Posts Tagged ‘Charles Hill’

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/29/2014: How God Became Jesus.

March 27, 2014

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

Last week, my guest was Dr. Charles Hill. This week, he’s going to be back again and he’s got some friends with him. The others will not be here for the whole show but will be here for part of it. Those will be Chris Tilling and Michael Bird. Do those three names sound familiar? They should. All three of them are some of the co-authors of a book called “How God Became Jesus”, a response to Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God.”

Those wanting to learn about Dr. Hill are invited to check the link to last week’s show. So what are the details on Bird and Tilling?

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“Dr. Chris Tilling is Lecturer in New Testament Studies at St Mellitus College and Visiting Lecturer in Theology at King’s College, London. He is the author of Paul’s Divine Christology (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012) and the editor of Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul (Eugene, Or: Cascade, 2014). He also runs the biblical studies blog, Chrisendom.”

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“Michael F. Bird (PhD, University of Queensland) is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective, Evangelical Theology, Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A moderate Case for Gender Equality in Ministry and editor of The Apostle Paul: Four Views. He is also a co-blogger of the New Testament blog ‘Euangelion.'”

As readers of this blog know, I have already read and reviewed this excellent book and that review can be found here. This is going to be a must-read for those who want to answer the latest from Ehrman. After all, as I indicated earlier.

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Of course, this doesn’t apply to just atheists. Muslims are likely to jump at this as well as groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fortunately, a work such as this one can introduce the layman to the Early Highest Christology Club, that says that the earliest view of Jesus was the highest view of Jesus and it was not an evolution of Jesus into deity.

So on the show, we’ll be discussing all these topics. Bird largely deals with concepts like the deity of Christ found in Second Temple Judaism. Tilling deals with many of the hermeneutical issues in the writing of Ehrman and the kind of methodology he uses to interpret the data. Hill is the main authority on the patristics and the history of the doctrine throughout the life of the church.

I really hope you’ll be joining me for this. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a group discussion on the Deeper Waters Podcast and this will be the work that people will be talking about for some time. I highly recommend that you go to Amazon or your local bookstore and get a copy of the book, but also to listen to the show. It airs from 3-5 PM EST this Saturday, 3/29/2014. If you have a question, you can call in at 714-242-5180.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/22/2014: Charles Hill

March 20, 2014

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

TextandCanon

This Saturday we have quite a show planned for you. He is the co-editor of the book “The Early Text of the New Testament” and the writer of “Who Chose The Gospels?” as well as a contributor to the upcoming book “How God Became Jesus.” That is Dr. Charles Hill.

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Dr. Hill got his Bachelor’s at the University of Nebraska. His Master’s came at Westminster Theological Seminary and he received his Ph.D. at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He is currently professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

Let me put his lists of books and accomplishments and such this way. His CV is thirteen pages long. It would be extensive to list all of them.

So let me give you some idea of the kind of thing that we’re going to be talking about.

First, we’re going to spend about an hour talking about the early text of the new testament. This is also the title of the book that I mentioned above and we’ll be looking at how it is that we can believe that the text of the NT has been handed down to us reliably, which will be held in distinction to someone like Bart Ehrman.

As I wrote in my review of this book, it is indeed very scholarly. I won’t claim to understand a lot of the fine points of language that are in it, so hopefully we’ll be getting something here that can be readily understood and increase the certainty that the text that we have is reliable.

From there, we’ll be talking about the book “Who Chose The Gospels?”. This one is a book that will be definitely much more accessible. In fact, I’ve even let a friend of ours borrow it for the time being because it’s so accessible to everyone.

This is an entertaining read on canon criticism that deals with many of the ideas of conspiracies in getting the Gospels in the canon, poking fun throughout at the idea of who all was involved in this grand conspiracy to bring us four Gospels.

Both of these of course are extremely important for the texts of the New Testament. We need to know about the reliability of the text that we have insofar as it is text. (After all, saying the text has been handed down reliably says nothing about if the message in the text is true.) We also want to be sure that we have the Gospels that God intended for us to have.

That’s why I’m delighted to have on the show a scholar who specializes in these areas. I hope you will be just as excited as I am and be ready to listen to our program when it airs on March 22nd. As always, the call in number to the show if you want to call and ask a question is 714-242-5180. The time of the show will be from 3-5 PM EST.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: How God Became Jesus

March 17, 2014

What do I think about the latest response to Bart Ehrman? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

HowGodBecameJesus

It’s time for your regular book due out around Easter that will silence the Christians once and for all. This time, it’s Bart Ehrman who has written “How Jesus Became God.” Fortunately, a group of Christian scholars were allowed to have a copy of the manuscript and have already written a response. Doubtless, the response will not be read by internet atheists who are never interested in reading both sides of an issue and all the scholarly data that they can, nor will it even be read by new atheist leaders. Instead, as I made this image a few days ago, I want to give people a preview of what they can expect after Ehrman’s book comes out.

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I was sent a copy in advance courtesy of Zondervan seeing as Charles Hill, one of the writers of this book, had agreed to be on my podcast for an interview and apparently in talking about that, it was decided that it would be good to have a show based on this book. It is amusing to hear Michael Bird’s description of Ehrman’s book that I was sent and can be found in the introduction of “How God Became Jesus.”

“While Ehrman offers a creative and accessible account of the origins of Jesus’ divinity in Christian belief, at the end of the day, we think that his overall case is about as convincing as reports of the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, sitting in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, wearing a Texan-style cowboy hat, while reading Donald Trump’s memoire—which is to say, not convincing at all.”

Yes. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Bird stole the show. Michael Licona has called Michael Bird a new rock star in the New Testament world. I can see why. Since his chapters in the book are first, it is apropos to start with him. I actually found myself laughing a number of times throughout reading what Bird says. How do you beat hearing someone say that Ehrman’s view of Jesus is so low that it could win a limbo contest against a leprechaun?

Bird has excellent information as well on what was and wasn’t considered divine in the world of Second Temple Judaism and about the view that Jesus had of himself. Throughout what the reader sees is what Craig Evans, the next writer in the book, says about Ehrman. Ehrman is simply on a flight from fundamentalism. He still has the same mindset as to how Scripture should be that he had as a fundamentalist. His loyalty has just changed.

Bird points out that too often, Ehrman gives into a parallelomania, a condition where he sees ideas that he thinks are related but really aren’t. This is the same thing that is done with the idea of Jesus being based on dying and rising gods, which is interesting since Ehrman argues against this idea in “Did Jesus Exist?”

Moving on to Evans, Evans deals with the idea that Jesus was not buried and shows that Ehrman just hasn’t interacted with the latest archaeological evidence. He points out that in many cases, crucified people would not be buried, but that Jerusalem would certainly be a different scenario due to Jewish laws and rituals and such. He also points out that Paul as a Pharisee would certainly have seen Jesus as buried and raised meaning raised bodily. Evans takes us through numerous archaeological findings and writings of Jewish Law to convincingly make his point. (This would also deal with Crossan’s view that Jesus’s body was thrown to dogs.)

After that, we have Simon Gathercole. Gathercole writes on the pre-existence of Jesus to deal with the way that the early Christians saw Jesus. He points out that Ehrman seems to switch back and forth between Christologies based on the idea he has before coming to the text, including the tunnel period, the period between 30 to 50 A.D.

I found it amusing to hear about how Ehrman wants to know the primitive Christology of the early church. (Keep in mind, he does not once also interact with Bauckham, who is part of the Early Highest Christology Club. Not once.) The reason this is amusing is that Ehrman is constantly speaking about how we have such great uncertainty about the text, yet he wants to take this text he thinks is so uncertain, and use this uncertain text to determine oral tradition in it, which we can only know from the uncertain text, and from that oral tradition get to what the early Christians believed about Jesus. Why is it that Ehrman is uncertain about the text but certain about the oral tradition that predates the text that he has no direct access to?

Gathercole also points out that the NT does not quote the OT in a straightforward way. He uses the example of the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem. Rachel did not literally weep. Also, the slaughter was in Bethlehem, not Ramah. Still, Ramah is close to Bethlehem and Rachel is seen as one of the mothers of Israel. (Though interestingly, she would not be the mother of the tribe of Judah.) The NT simply did not use the OT the way Ehrman thinks it did.

After this, we come to Chris Tilling who writes about the interpretative categories of Ehrman. Tilling points out that Ehrman bases the Christology of Paul on Gal. 4:14, which is hardly the main place to go to find out Paul’s Christology. Ehrman, for instance, does not at all interact with the Shema, which would mean how it is used in a passage like 1 Cor. 8:4-6. Ehrman also says 1 Thess. is likely the earliest Christian writing that there is, yet he does not interact with the Christology in that letter either.

To make matters even worse, the only extended argument with Paul’s letters is the extended exegesis of Philippians 2:6-11. This is an important passage for Paul’s Christology, but there are numerous more passages. Amusingly at places like this, Tilling says Ehrman does not do the work of a historian. One can almost picture Tilling saying “Put some ice on the burn. It will help.”

Finally, we have Charles Hill who looks at church history and the deity of Christ there. He goes through several sources in the church fathers to show that this was indeed the reigning view and wasn’t some aberration as Ehrman would have you to believe. He also points out that the paradoxes that Ehrman thinks should be so embarrassing don’t really seem to embarrass the church fathers at all nor the writers of Scripture.

He also deals with the idea that the charge of killing God given to the Jews led to their persecution. Hill points out that Islam has a non-divine prophet who is not a Christian and has been responsible for going after the Jews. What is that to be blamed on? Does this mean Christianity has always been innocent of anti-semitism? Nope. Does this mean that that anti-semitism is justifiable? Nope. Does this mean that Ehrman overstates his case? Yep.

Finally, we have a conclusion from Bird wrapping up the whole piece. He reminds us of what was argued against in the previous chapters and wraps up with a conclusion that the orthodox view is correct. It’s not that Jesus became God, but that God took on flesh in the person of Jesus.

If there was one flaw that this book has in light of all the great benefits it has it is this. There is no index. The book would be greatly benefited to have an index to look up terms and Scripture passages and other parts like that. The notes are extensive and helpful, but I do hope future editions have an index.

Still, for those wanting to see another great response to Ehrman, it would benefit you to read this one. After all, you can be sure the internet atheists that you’re interacting with won’t be reading it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Who Chose The Gospels?

February 17, 2014

What do I think of Charles Hill’s book on the Gospels? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

whochosethegospels

It has been said by some scholars that there was a sea of Gospels. Often we’re told that there were eighty or so up for consideration into the canon and yet, only four was chosen. Conspiracy theorists begin immediately looking at the data and see that somehow, a church being persecuted regularly by the Roman Empire and without any real power in the world, managed to control enough to make sure that their books came out on top. There were several Christianities that were vying for the spot of being the authentic one, but lo and behold, the party deemed today as orthodox won out and silenced all the others!

This is a narrative taught as gospel itself on the internet and in sources such as “The Da Vinci Code”, yet is there really any accuracy to it? Could it be that programs with such conspiracies such as one can find on the History Channel are really inaccurate and the truth is a lot more tame than that?

Charles Hill in “Who Chose The Gospels?” looks at this question and while there were other canon disputes, his main area he wants to look at is the Gospels. If you’re wanting to see how the church decided which epistles to include in the canon, you will be disappointed. If you want to see how the church arrived at four Gospels, you will not be.

Hill starts with the claim about multiple Gospels and says really, there weren’t as many as thought. These were Gospels that might pop up somewhere and be a flash in the pan and then just go off. They are harder to find because they just weren’t deemed as valuable.

An interesting way of showing this is that Hill takes us to Egypt where heterodoxy was most prevalent and shows that even there, if we look among the findings that we have, the canonical Gospels come out far and above on top! This means that even where heterodoxy was the leading contender, orthodox Gospels were still the primary Gospels that were being copied.

Of course, we need more to demonstrate the claim. The first person we go to is Irenaeus who wrote in the second century. Irenaeus gave an argument that there can only be four Gospels since there are four zones of the world and four principle winds, etc. He speaks about how the four Gospels represent the four creatures in the vision in Revelation, which no doubt has shades of Ezekiel there.

Now the modern person scoffs at this argument, and indeed if this was Irenaeus’s only reason we could understand it, but Irenaeus is not making an argument from reason so much as he is making one from aesthetics and as an aesthetical argument, it would be seen as quite good in Irenaeus’s day. Hill points out that to meet the argument, one would have to argue that “There is no harmony, proportion, or beauty to creation.” (p. 38) If someone wants to make such an argument, good luck. I hope such a person is not married. Their spouse will not be happy hearing there is no beauty in creation.

The main point to get is that early on, the second century, Irenaeus is already saying that there are four Gospels. This goes against the idea that the idea of four Gospels was suddenly foisted on the church in the fourth century. (No doubt with Constantine, who as we all know is the cause of all the problems in the church.)

But maybe Irenaeus is a lone example.

Except Hill shows later fathers who held to the four. Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, Dionysius, Cyprian, Victorinus, Marinus, and Euplus. If Irenaeus was acting alone, he sure tricked a lot of people into going along with the scheme.

Of course, if you can’t deal with Irenaeus’s arguments, there’s always one route you can take. You can just go after his character. Hill spends the next chapter looking at the way Irenaeus’s modern opponents paint him as a mean-spirited and aggressive bully.

What’s neglected by these people is that Irenaeus was speaking in the common style of his day. Do we do this today? Not often, though some do still. What does that mean? Does that mean we’re better? No. Whether the language is appropriate or not is not determined by the reigning zeitgiest of the day.

Furthermore, Irenaeus does also make charges of some of his opponents of sexual misconduct. Hill says it’s a surprise the feminists of today aren’t siding with Irenaeus, but alas, they’re more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the offender when Hill makes an excellent case that there’s good reason to think this charge was an exception for Irenaeus and one he made because he had good reason to think it was true.

Yet still, one could say Irenaeus was late second century. Fair enough. What if he had some co-conspirators who worked with him on this plot to foist four Gospels on the church? Hill looks at a teacher, preacher, and canon-list maker.

Enter Clement of Alexandria. Living in the Egypt area, Clement would have been familiar with the non-canonical Gospels and indeed he did read them, but if you want to know where his devotion lies, it’s to the Canonical ones. The ratio of citations of the canonicals to the non-canonicals is about 120 to 1. He speaks much more favorably of the canonicals saying they are acknowledged and handed down to us. This is not said of the others.

Well sure, but didn’t a community use the Gospel of Peter? For a time, yes, as approved by Serapion, until he got to read the Gospel for himself and then banned it from public reading. (Note that it is not recorded that he ordered it to be destroyed) Also, it’s important to realize that this Gospel was just being put forward when Serapion arrived. It was new and thus not one of the handed down ones.

As for the canon-list maker, this refers to the Muratorian Fragment which dates to the second century, to be fair, it only mentions two Gospels as the part that lists the first two is missing, but the two mentioned are Luke and John. No scholar doubts Matthew and Mark are the others.

But what if we went even earlier? How about Justin Martyr and the memoirs of the apostles? Hill shows there’s good reason to think Justin knew all four Gospels. Why not name them? For one thing, he was writing to the emperor and citing his own authorities would not be a convincing case. Is a Christian convinced when an atheist cites the God Delusion? Nope. Is an atheist convinced when a Christian cites Scripture? Nope. Are either convinced when a Muslim cites the Koran? Nope.

Well what if in this conspiracy Justin also had co-conspirators? If so, he had awfully strange bedfellows for a Christian.

The first would be Trypho. While Trypho never names the Gospels, there is assumed a familiarity with the Gospel between Justin and Trypho. (Gospel could refer to the message but also, all four Gospels could be spoken of singularly as the Gospel) There is no indication of material from non-canonical Gospels. The same applies in fact to the Emperor and Senate Justin wrote to. Justin refers to written records which record what happened, namely acts, and why not think that this refer to the Gospels? Justin also indicates these memoirs would not be hard to obtain.

Next would be Crescens, an early Christian opponent. Justin says Crescens has likely not read the Gospels and if he has read them, he has not understood them. What does this tell us? It tells us that there was a written source where Justin thought one could find the truth of Christianity.

After that is Celsus who tries to use the Gospels to disprove Christianity and points to items in there like the supposedly contradictory genealogies and which Gospels is it that have those genealogies? Only two! Matthew and Luke! Canonicals! Celsus also refers to other claims that are only found in the other canonical Gospels. Even the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel of Judas show a dependence on the canonicals and in fact that they are responding to the canonicals.

But what if the case for the four can go back even earlier!

Now Hill takes us to the Apocryphon of James which is in fact, a response to material in the Gospels, such as the Gospel of John. Another work, the Epistle of the Apostles, responds to that, which means that it too had to know about the Gospels.

Hill also asks here if Marcion invented the canon and concludes that he did not. In fact if anything, he was dependent on a prior idea of a canon. He had to edit some materials in order to begin to have a canon.

Finally, he points to Aristides who wrote to the emperor and pointed to written sources the emperor could obtain and included references to Jesus that come out of the Gospels.

The trend continues. Polycarp shows familiarity with the Gospels. So does Clement of Rome and the Epistle of Barnabas has a reference to Matthew in it that many scholars to this day have tried to deny.

Finally, we come to Papias. Hill points out that when Papias lists the apostles, he lists them in the order they are found in John. It’s either an amazing coincidence, or else Papias was familiar with John. He also goes to Eusebius at this point with further testimony from a source Eusebius does not name but Hill makes a fascinating case concerning. In fact, Hill argues that it could be the apostle John was the one who collected all the Gospels after writing his own and passed them on.

So this still leaves the question.

Who chose the Gospels?

For Hill, it would be like asking how you chose your parents. You don’t. You just recognize them. The Gospels essentially chose themselves. They were recognized on the basis of what they were and the church could not deny it. There were no grand conspiracies. There were no power plays going on to push these to the front. This was just the natural order at work.

I have here given a brief synopsis, but if you are interested in this debate, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It is difficult for me to think of a way someone could hold to the crazy theories often put on the internet today in the light of Hill’s research and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for putting together a fine and engaging work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Early Text of the New Testament

January 31, 2014

What condition is the early text of the New Testament in? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

earlytextNT

I want to thank Oxford Press first off for sending a review copy of this book. This is an extremely scholarly work that is a great edition to the Christian apologist’s library and will be monumental to anyone who is seeking to understand textual criticism.

A word of caution however. This work is extremely scholarly and without having a great knowledge of the field, the layman will get lost in many areas. Part II will be exceptionally difficult as it deals with the early text of each of the Gospels, then Acts, then the Pauline Epistles, then the general epistles, and finally Revelation. The information here will be highly helpful, but those without familiarity will be easily lost.

Part 1 is a great benefit as the reader will learn much about the way books and the text were seen in the times of the NT. Most of us don’t think about questions of who will buy books and how the early texts would have been seen by the first Christians, but these scholarly articles will give an excellent look into that world.

Part II as I’ve said goes into the details of the condition of the early manuscripts and how well they’re established. It’s noteworthy to consider that you would not have such a book like this for a work such as Tacitus. Probably the only other work from the ancient world that you could talk much about the copies of the manuscripts that we have to such an extent would be the works of Homer. This should tell us enough in itself about the manuscripts that we have of the New Testament.

It’s important to note in all of this that nowhere in the book do you notice an attitude of hopelessness. There is no great fear I find that maybe we don’t really have an accurate representation of what the NT authors originally wrote. This is in contrast to Ehrman in his popular works. (Although it’s worth noting that in his scholarly works, Ehrman takes a rather different attitude to the reliability of the NT text.)

The final part involves the way the NT was cited in the early church and how those around the NT used the texts. The article on citation I found extremely helpful as we can often make the mistake of assuming that the ancients would want to cite a text the way we supposedly do.

Except many of us don’t even cite the text the way we supposedly do. How often when writing an email or making a post on Facebook or somewhere like that do we simply give a paraphrase of what a passage says? How many times do you hear a sermon where a pastor makes an allusion to a passage of Scripture without quoting it directly but giving what he thinks is the intended meaning.

Much of our modern criticism of the NT as it turns out is based on simply saying “The ancient world did not do things like us, therefore they did not care for accuracy.” The ancients just lived in a different world and in a world where the Scripture would be heard more than read, making an allusion or not using an exact quotation would work just fine.

Then, we move in to how the early text was used by the church fathers and even by Marcion. Part of this section will still be difficult for the layman, but there are benefits to be had and no doubt, the serious scholar of textual criticism will benefit.

I conclude that this is a fine edition to a library. Anyone who is a scholar of textual criticism absolutely must have this book in their library. While it will be difficult for the layman, they too can still get good out of this and hopefully it will drive them to read other works in the field.

In Christ,
Nick Peters