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Latest BIO-Complexity Paper Finds that on Irreducible Complexity, Michael Behe Has Not Been Refuted

By Casey Luskin at Evolution and News

In a new paper in the journal BIO-Complexity, “Complexity in Computer Simulations,” computer scientist Winston Ewert reviews much of the literature claiming to show, including via computer simulations, how irreducible complexity might have evolved by undirected means. He finds that “Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity has not been falsified by computer models.” The models include Avida, Ev, Steiner trees, geometric models, digital ears, and Tierra. Ewert reports that in many cases, the “parts” that compose the irreducibly complex system are “too simple.” The programs are designed such that systems that the programs deem “functional” are very likely to evolve. He writes:Almost all of the cases of proposed irreducible complexity consist of parts simple enough that a system of several components could be produced by chance, acting without selection. As such, they fail to demonstrate that their models can evolve irreducibly complex systems, especially on the scale of biological complexity.For evolutionary theorists, this leads to a conundrum. Since “Darwinian evolution is an ateleological process,” operating without a goal, this means that “If a model is designed to assist the evolution of an irreducibly complex system, it is not a model of Darwinian evolution” and “Any decision in the construction of a model made with an eye towards enabling the evolution of irreducible complexity invalidates the model.”

 

Ewert finds that this is precisely what many of these models do. In the one case that a truly irreducibly complex system was produced by a program, Ewert found it was “designed as part of the ancestor used to seed the … simulation,” and thus did not evolve in the Darwinian sense. He concludes that computational attempts to explain the evolution of irreducible complexity have “failed on a number of fronts”:Two of the models fail to satisfy the knockout test, in that they maintain functionality after parts have been removed. Almost all of the models use parts that are trivially complex, on the order of an amino acid rather than a protein in complexity. None of the models attempt to show why the mechanism used necessarily requires its parts. Finally, some of the models have been carefully designed to evolve. Thus, none of the models presented have demonstrated the ability to evolve an irreducibly complex system.He concludes, “The prediction of irreducible complexity in computer simulations is that such systems will not generally evolve apart from intelligent aid” and this prediction “has thus far stood the test in computer models.”

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Monday at Missouri State University, Paul Nelson Will Debate Shermer on the Rationality of Design Reasoning

We had Paul Nelson speak at Ohio State a few years back. Here is some info about a debate he is doing. Thanks to Evolution and News for this:

800px-Stonehenge2007_07_30.jpg

On Monday, April 21, at Missouri State University, Discovery Institute fellow Paul Nelson will debate Skeptic Society executive director Michael Shermer. The event is at 8 pm; find more information here. While their announced topic (incidentally, with a title neither chose) is “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design,” their actual topic will be the rationality, or not, of inferences to intelligence as a cause within the physical universe. This would include such inferences in historical biology — for events like the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, or the origin of human consciousness — and in other fields as well. For example, is it irrational to infer that the arrangement of stones at Stonehenge reflects purposeful design when we admittedly cannot say exactly by what means the stones came together as they are? The question “May we infer intelligence as a primary cause in natural science?” really ranges all across the scientific (indeed, human) map, into such topics as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, detection of fraud in science, the free will debate, and the science-theology interface. In Shermer’s words, the question is “far more important, reasonable, and rational” than other areas in the evolution debate. This event, sponsored by the Student Activities Council at MSU, is free and open to the public. – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/04/monday_at_misso084591.html#sthash.Z6vIoqf3.dpuf

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
Video

Francis Collins Testimony of Becoming a Christian

Though this was a ways back, here is Francis Collins, head of the Human DNA project giving his testimony of becoming a Christian.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Why the Resurrection of Jesus is the Best Explanation For What Happened To Paul

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions about what we can know about Jesus. I think a good starting place about historical discussions about Jesus  is seen in the book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by New Testament historian Mike Licona.[1]  In the book Licona discusses what is called “The Historical Bedrock.” These three facts about the Historical Jesus are held by most critical scholars and historians:

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion

2. Very Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul became a follower of Jesus after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.[2]

In this post, I want to focus on #3. After all, Paul wrote a large majority of the New Testament. Also, his letters are the earliest records we have for Jesus.

Well known New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman writes the following regarding Paul’s experience:

It is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. Thus, for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in the resurrection” [3]

Even New Testament scholar Dale Allison even says that Paul converted from a persecutor of the church to one of its greatest promoters because of an experience he perceived was of the risen Jesus appearing to him. [4]   Note: see more below on the issue of whether Paul  “converted.”

Some Background on Paul

The undisputed letters of Paul that can be used to give us an understanding about who he was and what his mission was are in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. The rest of the letters yield very little about the life of Paul.  From Paul’s Letters, we can gather that:

1. The man’s name was Paul: A Greek name.

2. He had a Jewish name, Saul. Remember, having two names was not uncommon for Jews who lived outside Palestine in the first century.

3. Paul was born in Tarsus, a city in Southwestern Asia Minor.

4. He came from a family of Pharisees of the tribe of Benjamin and was named for the tribe’s most illustrious member, King Saul.

5. Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3), the grandson of Hillel. Hillel is known as the Academy of Hillel, founded by a Jewish sage called Hillel the Elder.  The House of Hillel was a school of Jewish law and thought that was very well known in the 1st century B.C.E. Jerusalem.

6. Since Paul’s letters show familiarity with rabbinic methods for interpretation of Scripture and popular Hellenistic philosophy to a degree, this makes it likely that he received a formal education in both areas. Hence, Paul’s exegesis of the Old Testament shows evidence of his rabbinic training.

7. Paul was probably, as an adult, a resident of Damascus. [5]

8. In many places, Paul discusses his Jewish identity. He says “ I am a Jew” (Acts 22;3) “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23;6), and “I am a prisoner for the sake of the hope of Israel”  (Acts 28:20).

Paul was an active persecutor of the early Christian movement:

The language Paul uses in his pre-revelatory encounter with the risen Lord shows how much how antagonistic he was towards the messianic movement. In Gal. 1:13-15, Paul uses terms such as “persecute” and “destroy” to describe his efforts to put an end to the spread of the early  faith.

Even though Paul does not give a list of the reasons why he was an ardent persecutor of the early Messianic Movement, this reasons for being a persecutor was probably due to several reasons:

First, he may have perceived it to be a threat to Torah obedience.  We need to keep in mind that in within the historical background of the first century, if a Jewish person was to deny the Torah as part of their practice, they would be denying the fact that they were a Jew! [6]

Second, given how he speaks about this topic in his letters (Gal 3:13;1), Paul was most likely aware of Deuteronomy 21:22-23: “If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” The context of this verse is describing the public display of the corpse of an executed criminal. To say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism in the first century is an understatement. “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse”-the very method of death brought a divine curse upon the crucified. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not to be the Anointed One of God. So Paul most likely found the idea of group of Jewish people following a crucified Messiah to be abhorrent.

Third, given what we see in Acts 8 (following the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7)  we see that Paul most likely found the Jesus movement as a threat to the Temple. It says in Acts 8: 1-3,

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”

What Can We Know About Paul’s Revelation of Jesus ?

Jesus was crucified about 33 A.D.  According to many scholars, Paul became a follower of Jesus around 35 A.D. Remember, Paul’s letters are dated between AD 40 and 60.

 Also, Paul did not follow Jesus from the beginning.  However, Paul is still considered an apostle, though “abnormally born” and “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). His turning to Jesus happened though a dramatic revelatory encounter (Acts 9: 1-7). His first years as a follower of Jesus in Arabia remain a mystery.  

Three years later after his call, he went to Jerusalem to visit; this is where he saw Peter and James and most likely received the doctrinal content of the Gospel that he goes on to discuss in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. So in this case, we must differentiate between between essence and form. The essence of the gospel, that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Son of God, was revealed to Paul on the life changing moment on the Damascus road. Paul realized that those that he had been persecuting had been right all along about Jesus being the Messiah.[7] As far as the form the gospel, this includes the historical undergirding of certain events, certain phraseology used to express the new truth and doubtless many other things that were passed onto Paul by those other than him. [8]

As already mentioned, in many places, Paul discusses his Jewish identity. He says “ I am a Jew” (Acts 22;3) “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23;6), and “I am a prisoner for the sake of the hope of Israel”  (Acts 28:20).  Notice that Paul didn’t say “I was a Pharisee” or that “I was a Jew.” So perhaps it is inaccurate to say that Paul switched religions. Hence, it would be more reasonable to say that while Paul did have a radical reorientation about his theology, but he more likely received a “call” rather than a conversion to a new religion.  If anything, Paul did ‘repent.’ The Hebrew word for repent is “shub” which means to “turn back” or “return.”  So Paul was most certainly restored to the God of Israel through the Messiah. But  the old saying, “Paul converted to Christianity” has not gone unchallenged within New Testament scholarship.

What does the Resurrection of Jesus explain  in relation to Paul’s coming to faith in the Messiah?

#1 The Resurrection of Jesus explains the appearance to Paul was not a vision:

If Paul did have a vision then the term “vision” is vague and must be defined. As Licona points out, visions are either objective (i.e., something that is seen without the use of our natural senses) or subjective (i.e., a  product of our minds). The real  problem is with the vision hypothesis is that it doesn’t explain Paul’s use of resurrection to explain what had happened to Jesus.  The two words are used for resurrection in the New Testament “anastasis” (rising up) and “egersis” (waking up), both imply a physical body. Furthermore, the use of the word “opethe” (the Greek word for appeared) shows the Gospel writers did believe that Jesus appeared physically. “There you will see (opethe) him” (Matt. 28:7); “The Lord has risen and has appeared (opethe) to Simon” (Luke 24:24). When they used “opethe” here, it means that He appeared physically to them. So when Paul gives his list of appearances in 1 Cor. 15, the issues becomes whether the appearance to him is the same as it was to the disciples. There is no doubt the post resurrection body of Jesus (after the ascension) had to be somewhat different than the body the disciples saw. Also, whenever the New Testament mentions the word body, in the context of referring to an individual human being, the Greek word “soma” always refers to a literal, physical body.Greek specialist Robert Gundry says “the consistent and exclusive use of soma for the physical body in anthropological contexts resists dematerialization of the resurrection, whether by idealism or by existentialism.” [9] Furthermore, in N.T. Wright’s  The Resurrection of the Son of God shows that the Greek word for resurrection which is “anastasis” was used by ancient Jews, pagans, and Christians as bodily in nature.

The Resurrection helps explains Paul’s Christology

As already mentioned, Paul’s Letters are the earliest records we have for the life of Jesus. They are also the earliest letters we have for the Christology of Jesus. In several of Paul’s Letters Jesus is referred to as “Lord” (Gr. kyrios). Hence, the willingness to do this place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation.” For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.

Also, as pointed out by Richard Bauckham in his work on this topic, Paul believed that  Jesus was God by attributing attributes to him that were distinctly reserved for God. And he did so in a distinctly Jewish manner while also preserving  monotheism. There were three attributes that first century Jews uniquely assigned to God:

1. God is the Sole Ruler of all things

2. God is the Sole Creator of all things

3. God is the only being deserving of worship

So let’s look at how Paul matches up the data here:

1. Jesus participates in God’s sole rule over all things

 Phil: 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

 Eph. 1:21-22: Paul speaks of Jesus being “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…”

Here, Jesus is clearly given the authority to rule above every one of God’s created beings.

2. Jesus as the Creator of all things

Jesus is clearly thought by Paul to have been the creator of the universe. This attribute is reserved only to God in Second Temple Judaism. Paul makes it clear that Jesus created all things.

Col. 1:15-16: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

3. Jesus as worthy of worship

As discussed above, only God was worthy of worship in Second Temple Judaism. Nevertheless, Paul discusses the worship of Jesus. Since God is the sole Creator and Ruler of all things He alone should be worshiped. Even within the Roman Empire, Jews worshiped God alone. No other entity was worthy of worship. Here is one of the earliest Christological texts:

Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Conclusion:

In the end, it is clear that Paul had a dramatic change that turned him from a persecutor of the early followers of Jesus to the greatest missionary of the early faith. Someone may object and say it is not a big deal for someone to make such a radical change in their beliefs in antiquity. After all, people change beliefs all the time (i.e. people leave Islam for the Christian faith or vice versa). In response, I suggest doing a thorough study of the honor and shame culture that Paul was acquainted with. You will see it was much more of a challenge to change one’s beliefs in antiquity than it is today. I submit that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for the change in Paul’s life.

Sources:

[1] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographal Approach (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2010).

 [2] Ibid, 302-303.

 [3] Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 276.

 [4] Dale Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T&T Clark, 2005), 263-268.

[5] Most of points 1-8 are laid out in Marion Soard’s The Apostle Paul: An Introduction to his Writings and Teaching (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1987), 10-11.

[6] See Martin Hengel’s The Pre-Christian Paul (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991).

 [7] D. A. Carson, D. J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction To The New Testament(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publising House, 2002),220.

 [8] Ibid.

[9] Norman Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books 1999), 668.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Is the Resurrection a Requirement for Being the Messiah?

 

 

 In many Jewish- Christian debates, I have been told by Orthodox Jews that a messianic figure being raised from the dead is not a requirement for being the Messiah. Let me give a small example of this:

 

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). Belief in a resurrection of persons from the dead are seen in eight passages: (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). The resurrection terminology is seen in two places (Ezek. 37:1-14; Hos. 6:2) to show a national and spiritual restoration brought about by the return from the exile. So it is not as if resurrection is foreign to the Jewish mind. But sadly, a resurrected Messiah it is not even on the radar screen for many Jewish people.

As I have said before, the word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” So we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament. Are there any texts in the Old Testament that say the Messiah has to be resurrected? Apart from Psalm 16: 1-10 (used by Peter in Acts 2:22-32) and the end of Isa. 53, there are not an overwhelming amount of texts that support a resurrected Messiah. This is why when Paul says the Messiah “rose from the third day according to the Scriptures” (see 1 Cor. 15:4), he is probably not referring to a specific text or texts but more to the overall plan of God’s saving activity that has been laid out in the Jewish Scriptures.

Second, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah comes, he will do x, y, and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. I will now offer some reasons as to why the resurrection of Jesus is paramount for Jesus being the Messiah of Israel and the entire world.

The Resurrection is needed for Jesus to be the Davidic King

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-37). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a person whose eternality will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.

As seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-4, David wanted to build a “house” (or Temple) for the Lord in Jerusalem. God’s response to David was one of rejection. However, as just mentioned, God did make an unconditional promise to raise up a line of descendants from the house of David that would rule forever as the kings of Israel (2 Sam. 7:5-16; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps.89:28-370.

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, as already said, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

As Murray Harris says,

“There is a loose parallel in the case of a royal family where a child is ‘born’ a king but subsequently ‘becomes’ king at his coronation. From this standpoint, the resurrection was the coronation or installation of Jesus as the Son of God.” (Harris, M. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1983, 74-75.

The Resurrection is needed for Jesus to be the initiator of the New Covenant

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. We just read about the day when God would place his Spirit permanently inside people so they can walk in holiness and love. We see in the New Covenant passages:

1. God promises regeneration. (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26)
2. God promises the forgiveness of sin. (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel
36:25) 3. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:27) 4. God promises the knowledge of God. (Jeremiah 31:34 5. God promises His people would obey Him. (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23-
24; Jeremiah 32:39-40) 6. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land. (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek.
36:24-25; 37:11-14)

As Jesus says: And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” (John 14:16,17) So we can conclude with following syllogism: 1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant. 2. Jesus rose from the dead 3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant

Note: If needed, see our articles section called Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

The Resurrection is needed to reserve the curse of the Fall

As I have previous stated, Rabbinic Judaism doesn’t accept the death and resurrection of Jesus as  messianic qualifications. One of the reasons for this is because they don’t view original sin the same way that both Christians and Messianic believers do. While they do believe in a good and evil inclination, that is a far cry from being identified in Adam. When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. David lamented this fact in one of his Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The prophet Isaiah stated: For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
Therefore, for Christians and Messianic believers, no earthly Messiah can reverse the curse of the sin of Adam. 

The Resurrection is important to Jesus being a prophet like Moses

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43). In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

In order to be like Moses (see Deut 18: 15-18) this prophet will have to be a “sign prophet.”

1. While actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses.

2. Miracles have purpose in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God.

3. The writing prophets of the Hebrew Bible did not perform miracles, so they cannot be the prophet that Moses spoke about!

We see this is an important feature with Moses:

1. God says, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

2. When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

3. Moses “performed the signs before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

 How does Jesus fulfill the role of a “sign prophet?”

1. The word “sign” is reserved for what we would call a miracle.

2. “Sign” is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.

3. Jesus repeated this prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19).

Conclusion

The Resurrection is incredibly important to the messianic task. If anything, Jesus is the only messianic candidate that has been raised from the dead.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Answering Nine Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus

There are several approaches to defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Skeptics have offered a wide range of natural explanations throughout history to explain away the bodily resurrection of  Jesus. In this post, I will go ahead and several of them and try to give a response. In some cases I will leave some additional reading.

 #1: Legends Hypothesis: This hypothesis states that the New Testament accounts of the disciples who gave testimonies of the postmortem appearances are all legends that were invented much later.

Response: This can’t be supported by the evidence.From about AD 48 until his death, Paul wrote at least 13 of the New Testament’s books. Given that historians look to those who are contemporaries of the events, Paul is an important resource for what historians can know about Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the earliest documents we have for the life of Jesus are Paul’s letters.

Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. Of his 13 books, critical scholars even accept six of them as being authentic in that we can be certain of the author and date of these writings. Of course, there are other scholars such as Luke Timothy Johnson and Raymond Brown that think more than six of them are authored by Paul. But of the 13 books, the six are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. And it is fairly well known that Bart Ehrman has written a book called Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.

In this book, he discusses the other Pauline books that are in question to authorship. I will provide a response to this here by Mike Licona. I think Mike shows there can be a plausable case for the traditional authorship of the disputed New Testament letters that are attributed to Paul.

30 A.D.—–33A.D.—-40 A.D.—-50 A.D.—-55 A.D.—60 A.D.—65 A.D—70 A.D.

(CREED OF 1 Cor. 15:3-8 received before 55 A.D.)

Also, the creed that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8  has been dated very shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. Even the skeptical scholar Gerd Lüdemann says about the creed, “I do insist that the discovery of pre-Pauline confessional foundations is one of the great achievements in New Testament scholarship.” (1)

 Even if the four Gospels were written some 30-70 years later, we still can posit that there was an entire oral history before the Gospels reached their written form. We can say confidently that there was simply not enough time for exaggeration or a legend to develop.

#2: The Naturalistic Objection

The one area that always creeps up into apologetics is the issue of naturalism which says that nature is the “whole show.”  In other words, there are really two general kinds of explanations for events: intentional accounts (which demonstrate signs of value, design, and purpose) and non-intentional accounts (which lack values, design, and purpose). Naturalists generally only punt to one kind of explanation- non-intentional accounts. In other words, please don’t ever say there is any agency or interference into the natural world by an outside cause that is non-natural.

Response:

I have had the opportunity to lay out the arguments for the resurrection for various people. Most people seem to take two different approaches. One approach is what it called the a priori  approach while the other is called the a posteriori approach. Deductive reasoning is called a priori (prior to looking at the facts) and inductive reasoning is called a posteriori (after seeing the evidence). It is evident that this objection to the miracles of Jesus is mostly philosophical in nature.  Many skeptics attempt to claim that it was during the Enlightenment period that any so called miracle claim was cast into the domain of superstition and pre-modernism. After all, modern people can’t believe such silliness. Unfortunately, this is an oversimplification.

If one has decided that many of the events in the New Testament are not possible (because of an a priori commitment to naturalism), it will impact how they interpret the evidence (after examining it). Some people may say they are open to taking an a posteriori approach to the resurrection. But when it comes time to actually examine the evidence they set the bar so high that no amount of evidence will ever convince them. So in many cases, if one is just utterly convinced that the natural world is all there is than I suggest looking to see if which worldview does a better job of explaining reality. For further reading, see:

Is Naturalism a Simpler Explanation Than Theism? by Paul Copan

God—The Best Explanation: Paul Copan

Miracles: Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?

#3: We Can’t Use the Historical Method to Determine Whether A Resurrection Took Place!

This objection is problematic. Bart Ehrman says:

  Since historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and the chances of a miracle happening, by definition, are infinitesimally remote,  historians can never demonstrate that a miracle probably happened.(Ehrman  2008:243–244)

I doubt that historians would want to propose that the history can’t be used as a tool to detect a miracle such as the resurrection of Jesus. After all, it is certain aspects of the historical method that makes it possible to attempt to demonstrate that the resurrection of Jesus didn’t happened. So in other words, you can’t use the historcial method to show the resurrection of Jesus did happen. But we are free to use it to show for certain the resurrection didn’t happen. Hence, it is falsifiable. This seems a bit inconsistent.

 #4: False Testimonies Hypothesis

There is no reason to distrust the conviction of those that testified to having seen the risen Jesus.

The Gospel of John uses words that are usually translated as witness, testimony, to bear witness, or to testify. The total usage of these words in John’s Gospel is larger than any of the Synoptic Gospels. The book of Acts is the next book with the most references to the terms related to eyewitness testimony. We see in the following New Testament passages where testimony and witness is used as a means to verify events:

• Luke 1:4: “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received”

•Acts 2:32: “This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it”

• Acts 3:14-15:But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.”

• Acts 5:30-32: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

•1 John 1:1: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life”

•Acts 10:39 : “We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.”

•Acts 4:19-20: “Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

•1 Peter 5:1: “So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.

•2 Peter 1:19: ” We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

•John 21:24: “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.”

•1 Corinthians 15: 3-8: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

As James Warner Wallace points out in his latest book people lie or have an ulterior motive for three reasons:

1.Financial Gain: In this case, we don’t see any evidence for this. The NT shows the disciples/apostles being chased from location to location, leaving their home and families and abandoning their property and what they owned.

2. Sexual or Relational Desire: The NT does not say much about their “love lives.” There are Scriptures that speak to sexual purity and chastity.

3. Pursuit of Power:

While Christianity became a state sponsored religion in the 4th century and the Popes became powerful both politically and religiously, there is no evidence (pre 70 AD), for the early disciples pursuing power as they proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus. Just look at Paul’s testimony here:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” – 2 Cor. 11: 23-27

#5: The Resurrection Story Was Invented From Other Dying and Rising God Stories!

Response:  Sadly, the internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are examples of religious plagiarism. The same old dying and rising god theme myth just gets rehashed over and over. What is even more problematic is the people who hold to this view automatically assume the New Testament witness to the resurrection of Jesus is false. Then they punt to the myths/mystery religions to explain the problems in the New Testament. Here are some resources:

A Look at Richard Carrier’s Critique of Bart Ehrman: Part One

The   Zeitgeist Movie & Other Myth Claims about Jesus: Gregory Koukl

Was Jesus Christ just a CopyCat Savior Myth? Glen Miller

A Challenge for the Jesus Mythers and the Religious Plagarism Charge

 #6: The Intramental/Hallucination Hypothesis Objection

This hypothesis is still remains one of the most popular options among skeptics. This hypothesis states that the experiences of the disciples were intramental phenomena such as hallucinations; the disciples and followers of Jesus were so emotionally involved with Jesus’ messianic expectation that their minds projected hallucinations of the risen Lord.

 Response: First, the hallucination theory fails to meet the criteria for a group hallucination. Glen Miller lists the criteria here and why it fails.

Or, see N.T. Wright’s 3 part series on this topic:
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:

 #7: The Analogical Objection

An analogy is a relation of similarity between two or more things, so that an inference (reasoning from premise to conclusion) is drawn on the basis of that similarity. For example, if the resurrection of Jesus is known to have certain characteristics, and if another supernatural claim in another religion is known to have at least some of those same characteristics, the inference is drawn that the other supernatural claim also has those other characteristics. If the cases are not similar enough to warrant the inference, then it is a false analogy.

After all, if we are to accept that Jesus appeared to the disciples, what about the testimonies of people who say that Mary appeared to them at Fatima or Medjugorie? Also, what about UFO sightings? More examples could be given. It seems that we have eyewitness testimony in these events. Also, most of the people in these situations are sincere. They think they “saw” something and can trust their physical senses.

Response: When it comes to evaluating any religious claim, we must ask three questions: (1) What is the claim?; (2) What is the evidence for it?; (3) What is the religious and historical context for the claim? Former atheist Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen (see There Is A God? How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind(New York: Harper Collins, 2007). So if we look at these three questions, the Messianic claim is that Jesus was bodily resurrected. On a variety of occasions, he appeared to several people confirming He was raised from the dead. A follower of Jesus makes the claim based on the evidence that is seen in the historical records in the New Testament.

The historical setting of the claim is seen in the Second Temple Judaism Period.  The entire ministry of Jesus allows for the proper context. The death had been considered an embarrassment and a curse. The resurrection coheres with Jesus’ entire early ministry. For example, many parables, which are universally acknowledged by critical scholars to be authentic to the historical Jesus, show that Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God.  Also, for the Jewish people, the Torah was supposed to transform Jewish life and separate the Jewish people from the rest of the world. The mission of Jesus was not to overthrow Torah but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-19). Jesus never granted Torah as a mediator between humanity and God. Rather, Jesus understood his own person, not Torah, to be the means of eternal life (Mark 10:17-31). So in summary:

1. A miracle is an act of God that confirms a messenger from God.

2. Jesus offered a cumulative case that confirms He is the incarnation of the God of Israel—His fulfillment of prophecy, His sinless life, His messianic actions/messianic miracles, His speaking authority, and His miraculous resurrection.

3. Therefore, Jesus offered several lines of evidence that  confirm that He is the incarnation of the God of Israel

These are just a few things that demonstrate that provide the context of  Jesus’ ministry. The point is that not all miracle claims are equal in evidential support.  This is just one example as to why it is incumbent upon us to think critically and try to answer the three questions that I just mentioned.

#8: The Genre of the Gospels Are Historical Fiction!

If someone makes the claim that the Gospels or other parts of the New Testament are myth (meaning half-truth, folklore, fantasy, or a fictionized account of history, etc), one thing that can aid in clearing up the confusion about this issue is genre studies. Most of the modern world’s standard of accuracy is defined by an age where tape recorders, video cameras are prevalent.  To see our post on this topic, click here.

#9: The Faulty Sources Objection

This objection says that the New Testament documents are not trustworthy. So if that is the case, all the arguments for the resurrection of Jesus fall flat. We have enough resources on this topic.

What can we know about Jesus? Sources for the Historical Jesus

From Jesus to Us: A Look at P.O.W.E.R.

The Gospels as Historical Biography (Richard Bauckham)

Craig Blomberg: Jesus of   Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him And Why It Matters

To see more about this issue, see our resource page called Evidence For The Resurrection of Jesus

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
Video

Lecture on Messianic Prophecy

Here is a lecture I did for a campus group in Huntsville, AL. I was a little under the weather so my voice is not quite up to par.

We covered a lot of material here.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

A Look at the Suffering Servant: The Death and Resurrection of the Messiah in Isa. 52:13-53:12

This was a series I did a couple months back.  

To see Part Two: Click here:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

When it comes to messianic prophecy, Christian apologists have appealed to Isa 52:13-53:12 as a slam dunk for showing that nature of the Messiah’s suffering  which is predicted hundreds of years in advance. And of course, almost any Jewish person that has come to faith in Jesus as their Messiah was greatly impacted by this text. Let’s take a look at it here:

Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and  greatly exalted.  Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men.  Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand. Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender  shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should  be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of  sorrows and acquainted with  grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our  griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was  pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our  well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the  living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  But the Lord was pleased To crush Him,  putting Him to grief; If  He would render Himself as a guilt offering,He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see  it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out  Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. –NASB

The Messiah

The word “ Messiah” means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah),(Gk. Christos) and  is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Tanakh records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ),kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.”

As we look at this messianic text, let’s remember the following: Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant of the Lord,  Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One.”

The word Servant” in Hebrew is “ebed,” which can be defined as a slave, servant, or official, depending on the context in which it is used.

Remember the following issues with  the identity of Servant of the Lord in the Bible: Herbert M. Wolf offers a summary here:

1. God’s servants  were those who worshiped him and carried out his will, often in important leadership roles. Individuals such as Abraham(Gen 26:24 ), Moses ( Exod 14:31 ; Deut 34:5 ), David ( 2 Samuel 7:52 Samuel 7:8 ), and Isaiah (20:3) were called God’s “servants” as they obediently walked with the Lord.

2. The Servant as Israel: At times it seems quite clear that the servant refers collectively to the nation of Israel. The people of Israel (or Jacob) compose the corporate body that God calls “My servant” (Isa 41:8, 9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1, 2, 21, 26; 45:4; 48:20; 49;3; Jer 30:10; 46:27, 28; Ezek. 28:25; 37:25).

3. The Servant as a Righteous Remnant: Sometimes the concept of the “servant” seems to refer to those in Israel who were spiritual, the righteous remnant who remained faithful to the Lord. In 42:5 and 49:8 the servant functions as “a covenant for the people” and is involved in the restoration of the land after the Babylonian exile.

4. The Servant as an Individual: Unlike the nation Israel, the servant of the Lord listened to God’s word and spoke words of comfort and healing ( 42:2-3 ; 50:4-5). Yet his words were powerful and authoritative, and like a judge he was concerned about establishing justice and righteousness ( Isaiah 42:1Isaiah 42:4 ; 49:2 ). Twice the servant is called “a light to the Gentiles” ( 42:6 ; 49:6 ), and “light” is clearly paralleled to “salvation.” Similarly, the servant is involved in the restoration of the nation Israel ( 49:5 ). He is “a covenant for the people” ( 42:6 ; 49:8 ) as the ruler who was promised in the Davidic covenant ( 2 Sam 7:16 ) and the One who would initiate the new covenant. The servant opens the eyes of the blind and frees captives from prison ( 42:7 ; cf. 61:1 ).

5. A careful reading of the four servant songs has nonetheless led many scholars to argue that the servant refers to an individual who fulfills in himself all that Israel was meant to be.  In some respects the servant can be compared with the Davidic messianic king. Both were chosen by God and characterized by righteousness and justice (cf. 9:7 ; Isaiah 42:1 Isaiah 42:6). The Spirit of God would empower both the king and the servant ( 11:1-4 ; 42:1 ), and ultimately the suffering servant would be highly exalted (cf. 52:13 ; 53:12 ) and given the status of a king. The “shoot” or “branch” from the family of Jesse ( 11:1 ) is linked with the description of the servant as “a tender shoot” ( 53:2 ). [1]


[1] Herbert M. Wolf, “The Servant of the Lord” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996), 726.

To see Part Two, click here:

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

How God became Jesus: Bart Ehrman gets it wrong, again

Here is a great review of the new Bart Ehrman book by Michael Bird.

 

Easter is now upon us, and we await the predictable onslaught of naysayers who declaim with an almost evangelical fervour that the Jesus story is one big lie. Such tirades by the evangelists of scepticism seem almost to constitute a pastoral responsibility on their part annually to reinforce the ideological conceits of their tribe of followers, thus providing atheists, agnostics and “nones” with reassurance that they needn’t take Jesus too seriously.

The opening salvo this year comes courtesy of the indefatigable Bart Ehrman. For those who don’t know, Ehrman is something of a celebrity sceptic in the United States. A professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly a fundamentalist Christian who de-converted to agnosticism, and now writes books exposing the apparently fallacious claims of traditional Christianity. He has several New York Times best-sellers to his name, including Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible and Forged: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman is a regular on the talk-show circuit, frequenting programs like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Dateline, CNN, and National Public Radio.

To read on, click here:

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Crucifixion and The Cursed Messiah

 

Jesus’ crucifixion is attested by all four Gospels. Therefore, it passes the test of multiple attestation. It is also one of the earliest proclamations in the early Messianic Movement (see Acts 2:23; 36; 4:10). It is also recorded early in Paul’s writings (1 Cor.15), and by non-Christian authors Josephus, Ant.18:64; Tacitus, Ann.15.44.3. Historian and author Dr. Ian Wilson says the following about crucifixion:

Even the Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 BC) deplored it as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” And further, he would remark, “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder; but to crucify him is what? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed . .(1)

Regarding the historicity of the event, Even John Dominic Crossan, one of the founders of the Jesus Seminar even says the following:

“Jesus death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if not follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion, we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.” (2)

According to Martin Hengel, “The social stigma and disgrace associated with crucifixion in the Roman world can hardly be overstated.” (3)

Roman crucifixion was viewed as a punishment for those a lower status- dangerous criminals, slaves, or anyone who caused a threat to Roman order and authority. Given that Jewish nationalism was quite prevalent in the first century, the Romans also used crucifixion as a means to end the uprising of any revolts.

There is a relevant verse about crucifixion in Deuteronomy 21:22-23: “If a person commits a sin punishable by death and is executed, and you hang the corpse on a tree, his body must not remain all night on the tree; instead you must make certain you bury him that same day, for the one who is left exposed on a tree is cursed by God. You must not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

The context of this verse is describing the public display of the corpse of an executed criminal. The New Testament writers expanded this theme to include persons who had been crucified (Acts 5:30; 13:29; Gal 3:13;1 Pet.2:24). To say that crucifixion was portrayed in a negative light within Judaism in the first century is an understatement. “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse”-the very method of death brought a divine curse upon the crucified. In other words, anyone who was crucified was assumed not to be the Anointed One of God.

Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)

A Dead Messiah and Sheol

In light of what Jewish people knew about Sheol (the realm of the dead), a dead Messiah was an absurdity. In the Hebrew Bible, the pictures of the fate of the wicked are presented as consciously suffering in Sheol, or the grave. It is also described as the place that both the righteous and the unrighteous are expected to go upon death (Ps. 89:48). God does no wonders for those that are in Sheol; those that are there cannot praise God. Let’s look at some of these passages:

1. “For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?” (Ps. 6:5).

2. “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness?” (Ps. 30:9).

3. “Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah. Will Your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Abaddon?” (Ps. 88:10-11).

4. “The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).

5. “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness (Isa. 38:18).” (4)

It can be concluded that any attempt to proclaim a dead Messiah who had been consigned to Sheol would have created a tremendous barrier for a Jewish person in Second Temple Period. Furthermore, a dead Messiah would have extinguished any hopes of the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty.

Blessing and Curses

 In the context of the covenant of Israel, the Near Eastern pattern was of both blessing and curse. The blessing is for those who obey the stipulations of the covenant while the curse is upon those who violate the stipulations. Deuteronomy 27:6 says “ Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” We see this in the following passage:

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all the commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. (Deut. 28:1-2)

For a Jewish person to be blessed was to being the presence of God and enjoy his presence and all the benefits that this entailed.  The blessing was to experience God’s shalom in one’s life. In contrast to blessing, to be cursed was to be outside the presence of God. To be declared “unclean” or defiled meant was an offense to the Jewish people. 

To see a longer version of this topic, see our post here called The Death of Messiah.

To see The Death of Jesus: Why Was Jesus Accused of Blasphemy?- see here:

Sources: 1. John Stott, The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove:InterVarsity, 1986, p. 24. (Quoting Cicero in his Against Verres II. v64, para. 165. (Interestingly, the Apostle Paul was not crucified (but rather, “beheaded,” according to tradition) because he was in fact a Roman citizen, and Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion) — cf. Cicero., Verr. Act., I, 5; II, 3, 5; III, 2, 24, 26; IV, 10 sqq.; V, 28, 52, 61, 66).
 2. J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. 1994), 45. While it is true that scholars agree that there are some interpolations in Josephus, it should be noted that while the manuscript tradition of Testimonium of Josephus has the interpolations, a solid case can be made that the original passage is accurate- especially the part about Jesus being crucified under Pilate. Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. Tacitus confirmed Jesus died by crucifixion during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE), under Pilate’s governship (26-36 CE).

3. See Martin Hengel: Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).

4. Roy A. Harrisville, Fracture: The Cross as Irreconcilable in the Language and Thought of the Biblical Writers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2006), 17-18.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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