Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

A Response To Islam Answers

September 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contra Faustum 17.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is sufficient to make our case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

Does anyone notice a recurring theme here?

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia.

I’m not kidding. They really use Wikipedia.

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

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

None given.

Argument for it?

None given.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally…

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

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

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

Yeah. I don’t see the logic either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere, this scholar also says:

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

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

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

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

The second one is here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their next claim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Real Persecution

August 25, 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/7/2014: Abdu Murray

June 5, 2014

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Worldviews are one of the most important aspects of who we are and few of us ever take the time to think about ours. What is your worldview? What does it mean to have one? It’s simply the lens through which you view reality. The question that you need to ask yourself is if your worldview is really capable of answering the hard questions.

Or maybe if your worldview can even answer one Grand Central Question.

Grand Central Question. That sounds familiar. Why yes! That’s the name of the book that’s by my guest on this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. His name is Abdu Murray. (For those wondering about last week’s, it is recorded but we’re working on getting it online. Want it to come from the studio so you can hear immediately and also call in? Well we need the donations to keep that going.)

So who is Abdu Murray?

Abdu Edited 3

According to the bio Abdu sent me:

“Abdu is the President and co-founder of Embrace the Truth, an apologetics ministry dedicated to engaging non-Christians with the credibility of the Gospel in ways that touch the heart and the mind and equipping Christians to do the same.
For most of his life, Abdu was a proud Muslim who studied the Qur’an and
Islam. After a years-long investigation into the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the major world religions and views, Abdu discovered that only the evidence for the historic Christian faith could withstand the toughest challenges.

The results of Abdu’s intense search, coupled with the Lord’s
drawing of his heart, led him to put his faith in Jesus as the one and only Savior.

Abdu has spoken in numerous venues both in the United States and
internationally, including universities, churches, training centers, and
conventions. He hosts Embrace The Truth with Abdu Murray, a radio show heard on WLQV AM 1500 in Detroit and worldwide on the internet and podcast.

Abdu is an Adjunct Apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is the Visiting Professor of Christian Thought and Apologetics at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Abdu lives in the Detroit, Michigan area with his wife and their three children.”

His book is looking at the question of materialism, pantheism, and then why Christian theism. The best part is the look at Islam. My review of the book that he wrote can be found here. If you ever engage with Muslims who are disparaging Christianity, the information that is found in this part of the book is going to be incredibly helpful.

I hope you’ll be interested in hearing what is going to be going on in this podcast. It will be a revealing interview from someone who left the Muslim faith and came to the Christian faith. I am pleased to count Abdu Murray as a friend and I am happy to be able to spread the word about his book. Please be sure to listen when the podcast becomes available.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Died

May 5, 2014

Did Jesus die on the cross? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are some theories that should have died several several years ago and never did. Unfortunately, they keep rising up despite being put to death by the people that would have been their ablest defenders had there been any truth whatsoever to them.

One such idea is the swoon theory. This is the idea that Jesus never died on the cross.

In fact, it was Strauss years ago, who was beyond most liberals today in critiquing the NT, who put to death this theory. Strauss said that someone like Jesus who was half-dead could hardly have come out of the tomb and managed to just a few days after crucifixion appear to his disciples and proclaim that He was the Lord of Life who had conquered death. The apostles would not have called it a miracle. They would have called a doctor instead.

Yet this theory never seems to die. What are some reasons for it?

First, a large number of Muslims hold to this view saying that according to the Koran, Jesus did not die on the cross. Now since I am not an authority on the Koran, I will not comment on this point, but one does not need to be an authority to know that many Muslims make this claim.

Second, this is a popular claim that is popular on the internet and with conspiracy theories with such ideas as that Jesus never died but instead got up and went who knows where. There is even a group in Japan that thinks Jesus went all the way there and married and died.

Third, some people do look at the claim that some people were brought down from the cross and survived. This number could be counted on one hand and even more numerous would be the people who did not survive even when taken down. In fact, right off, I only know of one person who survived. This was when Josephus asked for three of his friends to be removed from crosses. All three got the best medical care Rome could provide. Only one survived.

In fact, several years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote an article where they stated firmly that based on medical knowledge we have today, that Jesus did indeed die on the cross.

At this point, I also think a certain objection must be added from some of the more unitarian bent who want to say “If Jesus is God, how did He die on the cross? Gods can’t die!”

The problem with this statement lies in what is meant by the word “die.” If you mean that God ceased to exist when Jesus died, then yes, God cannot die. God cannot cease to exist. Yet no one arguing for the resurrection claims that God ceased to exist on the cross.

What does it mean? It means that some aspect of Christ, perhaps His soul, left His body on the cross. Many of us don’t think we cease to exist when we die. We just go to live in another state. If this is the case for Christ, then Christ did the same thing. His soul experienced a separation from His body. A reuniting took place on Sunday morning in a new and glorified body.

It is a shame that the conclusion needs to be spelled out. Jesus did indeed live. Jesus was indeed crucified. Jesus did indeed die. Unfortunately, in our age of people often relying largely on internet searches and wikipedia instead of real scholarly research, this needs to be spelled out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Closing of the Muslim Mind

January 7, 2013

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

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

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

Is it because their arguments are so good?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Robert Reilly’s book can be found here