticism, there is complaining that one early fragment cited is the size of a credit card. What’s their source of their contention with this? It’s Wikipedia. Perhaps they could have considered a work such as The Early Text of the New Testament. If the NT cannot be trusted textually, there’s no basis for trusting any ancient document textually. I’d also like to point to the words of a leading textual scholar on the transmission of the NT. This scholar first says:

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

Elsewhere, this scholar also says:

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

I strongly suspect our anonymous writers would tell me to stop reading the conservatives and pick up some Bart Ehrman instead.

Which would be amusing if they did because the scholar who said both of these statements is in fact, Bart Ehrman.

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

The second one is here:

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

The writers also deal with supposed contradictions between the OT and the NT. Now I don’t hang my hat on inerrancy. Scholars do not play all-or-nothing games with ancient texts. Yet one supposed discrepancy needs to be mentioned. The writers say in the NT God is a spirit and doesn’t have a body. What about the OT?

The writers refer to Habakkuk 3:3-4. I find most translations speak of rays coming from God’s hand, but the KJV has the reading these writers quote.

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

Yes. They really think the Jews thought God was a being like this who had horns coming out of His hand. The same with God walking in the garden in Genesis 3. Apparently, they do not know how to recognize allegorical language or as is also the interpretation I give for appearances of God in the OT, that the pre-incarnate Christ was the one who appeared.

One other one worth dealing with is if Jesus’s name was Immanuel as in Matthew 1, or if it was Jesus, as He was known throughout His life?

The writers are unaware of double names in the OT apparently. Consider that Jacob was also called Israel and many times after his name was changed, he’s still called Jacob. Moses’s father-in-law was known as Reuel and Jethro both. My favorite example of this is in 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and theLord loved him.

25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now why would the writer say Jesus was known as Immanuel? In the original prophecy, the boy who was born was a sign that God was with the people. Jesus is a far greater indicator of that. This Gospel has early on “God is with us” in Jesus and ends with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is known as an Inclusio. This means that the whole of the Gospel is to be seen as “God with us” in Jesus.

The writers also say that the passages that speak about Israel don’t work for Jesus since Israel went and lived in rebellion. The point is that Jesus is a type of Israel, not a one-to-one parallel. Jesus is in fact the true Israel and He succeeds as Israel where national Israel failed.

The writers also say that if John was near the cross, the disciples would have known to not be afraid. John was also known to the high priest so he could have been given some extra leeway anyway. That could explain his being near. (Also, there was a crowd there. Are we to think that every person was patrolled?) Are we to think the other disciples would not want to take precautions seeing as their Messiah in their eyes at the time did not survive the cross?

When it comes back to eyewitness testimony and memory, they refer to the writings of Garraghan, who wrote in 1946. Again, we’ve learned more since then, but where is this information found? What a shock. It can be found here.

It’s as if the only work the writers read on how to do history was that Wikipedia page.

In fact, later on when they quote Wikipedia again they say

The reader must be warned that our following discussion assumes that our above mentioned Wikipedia source, is correct and does not have grave omissions.

It’s hard to imagine how these people think this passes for research….

Their next claim?

Bernheim (1889) and Langlois & Seignobos (1898) proposed a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history:[3]

  1. If the sources all agree about an event, historians can consider the event proved.
  2. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.
  3. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.
  4. When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most “authority”—that is the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness.
  5. Eyewitnesses are, in general, to be preferred especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.
  6. If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced.
  7. When two sources disagree and there is no other means of evaluation, then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.

Did I have to type any of that? Nope. It was cut and paste from Wikipedia. Why? Because that’s exactly what they did….

Also, there is another cut and paste job in the article from Wikipedia which I will quote as well.

C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation:[11]

  1. The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements describing present, observable data. (We will henceforth call the first statement ‘the hypothesis‘, and the statements describing observable data, ‘observation statements’.)
  2. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements.
  3. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.
  4. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.
  5. The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.
  6. It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false.
  7. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

McCullagh sums up, “if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true.”

At least they think McCullagh is an authority. Here’s what McCullagh says about Mike Licona’s book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

This is an astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come.

Our writers were probably too busy reading Wikipedia to read scholarly books on the matter and learn how historians really operate from them.

Of course, there is the constant cry of “contradictions.” For instance, did the Centurion come to Jesus or did his servants? For the ancients, this would not have been a problem. When the servants came, it would be as if the centurion himself came. Both could be spoken of. Are we to think that when John 19:1 says Pilate took Jesus and flogged Him, that that means Pilate himself did the deed? Much could be said about other supposed contradictions. An excellent source on these would be Tektonics and of course, reading the best commentaries on the issues and other scholarly books like Craig Blomberg’s “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.” You can also consider my interview with Blomberg on that book.

Again, not everything could be said, but it is safe to say that these writers embody the very worst in research methodology. I suspect all they did was sit at their computers and look up sources like Wikipedia. There is no hint of any interaction with the best material against their position. Those wondering on the pro-Islam side of their argument are invited to go elsewhere, but I can safely say that their criticisms serve for me as a boost to the Gospel and a further demonstration of the bankruptcy of Muslim apologetics.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Real Persecution

August 25, 2014

Are you really undergoing suffering for Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

Just this weekend, I was involved with a debate on Facebook with what I believe to be a cult or at least cultic sacred namer type. That’s one of those that insists on using specifically Hebrew names for God and Jesus and usually suggesting Yeshua is a not the correct name. There’s a major emphasis on that in groups like this along with a rejection of many orthodox beliefs seen as “pagan” and an insistence on keeping the Law.

I was able to handle everything this person said and pointed out they said nothing in reply to my responses, until they gave the line to one of their fellows who had popped in recently that they were just getting the same kind of treatment that Jesus got that eventually got them nailed to the cross.

At this, I was quite angry. Why? It’s not because a cult group was doing this. Real Christians make statements like this way too often. It’s because when this is done, it’s a real insult to people who are really being persecuted. 

As I pointed out, right now, there are Christians in the Middle East who are being killed for their belief in Jesus by ISIS right now. We should all agree that this is a real evil that should be stopped. Now whether you agree or disagree with Christianity, there can be no doubt that these are true faithful Christians who are willing to pay the price for what they believe.

Too often in our culture, we look at anything that happens to us and cry out “persecution!” Now I do not think everything that happens to us is right of course. There is an increasing tendency by certain groups out there to put as many limits on Christian expression in public places as possible. There is also the outcry from the homosexual community that we must change our beliefs or at least not state them publicly and must recognize a man-man or a woman-woman unit as a valid marriage. People who have refused have even been told to take classes so they can learn to change their minds. 

Some of these are getting close. We should all be on guard in this case and ready to stand up for what it is we believe in. Frankly, I’ll state everyone should be ready to do that. Whatever your worldview is, if you really think it’s true, you should stand up for it and you have all right to do so, especially here in America. If you think something should be illegal or legal, stand up for it and argue for it in the marketplace of ideas.

Yet Christians too often copy the world in one false notion. They play the victim. Many things that happen to us are not persecution. If someone disagrees with you in public and challenges your position, you are not being persecuted. Have it be that they pull a gun on you and tell you to stop talking about Jesus and I’ll agree you’re being persecuted.

When we use the term persecution too lightly, we remove from it the real meaning it should have. If you live in America and you’re reading this and you’re a Christian, it’s quite likely you went to church yesterday. You freely worshiped in a public place and had no fear of the government or Muslim terrorists coming in and killing you. You carried your own Bible and didn’t fear a police force stopping you and confiscating it from you. Some of you might have went out to eat afterwards in your Sunday best and everyone would have known you went to church and yet you feared no reprisals. 

When you get home, it could be you have several books on your bookshelf that are also Christian in nature. You could go to a bookstore and buy more if you wanted to or go on Amazon and freely order them. You would have no fear if you did the latter of the government come and checking your packages to make sure you weren’t getting anything illegal.

Do you pause in all of this to take a moment to realize how grateful you should be?

Many of us can have multiple Bibles on our shelves. I do. It’s good to study many translations. Do you know how many Christians in persecuted parts of the world would be thrilled to just have a piece of that Bible that you have? If they had but one passage of Scripture, they would be studying that passage endlessly. They long to do this, and meanwhile many of our Bibles gather dust on our bookshelves.

Most of you today are going to go through your day without fear of dying for your faith. You’re not risking your lives by reading the Bible or going to a church to worship. If this is you, you’re not really undergoing persecution yet. Oh there could be some beginning stages going on, but you haven’t been hit with the real deal as of this point.

In fact, let’s make a few other points clear.

First, to deal with any misconceptions, just because you’re being persecuted, it does not mean that your beliefs are true. Many belief systems were persecuted throughout history and are being persecuted. I say this because I do know non-Christians read this as well and I am in no way saying “Because Christians are persecuted, Christianity is true.” (Though I do find it interesting that Christianity is usually singled out.) What it can demonstrate is that you certainly believe that Christianity is true.

Second, let’s be careful about any boasts that we make. Some of you might be being asked “Would you be willing to die for Jesus?” I never answer this question with “Definitely! You bet!” Why is that? Because centuries ago there was a man who said he would never deny the Lord and would die for Him if he had to. This man was Peter, the same Peter who denied the Lord three times to save his own hide. Take that as a word of warning. Those who are the ones who boast about how they cannot fall or fail are usually setting themselves up for just that. I answer this question by saying “I hope that if it ever came to that, the Lord would give me the strength to do just that.”

Third, let’s make sure to give thanks for what it is that we have. We should absolutely be praying for the persecuted church. My wife and I do every night. If you want to know what is really going on, an excellent place to go is to Voice of the Martyrs. This is a fine ministry that’s doing its part to help the persecuted church and is certainly worthy of your prayers and financial support. If my wife and I had the funds to give to another ministry today, this one I think would be at the top of the list.

Fourth is that I am not a pacifist. I in fact fully support military action against those who do seek to do evil. Part of doing our part includes rescuing those who are suffering. If someone was threatening you and your family, I would hope that you would take whatever action necessary to protect your family. These Christians in the Middle East are your family too. They’re your brothers and sisters in Christ and it is just fine to want to protect them. 

If we regularly keep saying that we are going through persecution when we are not, then we do raise ourselves up, but we do so by lowering the sacrifice of so many around the world, such as those suffering under ISIS who are really paying the ultimate price. We are not at this point and we should not take a term that really applies to them and give it to us.

Give thanks for what you have, but meanwhile, pray for and support the persecuted church. This is your family that’s dying after all. 

A Response to El Nimir

May 3, 2013

Why do I find Muslim apologetics so problematic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d also like to remind readers of this blog that tomorrow, I will be hosting Nabeel Qureshi, a Muslim turned Christian, on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

A response to Tark El Nimir

Recently, Muslim Apologist Tark El Nimir has challenged Christian apologist Mike Licona on his Facebook page. Licona is a busy fellow and seeing as I’m his son-in-law and seek to help him out, I figured I’d take up the keyboard and draft a response to El Nimir. His article can be found here.

El Nimir: “Making his case, Michael Licona quoted many historical records, he favoured, the early christians[sic.] knowing well that such records held many discrepancies. Now seeing as the Quran is not a historical document or book, it presents a more factual approach to who Jesus or the prophets was. Michael licona’s[sic.] argument is purely on historic and miraculous evidence that ONLY Christians support. Makes one wonder where Divinity and History agree?”

Reply: Blech! Something’s wrong! The water here tastes nasty! Yes. El Nimir has brought in a well-poisoning at the start saying that the accounts contain discrepancies. Here’s what we are not told about that.

Are the accounts hopelessly contradictory? No answer to that. El Nimir could ask any police detective who has to deal with eyewitness testimony and he’d find out that every case with eyewitness testimony has discrepancies. That does not automatically equal contradictions. Sometimes they can be harmonized. Sometimes, some accounts will contain some errors, but it doesn’t mean the whole is in error.

Are there any attempts to deal with any supposed contradictions? We are not told this as well. We are just given a blanket statement. If El Nimir were really interested in such ideas, he could pick up numerous scholarly commentaries and see the responses that have been given. Some responses are good. Some are not. That is just part of research.

Are the accounts totally unreliable? We are not told that and if we were told an account must be perfect or it has no reliability whatsoever, then we would be in a world of hurt with ancient history. For instance, if the accounts are totally unreliable, should we hold to a Christ-myth position?

For those wondering what we would do, then we just say we do historical study, like we would with any other ancient work. Licona’s position depends on treating the Bible not as the Inerrant Word of God, but as a historical document making claims about Jesus.

Furthermore, Licona’s argument is not based on claims ONLY Christians support. If this were the case, then I could just as well ask El Nimir what other historians besides Islamic ones accept the claim that the angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad? Licona’s minimal facts are those that can be attested to by non-Christian scholars. El Nimir can attest to this simply by reading such scholars. The difference between Licona and a non-Christian like Crossan, Martin, or Ehrman, is not largely the facts but rather the interpretation.

El Nimir: “He quotes Mark 14: 61-64, which he believed to be the divine word spoken by Jesus himself. In this passage, Jesus said “…you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power (In Greek-δυνάμεως)…” Why did Jesus choose to say “the right hand of “Power”, and not “God” Himself?”

Reply: This is simply wrong. It’s a circumlocution done out of respect to God, much like Kingdom of Heaven. He’s pointing to judgment motif found in Daniel 7 and the Son will be sitting at the right hand of God when God judges the people who have rejected Jesus. Mike has more information on this passage here.

El Nimir: “Semantically there is a great difference between the two statements. Most importantly, Jesus did not identify God as the divine being, but referred instead to the attribute of God’s Power. It is important to make this distinction because of God’s existence separate to His creation, while His power manifests within all of His creation. In other words, Jesus’ words may be understood as referring to him being supported [within the creation] through God’s power.”

Reply: You would be hard-pressed to find a commentary even by a non-Christian making such a claim. I would argue not only is God’s power manifest in creation, but every attribute He has is. Still, Jesus did identify God as the divine being and every Jew present knew it.

El Nimir: “Jesus clearly indicates in the following passage that his return would be to the Father, who is the shared God of both himself and his disciples: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. John 20:17” It is interesting Jesus thrones “God” but he himself in this passage does not make a distinction between his position or his disciples in relation to the divine “God” yet there is the element he is equal to them nature.”[sic]

Reply: What this has to do with the prior passage, I do not know. El Nimir says Jesus does not make a distinction. If that is the case, then he should have said “Our God.” He never does. Jesus was instead showing that the relationship had been extended. What Jesus had naturally, which came first, they now had by identifying with Him.

El Nimir: “Jesus is Not the Savior of Mankind?
One may be confused to learn that Jesus said “I was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 15:24RSV. Jesus’ Gospel is now ‘undestood’ [sic] to be for all of mankind since Jesus also said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19. But that is NOT what Jesus really meant!!”

Reply: No. It’s not shocking unless one is completely unfamiliar with the biblical story. God’s first place to go to was always Israel and through Israel He would reach everyone else. When He came offering the news of the restoration of the covenant, the first to receive the offer was Israel.

El Nimir: “SHOCKINGLY the same verse in the original Greek gospel included the Greek word “τὰ -THE” before the word “nations” as seen HERE. The use of the word “THE” makes these nations specifically targeted as opposed to a general usage, meaning specifically the Twelve tribes of Israel. Yet the word “THE” remains absent in all Bibles, so that the Bible reader will understand making disciples is generally for all nations.”

Reply: This argument is beyond ridiculous. The word the is not always translated in a text as the can be put in for emphasis. Translators do this not to show a conspiracy of some sort, but to make the reading more fluid. Even if there was a “the” in that passage, that is meant to show that it means only Israel? One does not get that impression in Acts 1:8 which is a parallel.

El Nimir assumes that if the article is there, it must be expressed. If that is the case, what happens in a passage like Acts 5:38? If translated that way, it would start “And the now.” No one would think that’s legitimate. Instead, the article there is for emphasis. That is not always the case of course, but it is enough to demonstrate El Nimir does not know what he is talking about.

Consider also if I went to speak at a school and in order to gather the students together, the principal goes on the intercom and says “All students report to the gymnasium.” I go home and talk to my wife Allie later and say “And then, all the students came to the gymnasium. Would anyone say my inclusion of “the” changed the meaning?

El Nimir: “AMAZINGLY, the Bible translators repeated the same error in all verses that ‘says’ [sic] ‘“all THE nation”’ [sic] as in Matthew 24:14RSV “and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations”. see the proof HERE .”

Reply: Apparently, it doesn’t take much to amaze El Nimir. He ignores the fact that the message will be preached to the whole world. Apparently, Jesus must have had a small concept of the world. The word used refers to the Roman Empire. Last I checked, the Roman Empire consisted of other places besides Israel.

El Nimir: “When Jesus uses the phrase “the world” he means the world he was ‘send'[sic] to, which was that of the Children of Israel. ‘why,’ [sic] because he said “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”John 6:33.NIV. We all know the bread here is the revelation of Jesus, for he made it very clear that his revelation was indeed for the children of Israel only when he said: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Matthew 15:26.”

Reply: El Nimir begs the question here. Jesus’s first message was to the Jews, but if we go to Matthew 15, the passage El Nimir reports to, and even the account he mentions, Jesus provides deliverance for a Gentile woman!

Going to a source like BlueLetterBible, we find the following definitions for the Greek word used for “world”

1) the inhabited earth
a) the portion of the earth inhabited by the Greeks, in distinction from the lands of the barbarians
b) the Roman empire, all the subjects of the empire
c) the whole inhabited earth, the world
d) the inhabitants of the earth, men
2) the universe, the world
Not one matches what El Nimir says.

El Nimir: The Mystery of Jesus’ Two Natures?
“Michael argued the ‘christian’ [sic] perspective of Jesus having “two natures” – the first being his divine nature, and the second his human nature. However, Jesus’ words clearly contradict this perspective. Jesus said: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 Since Jesus identified God as a spirit, one must also note the definition of a spirit, which Jesus described thusly “a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” Luke 24:39.”

Reply: El Nimir is missing the point that Jesus is talking about God in His essential nature saying God cannot be bound totally to a single place. Not even the doctrine of the incarnation disagrees with this as no one says God the Son was limited to the body of Jesus. In His deity, He still had omnipresence. That deity chose to be manifest in the body of Jesus, just like the cloud filling the temple in 1 Kings 8 does not mean that God was not omnipresent everywhere else. Even when the glory leaves the temple in Ezekiel, it does not mean God is in no sense present or His omnipresence has ceased to be.

Jesus’s point is that He is not just a spirit, but that He is fully human as well. There would be no contradiction between Jesus having an immaterial aspect to Him, such as a second nature, and still being fully human.

El Nimir: “By speaking in ‘semetic’ [sic] parables Jesus became one of the most misunderstood men who spoke in the bible, In order to understand the ‘semetic’ [sic] Jesus one needs to understand what ‘jesus’ [sic] meant when he used the phrases “I” or “I AM”. For Jesus said “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6”

Reply: That’s “Semitic.” I really want to question El Nimir’s judgment when he doesn’t even spell the terms rightly. However, his statement does not speak well of the apostles but rather of Christ. Was Christ such a terrible teacher that He couldn’t get his closest companions to get the message right?

El Nimir: “How can one come to the Father ‘thourgh’ [sic] Jesus? Yet Jesus also said “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63.Since Jesus’ flesh is not the way, then it’s the spirit. But how?”

Reply: One wonders what is going on with this kind of hopscotch interpretation where you assume one word means the same thing in every context. The message Jesus is giving is that trust in Him and total reliance on Him is the way to salvation. One must stake everything on Jesus.

El Nimir: “Jesus said “I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. John 6:51” Obviously no one actually ate Jesus, so it is clear that he was speaking metaphorically meaning the “living bread” as his divine message. Yet Jesus said “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Matthew 15:26. Obviously “the children” here are the children of Israel, and the “bread” is Jesus’ divine message. In other words “I AM the living bread” means I AM the heavenly words that come down from God.”

Reply: The bread in Matthew 15 is the divine message, but not in John 6. In John 6, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the bread that came down from Heaven in the time of Moses and saying that He must be the sustenance of the people. Let’s suppose that bread means divine message. Well let’s go through the gospels and see some other places then.

Matthew 4:3-4And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of divine message.”
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by divine message alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 12:4 how he entered the house of God and ate the divine message of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
Matthew 15:33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough divine message in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”
Matthew 26:17 Now on the first day of Unleavened divine message the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
Mark 6:8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no divine message, no bag, no money in their belts—
Mark 8:14 Now they had forgotten to bring divine message, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no divine message and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’
Luke 15:17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough divine message, but I perish here with hunger!
John 13:30 So, after receiving the morsel of divine message, he immediately went out. And it was night.
John 21:9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and divine message.

If we apply El Nimir’s standard across the board, it leads to absurdity.

El Nimir: Michael’s views of the Quranic Jesus?

“The biblical verses concerned with preserving Mary’s honor after becoming pregnant out of wedlock can be found in the gospel of Matthew 1:18 “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

I get it; the scribes are saying God revealed through His angel that Joseph should take Mary in marriage so they can tell people that Jesus is Joseph’s biological son. Isn’t this misleading?”

Reply: No. No one is saying Jesus is Joseph’s biological son in the text. They are saying he is Joseph’s legal son. The only way it would be misleading is if the text said Joseph was the biological father. For all intents and purposes, Joseph served as Jesus’s father on Earth, but it was not by biology.

El Nimir: ” ‘I’m asking?.'[sic] Is God so weak that he needs another man to defend Mary’s honor by dishonorable means?”

Reply: This is not a statement about God’s weakness. This is just a statement that God thinks His Son should be raised on Earth by a mother and a father. You’d think that with the Islamic stance against homosexuality, which I do hold to the Christian view on marriage of course, they’d be right there saying a child is best raised by a mother and a father. Strange El Nimir seems to not think of that.

Also, if Mary was doing this for honor, a virgin birth is the last thing she would have said. That would be seen as blasphemy as well. I recommend El Nimir read David Instone-Brewer’s “The Jesus Scandals.”

El Nimir: “Or is God so powerful that he can make a day old child speak in her defense?.”

Reply: He could, but did He? Saying what someone can do is not the same as saying what they did do. By this stance, I could charge El Nimir with any crime committed in his area by saying “Well he could have done it.” Who cares about evidence?

El Nimir: “Furthermore it is surprising how Michael failed to see the miraculous speech of Jesus in the Quran, Or is it that he is blinded by the misleading version of the Bible scribes in Matthew chapter one.”

Reply: Why should one accept the Quranic testimony seeing as it is 600+ years late? Of course, the claim is possible. It’s certainly possible baby Jesus could have spoken, but is it probable? Is there enough evidence from the time to show it? There isn’t.

El Nimir: The Quran is Not Divine Because?
“Micheal said ” What we have of the Quran… is a book that is written 600 Yrs after Jesus …in a different country…culture …language. However the crisis of Biblical misunderstanding started when the New Testament was written in Greek while Jesus delivered his message in Aramaic and Hebrew.”

Reply: How this is a crisis, we are not told. Does El Nimir think professional scribes were so dumb that they could not translate Aramaic or Hebrew into Greek?

El Nimir: “Astonishingly the Bible scribes claimed that Jesus told them, he was to come in their lifetime by stating “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. for the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with …call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. (Matthew 10:23 Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, John 21:22, Matthew 16:28).”

Reply: I can’t help but laugh at these kinds of references since my position is that of an orthodox Preterist that says “Yes. Jesus did come in the lifetime of his disciples like He said He would.” Note that none of those passages aside from 1 Thess. Describes a resurrection. As for 1 Thess., no. That hasn’t happened yet, but the we used is an editorial we. Paul did not know when the time would be so he just used we.

El Nimir: “Shockingly this is the one point where all of the New Testament writers agreed (they will not die physically).”

Reply: Does this include Paul in 2 Timothy who says his life is about to be poured out like a drink offering, a reference to his coming death? How about the prophecy of Peter’s death in John 21?

El Nimir: “For that was the reason they never wrote about the experiences of death,”

Reply: Let me take a shot at this. Could it be because the gospel is about the work of Jesus and not the work of the apostles? Could it also be because maybe when the NT books were written, the apostles hadn’t died yet? Note that James however, one of the twelve, had died in Acts 12.

El Nimir: “why should they, when they all agreed they will meet the Lord Jesus in the air and be with him forever. In truth they all died and -2000- years later we’re asking ‘where is the Lord?’ [sic] Amazingly the Divine answer always stated “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the lord does not take place or come true,that is a message the lord has not spoken” Deut.18:22.”

Reply: Only if we accept El Nimir’s bizarre chronology. For those of us who know how to read apocalyptic texts and recognize when such imagery is not literal, this is not a problem. Perhaps El Nimir should spend time reading real Bible scholars like N.T. Wright.

El Nimir: ” ‘Micheal’ [sic] is not following Jesus but instead he is preaching the false doctrine of Paul who admitted himself to have the blood of the early Christians in his hands by stating “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison.” Acts 22:4. Yet God told prophet David “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.” 1 Chronicles 28:3.”

Reply: Which would apply just fine to Paul if He had been claiming to build a temple. He wasn’t. In fact, he also wasn’t a king, another way it doesn’t apply to him. We might as well say Peter could not have been an apostle as well since he cut Malthus’s ear, which would be shedding blood.

El Nimir: “Paul saw a light falling from heaven when he saw what he thought to be Jesus.”

Reply: Nowhere do I know where Jesus is described as a falling light in the Pauline conversion stories.

El Nimir: “Yet only one time in the Bible Jesus mentioned a “light falling from heaven” saying “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” Luke 10:18. It’s very simple Dr. Micheal, Just take out Paul’s letters, the book of Acts and the Scribes error or editions, then we are left with the Bible most clear prophecy and Jesus own words, that the seal of prophets is to come from the descendents of Ishmael as I gave the irrefutable proof in my Bibical study here

Reply: It would be nice if El Nimir gave any real sources on textual criticism of the Bible to show that the accounts have been altered to the degree he thinks they have been. In fact, if he is suspicious, I have some quotes from him by a Bible scholar on this topic.

“If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is (Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. Link here”

“In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy. (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481.”
Who is this Bible scholar? If you clicked the first link, you’d know it was none other than Dr. Bart Ehrman himself, a practical patron saint amongst Muslim apologists.
The essay here is yet another example of why I find it so hard to take Muslim apologists seriously at all. We hope next time there will be real arguments and not Biblical hopscotch.

Book Plunge: The Closing of the Muslim Mind

January 7, 2013

Is there any way to penetrate it? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, a friend of Deeper Waters got a new Kindle and sent me his old one. In it, I found some books he’d already included, with some being on Islam. One book on the list was “The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created The Modern Islamist Crisis.”

In my years of apologetics, I have debated several kinds of people. I have debated Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, Christians on disagreeing issues, and no doubt several others. Yet I have been constantly dumbfounded by what I see coming from Muslim debaters.

Is it because their arguments are so good?

No. It is because generally, they are consistently so terrible.

This is not to say that there aren’t intelligent Muslims out there who can make arguments. There are. It is to say that there is a general trend in this area. The reasoning, or lack thereof that I see, is just simply stunning. It is difficult to get a Muslim to follow an argument, to see how to analyze claims, and quite often a Muslim has taken the most simplistic arguments, claimed the opponents were unable to refute them, and then gone off crying victory.

An example of this is debates I’ve had lately on textual criticism. 1 John 5:7 is trotted out as not being authentic (Which I agree with) and therefore, the text is corrupt and there’s no argument for the Trinity at all. Now it could be the Trinity is wrong for the sake of argument. It could be for the sake of argument that the text is corrupt. A simplistic argument like this does not show it. In fact, when I tried to debate my opponent on this one I asked him if he knew what a gloss was only to get the answer “gloss?” In other words, we have people arguing on the basis of textual criticism and it is clear, they have no idea what it is. Instead of seeing arguments, I consistently see just YouTube videos. The only people cited as sources are people like Deedat and Naik.

Keep in mind also, Islam is a faith that denies that Jesus Christ was crucified. The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the surest facts of history. If you go to NT scholars and deny that Jesus was crucified, you will not be treated seriously. You will be seen as a joke amongst them.

Yet in the past in history, there were Muslims like Avicenna and Averroes. These were giants of intellectualism who should be seen as the people that Muslim apologists would want to emulate today. The sad part is few if any have probably heard of them and those who have would most likely consider them heretics.

Reilly’s contention in the book is that this is a result of a war between the Ash’ari school of Islam and the Mu’tazila school. The former held that the Koran was uncreated. The latter held that it was created. The former school is the school that won out with such writings as “The Incoherence of the Philosophers.”

What happens as a result? There is a bifurcation in Islam between faith and reason. Allah becomes a will. Occasionalism reigns, which means that Allah becomes the direct cause of everything. There can be no natural law because that would imply that humans can reason to truth apart from the Koran. There can be no science because that would lower Allah and make him work through intermediary causes. The reason things work is because it is the will of Allah. The reason for a moral law is that it is the will of Allah.

And we wonder why it is so hard to spread Democracy to a Muslim country.

Furthermore, if reason will not work, then what is left? Violence. You cannot use peace. You must use the sword. Reilly gives several quotations that explain this. It is an in-depth look at the history of Islam and the way it is today. Reilly wants to know why Muslim countries aren’t flourishing. Why are we not seeing profound science, literature, and economic developments in Muslim countries? It is because of the theology at the heart. Note he does not say it is because of the Koran. He does not say it is because of Allah. He does not say it is because of Muhammad. He says it is because of a certain understanding of Islam.

Now in saying all of this, I 100% agree that Islam is a false faith. I do not think Muhammad was a prophet for a second. Still, I do not worry about what Jews will do in the future. I do not worry about Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or Buddhists or Hindus. I do about Muslims. Why? Because of what I see going on today with the rampant violence, and this book does a great deal to explain it. I have great concerns over a position where reason is not used. (I also have great concerns when Christians take the same mindset)

Hopefully, as Reilly argues at the end, we can see some reform in the Islamic faith so that they will return to a way of reason. Perhaps they will still hold to the Koran. I would love to see them come to Christ instead, but if they hold to the Koran, at least there will be reasoning about it and not a total commitment to violence. Perhaps. There are some lights in the Islamic world wanting to lead the way. Let’s hope they are not snuffed out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Robert Reilly’s book can be found here