Resources on Paul: The Cultural World of Paul and What We Should Know About Paul

Here are some of the things that I think all Christians should know about Paul

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.  Both Christian and non-Christian scholars have come to have great respect Paul. Allow me to mention a few comments here:

“Without knowing about first century Judaism, modern readers—even those committed to faith by reading him—are bound to misconstrue Paul’s writing…Paul is a trained Pharisee who became the apostle to the Gentiles.” –Alan Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), xi-xii

“Paul has left us an extremely precious document for Jewish students, the spiritual autobiography of a first-century Jew…Moreover, if we take Paul at his word—and I see no a priori reason not to—he was a member of the Pharisaic wing of first century Judaism.”–Daniel Boyarian, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 2.

“Paul was a scholar, an attendant of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, well-versed in the laws of Torah.”-Rabbi Jacob Emeden (1679-1776)–cited by Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003), 18.

Allow me to list some of the basics every Christian should know about Paul:

1. Paul was educated

In this case, I have adapted much of this material from A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians (The Jewish Roots of the New Testament) by Joseph Shulam and Hilary Le Cornu. I have taken most of these points from their section called Paul: A Biography, pgs, 435-469.

1. Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3), the grandson of Hillel.

2. Hillel the Elder was nicknamed “the Babylonian” because he was descended from a family of Babylon.

3. Beit Hillel ended up having three successors, Rabban Gamaliel, the Elder being the first Sage esteemed with the honorific title of Rabban—“our master.”

4. The house of Hillel was unique in that it was an example of a family of who originated from the diaspora, with no priestly connections, which attained the position of hereditary leaders of the nation until, in the time of Rabbi Judah ha Nasi (170-200 C.E.), its members were officially recognized as by the Roman government as Patriarchs.

5. Beit Hillel ended up having three successors, Rabban Gamaliel, the Elder being the first Sage esteemed with the honorific title of Rabban—“our master.” The New Testament evidence demonstrates that Paul belonged to Beit Hillel rather than Beit Shammai. This is supported by Paul’s halakhot (with the possible exception of his view of the legal status of women), his tolerance and openness of Gentiles, some of his no literal interpretations, and his anthropocentric rather than theocentric emphases.

5. The Talmudic sources distinguish between the beit sefer (i.e., the house of the book”) wherein the (sofer) taught the reading of the written Torah- and the beit talmud (i.e., the house of learning). Children would learn the alphabet and how to read in the former, the teacher would write the letters on a wax tablet with a stylus and the pupils would recite them aloud. Reading skills were attained through repetition after the teacher and auditive memory since the scriptural text was not yet vocalized, students were dependent on the teacher’s precision in orally transmitting the precise reading for every passage.

6. Young children were taught how to read and understand the Torah and Prophets, to recite the Shema and the basic blessings over the food, and received instruction regarding their future roles in family and command of life. Following years of Bible study, students moved on to the study of the Oral Torah. School studies would finish at the age of twelve or thirteen (bar mitzvah age) and of the boy was gifted and so inclined he would then enroll at a “beit midrash” to study Torah with other adults who devoted themselves to Torah study in their spare time.

7.  If he showed further ability and willingness he could go to one of the famous Sages and learn from him for a number of years. Gamaliel would of served as one of the foremost teachers of the “beit midrash” (e.g., a college or “seminary”) conducted by pharisaic leaders within the Sanhedrin. Therefore, given that Gamaliel was such a distinguished teacher, it may be possible that Paul began to study with him only after he had displayed great promise and reached an age whereby he could profit from learning under a great master like Gamaliel.

8. In the relationship between the students and teacher, a deep bond could be established which led to great love and respect. The subject matter of study revolved around three main areas: Bible, midrash (creative biblical interpretation), aggadah (narrative elaboration of the biblical text). Since Paul’s letters demonstrate a strong familiarity with biblical text among other ways, since he quotes from the Tanakh over ninety times in his letters, the standard hermeneutical rules are displayed both halakhically and aggadically.

9. Paul spoke mishnaic Hebrew/Aramaic as well as Greek (cf. Acts 21:37), in addition to possessing a reading knowledge of biblical Hebrew. Paul also demonstrated he was familiar with Greek poets (e.g., Epimendies, Aratus, Euripides, Memander).  Therefore, 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.

 2. Paul as an active persecutor

The language Paul uses in his pre-revelatory encounter with the risen Lord shows 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 and end to the spread of the early faith.  We see here:

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) 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. (Acts 8: 1-3).

Furthermore, Luke summarizes Paul’s persecution of the early Messianic community.

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:10-11).

3. Paul’s Antagonism Towards the Early Messianic Movement 

Paul doesn’t give a list of reasons as to why he persecuted the early Messianic community. It may be that Paul perceived faith in Jesus as a threat to Torah obedience. His zeal for the Torah is evident in his Letters (Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim 1:13). Any tampering with the Torah was off limits cause it defined the identity of the Jewish people.  Or, perhaps Paul wanted to help keep the peace. Hence, he feared a Roman reprisal of a Jewish sect proclaiming Jesus as Messiah.  Another possibility is that given that Deut. 21:22f. puts “the one who is hanged under a divine curse” and  Paul’s language about the offensiveness of a crucified Messiah (1 Cor. 1:23), Paul  knew the seriousness of his fellow countrymen proclaiming a crucified blasphemer like Jesus. In the end, we can’t be dogmatic as to why Paul was the persecutor that he was. Paul doesn’t list his reasons for why he persecuted the early followers of Jesus.

 4. Paul’s Encounter with the Risen Messiah

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 he went to Jerusalem to visit; this is where he saw Peter and James.  Paul’s account of his calling in Galatians 1:15-16 is similar to what Jeremiah’s says about his own calling:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Gal 1:15-17)

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,  before you were born I set you apart;  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jer.1: 4-5)

Regarding what happened to Paul, he more likely received a “call” rather than a conversion to a new religion. 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.”  He saw his calling as being in line with the same divine mission that was given to the prophets of the Old Testament.

 5. Paul’s Letters: Primary and Secondary Sources

Remember, written and oral sources are divided into two kinds: primary and secondary. A primary source is the testimony of an eyewitness.  A secondary source is the testimony source is the testimony of anyone who is not an eyewitness-that is, of one who was not present at the events of which he tells.  A primary source must thus have been produced by a contemporary of the events it narrates.  Since Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, he can be considered as a primary source. He also claimed to have a personal encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:5-9).

6. Paul’s use of oral tradition terminology

Paul  employs oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching within his letters in the following places:

Romans 16: 17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

1 Corinthians 11:23: For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.

Philippians 4:9: The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

1 Thessalonians 2:13: For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

2 Thessalonians 2:15: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

7. Why do Paul’s Letters Matter?

Paul’s letters are dated between AD 40 and 60. These are the earliest records we have for the life of Jesus.  Therefore, to jump to the Gospels as the earliest records to the life of Jesus is a tactical mistake.

Note: To see some of the common objections to Paul, see our post “But Paul Never Met Jesus”And Other Bad Arguments About Paul On The Internet

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The Resurrection of Jesus and Historical Knowledge

Here is a chart on apologetic issues and the resurrection of Jesus. As you can see in many of the objections here, many of them deal with historical methodology.  I expand on several of these issues in my book  “The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah.”  It is available on Amazon. 

Remember, proof, evidence, and knowledge are important terms that need defining. First, ‘proof’ is specifically a logical term, but people often use it as a synonym for evidence. A logical proof is a series of assertions listed as premises which provide a conclusion, whether deductive (certain) or inductive (probable). Second, evidence’ is related to induction in that it gives us knowledge of things that are probable. There are two types of evidence that are important for our discussion: direct and circumstantial. In a court of law, both are considered viable in establishing a case for a particular claim. If you have proof something is real, this means you are satisfied with what the evidence tells you. This brings us to our third term, ‘knowledge’. The theory of knowledge, epistemology, is part of a discussion in philosophy which reaches back thousands of years, and we have no space for delineating its meticulous varieties here.

How many times have we committed to things with neither exhaustive knowledge nor absolute certainty? When people take a job, pick a spouse, move to a city, or vote for a specific candidate, they all have limits to their knowledge. Despite this, they say, “I know this is the right job for me” or, “I know this is the right spouse for me.” Philosopher Paul Copan has wisdom here: “We can have highly plausible or probable knowledge, even if it’s not 100% certain. We can know confidently and truly, even if not absolutely or exhaustively.[1]

Almost all historical inquiries, as well as cold case investigations are built on indirect or what is called “circumstantial evidence.” In a court of law, both are considered viable and good. Furthermore, a large majority of science, history, and cold case investigations involve making inferences. Historians collect the data and draw conclusions that provide the best explanation that covers all the data in what is called “Inference to the most reasonable explanation” which never leads to absolute certainty or exhaustive knowledge. The process of finding the best explanation involves applying standards such as explanatory power and scope to the different theories on offer. Explanatory power is how well an explanation explains; explanatory scope is how much an explanation explains. [2] While some skeptics will say they don’t absolute certainty for the resurrection of Jesus, many people choose to stay in a stubborn agnosticism simply because they claim they haven’t found the level of certainty that they need.

History has a variety of definitions. The word “history” (derived from the Greek historia, historeō) originally referred to “learned” or “skilled” inquiry or visitation with the purpose of coming to know someone. In many cases “history” is used to distinguish reality from myth or legend, that is, whether something really happened.  History is seen as the study of the past. Historians are not primarily interested in “what happens” or in establishing rules that govern the present and the future One thing for sure: historians are concerned with causality—the examination of cause and effect. Thus, they ask cause and effect questions. Let’s expand on this issue and look at cause and effect questions that relate to how the first century Jesus movement started and expanded from a Jewish sect to a large Gentile based religious movement.

1. Effect #1: A new Jewish sect starts in first-century Jerusalem that proclaims that their leader, Jesus who had been crucified had now risen from the dead.

2. Effect #2: Paul, once an active persecutor, comes to faith in Jesus. He says Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9).

3. Effect #3: A group of Jews, who are staunch monotheists begin to worship and call a man “Lord.” The only person they had been allowed to pray to and worship is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

4. Effect #4: The early followers of Jesus are seen actively preaching Jesus as Lord in the public square.

Sources: 

[1] P. Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 25.

[2] D. Baggett, and M. Baggett, The Morals of the Story: Good News About A Good God, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic. 2018), 51.

 

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Why Was Jesus Accused of Blasphemy?

Over the years I have heard many skeptics say Jesus was just another messianic figure who got himself crucified. The old saying, “Jesus is just one of several messiah’s in the first century” is not only patently false but also a gross oversimplification. Just because someone leads a messianic revolt does not qualify them as “the Messiah” (notice the capital “M”). Here are some of the 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)

Another issue that can tend to be overlooked is that we can minimize the issue of blasphemy in a Jewish setting. by the way, none of the above figures were accused of blasphemy. According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal, nor capital offense. Therefore, the claim to be the Messiah was not even a blasphemous claim. (1)

If this is true, why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? According to Mark 14:62, Jesus affirmed the chief priests question that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 to himself.

Also, 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 (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2: 1-12). Forgiving sins was something that was designated for God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9) and it was something that was done only in the Temple along with the proper sacrifice. So it can be seen that Jesus acts as if He is the Temple in person. In Mark 14:58, it says, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ The Jewish leadership knew that God was the one who was responsible for building the temple (Ex. 15:17; 1 En. 90:28-29).(2)

Also, God is the only one that is permitted to announce and threaten the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7:12-13; 26:4-6, 9;1 En.90:28-29). (3) It is also evident that one reasons Jesus was accused of blasphemy was because He usurped God’s authority by making himself to actually be God (Jn. 10:33, 36). Not only was this considered by the Jews to be blasphemous, it was worthy of the death penalty (Matt. 26:63-66; Mk. 14:61-65; Lk. 22:66-71; Jn. 10:31-39; 19:7)

As the late Martin Hengal said:

“Jesus’ claim to authority goes far beyond anything that can be adduced as prophetic prototypes or parallels from the field of the Old Testament and from the New Testament period. [Jesus] remains in the last resort incommensurable, and so basically confounds every attempt to fit him into categories suggested by the phenomenology of sociology of religion.” (4)

Remember that there was a Jewish leader named Bar Kohba who made an open proclamation to be the real Messiah who would take over Rome and enable the Jewish people to regain their self-rule (A.D. 132-135). Even a prominent rabbi called Rabbi Akiba affirmed him as the Messiah. Unfortunately, the revolt led by Bar Kohba failed and as a result and both he and Rabbi Akiba were slain. And remember, Bar Kohba was not accused of blasphemy. He never claimed to have the authority to forgive sins or claim to be the Son of Man (as referring to Daniel 7).

What is interesting is that in relation to the Daniel 7 text is that there is an established tenet in Talmudic times is that there is a splitting of the Messiah in two: Messiah ben Yossef who is also referred to as Mashiach ben Ephrayim, the descendant of Ephrayim will serve as a precursor to Messiah ben David. His role is political in nature since he will wage war against the forces that oppose Israel. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef is supposed to prepare Israel for its final redemption. 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.(4)

What is also 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.(5)

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).

Sources:

1. See Darrell L. Bock. Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge Against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.
2. William Lane Craig. Reasonable Faith: Third Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008, 307.
3. Martin Hengel, The Charismatic Leader and His Followers. New York: Crossroad, 1981. 68-69; Cited in Edwards, 96.
4. Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.
5. Ibid.

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What Do Christians Mean When They Say Jesus is “The Son of God?”

It couldn’t be more evident that many Christians assume Jesus is the Son of God. But in many cases, Christians aren’t sure about the biblical background of  the title “Son of God.” What Christians tend to forget is that when Jewish people thought of the Davidic King as the Son of God, it had very little to do with thinking the King was the second person of the Trinity. Even though divine sonship appears in the Hebrew Bible with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is the king. When the divine sonship is used in the context of the relationship between Israel and the king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7;89:26-27), the sonship theme emphasizes that the king is elected to a specific task. Furthermore, there is also a special intimacy between God and the king. The existence of Israel is directly related to God’s covenant with Israel and Israel’s relationship to God as the King. The Davidic covenant established David as the king over all of Israel. Under David’s rule, there was the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. David also captured Jerusalem and established his capital there (2 Sam. 1-6).

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). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.[1]

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and  is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also  will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. Furthermore, David’s throne continues his dynasty from one generation to the next for perpetuity (vv.28-29). In Psalm 110, the Davidic King is invited to sit at the royal throne at God’s “right hand” (vs.1) and his called “lord” (vs.1) and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek.[2] As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet  Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12).  The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically  as “The Messiah.” Ezekiel also 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). There are other texts that speak of the Davidic King as the “Branch” who will reign and rebuild the temple and be a king-priest on His throne (Zech. 3:8; 6:12–15; Jer. 33:1–8, 21–22).

One of the most valuable resources that speak to the Messianic expectation of the time of Jesus is found in The Psalms of Solomon. The Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms that are part of the Pseudepigrapha which is written 200 BC to 200 A.D. Even though these works are not part of the Protestant Canon, they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Therefore, they help provide the historian with valuable information about the messianic expectations at the time of Jesus. In it, there are two passages about a righteous, ruling Messiah:

Taught by God, the Messiah will be a righteous king over the gentile nations. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war. The Lord himself is his king, the hope of the one who has a strong hope in G-d. He shall be compassionate to all the nations, who reverently stand before him. He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever; he will bless the Lord’s people with wisdom and happiness. And he himself will be free from sin, in order to rule a great people. He will expose officials and drive out sinners by the strength of his word.” (Psalms of Solomon 17.32-36)

John Collins, who is a specialist on this topic says the following about the Davidic Messiah:

This concept of the Davidic Messiah as the warrior king who would destroy the enemies of Israel and institute an era of unending peace constitutes the common core of Jewish messianism around the turn of the era. There was a dominant notion of a Davidic Messiah, as the king who would restore the kingdom of Israel, which was part of the common Judaism around the turn of the era.[3]

Even though Luke calls Jesus the “Son of the Most High,” a similar theme was written about in the Qumran literature which predates the New Testament:

He will be called the Son of God, and they will call him the son of the Most High…His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom…The earth will be in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease in the earth, and all the cities will pay him homage. He is a great god among the gods… His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom (4QAramaic Apocalypse (4Q246), col. II:

Collins says the following about 4Q246:

The notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine had its roots in  Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context. This is not to deny the great difference between a text like 4Q246 and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ. But the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect, even though Christian belief eventually diverged quite radically from its Jewish sources.[4]

Collins goes on to concede that even if the dominant Messianic expectation was mostly centered around a Davidic warrior, there is hardly any evidence in the Gospels that accords with the Jewish expectation of a militant messiah. [5]

Typology and the Davidic King

How do Christians make the leap to Jesus being not only the Davidic King, but divine as well? There are several ways to answer this. But one way to answer this question is to discuss what is called typology. Some of the features of typology are the following:

  1. The prophets did not so much make singular predictions but gave themes or patterns and that these themes have several manifestations or fulfillments in the course of human history.
  2. The type and the antitype have a natural correspondence or resemblance. The initial one is called the type (e.g., person, thing, event) and the fulfillment is designated the antitype.
  3. The type has historical reality.
  4. The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive/prophetic; it looks ahead and points to the antitype. [6]

Keeping these principles in mind, 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.”

In this text, 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’ essence. As N.T. Wright says, “The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as the Davidic king—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).”

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.”  [7]

Also, In Psalm 2:11 and Psalm 100:2, the rulers and the people are supposed to worship and serve the Lord, while in Psalm 18:44 and Psalm 72:11 it says it is the Davidic king whom they must worship and serve.  This theme makes perfect sense in the New Testament passage, John 5:22-23, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”

Sources:

[1] Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, And Coming of Israel’s King ( Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012),  80.

[2] Ibid, 97.

[3] John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2007), 68, 209.

[4]Ibid, pp. 168-169.

[5] Ibid, pp.13, 204.

[6] H.Wayne House and Randall Price, Charts of Bible Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 35.

[7] Harris, M. Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1983, 74-75.

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The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World




How do you keep your sanity in a world that is dominated by texts, memes, tweets, etc. I have found Brett McCracken’s book The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World to have some great insights. He says the following:

” The information bombardment we increasingly face—characterized by nonstop swiping, scrolling, viewing, listening, reading, texting, and multitasking from morning to night—is creating stress in our brains and contributing to rising levels of anxiety. Our brains are shockingly adaptable and resilient, but they have limits. Today’s frenetic information landscape is making our brains busier than ever: the information triage that our over-burdened brains must constantly perform naturally drains huge amounts of energy. Constant multitasking also drains energy. This sort of extreme multitasking, notes neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, overstimulates and stresses our brains:

” Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. And the kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain. This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance. Among other things, repeated task switching leads to anxiety, which raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which in turn can lead to aggressive and impulsive behaviour.”- “Why the modern world is bad for your brain”- available at https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/18/modern-world-bad-for-brain-daniel-j-levitin-organized-mind-information-overload

McCracken goes on to say the following:

“In addition to these numbing and desensitizing effects, the constant hum of our information feeds fragments our lives. Instead of being present with our families, we are present with the hordes demanding our attention on email, text, Voxer, WhatsApp, Messenger, and umpteen other communication platforms. Instead of being present in the places where we live, we are present in the crises across the world and the trending debates on placeless Twitter. Our feeds bring the world and all its chaos into our minds, splitting our attention in a hundred different ways.”

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Interview with Dave Sterrett: Jesus Conversations: Effective Everyday Engagement

In this clip, we interview Dave Sterrett. Dave is the author of several books such as We Chose Life: Authentic Stories. Moment of Hope, and co-author of The Coffee House Chronicles Set with Josh McDowell. We discuss his most current book called Jesus Conversations: Effective Everyday Engagement. Dave has an MA from the University of Dallas in Philosophy and an MA in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary.

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Answering the Objection “If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, where’s the peace?”

In a previous post, I discussed some of the common objections anti-missionaries and groups like Jews for Judaism make to the claims about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah of Israel and the nations. 

One objection that always comes up is that if Jesus is really the Messiah, how come there’s no peace in the world?  So one of the traditional objections is that Jesus is not the Messiah since he did not fulfill the job description. One of the Jewish expectations is that 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.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). Thus, if the Messiah has come,  it seems that there is supposed to be societal and political transformation.  Isa. 2:2–4 speaks of international harmony under the ruling Messiah will occur. While messianic salvation has been inaugurated in this present age, societal transformation of the nations has not happened yet. Passages like Isaiah 2, Micah 4:1-3  Isaiah 19:24–25, and Zechariah 14 predict nations will worship God.

So we  are supposed to see the challenge: anti-missionaries can string together some texts in the Jewish Scriptures and then say “Case closed, Jesus is not the Messiah.” If you read the texts just mentioned, some of them don’t even mention a personal Messiah at all.  Also, as I have said before, Israel’s faithfulness and the role of the Messiah go together. Thus, if Israel doesn’t fulfill their side of the covenant, there is a delay in blessings. 

One text anti-missionaries  try to use is Isaiah 11: 6-9:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.  They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the land will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9).”

Now, it is obvious this text speaks of some sort of utopia conditions on earth. As Richard Bauckham says here in his online article: 

“Occasionally this passage has been read as an allegory of peace between nations, while inattentive modern readers sometimes see it as a picture simply of peace between animals. In fact, it depicts peace between the human world, with its domestic animals (lamb, kid, calf, bullock, cow), and those wild animals (wolf, leopard, lion, bear, poisonous snakes) that were normally perceived as threats both to human livelihood and to human life. For the Israelite farmer, the unacceptable face of wild nature was these dangerous animals. What is depicted in the prophecy is the reconciliation of the human world with wild nature. Significantly, humans and domestic animals are all represented by their young, the most vulnerable. Each of the pairs of animals in verses 6-7 is carefully chosen, so that each predator is paired with a typical example of that predator’s prey. Especially from verse 7, it is clear that this peaceful condition is possible because the carnivorous animals have become, like the domestic animals, vegetarian. No doubt, this also includes humans. The pairing of the snakes and the children (v 8) differs from the other pairs in that the child is not the prey of the snake, but its poison is nonetheless dangerous to a child who ignorantly interferes with its hiding-place. This is a utopian (or, we might say, ecotopian) picture of the future kingdom of the Messiah that harks back to the primeval utopia that Genesis depicts as the beginning of human history.

Originally, all the creatures of the earth were vegetarian (Gen 1:29- Bauckham Page 3 30), and violence both among humans and between humans and animals came with the degeneration of life on earth that provoked the Flood (Gen 6:11-13). Isaiah’s description of the peaceable kingdom probably also alludes to the human responsibility for other living creatures that God gave humans at creation (Gen 1:26, 28). The first depiction of animals at peace (Isa 11:6) concludes: ‘a little child shall lead them.’ This is a reference to shepherding practice, in which the domestic animals willingly follow the shepherd who leads them to pasture. Even a small child can lead a flock of sheep or herd of goats, because no force or violence is required. In the ecotopia of Isaiah the little child will be able to lead also the wolf, the leopard and the lion. It is a picture of gentle and beneficial service to wild animals, which the animals now willingly receive. It is how we might imagine Adam and Eve related to the animals in the garden of Eden. This is not to say that the messianic kingdom is merely a return to the garden of Eden. It is more than that, but the original innocence of humans and animals does provide a model for the way this prophet envisages the future.”

Anti-missionaries like to say that  in worshiping a deified Messiah/God man, Christians and Messianic Jews are committing idolatry. But the question  is what kind of ordinary, anointed, Davidic King  can usher in such a peaceable kingdom on earth and restore the earth back to Eden? The other problem is that perhaps there is societal peace unless there is peace between people. And the only way there can be peace between people is if mankind’s heart is changed. Thus, there needs to be atonement. I talk more about that here.

To see more about this objection, see Michael L Brown,  General and Historical Objections 

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A Look at Common Objections to the Pro Life Argument

In this clip, Carla Brown, who is a volunteer with Ratio Christi Student Apologetics Alliance here in Columbus Ohio, gives a presentation on the pro-life position as well as answering some of the most common objections. This clip was done for our weekly apologetic zoom meetings. She has a certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. We are at a point in our nation where laypeople can no longer not be equipped in this area.


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Book Review: 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (40 Questions Series) by Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker

40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (40 Questions Series) by Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker, 535 pp. Kregal Publications, 2014.

Anyone that has been involved in the apologetic endeavor knows that one of the most contentious issues is the relationship between various creation models and evolution.  The debate carries on and shows no sign of slowing down. Even though this book was written back in 2014, it is a terrific resource. The authors admit that one adheres to Young Earth creationism while the other is a proponent of Old Earth creationism.  Thus, this book is not a defense of a specific creation model. Rather, it is an overview of the various creation models and so much more. The authors also address doctrinal issues such as the importance of creation in the Bible and how it plays a role in the entire story of the Bible (Chapters 3-4). Given this book features 40 questions, the chapters can be short. However, I still think the authors present a fine overview of the topic being discussed. Also, there are plenty of footnotes for additional reading. The authors do spend time discussing the age of the earth and why we shouldn’t divide over it (Chapter 18), and the arguments for both a young and old universe (Chapters 19-20).  

For me, one of the most informative chapters was each chapter on the extent of Noah’s flood  (Chapters 30-31). After reading these chapters (which discussed the biological and geological evidence), I am convinced the old earth position has more evidential support than a young earth view. For that matter, after reading all the chapters on the entire YEC (Young Earth Creationism) and OEC (Old Earth Creationism) positions, I am inclined to think that the scientific and empirical evidence is much stronger for an OEC view than a YEC model. However, it seems the more “natural” reading of the text supports a YEC model.  That’s why the authors also include chapters on models such as the Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory,  Framework Theory, Temple Inauguration Theory, Historical Creationism Theory, and the Twenty-Four Hour Theory. Also, it seems that the YEC view can produce a tremendous amount of dogmatism and ad-hoc arguments.

One thing I really appreciate is that the authors were willing to provide the strengths and weaknesses of each model. The short chapter on whether there was a Historical Adam (Chapter 24),  is very brief. There has been plenty written on that topic since the publication of this book. 

In the chapter on “Animal Death Before the Fall” (Chapter 26), and “What Effect Did the Fall Have on Creation” (Chapter 27), the authors mention part of the ongoing challenge is how to interpret the phrase “very good” in Genesis 1:31. YEC proponents seem to take it as meaning “perfect” so there can be no possibility of any kind of animal death, or suffering before the Fall.  Of course, OEC defenders have their own responses to this. Also, the authors rightly point out that all parties (whether it be a YEC or OEC person, or an evolutionary Creationist) agree that there is something wrong with creation. Also, more Darwinist advocates would be more open to the design argument if the creation did not seem to have so many flaws (i.e., disease, well-designed parasites, and predators).

The chapters towards the end of the book feature arguments for and against evolution. The good news is that the authors do define what evolution is and feature a chapter called “How Darwinism is an Ideology” (Chapter 34). One of the most interesting chapters is called “Why are Some Evolutionists Opposed to Evolution.” In this chapter, the authors mention the work of James Shapiro (author of Evolution: A View from the 21st century), Jerry Folder and Massimo Piatelli-Palamarini, (authors of What Darwin Got Wrong), and Thomas Nagel (author of Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo- Darwinist Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False). These books are written by non-Christians. These authors have written about the shortcomings of the Neo-Darwinian paradigm that has dominated academia for so long. Since this book was written (the 40 Questions book), it is well known that in 2016, there was a Royal Society meeting in London which featured a team of evolutionary biologists. The main reason for the meeting was the belief that the Modern Synthesis (which has guided evolutionary biology for over 50 years) needs an overhaul.

Naturally, the authors also include a chapter called “Can a Christian Hold to Theistic Evolution.” At the end of this chapter, both authors agree that there are scientific, hermeneutical, and theological challenges to belief in theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism. A much more detailed response to this issue is featured in the book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique.

Obviously, since the publication of this book, many more books have been written on the topics featured in this monograph. I really don’t spend much time debating the YEC/OEC topic. I have found many find it to be a hill to die on. In our campus apologetics ministry, I usually appeal to design arguments. It seems the larger question is whether there is a Creator and whether He has revealed himself to humanity. Very few students bring the age of the earth up and various creation models. Yes, evolution does come up. But that leads to a discussion on how to define evolution.  I found this book to be an excellent overview of the many issues that surround the evolution/creation discussions. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback or any specific type of review.

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