“If the Gospel is True, Why Don’t We See More Transformation in the Lives of Christians?”

Do you ever ask yourself the following questions: “If the Gospel is true and I have come into a relationship with God, why do I still struggle with the same sins?” or, “Why do I struggle with the same attitudes and addictions?” I have asked myself this question and many people have asked me about it as well. Ravi Zacharias says the following:

“I really think that today, as Christian apologists, that the biggest challenge to the faith is not an intellectual question. In fact, I have not heard an intellectual question to the faith that has disturbed me. I am more convinced than ever of the message of the Gospel. But the biggest challenge to the Christian faith is this: If the message that we have lays claim to a supernatural regeneration, then why is it that we do not see that regeneration more often? No other religion claims a supernatural regeneration. They may claim ethics and morality. Hinduism does. But we are the only ones who claim a new birth. Born of the Holy Spirit, our hungers have changed, our disciplines have changed, our behavior has changed. If it is a supernaturally engendered thing, why do we not see it more often? And if that is true of the common person in conversion, how much more true it must be of ones in leadership. So I believe character is essential, and without that, you cannot serve.” -Ravi Zacharias

I am sure Ravi knows the amazing contributions that Christians have made to the world. I know he must know the results from his own ministry offers us plenty of signs of “real” supernatural regeneration. So I don’t want to paint the picture as if there is little or no evidence of supernatural regeneration to be seen. Perhaps you don’t agree with Ravi’s comments. Maybe you think supernatural regeneration is not a rarity at all. Maybe you see it all around you. But his comments do lead to some thoughtful introspection. Sometimes I find myself wondering why we tend to not see as much transformation As expected in the lives of professing Christians.  Here are a few thoughts:

Discipleship 

In all the evangelism that I have done, I have noticed that I come across plenty of people who profess to be Christians but are not going forward in their faith. If I meet an individual who says they are a professed believer, I always ask them where they are in the discipleship process. Many times when I ask, “Are you becoming a disciple?” I usually get the response, “What’s a disciple?”

Many are oblivious to the importance of discipleship. Therefore, I find myself exhorting hundreds of people to get rooted in congregational/community life—get back to the basics (e.g., read the Bible, prayer). I always give these individuals contact information of local churches that they can attend. It saddens me to see what is happening in the transition from the point when someone makes a professed/salvation decision for Jesus and the overall discipleship/commitment aspect to our faith.

The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” A talmid is a student of one of the sages of Israel. A disciple is a learner, or pupil. When we decide to repent and turn to our Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we have to realize we are now on a new journey. The Gospel is a message for the here and now- not just the future. We have to learn how to live out our faith in the world around us. A disciple (in the New Testament sense) is someone who is striving (by God’s grace) to be consistent follower of Jesus. The goal of the Christian is to imitate our Master.

Discipleship is not getting any easier in the world we live in. In an overly sensate culture, people need to be constantly stimulated and have a hard time focusing on something such as discipleship. And in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out.

Discipleship takes a commitment between the discipler and the one being discipled. And for those that say they don’t need discipleship I can only respond with the following:  I pity you. Sorry to be so blunt. But without discipleship, you are destined for failure. There is no such thing as a Long Ranger Christian. Also, discipleship involves a teachable spirit.  Discipleship is a life-long process. Who are you discipling? And who is discipling you?

 Forgetting Sanctification and Glorification 

Sometimes we forget that if we have come to know the Lord, we are now in the process of sanctification. That means we are not in a glorified state where we are free from sin and all the challenges of this world. Honestly, we sometimes treat Christians as if they should act as if they are in a glorified state. That means no sin, and perfect holiness. But the question is, how does God sanctify and transform us? I believe this chart is helpful.

God does transform us. But it involves our cooperation. If we are willing to yield to God, through his Word, and allow others to be involved in the process, we will change. Also, suffering and circumstances can be used to change us as well. The question is “How do we respond to God in this specific circumstance?” Note the chart mentions truth is what changes us. Truth comes though the Bible, others speaking truth to us, prayer, service, etc. But I truly believe the reason we don’t always see the transformation we want isn’t because of God. It is on us. He has given us His Spirit, the Word, community, plenty of resources (lectures, books, online resources), etc. In most cases, it is our stubborn will won’t budge. Now keep in mind, this isn’t about a formula. It is about us cooperating with God so that we might experience the change he wants for us so we can bring honor and glory to Him.  I have to be the one who prioritizes reading the Bible, being in community, praying, and doing all I can to cooperate with God. Also, remember, even if you don’t see the transformation in your own life or in others, it doesn’t mean the Gospel is false. Jesus could still have died and risen 2,000 years ago. Our actions don’t determine the facts of history. So remember, we can be transformed. But we have to do our part.

Uncategorized

Interview with Michael T. Jahosky, author of The Good News of the Return of the King: The Gospel in Middle-Earth

For our weekly apologetics zoom call for our campus ministry, our guest here is Michael T. Jahosky, author of The Good News of the Return of the King: The Gospel in Middle-earth. Michael has a passion for what is called “narrative apologetics” and how the biblical story is the best explanation for reality. Michael’s book demonstrates how God uses stories to communicate the Good News (the Gospel). The Return of the King is one of those stories.

Uncategorized

Book Review: God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture by Steven J. Duby

God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture) by [Steven J. Duby]

God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture by Steven J. Duby.  IVP Academic. 2019, 352 pp.

As Christians, knowledge of God is a topic that is fundamental to our theology and our outreach. This topic is of utmost importance. As Duby says “If we can expect to encounter genuine traces of the knowledge of God among those who do not know Christ or the Bible, if we can expect, even from within a thoroughly Christian view of God, some cognitive commensurability in the work of Christian witness, this can help to inform and encourage evangelism and missions”- pg 10.  How does an infinite Being communicate to finite humans? According to Duby, one view on how we can have knowledge of God is driven by natural theology (knowledge of God apart from Scripture) or ‘metaphysics’” which impacts our reading of Scripture. Another view on how we can have knowledge of God is what is called “ the economy of salvation” which rules out natural theology and metaphysics altogether. Duby doesn’t think it is necessary to pit these two against each other. Duby thinks they  “should be brought together and rightly ordered in a constructive account of the Christian practice of theologia taken in the strict sense of the word (discourse about the triune God in himself without primary reference to the economy) – pgs 5-6.

Duby sets out to discuss how whether we can know God as God is in Himself (the aseity of God). In theology, the aseity of God is His attribute of independent self-existence. The aseity of God means that God is the One in whom all other things find their source, existence, and continuance. God’s aseity assures us that His autonomy is absolute. He alone decides what to do, and nothing can ever thwart His purpose to keep His promises.  Duby relies on Thomistic sources and Aquinas, who argued that we know God through both natural and supernatural revelation. But what about Karl Barth who argued that we know God only on the basis of the incarnation? As Duby notes, Barth dismissed natural theology as “a matter of seeking in vain a source of theological knowledge or a ‘knowability of God’ apart from the only true knowability of God in Jesus Christ” – pg 110. But as Duby also notes:

Though he has become a remarkably influential figure in Protestant discussion of natural theology, Barth is but one voice in the discussion, one who knew he had taken up a minority position. Indeed, he called the church’s pre- and post-Reformation doctrine of a natural knowledge of God a “hydra” that kept returning. Barth should have allowed the church’s consensus (a word he himself uses) with its biblical moorings to chasten his rejection of the natural knowledge of God.- pg 123.

 Duby also mentions Kant and analytic philosophical traditions.  Throughout this book, Duby  combines, metaphysics, Scripture, and exegesis to make his points.  Duby also draws from the patristic and medieval traditions. While his book may seen too abstract for some,  and it is  written from a Reformed perspective (I don’t really use the label “Reformed” for myself), it is an exceptional read and it helped me appreciate the knowledge we have of God and his Son Jesus the Messiah (John 17:3). Yes, we can have knowledge of God!

Uncategorized

Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism

The Messiah Concept

1. What does the word Messiah mean? 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.”

2.The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests, kings,  and sometimes prophets as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. “Anointed One” almost never refers to the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.

3. The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

4. Remember that words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray.

5. The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word.  This can only be achieved by reading not only the Bible but extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the  Targumim, etc. (see Craig Evans handout on Introduction to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies).

6. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc;  no single meaning is ever assumed.

7. 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,” “ Prince,” “ Branch,” “Root,” “Scepter,” “Star,”  “Chosen One,” and “ Coming One.” (See section on messianic titles).

The Messianic Task:  Traditional Jewish Views

1. A personal Messiah is irrelevant; many Jewish people don’t see the need for a Messiah to fix the problems of the world.

2.  The Messiah is not divine. He is an earthy figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

3. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.

4.  The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).

5. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1.  The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David

2.  He helps Israel follow Torah

3.  He builds the Temple in its place

4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

 The Messiah in Rabbinical Literature

1Messiah Ben Yossef and Messiah Ben David: The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.

2.What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.

3.This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel]  are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a

Messianic Fulfillment Depends on Moral Regeneration

1The advent of Messiah will not be heralded by the actions of a pagan or Christian king.

2. Israel’s salvation depends on Israel itself.

3.The Messiah will be a sage who will only come when Israel fully accepts God’s sole rule.

4.The coming of the Messiah is not dependent on historical action but on moral regeneration. How about reading John 3:3-8?

 The Davidic Messiah

The capitalized term “Messiah” is often confined to a precisely delineated concept, viz., the anointed king of the Davidic dynasty who would establish in the world the definite kingdom intended by God for Israel. Such a notion of the Messiah is the product of a long development traceable in three stages:

First Stage: Before Eighth Century BC

1. God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15)

2. Gen 49:9-12: alludes implicitly to the reign of David; this prophecy says the Messiah will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

3. The Davidic Covenant: David is promised 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 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come.

4. The Royal Psalms:Psalm 2;72;110 are considered part of this first stage of messianism.

Second Stage:  Eighth Century BC to the Babylonian Exile

1. Messianic Expectation centers on the re-establishment of the throne of David and deliverance of Israel from its foreign oppressors.

2. This expectation resulted from disappointment at the destruction of Jerusalem and suspension of Davidic dynasty.

3. Isaiah: speaks of the time when God that would revive the Davidic dynasty and ensure its permanence. God would raise up a successor of David who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), but he is not spoken of as “The Messiah.”

4. Micah 5:1-6 speaks of the new David coming from Bethlehem; Jer.23:5-6 uses messianic titles such as “branch” or “shoot” to describe this figure.

5. Amos likewise proclaimed that a figure would emerge from the Davidic lineage who would fulfill God’s covenant promises to the nations (9:11-15).Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.

Third Stage: From the Exile to NT Times           

The Psalms of Solomon (a Pharisaic composition written about 50 B.C.) describes the Davidic messianic expectation: The “Son of David” will:

1. Violently cast out foreign nations occupying Jerusalem (Pss.Sol:15,24-25,33)

2. Judge all the nations of the earth (Pss.17:4;31;38-39, 47) and cause the nations to  “serve him under his yoke” (Pss.Sol.17:32)

3. Reign over Israel in wisdom (Pss. Sol.17:23,28,31,35,41,18:8), which involves  removing all the foreigners from the land (Pss. Sol.17:31) and purging the land of unrighteous Israelites (Pss. Sol. 17:29, 33, 41) in order to eliminate all oppression (Pss. Sol.17:46) and gather to himself a holy people (Pss. Sol.17:28, 36;18:9).

Jesus as The Davidic King

1.  Jesus is of the “seed of David,” who was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). Jesus  is both the son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4).

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, 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?

2. In following the pattern of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus (as the Davidic King) will return to this present earth and after the complete removal of all man’s kingdoms (cf. Dan 2:35;44;7:13-14; Zech 9:10;14:1-4;9-11;Matt24;27-31;25:31-33; Rev:11:15;19:11-16;20:1-6).

3. Remember Prophetic Telescoping:  Telescoped prophecy bridges the first and second appearances of Yeshua. In the second coming, “the obedience of the nations will be his,” and “His everlasting dominion will not pass away, his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”; Gen 49:10-12: Dan 2:37-44;7:13-14; Psalm 2: Isa.9-6-7;11:1-10.

Messianic Expectations (cont):  Priestly Messiah: The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).

1. There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).

2. In the Qumran community which predated the time of Yeshua was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22).

3. Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9;) and it was something that was done only in the Temple.

4. The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

5. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:13 Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12 Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:23 ). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven ( 8:1 ).

 The Suffering/Atoning Messiah

1. There are several texts that speak to the possibility of a suffering Messiah (Zech 13:7; Dan 9:26; Tg.Isa.53; T.Benj.3:8; 4Q521frgs.9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra7:29-30;2 Bar.30:1).

2. There are also several expressions of the belief that the death of the righteous will benefit, or even save, God’s people (1 Macc: 6:26-28 17:20-22; T Moses 9-10).

The Prophetic Messiah

1. The characteristics of the prophet (Heb. nabi) of Deuteronomy 18:15-19: (1) He would be an Israelite; (2) he would be like Moses; and (3) he would be authorized to declare the word of God with authority.

2. Emphasis on listening to the Prophet: See Mathew 17:5

3. Jesus says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Jesus cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

4. Miracles have a distinctive purpose: to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God. Miracles confirmed the prophetic claim: Moses (Ex. 4:1-5; 8-9); Elijah (1 Kings 18:38–39).

5.  Miracles confirmed the Messianic claim of Jesus  (Matt 12: 38-39; John 3: 1-2; Acts 2: 22).

6.  Matt. 11:4-6: Jesus’s evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1. If one does certain kinds of actions, then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Michael Bird’s excellent book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, has some insight about this issue as well. Bird says:

“It is historically naive to depict first-century Palestine as ravaged with continual uprisings and to posit some Roman occupying forces as having to put down one messianic pretender after another. Alternatively, it is equally reductionistic to suppose that many of the tumultuous events of the first century were untouched by messianism. The death of Herod the Great led to several uprisings; although things cooled for a while, in the period 4 BCE to 66 CE, there were many socioreligious movements at the time of the procurators that show expectation and hope for God’s miraculous interventions and gradually a spirit of zealotry beginning to emerge. I doubt that we have to wait as long as Simon ben Kosiba in 135 CE to find another messianic leader after the death of Jesus. The following lists indicate messianic expectations that are explicitly titular or implicitly messianic.”-Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, pgs 47-49.

Bird goes onto list the expectations using the title “Messiah.” Notice that Bird knows  in order to understand messianism, we need to read the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, The Dead Sea Scrolls,  and the Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

“Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19; 19.10–11; 20.1; 1QS 9.11)

“Messiah of Israel” (1QSa 2.12, 14, 20)

“Messiah of righteousness” (4Q252 frg. 1 5.3–4)

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah” (4Q521 2.1)

“Their king shall be the Lord’s Messiah” (Pss. Sol. 17.32; cf. 18.7)

“May God cleanse Israel for the day of mercy and blessing for the appointed day when his Messiah will reign” (Pss. Sol. 18.5)

“Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah” (1 En. 48.10)

“authority of the Messiah” (1 En. 52.4)

“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him” (4 Ezra 7.28) “

“This is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David” (4 Ezra 12.32) “The Messiah will begin to be revealed” (2 Bar. 29.3) “when the time of the appearance of the Messiah has been fulfilled” (2 Bar. 30.1) “the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah” (Shemoneh ‘Esreh 14)

Son of Man: (Dan. 7:13–14; 1 En. 46.1–5; 48.2; 62.1–15; 63.11; 69.27–29; 71.14–17; 4 Ezra 13.1–13, 25–26; Justin Martyr, Dial. 31–32)

Man/Ruler: (Philo, Rewards 95; Num. 24:7, 17 LXX) Rod (CD 7.19–20; Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, 126) Prince (Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; Dan. 9:25–26; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.20; 1QM 3.16; 5.1; 4Q285 frgs. 4–6; Jub. 31.18; Sib. Or. 3.49–50)

Branch of David: (4Q161 frgs. 8–10.15, 22; 4Q252 5.3; 4Q285 frg. 5.3–4; T. Jud 24.4–6) Scepter (1QSb 5.27–28; 4Q161 frgs. 2–4 2.9–13; frgs. 5–6 3.17; frgs. 8–10, 22–26; 4Q252 5.2)

Son of God :(4Q246 1.9; 2.1; Mark 15:39)

Elect/Chosen One (1 En. 39.6; 40.5; 45.3; 48.6; 49.2, 4; 51.3, 5; 52.6, 9; 53.6; 55.4; 61.5, 8, 10; 62.1; Apoc. Abr. 31.1)

King (Mark 15.32 and par.; Sib. Or. 3.286–87, 652) Snow-white cow/horned ram (1 En. 90.9–12, 37–38) Star (T. Levi 18.3; T. Jud. 24.1; Sib. Or. 5.158–60)

Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 22:14; 1 John 2:1; 1 En. 38.2; 53.6)

Historical figures referred to as “Messiah”:

Jesus of Nazareth

Simon ben Kosiba

Implicitly messianic historical figures not referred to as “Messiah”:

Judas the Galilean Simon the servant of Herod

Athronges Menahem Simon bar Giora-

 

 Figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:

1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)

2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)

3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)

4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)

5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)

Sources:

1Berger, D. The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.

2 Bird, M.F.,Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic QuestionGrand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

3.  Brown, R.E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994, 155-161.

4. Evans, C.A. and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997.

5.  Elwell, W. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996.

6.  Schochet, J.I. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

7.  Zannoni, A. Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.1994, 113-114.

Uncategorized

The Hope of the Resurrection

When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. As we know, Jesus made an astounding claim in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” The God of Israel is the living God (Ps 18:46; Jer 23:36; Hos 1:10). This is what sets him apart from mortal men and idols. God is life; all else merely has life. God is called “immortal” (1 Tim 1:17). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.” An important aspect of possessing eternal life is the ability to raise the dead. The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead. Therefore, by claiming the authority to raise the dead, Jesus was exemplifying both the same actions and attributes of the God Israel.

Of all the messianic figures in Judaism, Jesus is the only one who is alive today. Jesus believed himself to be able to forgive sins against God (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12). Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9; Jonah 4). Given Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man (Dan 7: 13-14), and His ability to do the same things that the God of Israel could do, He is the perfect candidate to be raised from the dead! In Romans 1:4, Paul understood the importance of the resurrection when he said Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the Tanakh, 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). Isaiah spoke of the resurrection of the dead body when he wrote, “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.” (Isa 26:19). That bodies would arise from the dust makes evident the identification with physical resurrection. Daniel foretold that “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). 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. As far as the nature of the future bodily resurrection, it may involve a corpse or the receipt of a material body comparable to the present physical body (Job 19:26; Is. 26:19), or it may be a matter of transformation (Dn 12:2-3 and perhaps 12:13); or glorification after reanimation, in the case of the righteous. As far as the function of the resurrection, it may be personal vindication (Is. 26:16; 53:10-12). Resurrection may also have a function in relation to an assumption to heaven and enriched fellowship with God (Ps. 49:15; 73:24,26), or preface to the beatific vision of God (Ps. 17:15 and possibly Job 19:26). (1)

The Greek word for resurrection is “anatasis” which means “a raising up” or “rising.” There are resuscitations in the Tanakh such as the example of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). While these figures may have been raised in a resurrection sense, they were not raised immortal in the same way Jesus was. There are also extra-biblical passages that speak about the resurrection (Enoch 92:2; 4 Ezra 7:32; Enoch 91:10; 2 Maccabees 7:9; 14; 28-29). Even the The Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions resurrection: “He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (2)

In the Rabbinical literature there are explicit teachings on the resurrection. It says in the Mishnah 10.1, it says, “All Israelites have a share in the world to come; … and these are they that have no share in the world to come: he that says that there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Law.” Moses Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi and a medieval Jewish philosopher who has forever influenced the Jewish and non-Jewish world said:

The resurrection of the dead is one of the cardinal principles established by Moses our teacher. A person who does not believe this principle has no real religion, certainly not Judaism. However, resurrection is for the righteous. This is the earning of the statement in Breshit Rabbah, which declares: “the creative power of rain is both for the righteous and the wicked, but the resurrection of the dead is only for the righteous.” “Our sages taught the wicked are called dead even when they are still alive; the righteous are alive even when they are dead (Bab. Talmud Brakhot 18 b). 3 points are made: 1. Resurrection is a cardinal principle taught in the Torah which all Jews must believe 2. It is for the righteous alone 3. All men must die and their bodies decompose. (3)

As we approach the New Testament, Joachim Jeremias comments:

Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event in history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to doxa [glory] as an event in history.(4)

N.T Wright says:

In Greek thought, the living could establish contact with the dead through various forms of necromancy; they might even receive ghostly visitations. But neither experience amounts to what the pagan writers themselves referee to as “resurrection,” or the return to life, which they all denied. Thus, Christianity was born into a world where one of its central tenants, resurrection, was universally recognized as false. (5)

The main reasons that were behind the Greek’s general denial of the resurrection were:(1) the low value they placed on the human body, and (2) their firm belief in man’s inherent immortality, i.e., that his soul was naturally imperishable. We one day lose the “bad body,” but we retain the inherently imperishable soul.

Biblical view of body:The body is good because God made it. When Adam led the human race into sin, this sin affected his body, just as it affected every aspect of his being (Genesis 3:16-19). Man’s body succumbs to illness and death because of sin, but this is not what God originally intended.

Other Issues of Defining Resurrection

1. Resurrection is completely different from reincarnation which is a many-times event. Reincarnation is also categorized as a rebirth of a soul into a new and different but still physical and mortal body. Resurrection is a one-time event where the believer receives not a second body but a transformed body. In resurrection, there is continuity between our present bodies and the transformed body to come.

2. There are three resuscitations in the Gospels: Lk. 8:49-56; Jn. 11:38-44; Lk. 7:11-15. Lazarus was resuscitated. He went on to live on in his old mode of but still had to face a second death. Lazarus and these other resuscitations are similar to the raising of the dead as already mentioned in the examples of Elijah and Elisha raising a person from death (1 Kings 17-23; 2 Kings 4:34-35). Jesus was not only but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore,it is important to remember that Jesus is not the only one in human history that has been raised immortal.

3. Resurrection is not translation. Within the Tanakh, people such as Elijah and Enoch did not die but were simply translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Gen. 5:24). Also, within the extra-canonical Jewish writing called Testament of Job 40, an account of translation was given as a category to describe recently deceased people as well as to the living.(6) Translation is defined as the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven while resurrection is defined as raising up of a dead man in the space-time universe.(7)

4. Resurrection is not the same as the so- called dying and rising fertility gods in the ancient world. The myths of dying and rising gods in pagan religions are merely seasonal symbols for the processes of nature and have no relation to historical individuals. (8)

5. Resurrection involves transformation, since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Accordingly, Paul indicates that believers will be “raised immortal” (1 Cor. 15:52), which suggests the transformation or change that results in immortality is coincident with resurrection- and, in fact, is part of the resurrection event itself.

6. Another aspect of resurrection is the issue of exaltation. The raising up of believers is from the dead (resuscitation), in newness of life (transformation) into the presence of Messiah (exaltation). We as believers now live in a resurrection state. For after noting that God “made us alive together with” Messiah (this is a past event), Eph. 2:5 says: “by grace you are now in a state of salvation” (indicating a present resurrection state).(9)

8. What are the differences between our resurrection and the Messiah’s resurrection? Jesus was raised on the “third day” whereas we will be raised on the last day. And only of Jesus was he installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph.1:20-21; Phi.2:9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31). (10)

9. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. In the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.

Sources:

1. Adapted from Harris, M.J. From Grave to Glory: Resurrection In The New Testament. Grand Rapids: MI: Academie Books. 1990, 66-67.

2. See Yamauchi, E.M. Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History? Available at http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/yama.html.

3. Gillman, N. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought. Woodstock, VT. Jewish Lights Publishing, 1997.

4. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith.Third Edition. Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books, 1984.

5. P. Andrew Sandlin. New Flesh, New Earth: The Life Changing Power of the Resurrection. Lincoln, CA: Oakdown Books, 2003.

6. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith, 394.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Longenecker, R.N. Life After Death: The Resurrection Message in the New Testament. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1988.

10. Ibid.

Uncategorized

Do College Students Care About Truth?

Over the last several years I have done outreach on a major college campus (The Ohio State University which has close to 60,000 students). I have had hundreds of spiritual conversations with students and direct an apologetics ministry called Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance. It is no secret that many apologists have written books on the Truth question. In other words, the statement “we are living in postmodern times” has almost become cliche in today’s society. Hence, because of the impact of post-modernism, many seem to assume that college students are not interested in objective truth. So the supposed fallout is that people are not asking whether Christianity is true. Given my experience on the campus, I will respond to this issue. So the good news is that I am  speaking from personal experience.

I will go ahead and give some definitions of truth here. These are taken from Dr. Norman Geisler’s Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.

Here we see Dr. Geisler comment on what truth is not and then give an argument for the correspondence theory of truth.

Geisler says:

 Truth is not “what works.” One popular theory is the pragmatic view of William James and his followers that truth is what works. According to James, “Truth is the expedient in the way of knowing. A statement is known to be true if it brings the right results. It is the expedient as confirmed by future experience.” That this is inadequate is evident from its confusion of cause and effect. If something is true it will work, at least in the long run. But simply because something works does not make it true. This is not how truth is understood in court. Judges tend to regard the expedient as perjury. Finally, the results do not settle the truth question. Even when results are in, one can still ask whether the initial statement corresponded to the facts. If it did not, it was not true, regardless of the results.

 What Truth Is: Correspondence with Reality Now that the inadequate views of the nature of truth have been examined, it remains to state an adequate view. Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” This correspondence applies to abstract realities as well as actual ones. There are mathematical truths. There are also truths about ideas. In each case there is a reality, and truth accurately expresses it. Falsehood, then is what does not correspond. It tells it like it is not, misrepresenting the way things are.

Also, as J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig say:

“In relation to truth, both the Old and New Testament terms for truth are emet and alethia. In relation to truth, these words are associated with fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. (7) According to a Biblical conception of truth, a proposition is true only if it accords with factual reality. There are numerous passages that explicitly contrast true propositions with falsehoods. The Old Testament warns against false prophets whose words do not correspond to reality. For example Deuteronomy 18:22: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”, and the ninth commandment warns against bearing false testimony.”-Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003, 131-132.

So after reading these tests for truth, what do I see out there?

The most popular view today seems to be a pragmatic view of truth. I see it everywhere! Many people tell me that all that matters is the benefit of a religious belief. In other words, if it makes a difference and helps someone is the test of truth. So what does this mean for us? Realistically speaking, I suppose Mormons can testify as to why Mormonism helps them have strong families. Black Muslims can testify in prison that Islam has helped them be more responsible. I could go on with more examples.

Hence, many people  are not asking whether it is objectively true. Comments like “I don’t see what difference Jesus would make in my life” and “I don’t think it is relevant whether God exists or Jesus is the Son of God” are somewhat common.

This shouldn’t be surprising given our entire culture is built on pragmatism. After all, people go to college to get a job that will work for them to make a good living. Furthermore, the Church has been embracing pragmatism for a long time. John MacArthur wrote an article called Church Pragmatism a long time ago. Not much has changed.

So what about atheists?

The one bright spot is that since popular atheists started writing their books and we saw a more aggressive approach towards atheism on the campus, I so see some interest in the truth question. In other words, atheism has caused some people to ask whether a belief is objectively true and corresponds to reality. Ravi Zacharias once said,

“There is just enough of the modern worldview left so that reason still has a point of entry. But we have to use this knowledge wisely. We cannot give an overdose of argumentation.”- “An Ancient Message, Through Modern Means To the Postmodern Mind” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, 2002, p. 27

What is my solution?

So you may say well it is nice that we have some success with our apologetic speakers. But what about all those people that just don’t care or don’t respond to apologetic arguments?

My response is the same as it has always been. I share the Gospel, answer objections and if I see people are lapsing into a pragmatic or subjective view of truth, I simply say “So the first question is whether the Christian story is actually true.” In other words, I just bring the person back around to the issue of objective truth. Believe it or not, many people say tell me that once they think about what I am saying it is clear that it does matter if Christianity is objectively true. How they feel about whether God exists or the resurrection of Jesus won’t change the fact as to whether it is objectively true and corresponds to reality. So I think it is incumbent upon me to explain what objective truth is and how the person can’t avoid it!

Why not stick with pragmatism?

So why not ask the question as to whether religious beliefs can be tried and tested out in the reality of life? This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues, and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false.

So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. If I was to stick with the pragmatic view of truth, sadly, when it seems Christianity doesn’t work, people tend to leave the faith and pick another spirituality. Trust me, it happens all the time. So in conclusion, I think that apologists are responsible for taking people back to the correspondence theory of truth. It is this test for truth that we live our lives by on a daily basis.

Uncategorized

Dr. Frank Turek: author, of I Don’t Have Enough To Be An Atheist: How to do Apologetics Effectively in Today’s Culture

This was a clip from our weekly apologetics meeting. We interviewed Dr. Frank Turek, author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist and Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need to Make Their Case. We discuss some of the effective ways we can do apologetics in today’s culture. Dr. Turek is president of Cross Examined.Org. There are plenty of resources on his website.

Uncategorized

Book Review: Biblical Theology According to the Apostles: How the Earliest Christians Told the Story of Israel (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

Biblical Theology According to the Apostles: How the Earliest Christians Told the Story of Israel (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by Chris Bruno, Jared Compton and Kevin McFadden. IVP Academic, 2020, 248 pp.

One of the challenges within Biblical theology has always been to display how the Testaments relate to one another. In Biblical Theology According to the Apostles: How the Earliest Christians Told the Story of Israel, the authors tackle this issue. They rightly stress the importance of Israel within the New Testament story. They discuss what is called an (SIS), which is an abbreviation for “Summaries of Israel’ Story.” The seven summaries are (1) The Genealogy of Matthew (Matt. 1: 1-17); (2) Jesus parables of the tenants (Matt. 21: 33-46; etc); (3) Stephen’s speech (Acts 7); (4) Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16-41); (5) Paul’s argument for salvation history in Galatians; (6) his defense of God’s faithfulness to Israel in Rom 9-11; and (7) the author of Hebrews exhortation to his readers about having persevering faith (Heb. 11).

Anyone that has been reading N.T Wright’s work and tend to repeat his arguments (whether deliberately or not), know Wright has stressed the role of Israel in New Testament studies. And within New Testament, scholars are careful to avoid the “replacement theology’ or the “supersessionism” label. Many scholars have are focusing on the promise- fulfillment theme and simply see Jesus as the “fulfillment” of what Israel was. He is Israel’s ideal representative and he fulfills all of Israel’s social and religious markers such as the temple, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the law, etc. The question has always been whether when God uses the particular (a particular person or people/Israel) to bring blessing to the universal (the world), the particular is done away with and has no more significance. The chapters in this book do see Jesus as the fulfillment of those markers just mentioned. But the authors see the New Testament books mentioned as faithful retelling stories of Israel with Jesus as the climax of Israel’s story. The authors do agree that while there has been much debate over the phrase “all Israel will be saved” (see Rom. 11 for full context), Paul’s statements in Romans 9-11 show God not rejecting ethnic Israel. I agree with them on this issue.

I think the chapter on Hebrews was a reminder to me to see the need to persevere in my own faith. One thing the authors did mention was the passage, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”-Matthew 21:43. Some have said that this teaches God divorced and judged unfaithful Israel (who had murdered the Messiah) and married a faithful bride: His Church. The authors think this text has to be seen in light of the rest of the book of Matthew. I tend to agree. However, a more careful reading shows that the “you” of Matt 21:43 is identified in Matt 21:45 not as Israel or the Jewish people but as ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees,”—the temple authorities who confronted Jesus in Matt 21:23-27. The “people” referred to in Matt 21:43 is not the church in contrast to the Jewish people, but the new leadership group that will replace the old.

Furthermore, Craig Keener notes that “nation” here probably recalls Ex 19:6 and strict Jewish groups that characterized themselves as “righteous remnants” within Israel (e.g.,Qumran) could also view themselves as heirs of the biblical covenant community. In this period “ethnos” applies to guilds, associations, social classes or other groups of even orders of priests: urban Greeks used the term for rural Greeks, the LXX for Gentiles, and Greeks for non Greeks. Matthew implies not rejection of Israel but of dependence on any specific group membership, be it synagogue or church (The Gospel of Matthew: A Social Rhetorical Commentary), pgs,515, 516.

While I appreciated the exegetical work in this book, overall, I do not see it as breaking a lot of new ground. However, any theological work that pays attention to Israel is a healthy way to approach the Scriptures. This is one component that  will always lead to healthy discipleship.

Uncategorized