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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 scholars may say they are open to taking an a posteriori approach to the resurrection, when it comes time to actually examine the evidence. However, in many cases, 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 Biblical scholars and 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. 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)

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
Video

Eric Chabot 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

 

Is Good Friday a Myth? What 5 Ancient, Non-Christian Writings Reveal.

This is a  good post written by Mikel Del Rosario.

Is Good Friday a Myth?

“Good Friday? What’s the difference between Good Friday and a fairytale?”

Imagine a skeptical relative asked you this question at a family gathering. I know–Awkward. But really, what would you say?

Something similar happened to me when I was a teenager. But what was odd about it was that this lady just threw out a challenge that seemed to come out of nowhere. Not sure if she even expected a response. I actually had no clue what to say.

Still, it got me thinking, “What should I have said?” What is the different between the crucifixion of Jesus and a fairytale? I had to find some answers for myself.

For you, it might not be skeptical relatives. It might be a challenge from a Muslim coworker. Or an atheist student who saw something on YouTube about Good Friday being like a bunch of other mythological stories about crucified saviors. What can you say to that friend who starts to tune you out as soon as you reach for your Bible?

Unexpected Evidences

One strategy is to start with something unexpected. I discovered something interesting while I was teaching World Religion courses at a secular university: Even though Jesus’ death by crucifixion is recorded in the traditional gospels, I found most of my skeptical students seemed to perk up and get curious when I started talking about non-Christian sources that also mention this event.

Besides piquing their interest, leading into a topic in an unexpected way actually helps make your conversation more memorable.

To read on, click here:

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Paul’s Warnings About Bearing False Witness About the Resurrection of Jesus

Given Paul’s  letters are the earliest records we have for Jesus, he is a very important component to the birth of the early Jesus movement.

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

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

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.

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). -see Marion Soard’s The Apostle Paul: An Introduction to his Writings and Teaching (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1987), 10-11.

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.

 Paul and Bearing False Witness

One the most pertinent texts about not bearing false witness to the resurrection of Jesus is the following:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised  Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.” - 1 Cor. 15: 13-15.

 

Being that Paul was raised on the Torah, he knew the consequences of bearing false witness. H. Douglas Buckwalter says the following about the use of testimony in the Bible:

The biblical concept of testimony or witness is closely allied with the conventional Old Testament legal sense of testimony given in a court of law. Linguistically, the biblical term principally derives from the Hebrew yaad, ud, anah  and Greek marturein word groups; conceptually, it broadly influences the thought patterns, truth claims, and theology of nearly all of Scripture.

 

Its validity consists in certifiable, objective facts. In both Testaments, it appears as the primary standard for establishing and testing truth claims. Uncertifiable subjective claims, opinions, and beliefs, on the contrary, appear in Scripture as inadmissible testimony. Even the testimony of one witness is insufficientfor testimony to be acceptable, it must be established by two or three witnesses ( Deut 19:15 ).-see H. Douglas Buckwalter , “Testimony” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).

 

As Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy note in the book The Jesus Legend: A Case For the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Tradition, Christianity cannot be understood apart from it’s first century Jewish context. The Sinai teaching that multiple witnesses was retained Mark 14:56,59; John 5:31-32; Heb 10:28) and also used for church discipline (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1;1 Tim 5:19). Also, the principle of giving a true testimony and making a true confession are evident in the early church (Matt 10:18; Mark 6:11;13:9-13;Luke 1:1-2;9:5;21:12-13;22:71;John 1:7-8,15,19,32,34;3:26,28;5:32; Acts 1:8,22;3:15;5:32;10:37-41;13:31;22:15;18;23:11;26:16).

So given these issues and that Paul was a Pharisee, we can gather he was aware of the issues of bearing false witness. He wanted to get his facts straight. And to say that Paul would create a mythic Jesus that was later historicized in the Gospels is problematic.

 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

 Why does this matter?

In my opinion, the false testimonies hypotheses isn’t even on the table anymore. Therefore, I can see why most skeptics like to punt to psychological explanations for the resurrection of Jesus. Most scholars concede that Paul and others at least thought they saw the risen Jesus. They just disagree about what they actually saw. We can provide answers to these objections  as well.

Paul’s Warnings About Bearing False Witness About the Resurrection of Jesus

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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