Posts Tagged ‘Craig Evans’

Book Plunge: The Wrong Jesus

May 16, 2014

What do I think of Greg Monette’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Greg Monette is a good friend of mine who is doing his doctoral work under Craig Evans. He recently sent me his book “The Wrong Jesus” and wanted to see what I would think of it. I am pleased to say that this is a book I can indeed highly recommend for seekers and those learning to defend their faith.

Monette starts off with a piece on why it is that history matters. He talks about his own journey into doubt and how it was that the only way to get past it was to study the evidence. He gives the wise advice that there are no shortcuts in this field. I fully agree and that is something that must be stated in our society today that likes to think that everything is right at our fingertips which should include understanding. Data and facts can be present immediately to us. The understanding of that data is not.

He also deals early on with the idea that Jesus never even existed. While I think he did a fine job on this chapter, I was concerned that Richard Carrier was never mentioned. It is not because Carrier makes good arguments against Jesus’s existence. It is that Carrier is much better known to the laypeople I suspect than Robert Price, which I particularly notice when atheists regularly cite Carrier in response to any scholar whatsoever.

From here on, Monette deals with various questions such as the reliability of the New Testament texts, the question of if archaeology has helped us understand the Bible, if Jesus was a femininist, were the birth accounts based on legends, and were the Gospels written by eyewitnesses. Of course, there are others, but these are all important questions to be asked.

In fact, a major criticism that I would have is that in fact the book is not long enough. There were many areas I would have liked to have seen more expansion on. Sometimes it would seem like I’d get enough to just get someone’s feet wet and then it’d move on. Still, I understand the book could have been doubled in size had my desires been met. Fortunately, Monette does make up for this by having recommended reading at the end of every chapter.

Also at the end of every chapter there is a section that contains questions for discussion. I find this to be an important aspect to have in a book like this and I would be thrilled if the day came that people were reading The Wrong Jesus in church small groups more than reading books by, say, Rachel Held Evans or Joyce Meyer or others.

Monette also throws a lot of humor into the book which I consider a plus. An excellent example of this is his counter-theories to the resurrection where he plays out humorously why the opposing explanations for the resurrection just do not work. There is a good deal of sarcasm involved here which is always a bonus for me.

One aspect that is lacking in the book is that there is no index. It would be incredibly helpful to be able to look up something in the index for future reference if anyone comes back to the book for a second time, which I would encourage that they do.

In conclusion, Monette has given the church an excellent book that is well-written and engaging and can keep the reader’s interest. More importantly, it’s filled with excellent information that will prepare the reader to go out and fulfill the Great Commission.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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

Book Plunge: Jesus and His World

March 19, 2014

What do I think of Craig Evans’s book on archaeology and the life of Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

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Craig Evans is a favorite writer of mine and I quite appreciate the style he has with taking to task the opponents of Christianity. (For a clear example of this in this book, just look at him going after Tom Harpur. It gives the impression of using a tank to kill a spider.) Evans is also fluent with the world of archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls and uses that knowledge in this book to explain further the life of Jesus and show some misconceptions.

To start off with, he looks at the hometown of Jesus. Nazareth was a small little town, but it was also near the city of Sepphoris. Some have thought being near such a major city which had Greek influence would mean Jesus was strongly influence by Hellenistic culture and would then be a cynic sage.

Sorry. Doesn’t work. Sepphoris might have been more Hellenistic than some, but the evidence is still that they were devout in their Judaism. Consider for instance as one example that pig bones don’t show up in their garbage dumps until after 70 A.D. You might think that’s one item by itself, which it is, but it’s an example of many more that Evans shows to his audience to indicate that Sepphoris was devout in its Judaism.

How devout? Well that’s the next chapter. The next chapter looks at the building of synagogues for instance and places of worship and how seriously the Jews took this, including the notion that Gentiles who entered the grounds of the temple where they were not allowed would be responsible for their subsequent deaths.

Okay. Well these people were devout, but how about the Law? How did they value their Scripture? That’s next on the list. Evans takes a look at literacy from various archaeological findings and writings and shows that if anything, the Jews would most likely have the most literacy since they were people of the book and were trained to teach their children the Torah and why it is that they do what they do. This then gets into the question of if Jesus was literate, which Evans thinks it is extremely unlikely that he was not.

So what about the ruling establishment that Jesus dealt with? As Evans continues his progression, he looks at the way the priests and leaders in the area of Judea ruled. What were the people like who Jesus was butting heads against?

Finally, in the main sections, he looks at the life among the dead. What were the burial customs? He explains that it’s quite unreasonable to think that Jesus’s body would be thrown to dogs or that Jesus would not have been given a proper burial. This is another answer to someone like Crossan.

Finally, there are a couple of appendices in the book dealing with the claim of the supposed family tomb of Jesus and then answering the question of what did Jesus look like.

This book is small and easy to read and will be an immense help to students wanting to understand archaeology and the NT. It also has the benefit in this case of several pictures that show the archaeological discoveries so there can be shown clearly what these findings look like and help the student better visualize the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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.

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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

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/1/2014: Craig Evans

February 27, 2014

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

Friends, we have a great show lined up for you this Saturday! My guest is none other than Professor Craig Evans and we are going to be talking about Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other archaeological findings that have helped us in our understanding of Christianity.

If you don’t know who Evans is, well let me tell you. The following is a mini-biography that I have straight from the source.

Craig A. Evans is Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. He earned a doctorate in biblical studies at Claremont Graduate University in 1983 and in 2009 received the Decretum Habilitationis from the Reformed University in Budapest. Prior to his appointment at Acadia he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and for twenty-one years was Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, where for many years he chaired the Religious Studies Department, founded the Dead sea Scrolls Institute, and directed the graduate program in Biblical Studies. He was also for one year a Visiting Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

Professor Evans is author or editor of more than seventy books. Among his authored books are Word and Glory: On the Exegetical and Theological Background of John’s Prologue (1993), Luke and Scripture: The Function of Sacred Tradition in Luke-Acts (1993), Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (1995), Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration (1997), Mark (2001), The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke (2003), Jesus and the Ossuaries (2003), Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (2005), Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (2006), with N.T. Wright, Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened (2009), and The World of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence (2012).

Professor Evans has also authored more than three hundred articles and reviews. He served as senior editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research (1995–2004) and the Dictionary of New Testament Background (2000), winner of a Gold Medallion. Currently Evans is serving on the editorial boards of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus and the Library of New Testament Studies. At the spring 2006 commencement the Alumni Association of Acadia University honoured Professor Evans with the Excellence in Research Award.

Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also regularly lectures and gives talks at popular conferences and retreats on the Bible and Archaeology, including the Biblical Archaeology Society summer sessions and Seminars at Sea. He also presented a paper at the prestigious Joseph Ratzinger Foundation Symposium held in the Vatican.

Professor Evans appears regularly on television, on the History Channel, History Television, BBC, Discovery Channel, Day of Discovery, and in Dateline NBC’s 2004 specials “The Last Days of Jesus” and “Jesus the Healer,” which were watched by more than 25 million North Americans. In 2005 he appeared on Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of Miracles” and “The Birth of Jesus,” as well as History Channel’s “The Search for John the Baptist.” Professor Evans also appeared in 2006 in National Geographic Channel’s documentary on the recently discovered Gospel of Judas and the sequel entitled “The Secret Lives of Jesus,” as well as in Dateline NBC’s “The Mystery of the Jesus Papers.” He also served as consultant for the epic television miniseries The Bible, produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, which was watched by more than 100 million viewers. For fun he participates annually in archeological digs in the Middle East and volunteer-teaches at schools world-wide.

Professor Evans lives in Kentville, Nova Scotia, with his wife Ginny; they have two grown daughters and a grandson.

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As you can tell, Evans is certainly well-prepared and a great authority in the field. I hope you’ll be listening in with your questions ready. The show airs from 3-5 PM EST and the call-in number is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Fabricating Jesus

June 6, 2013

Is Craig Evans’s book worth reading? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In Fabricating Jesus, Craig Evans takes a look at how modern scholarship mislead the populace and miss the real Jesus. Evans’s work is witty and engaging and the bluntness with which he speaks I find extremely appealing. How can you not love a work that has a chapter all about hokum history with after reviewing a claim saying something like “Let me get this straight.”

Yet in that, there is also a pastoral heart. Evans, for instance, writes about Ehrman’s deconversion experience and how it started with a paper he wrote on Mark 2. (For details, most any book of Ehrman’s seems to have it in there.) Evans says he has empathy for Ehrman, but is just puzzled by what happened. I wanted to cheer when Evans said what I’ve been saying for awhile, that Ehrman is still a fundamentalist.

Evans looks into the writings of a number of scholars and points out how they held a faith in childhood that never seemed to grow up. What you learn in Sunday School is often quite basic and should be subject to change, but these scholars had equated what they learned with what Christianity was entirely. In the work, he discusses other scholars who left the Christian faith such as Robert Funk, James Robinson, and Robert Price.

Evans also says he can’t believe he’s having to write against some of the arguments that he is dealing with. It would be more understandable if some of them were being shared by just popular writers or your internet atheists, but a few are actually held by people who are scholars!

For instance, Evans wants to know how the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar would have got himself crucified. What great threat was he? Why should he consider Secret Mark or the Egerton Gospel or the Cross Gospel or the Gospel of Thomas reliable sources the way Crossan does? This is especially so with the first one since a conclusive case has been made that it’s a forgery. Why should he also think that Jesus was a cynic sage wandering around Israel?

Evans also covers other topics such as other gospels that supposedly didn’t make the cut and the misuse of Josephus by modern scholars. Furthermore, he deals with the idea that there were lost Christianities by explaining many writers *cough* Bart Ehrman *cough* take a second century idea and transplant it into the first century. The first century church had its divisions, yes, but nothing like what we see in Lost Christianities.

An amusing section is that on hokum history. In this one, he deals with claims such as those of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, claims that were highly influential on a book like The Da Vinci Code. Claims that no one in their right mind should believe, but claims several people do believe and this largely because of the Da Vinci Code popularizing them.

Included in that section is James Tabor. While Tabor is a scholar, his arguments in the Jesus Dynasty contain some quite unscholarly claims, such as the reliance on a 16th century mystic. Of course, Tabor rules out at the start any idea that maybe Jesus actually was virgin born and was resurrected.

The final chapter, aside from appendices, is a statement on who the real Jesus is, which is a powerful and moving piece. Evans concludes that the gospel does stand up to scrutiny and he’s convinced that more real scholarship will further show there is no division between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. Perhaps it could be the strange case that the gospels really did get it right and modern scholars with modern presuppositions have often got it wrong?

Fabricating Jesus is another book that I cannot recommend enough. Anyone interested in learning about how modern scholars go wrong on the historical Jesus owes it to themselves to pick up a copy of this work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters