Posts Tagged ‘historical Jesus’

Book Plunge: Killing Jesus

December 23, 2013

What do I think of the latest in the series from Bill O’Reilly? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I used to like Bill O’Reilly. Really. I did. I’m extremely conservative after all and I like having a voice that seems conservative, but my respect for O’Reilly has dwindled to non-existent, especially with regards to how he handles the topic of religion.

Now I understand that not everyone can be a religious expert. This includes not just people on Fox, but CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, etc. Pick any news station you want. You might be able to speak authoritatively on politics and other matters, but that does not necessarily mean you can do the same with religion. You can be an expert on politics and religion, but being an expert in one does not entail being an expert in the other.

I read Killing Jesus at the request of my parents wanting to know what their son who does study the topic of Christianity in-depth would think about it. I was admittedly approaching with great hesitancy.

One other factor of this was Killing Lincoln. My mother had started to go through the book from the library and asked me if I wanted to. She just couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t interesting to her. I agreed because I read nearly anything I can get my hands on. I hate not finishing a book so I finished the whole thing and had to agree sadly. It was simply a boring read.

And I thought the same about Killing Jesus.

I have thought often about why this is. I have a number of theories.

The first is that he’s trying too hard. I suspect he’s trying to make the story exciting instead of just telling the story. Of course, there is historical fiction that might paint in some details, but O’Reilly just really seems to detract from the story.

Second, it’s like combining a textbook with a novel. It doesn’t work. The story is interrupted constantly by O’Reilly wanting to explain historical data. Unfortunately, many in our society don’t know the basic history and need it explained so one goes back and forth between history and story instead of letting the history be the story.

Third, if these are true, then it really doesn’t bring much success as history and story both since there can be too much speculation on what was said and done that is not really historical, such as what people were thinking and saying at the time. Much of this is unfortunately ideas in an individualistic society pushed over onto an agonistic society. It is a way of thinking foreign to the people of the Bible.

There are also concerns that lead me to question O’Reilly’s historical research, although I do give some bonus for referencing my father-in-law Mike Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.”

At the start, we are told on page 1 that we have the four gospels, but they are written from a spiritual perspective rather than a historical chronicling. Now it could be this is the case, but why assume it? The Gospels in fact are Greco-Roman Biographies, with the possible exception of Luke which is a historiography perhaps with tendencies towards such a biography.

On p. 14, we are told prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. I doubt that O’Reilly can find such a list in Jewish understanding. We interpret Isaiah 7:14, the virgin birth passage, as a prophecy, but is there evidence that Jews at the time were saying “The Messiah will be born of a virgin!” Such an understanding I think will lead to problems in dialogues with Jews.

p. 74 contains a claim that the spot of the temple was also where Adam was created. I am quite dubious of such a claim and would like to see some documentation for it.

On p. 90 among other places, O’Reilly makes the claim that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who came to Jesus in Luke 7. This is not held today by biblical scholarship and is a false reading by one of the Popes in church history. There is no biblical basis for the equation between the two.

p. 98 says that John the Baptist was speaking about the end of the world. The end of the world is an idea that is really foreign to the Biblical text. It talks about the end of the age. For the Jews, God was acting in this world and living in it and would bring it about to its original purpose. He would restore the creation and not destroy it.

I wonder about the dating of the gospels. O’Reilly says they were written as many as 70 years after Jesus’s death. Mark is the early 50’s, Luke between 59 and 63, Matthew in the 70’s, and John between 50 and 85. At the latest, this would mark 55 years after the death of Jesus.

On p. 131, O’Reilly says of the preaching of Jesus in the synagogue in Luke 4 that the message was Elijah and Elisha were rejected by Israel. O’Reilly leaves out the most important part. Jesus specifically said that blessings went to Gentiles instead of to Jews. The message of rejection was well-known already and while disappointing, would not lead to the desire to stone. To say the blessing went to Gentiles instead would.

On p. 255 O’Reilly gives us the myth that Hitler sought the holy lance that was supposed to have been used on Jesus. This is a historical myth however. It is largely popularized by Trevor Ravenscroft.

Also, there is a strong emphasis on Jesus’s claims to be God. This was not the message Jesus went around preaching. I do fully uphold the deity of Christ of course, and we should defend that, but the main message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God and God acting through Him as that King. O’Reilly gives the impression the gospels were written to show the deity of Christ. They were written to show the life and message. Deity is a part of that, but not the message entire.

My conclusion is that the history in here is at best mediocre at times and readers would better be served by picking up scholarly books, such as Craig Keener’s on the Historical Jesus, and going through those. Another read they could consider is Gary Habermas’s “The Historical Jesus” and works by N.T. Wright like “Simply Jesus” and “How God Became King.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters 7/27/2013: Chris Winchester

July 25, 2013

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

As readers of yesterday’s blog know, Allie and I celebrated three years together yesterday. When Allie and I got married, I sought to include as many of my friends as I could. One of those friends was someone I met at Seminary who is now working overseas to get a further degree in study of the NT and I am convinced is an up and coming scholar in the field. I’m not just saying that because he’s a friend of mine. I’m saying that because he’s an excellent researcher on a variety of topics. (And to add, he’s a good groomsman, even if he was about to pass out.)

Chris especially has had a lot of fun with the mythicist crowd, although he is now getting a bit exasperated, as well as critiquing the writings of several non-Christians such as Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier. In the case of Carrier, this even includes interactions with Carrier himself on his blog.

I can say that whenever Chris decides he’s going to research anything, I find that he consistently throws himself into it and seeks to get the best information that he can. This has included everything from political conspiracies to alien abductions. There’s no such thing as Chris doing just a little bit of looking into a topic. He looks entirely at what he’s doing.

As a good researcher, Chris is constantly asking questions and this is something that we do back and forth. There are many times that I will come and ask him a question and want to know what he thinks about a topic and likewise, he will come to me and ask me a topic. This is the way that we have iron sharpen iron. We can find each other to be invaluable allies when we are working together in a debate. (Yet perhaps he should consider trying to fight against me some when we play Smash Brothers together. Just a suggestion.)

While at the Deeper Waters podcast I have wanted to highlight the work of scholars, I want to also promote those who I think deserve to be promoted and that includes Chris will all that he has done in the area of research. I know that when I have been climbing up the ladder in the apologetics community, that it has been helpful to have other people be willing to showcase my work and since the show gives me a platform to do the same, I want to be able to help out in that way. That’s what friends are for anyway.

Therefore, I invite you to be listening in this Saturday to the Deeper Waters Podcast to hear a good friend of mine. We will be focusing our talk on the historical Jesus and discussing problems with mythicists as well as Chris’s interactions with Richard Carrier online. Show time is from 3-5 EST this Saturday. The call in number to the show as always is 714-242-5180. The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/20/2013 Tim McGrew!

July 18, 2013

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it!

I am quite excited about this podcast! Our prior guest had to cancel and will be back later, but right now, our guest is going to be Tim McGrew! Tim McGrew is a name more of you should know! He is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, yet incredibly humble and an excellent friend!

Tim McGrew will be talking to us about many various topics. In fact, we’re not entirely settled on what it will be since it was last minute, but he is a storehouse of information in many different fields! These includes Bayes Theorem, historicity of the gospels, epistemology, etc. (I’ve also learned recently that this includes Star Wars, much to my shock)

Tim McGrew is also an advocate of reading the old books, and there are times I wonder if there are any that he hasn’t read! It is important to take our modern times and have them tampered by reading the works that came before us. What is often unrealized by many modern skeptics was that their charges were already answered, usually a century earlier!

McGrew also favors undesigned coincidences. These are ways that one detail given by one gospel writer coincides wonderfully by providing missing details of another writer, and in ways that most likely were not planned! In each case, it lends more credibility to the gospel accounts.

Tim is also one of the most prominent members of the Christian Apologetics Alliance, a well-known group on Facebook, and if you’re wanting to study apologetics and you’re on Facebook, it should be a group that you belong to! We could talk with him about that as well!

What about the traditional authorship of the gospels that Bart Ehrman argues against? Tim McGrew would like to get a chance to take that on as well! He has not been as impressed with Ehrman as a number of our skeptics. I have been assured that McGrew will be polite, but he will by no means be gentle.

And what about mythicists like Richard Carrier and others? For these, McGrew finds their position completely ludicrous and he wants to say something about Carrier as well, which could definitely include his ideas about the usage of Bayes Theorem. If anyone is an authority on this, it is McGrew.

Friends. This really will be an astounding show and Tim McGrew is something you definitely want to know about. I hope you will be as impressed with him as I am and especially come to appreciate his love for Christ and concern for the well-being of the apologetics community. I am pleased not only that Tim McGrew is my guest, but also that he is my friend.

Call in number will be 714-242-5180! The link can be found here. The show will air on the 20th from 3-5 PM EST and I invite you to be ready with your call in question for Tim Mcgrew! I look forward to having you in my audience!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Defense of the Minimal Facts

July 10, 2013

Have the minimal facts been knocked down? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was recently sent an article by Matthew Ferguson of Adversus Apologetica where he attempts to knock down the minimal facts approach. Looking through the article, I am largely unimpressed. For those interested, it can be found here.

The minimal facts approach is the one offered by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. The idea is to take facts that even liberal scholarship will acknowledge that are attested to early and argue from there that the best conclusion that can be reached from what we know is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Much of this is done to avoid going to the gospels. As Habermas has said in many talks, the gospels are by liberal standards 40-70 years afterwards. You can go that route, but it’s much more difficult. It’s also done this way to just avoid “The Bible says it happened, therefore it did,” approach, as Habermas and Licona take facts that have been held by non-Christian scholars in the field.

So looking at Ferguson, I have a problem right off with this sentence.

“When investigating virtually every other past event outside of the origins of Christianity, historians operate under the principle of methodological naturalism.”

He goes on to say that

“If they did not responsibly limit the historical method to a purely secular epistemology, as I have discussed before, supernatural events such as witchcraft at Salem in the late 17th century would be fair game for being considered “historical” and we would have far greater evidence to support such miracles than the resurrection of Jesus. We can all see the absurdity of the former example and yet apologists (who exercise the same skepticism towards supernatural events outside of their religion) consider it an unfair bias to bracket Jesus’ resurrection as a religious, rather than historical, matter.”

Actually, no. I don’t see the absurdity of the former. I happen to know people who have been involved in the occult and have no reason to discount a number of claims that I hear from them. Also, even if we had greater evidence for Salem, so what? That means the evidence for the resurrection is not reliable? Does any historical claim become false if we have more evidence for another claim along the same lines? If we have more evidence for Hitler, does that mean that Napoleon is a myth? If we have more evidence for Napoleon, does that mean Alexander the Great is a myth?

Ferguson also has this idea that we’re all anathema to miracles in other religions. Licona himself asked me about this once in discussing miracles and said “What about miracles outside of Christianity like Apollonius and Vespasian?” My reply was “What about them?” If these people did miracles, so what. Questions need to be asked.

“Is there any particular religious message that is to be conveyed if the miracle is true?”
“What is the evidence for the claim?”
“Who reports the claim?”
“How close to the time is it?”

Personally, I would in fact welcome a strong case for Vespasian or Apollonius doing miracles. Why? Because doing miracles is not anathema to my worldview but is so to a worldview that is rooted in naturalistic thinking. That just opens up even more the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead since we can say “We have clear evidence of a miracle in this case. Why not the other?”

Of course, there is also the fact that Craig Keener has written a massive tour de force demonstrating miracle claims going on today. These have eyewitness testimony and have often medical reports backing them. In the volume, Keener also includes numerous arguments against the position of Hume.

So if we have miracle claims going on today, why should we ipso facto disregard all of them? Let’s open them up. While most atheists tell me about how we shouldn’t let bias deal with the data, if any side will have bias here, it will be the atheistic side. If all of Keener’s miracles were shown to be false I’d think it was a shame, but it would not disprove either his argument against Hume or the resurrection of Jesus. If just one of the hundreds of miracles Keener writes about is an accurate account, then atheism needs to come up with a better explanation.

So at the start, I do not see a good reason to accept methodological naturalism. When I look at history, I want to know what really happened and I cannot do that if I rule out explanations that I disagree with right at the start. If a miraculous event happened in history, the only way we can know that is if we allow ourselves to be open to it, and if we are not open to it when a miracle had in fact occurred, then we can never know true history.

Ferguson goes on to say

“I have, on the other hand, met several apologists who converted for personal reasons and later sought rational and evidential justifications when they were trying to convert other people who do not share such personal experience.”

Of course, some people come to Christianity for various reasons and then when looking into their belief system, find there are rational reasons for believing it. There are many of us who would prefer that apologists not use personal experience as an argument. I cringe every time Bill Craig uses his fifth way for instance. It’s way too much like Mormonism.

On the other hand, there are some people who start out critical and investigate the evidence and come away Christians. Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, and Frank Morison come to mind. What really matters is the evidence that each side presents. If one comes to Christianity first and finds the reasons later, they cannot help that. Their arguments should not be discounted for that reason.

Going on we are told

“Such apologists, seeking to hijack the field of ancient history, are desperate to slap the label “historical” onto the resurrection. This goal is derived in no sense whatsoever from legitimate academic concerns, but instead is one born purely out of the desire to evangelize. Once Jesus’ resurrection is considered “historical,” you just have to accept it and apologists can cram their religion down people’s throats. It was to avoid such non-academic agendas that historians bracketed such religious questions in the first place. I myself was originally content with letting the resurrection be a religious, rather than historical question, but apologists have fired the first shot in attempting to invade the field of ancient history. Since they are now targeting a lay audience with a variety of oversimplified slogans aimed at converting the public rather than seriously engaging historical issues, my duty here on Κέλσος is to correct their misconceptions.”

It is a wonder how Ferguson has this great insight into the mind of everyone who has written on the resurrection from an evangelical perspective. I, for instance, have no desire to shove religion down someone’s throat. Do I wish to share my view? Of course! Who doesn’t? Can I force someone to accept the resurrection? Not at all! I can present the evidence that I see and let them decide and if they disagree, let them disagree with me on historical grounds.

When one considers the last sentence, I hope that Ferguson in turn is going after the new atheists who are targeting the lay audience with simplified slogans and even worse, not doing real research into philosophy and theology at all! This is evidenced by P.Z. Myers’s “Courtier’s Reply.”

Furthermore, I do not see how he could look at a work like Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” which is actually Licona’s PH.D. with a few updates and say that that it has oversimplified slogans and does not seriously engage historical issues. Could he say the same about a work like N.T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God”?

To be fair, I will not dispute that there is much out there that is garbage. There are works by Christian apologists that I myself have taken to task for being so light and fluffy. One such work even had Wikipedia cited in the back.

Moving on we read

“One such slogan is the so-called “minimal facts” apologetic, spawned by the likes of Gary Habermas and William Craig.”

Right here, I can tell the study has not been done on this. Craig’s approach is not the minimal facts approach of Habermas. In fact, Habermas himself says that some of Craig’s material are not facts that he would use. Craig’s material relies on the gospels. Habermas’s (And Licona’s in turn) does not. Thus, I will be spending this work defending the real minimal facts approach. If something is not part of the minimal facts, I will not waste time with it.

Ferguson continues,

“This “minimal facts” apologetic attempts to provide a minimal case for believing in just one of Jesus’ miracles: the resurrection. First, I find it to be completely disingenuous for apologists to pretend that they are trying to convince you of “only one” miracle. What if I believed in the resurrection, but thought Jesus did it through sorcery or simply left open-ended the question of its religious significance?”

That’s fine. Go ahead. Habermas has even said in public talks that at the start, he’s not saying God raised Jesus from the dead. He’s saying that Jesus rose. You come up with your explanation. You want to say it was sorcery. Fine. Say it was sorcery. Just give a reason why you think it was and why you think my explanation that it was God who raised Him is lacking. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

“Apologists would not accept this and would obviously want to convince me that Elohim had raised their Messiah. What apologists don’t tell you is that in the fine print of the “minimal facts” apologetic there is a clause stating that by accepting the free trial of the resurrection miracle, you are signing yourself up for a lifetime subscription to a fundamentalist, conservative Christian worldview.”

No you’re not. There. An assertion made without an argument can be dismissed just the same way. All you have to do is get that Jesus rose. Don’t want to believe the Bible is Inerrant? Sure. Go ahead. There are some Christian scholars who hold to the bodily resurrection and don’t think the Bible is inerrant. Want to believe in theistic evolution? Sure. Go ahead. There are some like that as well. There are Christians of all stripes who believe Jesus rose from the dead and do not hold to a “conservative and fundamentalist approach.”

Besides, if a fear of accepting such an approach is behind Ferguson, then could it not be said that his worldview is shaping his looking at the evidence instead of the other way around?

“But furthermore, the “minimal facts” apologetic is not rooted in facts to begin with, and when stated honestly boils down to the argument: “If you accept the Bible as factual, how can you deny the fact of Jesus’ resurrection?”

This is not the minimal facts argument. In fact, the minimal facts argument is done to AVOID such a statement. One can take a quite liberal approach to the Bible and still accept the minimal facts. This is simply a straw man on Fergusons’s part. Of course, if the facts are wrong, then they are wrong and that is problematic, but we will see if they are.

“This apologetic takes a variety of forms, but is most commonly represented in the following manner. Apologists claim that there are “four facts” about Jesus’ resurrection:

After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.
On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
On different occasions and under various circumstances different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.”

This is Craig’s list. It is not the approach of Habermas and Licona. For instance, Habermas and Licona do not use Joseph of Arimathea at all. In fact, they don’t even get to the gospels. Therefore, I will not be wasting my time dealing with any arguments concerning Joseph or the reliability of the gospels or anything along those lines.

“Apologists love to use the term “facts,” so that these issues are treated as non-negotiable [1]. Of course, where do we learn of the details of these “facts”? From ancient secular sources disinterested in proving a resurrection? Nope, from the New Testament, in the works of authors who had a religious agenda to spread belief in Jesus’ resurrection. I won’t dismiss the argument on the grounds of bias alone, however, and will further demonstrate how the first two “facts” are not facts at all, the third is poorly worded, and the fourth exaggerates and oversimplifies the early belief in the resurrection.”

The NT which is also in fact said to be the best source for the life of Jesus, even according to skeptics like Bart Ehrman. An exception to this could be found perhaps in John Dominic Crossan who uses sources like the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas or in other scholars in the Jesus Seminar who give much weight to Q, which would in reality be found in the NT anyway, but even these would not dispute that the NT contains historical information.

Also, did these people have a bias? Yep. You bet. So did everyone else who wrote anything historical. There was no such thing as uninterested historical writing. Writing was not done just because someone wanted to write something. Ferguson writes about this because he cares about it. I write in response because I care about the topic.

Ferguson also says the first is not a fact. Again, so what? Even if it isn’t, the minimal facts approach is untouched. He also says the second is not a fact, which is interesting as well since this is the one minimal fact that Habermas himself says is not as well attested as the others. What about the third and fourth? Well we’ll see when we get there.

So let’s move on to the empty tomb. Ferguson thinks that dispatching with the claim about Joseph of Arimathea’s burial of Jesus deals with the empty tomb. No. It would just mean one account of the burial was wrong. It would not mean that there was no burial and thus no empty tomb.

Ferguson writes about the women being at the tomb and how the argument is they were not allowed to testify in a court of law and due to the criterion of embarrassment, the gospel writers would not make up such an account. The problem is that this is irrelevant to the minimal facts approach. The minimal facts approach does not deal with women coming to the tomb. It simply deals with the reality of the tomb. We could come here for extra evidence if need be, but it is not necessary.

Therefore, after giving an explanation for why he thinks the writers would use women based largely on MacDonald’s thesis of Mark basing his work on Homer, Ferguson thinks he’s disproven the empty tomb. Not at all. The basis for the empty tomb in the minimal facts approach is 1 Cor. 15. There, we find that Christ was buried and that Christ was raised. The raising would mean that there was an empty tomb left behind. A Jew would not accept the fact of a resurrection that left behind a body. Resurrection was bodily.

So therefore, I do not see fact two dealt with according to the methodology of the minimal facts approach. Let’s look at what he says about point three, the appearances.

““Fact three” of this apologetic is poorly worded, but this one does have a kernel of historical truth. I don’t think any skeptic denies that the early Christians claimed to have experiences of Jesus risen from the dead.”

Ferguson claims that we have such stories today and there were claims of post-mortem appearances in the ancient world. Fair enough. In fact, I could grant some of them, but do we have any claims of other people in the ancient world being raised to life, especially in the Greco-Roman culture where they were clear that resurrection did not happen?

Ferguson goes on to say that

“Do we have anything better? Well, we do have the apostle Paul, who wasn’t an eye-witness of Jesus, but who claims to have had a vision of him. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) elsewhere claims that he was once raptured up to “third heaven” in a experience that is very similar to the ones told by crazed street preacher, Clarence “Bro” Cope, who likewise claims to have been raptured to heaven twice and to have had Jesus appear to him. Are we to trust the testimony of people who for all purposes appear to be schizophrenic?”

It is hardly a fair comparison to compare Paul to Clarence “Bro” Cope, and the link that Ferguson has is in a post loaded with argument from outrage. Even if this had been a hallucination on Paul’s part, that does not equate to him being schizophrenic. Ferguson should leave such psychological judgments to those who do study history.

Should we trust Paul as well? NT critics seem to think so! Paul is quite well accepted. I don’t know any NT scholar who looks at what Paul says and says “Paul was crazy! Therefore we don’t need to deal with what he says.” Paul shows himself to be a learned man, a scholar of his day, and someone we should take seriously. Is Ferguson also allowing his bias (What he condemns in others) to interpret the facts to say that this did not happen? Note that in 1 Cor. 15, this is not described as a vision but put alongside appearances to Peter, James, the twelve, and five hundred.

What Ferguson wants us to think then is that all these people conveniently had the same hallucinations, that a rare event like a mass hallucination (Something Licona and Habermas have both dealt with) happened (It can even be disputed that one has happened), that it was a resurrection they thought they saw and that they did not instead see Jesus in Abraham’s bosom vindicated, and this still would not answer the question of where the body was anyway!

Ferguson continues,

“Paul’s testimony is useful, however, since Paul is writing only a couple decades after Jesus and he claims to have known Peter and other eye-witnesses of Jesus. What does Paul relate in 1 Corinthians 15? Nothing about an empty tomb being discovered by women. It is not even clear that Paul believed Jesus had physically resurrected in the same body rather than a spiritual one [4]. Paul instead reports that Jesus ὤφθη (“appeared to him”). This is the passive form of the verb ὁράω (“to see”), which very often means “to be seen in visions.”

To begin with, even Dale Martin in “The Corinthian Body” argues that the body Paul speaks of was physical. The idea that spiritual was opposed to physical was put to the test best by Licona who examined the word translated as physical by translations such as the RSV. He looked at every instance of the word from the 8th century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D. Not once was it translated “physical.” Spiritual would in fact mean something along the lines of “animated by the spirit.”

Furthermore, Licona says about ὤφθη in its Pauline usage in “The Resurrection of Jesus” that there are 29 usages of it by Paul in the NT. 16 refer to physical sight, 12 have the meaning of behold, understand, etc. Only one refers to a vision. However, this is still a problem in that the creed is not Pauline language really but language Paul got from elsewhere.

Where can we go to see? We can consider Luke. Luke uses the word to describe Jesus’s body appearing and Jesus eating food. One could say that this did not happen, but Luke believes that it did and Luke believes in a bodily resurrection. He uses the language of something that can be seen with the eyes. If Paul also agrees that resurrection is what happens to a corpse, then it’s reasonable to say that he thinks these appearances were of a body that had been a corpse and resurrected and thus, physical. One can say Paul is wrong, but let us be clear on what he means.

“Paul, who describes his own visions of Jesus in no physical terms at all (e.g. Galatians 1:15-16) likewise uses the same vocabulary to describe the early disciples’ visions of Jesus. Accordingly, the early post-mortem sightings of Jesus could have been little more than hallucinations and visionary experiences, perfectly explicable in natural terms. This would not at all be surprising for an early apocalyptic cult, in light of of the psychological conditions we observe of cult members today.”

The translation of Galatians 1 this way might be appealing to some in the Carrier type school of thought, but it is problematic still. For one thing, the wording in Galatians is highly ambiguous and most likely will be driven by one’s view of the resurrection. It is not wise to build a case on an ambiguous passage.

These could have been hallucinations? Okay. I need to see evidence of that. Why would the apostles have come up with this? It would have been the most easily disprovable theory and ended up costing them everything, especially in the society of the time where they would have received ostracism and of course, be going against the covenant of YHWH which means they would face His judgment. Paul himself would be in no position to have such an experience. He was a persecutor of the church and the conversion accounts in Acts include objective phenomena which means that this was not something that just took place in Paul’s mind.

It will not work to just say “This case is a cult that has hallucinations, therefore another case is like that.” We need to examine what makes the groups different. In Christianity, the differences are vast in comparison to other movements.

“Stories, of course, change over time, which is why the later Gospel accounts describe the post-mortem appearances in more physical terms. Consider a diachronic analaysis of how the resurrection stories developed over time:

Paul, the earliest source, has no empty tomb and just “appearances” of Jesus.
Mark, half a century later, then has an empty tomb.
Matthew, after him, then has guards at the tomb to confirm it was empty.
Luke then has a Jesus who can teleport and is at first not recognizable to his followers.
Finally, John has Thomas be able to touch Jesus’ wounds.
If you go later into the Gospel of Peter, Jesus emerges as a giant from the tomb with giant angels accompanying him.”

As has been argued earlier, for Paul to have buried and then resurrection would mean that there was an empty tomb left behind. If that is the case, one could then say Mark downplayed what happened with Paul as he left out the appearances! Furthermore, a writer like Hurtado has written showing the earliest view of Jesus would have been him seen as the Lord. Hard to go up from that one!

Now we move on to the fourth fact.

“First off, the ancient Jews and the people around the wider Mediterranean did not have carbon copy beliefs. There were all sorts of strange religions and new beliefs floating around the region at the time. Often times new religions are started by deviating from previous expectations towards new and radical ones. This certainly has a higher probability for explaining the origins of Christianity than a magical resurrection.”

Ferguson is writing against the idea that Christians would have a crucified messiah as their savior. To be sure, there were new beliefs floating around. How having a more radical belief is more probable than a resurrection has not been shown. The term magical is just a bit of well poisoning on Ferguson’s part. Magic in the ancient world does not correspond to what we have in the resurrection.

“But belief in the resurrection need not even be unlikely. Kris Komarnitksy has written an excellent article about how “Cognitive Dissonance Theory” can explain the early Christian belief in the resurrection. This theory observes that among religious groups and cults, when something occurs that violates the adherents’ previous expectations and beliefs, rather than abandon their cherished religious beliefs, they instead invent new and radical ad hoc assumptions to rationalize the alarming information. Just look at liberal Christians today who are “evolution-friendly” and think that Christianity is compatible with Darwin’s theory, after thousands of years of Christianity teaching Six Day Creation and a century and a half of Christians battling evolutionary science. Rather than drop their warm and comforting beliefs about their religion, they merely invent new stories to explain away how utterly discredited it has been.”

Let’s look at the first part. Why should I be held accountable for what Christians did for a century and a half. I am not a theistic evolutionist, but I have no problem with evolution. I just leave it to the sciences. I could not argue for it. I could not argue against it. Furthermore, Ferguson does not realize that there have been a wide variety of accounts of the age of the Earth in church history. This was the case even before the rise of the information we have today.

In fact, if this is what counts for a liberal Christian, then Ferguson has discounted his own theory that believing in the minimal facts requires you be a conservative fundamentalist since I believe in the minimal facts and I have no problem with evolution and hold to an old Earth.

Cognitive dissonance does occur, but should I think it has here? In every single case in ancient history that I know of, when the would-be Messiah died, the movement died. Why was Jesus’s case different? Why again did they go the hard way with a physical resurrection? Why not just divine vindication? Why would Paul and James have converted? Paul was a persecutor. James was a skeptic. What would it take to make you convinced your dead brother was really the Messiah?

“So the early Christians, when their Messiah was crucified, instead of abandoning their faith, rationalized the story through ad hoc assumptions. “Perhaps Jesus had only temporarily died!” “Maybe he will return soon from Heaven and avenge his death!” Such rationalizations could have easily triggered some of the mentally unstable cult members to start having hallucinations and visionary experiences of Jesus. They could tell others, who would then have a prior expectation that triggers similar visions or who would simply delude themselves through placebo effects, and suddenly a new rumor starts circulating that Jesus has been raised from the dead as the “first fruits of the resurrection.” The cult regains its confidence with a new expectation: “Soon all the saints will resurrect!” “Soon Jesus will return in this very generation!” (cf. Mark 13:28-30; 1 John 2:18) tick tock tick tock … “Okay, well maybe we have to wait for a couple new signs, but then he will return!” (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) tick tock tick tock … And so every generation of Christians has had its expectations reversed and yet believers just keep inventing new ad hoc assumptions to rationalize a worldview that has consistently and repeatedly failed to deliver.”

This part is quite amusing for me since, as an orthodox Preterist, I do hold that Jesus’s coming did take place within a generation! Jesus was right on time! Yet Ferguson’s account relies on possibility after possibility and doesn’t explain more likely options nor does it explain what really happened to the body. Was it eaten by dogs as Crossan says? We’d need an argument for that. Why would Paul and James go for this placebo effect? What did they have to gain from it? This relies on simply psychological history, something that is laden with problems. It’s hard enough to do psychoanalysis when you have the patient right there and can ask him questions. It’s even harder to do it for ancient people.

“Furthermore, thinking that their Messiah had only temporarily suffered, but would soon return in an apocalypse is not even that odd of a new development. Historical Jesus studies have found that Jesus was most likely an apocalyptic prophet teaching that a new “Kingdom of God” would soon come about through divine intervention, but that the righteous for the present would have to endure hardships and wait for their future reward. Sure, if Jesus had been a military Messiah, then faith in him probably would have dissipated following his crucifixion. But Jesus was talking about suffering followed by divine intervention in the first place. Is it really that hard to create an ad hoc assumption that Jesus had only been crucified because of temporary suffering, but that he would be returning soon as the agent carrying out the divine intervention they were awaiting? Not at all. Of course, the divine intervention never happened, but it does explain how belief in the resurrection could emerge through cognitive dissonance, visions, and hallucinations, followed by later legendary developments of a physically resurrected Messiah interacting with his followers.”

Once again, as a Preterist, I say that yes, the divine intervention did happen and is in fact happening. Ferguson reads the Olivet Discourse I suspect the way that a conservative fundamentalist does. You remember them? Those are the people that were condemned earlier. Again, why would this belief have been invented? If anything, it would have most likely been a belief that Jesus would judge Rome as Israel hoped. It would not be that Jesus would judge Jerusalem, the holy city!

And of course, the apostles had nothing to gain from this! They received ostracism and were social pariahs. Paul describes what he had to gain from all of this in 2 Cor. 11. James we know was put to death for what he believed.

In his conclusion, Ferguson says

“The ironic thing about apologetic attempts to “prove” the resurrection is that if god really existed, we would not have to rely on such a fantastical historical quest to prove it. God could just provide miracles today making it clear that he exists and he could tell us that Christianity is the correct religion.”

This is more along the lines of “God must do my work for me.” If Keener is right, God is doing miracles today. Furthermore, much of this has been dealt with in my writing recently on the argument from locality, an argument I find full of problems. See here.

Looking at this from Ferguson, again the question is “Is Ferguson’s worldview shaping the evidence or is the evidence shaping his worldview?” This is an indication that it is the former that is taking place.

Of course, it is not surprising since Ferguson did not even get Habermas’s approach correct. Perhaps he will do better next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Wave Comes Crashing Down Part 3 and 4

July 1, 2013

What shall we find as we turn again to low hanging atheist fruit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, we’ll be looking briefly at two bogus claims. Let’s see the first.

“3)…100% FACT: and these unknown/anonymous/hidden writers blatantly copied each other (or other sources like the alleged Q, L, M documents), virtually word for word in many places …RED FLAG!!!! ”

In some places, yes, they are identical, and this would be the case with a strong oral tradition. In many places, they are not. Yet the gospels were written in a time where there were no plagiarism laws and material that was put out there would be considered the property of the community and thus could be shared. In fact, the gospel writers would want to make sure that it was shared.

Furthermore, our critic says nothing about the times when the writings are quite different. Did God speak to Jesus or to the crowd at the baptism of Jesus? Was Jairus’s daughter dead when he came to Jesus or was she about to die? A good theory of the production of the gospel documents needs to take into account not only the similarities between the accounts, known often as the synoptic problem, but also the differences.

“4)…100% FACT: and worse yet, these unknown/anonymous/hidden writers wrote scenes impossible to eyewitness (like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane) …RED FLAG!!!! ”

The Garden is a poor choice. Personally, I don’t know many people that can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, especially if it was a stressful situation like what was going on. All that would be needed was one disciple to be watching to see what was going on, and that’s entirely plausible, even if as they watched they started to doze off.

Another situation that our critic might have chosen to use could be the trial of Jesus, but this is also faulty. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that none of the disciples were privy to what happened at the trial of Jesus. Does that mean there would be no record?

Not at all! In fact, a strong case can be made that Joseph of Arimathea did in fact bury Jesus. If so, could he not have been a witness to what happened at the trial of Jesus? What about Nicodemus? Is it possible he might have been a witness to what happened?

Noteworthy is that our critic also has not interacted with the latest research on this, such as Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” The pitfall of our critic is that he has no idea on how history is done and instead bases his arguments on credulity, which is simply circular reasoning.

Let this be an example to critics everywhere. There is nothing wrong with being skeptical of the accounts in the gospels. That’s in fact understandable. They contain quite incredible claims. What is wrong is having a hyperskepticism that only the most unreasonable of conditions must be met before one accepts the claims that are found in them. Do real history. Treat them like any other document and see what happens.

J.P. Holding’s critiques can be found here

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Jesus Quest

June 28, 2013

Where does Ben Witherington see the quest going? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In The Jesus Quest, Ben Witherington surveys many of the latest writings (at the time) on the historical Jesus by scholars and critiques them. Rarely does he make a statement about his own view. He interacts with all sides, but he does seem to have more non-Christian scholars being critiqued rather than Christian ones.

The book starts with a quite brief explanation of the first two quests that could be read in about ten minutes or so. This gets us then into the third quest, which is of course the meat of the work. The start before looking at the various views of Jesus is looking at the views of Galilee.

As Witherington says, the quest for the historical Jesus is also becoming the quest for the historical Galilee. We cannot separate Jesus from the time and the culture that He lived in and understanding this has been an essential step in looking at who the man was and the way He saw Himself and the way His contemporaries saw Him.

At this point, Witherington does his readers a great service by familiarizing them with many aspects of the culture of Jesus that would not be known by most. For instance, he gives a brief explanation of an honor/shame culture and what it means to say a society believes in limited good.

The next chapter goes into looking at the Jesus Seminar and their methodology. Witherington points out that a minority of fellows on the voting panel could think Jesus did not say something and yet it will still show up in the results that Jesus did not say it despite it was the opinion of a minority. Also of course, there’s the troubling aspect that the group had a bias against miracles and did not represent members from leading educational institutions or even other countries.

So now we get into more specific looks. Witherington’s first group is the cynic sage group which consists of Crossan, Mack, and Downing. Next are the ones who see Jesus as a man of the Spirit, which includes Borg, Vermes, and Twelftree. (Twelftree being the first Christian being reviewed) For Jesus as an eschatological prophet, the views critiqued are that of Sanders and Casey. Next is the prophet of social change where Witherington interacts with Theissen, Horsley, and Kaylor. In the seventh chapter, there’s a look at the Jesus as the Wisdom of God, though from a different perspective, the feminist scholarship of Fiorenza. It is in this chapter Witherington goes into the most detail of his own view of Jesus as God’s Wisdom. Finally, he reviews the idea of Jesus as a marginal Jew and as a Jewish Messiah. Knowledgeable readers should recognize John Meier for the first view. For the second, Witherington critiques Stuhlmacher, Dunn, De Jonge, Bockmuehl, and finally, N.T. Wright.

Witherington’s book provides an excellent read. Witherington is known to have a fascinating memory and is a fair critiquer. He points out benefits made from the views of others and is dismayed that some people will not read their books due to their wild ideas. He treats the Christian authors just as critically.

I was dismayed at Witherington’s arguments when it came to eschatological passages like Mark 13. For instance, Witherington says that passages like Mark 14:62 and 13:26 are not about vindication as Wright says since Casey says that the events of God’s judgment take place on Earth but not in Heaven. I do not think Wright would disagree with this! It is the point that earthly events are a sign of what is going on in the Heavens. I am under the impression that Witherington sees 1 Thess. 4 and the Olivet Discourse as referring to the same event, when I do not see that at all. After all, if the Olivet Discourse is the same as 1 Thess. 4, it strikes me as odd that the resurrection would be left out of that.

In spite of all of this, a reader wanting to learn about the quest for the historical Jesus and about interacting with the scholarship on the quest will be benefited by reading Witherington. My concerns after all are about a secondary matter and do not drive away from the value on primary issues that this book addresses. For those who want to know about leading scholarship in this field, I recommend it without hesitation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Jesus Legend

June 24, 2013

What do I think of Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy’s book. Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have often made the complaint about how weak our apologetic material is due to a lack of real scholarly interaction. Many popular writers avoid it. There have been writers in the past who have not taken this route such as Lee Strobel in interviewing numerous scholars, and J. Warner Wallace, who in the back of his book “Cold-Case Christianity” lists a number of scholarly works and authors to go to.

Fortunately, the Jesus Legend is not like that. I noticed on the back of the book that even Robert Price encourages people to read this book alongside of his. Unfortunately, I suspect most who read Price’s book will not take the time to read a work like this one.

The Jesus Legend is a work written to deal with many of the ideas out there that say Jesus is entirely mythical or that there was much baggage added on to a historical figure that came from pagan sources. You’ll find everyone from Robert Price to John Dominic Crossan dealt with here.

Boyd and Eddy are upfront about their bias at the start. They are Christians. They have no thought that any of us will come to the data entirely neutral. I agree with them. We all have our biases and presuppositions that we bring to any area of study.

The start of the work is about the methodology that will be used, which is absolutely essential. Too often claims are made with no idea given as to how those claims are reached. Boyd and Eddy give reasons why the assumption that miracles cannot happen and all happens on a naturalistic system should be called into question. They are not against someone being critical, but they are stating that those who are critical of miracles should just be just as critical of their skepticism of miracles to make sure it is well-grounded.

From there, the writers lay out the groundwork of first century Palestine. Again, this is a must. Jesus must fit into his historical context somehow. This also includes looking at the question of the relationship of Judaism to Hellenism. Would they be open to making up a Jesus and use pagan ideas to do so?

The next part deals with ancient history and Jesus. We are often told today that if Jesus was so important, surely some people would talk about him! In reality, we should be surprised anyone did. Jesus’s account would have been seen with skepticism and many a Messiah figure was walking around town supposedly doing miracles and such.

In fact, that he is mentioned by Tacitus and Josephus and others instead of all these other would-be Messiahs is incredible. It shows Jesus had the farthest reach, and why should this be the case? Could it be because there is more to the case for Jesus than for anyone else?

What about Paul? Paul wrote when there was a heavy background tradition orally sharing much about Jesus, yet there are allusions to the work of Jesus in Paul and facts about his life. In an oral community, these would have been recognized. (The authors want us to keep in mind we live in a post-Gutenberg culture so it’s difficult to understand how an oral culture would work.)

Speaking of the oral tradition, that’s our next stop. Boyd and Eddy give a rundown on how oral cultures work and what impact writing would have on them. Also, they ask the question concerning if the events in the gospels really happened, or were these the result of prophets in the early church having revelations about Jesus and getting them imposed on him for the gospels?

The final section deals with the use of the gospels as historical sources for Jesus. It starts with answering the question of genre. If the gospels are shown to be Greco-Roman biographies, and they are, then this increases their credibility. Next the authors evaluate the gospels as sources. Are they reliable? Can we give them general trustworthiness? Finally, they have a section completing their cumulative case. The end result is the Christ of orthodox Christianity is the same as the Christ of history. No other Christ better fits the picture.

I hope there will be more works coming out like The Jesus Legend. The only downside is that few people who read someone like Price will bother to pick up a work like this one. It is their loss when they refuse to do so. Christianity needs more material like this than it does soft apologetics that lacks in-depth scholarly research.

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

Book Plunge: Reinventing Jesus

June 3, 2013

What do I think of this book by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have read a number of books on the Historical Jesus that defend my own view, a conservative Christian view, but most of them are rather passe in many ways. You can hear the same old, same old, as if the writers just want to give you the mere basics of the case so you can make it. Now for some people, basics are good and necessary, but so often I really would like to read something more substantial from the conservative side and something that will give them a lot of firepower.

I picked up Reinventing Jesus not knowing what to expect, but found myself impressed thoroughly by this work. The authors lay out a powerful case and even better, they deal with the popular critics that will be mentioned in water cooler conversation. These are the ones largely quoted on the internet. Scholarship doesn’t really take their claims seriously, but such a situation has never stopped ignorant people on the internet from touting off the claims with the same degree of certainty as they condemn in a fundamentalist revival preacher.

So do you want to see Dan Brown dealt with? Got it covered! How about Acharya S.? She’s answered? Earl Doherty? Taken to task. Frank Zindler? Robert Price? Freke and Gandy? Aside from Price, who is on the fringe of scholarship, these are names not taken seriously, but that does not mean they should be ignored. It’s extremely important to show the massive ignorance that is often pontificated on the internet.

The authors start off with the case for oral tradition, which is an excellent start since the average lay reader knows little about this and can often think of modern concepts of memory which don’t really apply to an ancient society. In doing so, they show that the teachings of Christ would have lasted at least to the time of writing.

Well how about that time? Maybe the writings are wrong? That’s when we look at textual criticism and this section is an excellent tour de force. The authors have up-to-date statistics on when the NT manuscripts were written and how they were copied and deal very well with the popular criticisms that work against the idea as well as scholarly concerns. Let it never be stated they only deal with popular claims. They deal with scholarly ones as well.

What about the books that were copied? How do we know the canon was right? Again, this is an excellent topic that is not discussed often in literature. The writers put forward a presentation that demonstrates the integrity of the early church and show that they did not just blindly attribute authorship to a writer. They had the highest of standards. Much of this information I found immediately useful.

Did those books reflect the truth about Jesus? Extremely beneficial here is a look at what went on in the Council of Nicea to show that Nicea did not change everything. Also, there is abundant information to show that there was an early high Christology showing Jesus was perceived as included in the divine identity and that He Himself made such claims.

Supposing that’s the case, did the Christians not just rip off other pagan myths like Osiris and Mithra? I was extremely pleased to see a section on this! This is one of the most preposterous claims that goes around the net by people who have never read an original source on the topic. The writers have done us a service by giving a superb presentation to show that there has been no copying, unless you count copying by others of Christian claims and language.

In conclusion, I recommend this fine work without reservation. If I was to teach a class on NT apologetics, this book would no doubt be required reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Studying The Historical Jesus

May 28, 2013

How is a Christian to go about studying the historical Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last night, I finished reading a book by Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary called “Studying The Historical Jesus.” In this book, Bock does not really set out to give conclusions. He is writing for an audience that I believe consists of lay people interested in this kind of study and perhaps as a textbook for people starting off their college career.

Bock also writes from a conservative perspective, which is just fine of course. It’s important to point this out since he is writing to people who I suspect might be apprehensive about doing historical Jesus study. “Study the historical Jesus? Isn’t it a matter of faith? Don’t we have the Inerrant Scripture? If that is the case, then how is it that we are to do historial study? Are we calling into question the reality of Jesus?”

Bock answers with a strong no and encourages us to enter into the field explaining to us how the work is to be done. He starts off by giving us some cultural context. What was the world like at the time of Jesus? What was it like right beforehand? How did the culture interact? I was quite pleased to see him talking about the importance of honor in the ancient world, something not at all stressed in most works that assumes the ancient person was just like us in their thinking.

Bock does give some brief apologetic, but it is not for the resurrection. It is simply for the existence of Jesus. Of course, even this historical certainty is coming into question these days largely by internet atheists who prefer reading non-scholars on the topic and wikipedia entries. Of course, events like this only encourage me seeing as this is a fine time for Christians to be learning real facts on historical Jesus study and how it should be done while our opponents intellectually bankrupt themselves.

Next, Bock gives us information about how the quests for the historical Jesus have progressed with the third quest especially going on looking into the Jewish roots of Jesus. (I have a suspicion we may even have a fourth quest going on with the look at the social-science information.) This is a highly helpful summary of the history for those who are starting out.

Finally, Bock lists the kinds of approaches to gospel study that are going on today such as form and redaction criticism. Bock urges Christians to not ignore these even if they are often done from skeptical bases. We can still use the information to our advantage and learn valuable insights on how to approach the text. After all, if the Jesus of orthodox Christianity is really the same as the historical Jesus, why should we be afraid of any historical study? True study will get us closer to that Jesus if not right there.

In conclusion, I recommend this book to help those who are wanting to learn more about Jesus study and how it should be done, as well as reminding us that being an orthodox Christian does not mean one cannot use the historical tools that have been handed to us. Why not take the weapons of our opponents and use them to our advantage?

In Christ,
Nick Peters