Proofs for the Existence of God (#AMA with Dr. Edward Feser)

Here is a short interview with Christian philosopher Edward Feser at Strange Notions.

After reading his book The Last Superstition, I tend to agree that it would be helpful if pop atheists might attempt to study the last 1,900 years or so of philosophical thought and the existence of God. Feser’s latest book Five Proofs for the Existence of God is a treatment of metaphysical proofs for God’s existence. No God of the Gaps here.

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“Is Yeshua the Jewish Messiah?” Booklet Available for Purchase

 

Is Yeshua the Jewish Messiah?

There is no doubt that the major identity marker for a committed Christian is to say they follow Jesus Christ. But for the average Jewish person, the name “Jesus Christ” has no relationship to Judaism. And for the average Christian, there is little a very limited understanding as to what it means to even say Jesus is “The Christ.”  In my personal experience, many of my Christian friends are fully convinced Yeshua (the Jewish name for Jesus) is the Savior of the world. Millions of sermons as well as evangelistic appeals are given each year to people to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. But when it comes to thinking about whether Jesus is actually the promised Messiah of Israel and the nations, many Christians know every little about what it means to affirm Jesus is actually the Messiah. Michael Bird says it so well:

The statement that “Jesus is the Messiah” presupposes a certain way of reading Israel’s Scriptures and assumes a certain hermeneutical approach that finds in Jesus the unifying thread and the supreme goal of Israel’s sacred literature. A messiah can only be a messiah from Israel and for Israel. The story of the Messiah can only be understood as part of the story of Israel. Paul arguably says as much to a largely Gentile audience in Rome: “For I tell you that Christ [Messiah] has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8–9), Michael Bird , Michael F. Bird, Are You the One Who Is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2009), 163.

But if we probe deeper, the Greek word Christos, from which we get the English word “Christ” carries the same connotations as the Hebrew word — “the Anointed One” which is where the word “messiah” comes from. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed for a specific purpose such as priests (Exod. 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev. 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg. 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam. 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; 1 Chron. 11:3; 5:17; 127; 2 Sam. 19:11; 1 Kgs. 1:34, 39, 45; 5:15;19:15,16; 2 Kgs 9:3, 6,12;11:12; 23:30; 2 Chron. 22:7; 23:11; 29:22; Ps 89:21), and even prophets (1Kgs.19:16; 1 Chron.16:22; Ps.105:15).

After teaching on this topic for several years, Dr. Brant Pitre summarizes the challenge that lays before us:

“Regarding Jesus, according to the testimony of the four Gospels, who did he claim to be? Who did his first followers believe him to be? And, even more important, why did they believe in him? As soon as we ask this question, we run into a bit of a problem—a paradox of sorts. I’ve noticed this paradox over the last ten years that I’ve been teaching the Bible as a professor in the classroom. On the one hand, if I ask my students what kind of Messiah the Jewish people were waiting for in the first century AD, they all seem to be very clear about the answer. Usually, their standard response goes “At the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were waiting for an earthly, political Messiah to come and set them free from the Roman Empire.” On the other hand, if I ask students which prophecies led to this ancient Jewish hope for an earthly, political Messiah, they are often at a complete loss. The classroom quickly falls silent. They often get even quieter when I ask, “Which prophecies of the Messiah did Jesus actually fulfill?” or “What prophecies did the first Jewish Christians think he fulfilled?” Every time I pose these questions, the vast majority of the students (who are usually all Christians) can’t answer them. They often can’t name a single prophecy that Jesus fulfilled that would show that he was in fact the Messiah. Every now and then, one or two students may bring up the oracle of the virgin who bears a child (Isaiah 7) or the passage about the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52–53). However, that’s usually as far as it goes. If my experiences are any indication, many contemporary Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but they don’t necessarily know why they believe he was the Messiah, much less why his first followers thought he was the long-awaited king of Israel.”—B. Pitre, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ (New York: Crown Publishing. 2016), 102-103.

My experience is similar to Pitre’s. So how do we respond to the question as to what it means to say Jesus is the Messiah?

So to help provide a solution to this issue, I have written a short booklet called “Is Yeshua the Jewish Messiah?” It is available for purchase here. I have written this to help educate Christians about the Messiah topic. Obviously, it can be used for Jewish people as well.  My hope and prayer is that it will be used for the glory of God. Feel free to pass on this information (link for purchase). Shalom!

 

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Why Study Messianic Prophecy? Tips in Studying Messianic Prophecy

Why should we study Messianic Prophecy?

a. Messianic prophecy should be studied to show us God is sovereign in the midst of a chaotic and unstable world. Hence, God is working in the affairs of mankind.

b. Messianic prophecy reminds us that God has a redemptive plan for Israel and the nations.

c. Messianic prophecy should motivate us to holy living. It should also cause to re-evaluate our priorities. If God has brought the Messiah into the world to bring redemption, He will bring Him back to complete the messianic task.

What is the Relationship Between Messianic Prophecy and Apologetics ?

a. Apologetics is the branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of belief in Jesus; formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.

b. The Bible is considered to be God’s revelation to mankind. However, The Quran, The Book of Mormon, and other holy books are considered to be God’s word.  Messianic prophecy has apologetic value in that it confirms the Bible as a true revelation.

c. Historical Verification: Has God revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this?

d.  While prophecy does not prove the existence of God, it does show that unusual events predicted in his Name that come to pass are evidence of his special activity.

e. Fulfilled prophecy is a distinctively accessible and a testable kind of miracle. The prophecy was made and its accuracy cannot be explained either causally (for example, on the ground that it brought about its own fulfillment) or as accidental, and hence that it was probably miraculous (see J.L. Mackie in Swinburne, Miracles, 90).

f. The majority of the Jewish community thinks the Messiah has not come. Is this correct?

How do we define prophecy?

a. Prophecy is the foretelling or prediction of what is to come. People generally think of only prediction—-fulfillment. Not everything called “prophecy” in the Bible is predictive. Prophets forthtold God’s Word as well as foretold the future.

b. A prophet (Heb. nabi) is an authorized spokesperson for God with a message that originated with God and was communicated through a number of means. When God spoke to these spokespersons, they had no choice but to deliver that word to those to whom God directed it.

What does the word “Messianic” mean?

a.“Messianic” has a much wider range of meaning than “Messiah.” “Messianic” usually refers to everything in the Hebrew Bible when it refers to the hope of a glorious future.

b.“Messiah”-“Anointed One” (Heb. messiah),(Gk. Christos) is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

c. The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ),kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.”

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

e. To understand messianism, we need to first start by reading the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

f. 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.”

What are the Various Types of Messianic Prophecy?

1.There are promises about the First Coming of Jesus–Direct Prophecies Note: All these texts must be studied in context and knowing some Hebrew helps as well.

a. Torah:  (Gen 3:15; 22;18; 49:8-12; Deut 18:15-19)

b. Prophets: (Isaiah 7:1-17; 8:9-10; 9:6-7; 11:1-2; 35: 5-6; 40:3-5 42: 1-6; 49:1-13;50:4-9;52:13-53:12  Isaiah 61:1-3; Jer: 23:5-6; Micah 5:2; Zech: 11:1-17; 12;10; 13:7; Mal.3:1)

c. Writings:(1 Chron.17:10b-14; Psalm 2:7-12;16:1-11;22:1-31;110: 1-7; 118: 22; Dan. 7:13-14; 9:1-27)

2. Prophecy that has Typological Fulfillment

a. The word “fulfill”- the Greek word for fulfill is “pleroo” which can  mean “render full,” “fill up” or “complete”- it means something broader than the “completion of a  prediction.”  An example of this is seen in Matt 5:17- fulfillment is seen in embodying, bringing to completion, or perfecting.

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 (e.g., Paul declares that Adam “is a figure (a type) of him that was to come”, i.e., the Messiah).

4. The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive/prophetic; it looks ahead and points to the antitype.

One small piece of advice: Christians can abuse typology by looking for types all over the Hebrew Bible and saying they point to Jesus. So we need to expercise some caution int this area.

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).

3. Prophecy that shows Prophetic Telescoping: These Prophecies Bridge the First and Second Coming of the Messiah

Prophetic Telescoping is prophecy that bridges the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. In this way, prophecy telescopes forward to a time. The prophets saw future events as distant “peaks” (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large time gaps between them. Also, the prophets understood that history had two major periods—the present age and the age to come–although they did not always make a hard distinction between the two. Prophetic Telescoping stresses progressive revelation which means that God does not reveal everything at once.

Example: Psalm 2: Does Jesus have universal dominion over the nations? We must remember that part of Psalm 2 is not fulfilled. This is what we call “prophetic telescoping.” Psalm 2 is one of several texts in the Hebrew Bible where part of the text is fulfilled in the first appearance of Jesus. But there is another part that will be fulfilled in the future. In this sense, Jesus will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

 What role do presuppositions play in the understanding Messianic Prophecy?

a. A presupposition is something assumed or supposed in advance

b. Whether or not certain passages are clearly Messianic depend upon what the preconceived idea of the reader.  

c. Is the role of the Messiah to 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?

d. Is the role of Messiah 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)?

e. Is the role of the Messiah to be a priest and king? Is He supposed to have an atoning role?

What About  Interpretive Issues with Messianic Prophecy?

a. In many cases prophecy may only be understandable by true believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (e.g.Luke 24:45;John 12:16).

b.  Messianic prophecy is not a series of independent prognostications, but a series of promises. There is one Messianic promise, which is revealed and expanded on throughout the Hebrew Bible (see Walter Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament).

cEach passage in the Hebrew Bible must be examined in its own context and on its own terms.  So Messianic prophecy is one promise developed in a progressive series of revelations rather than several disjointed predictions.   For example, in Isaiah 11, we see no mention of the word “Messiah.” However, we see a name for the Messiah (“Branch”). Isa.10-11 forms a symmetrical literary unit. Isaiah was writing about the fact that once God disciplined the sinful house of Assyria (10:1-34), Hezekiah would bring a golden age of prosperity and peace. There was a partial fulfillment of this prediction in that God did rescue Jerusalem from Sennacherib in 701 B.C, thanks to the faith of Hezekiah. But his alliance with Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon and this led to he captivity (Isa 39:1-80). Isaiah thought there would be and social religious change with the royal anointing or birth of Hezekiah. But when we read Isa 11 within the context of the rest of the book of Isaiah, we see if what he wrote about was not fulfilled in his day, its entire fulfillment would go beyond the exile.

d. Remember the dual aspect of Messiah’s work as actually two comings of Messiah (the first time to suffer and the second time to reign). In Luke 24:25-27 Jesus says, “Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory.” Also see 1 Peter 1:10-11.

Themes That Help in Interpreting Messianic Prophecy:

a. Promise Theme:  The NT uses the word “promise” to refer to the message of the Hebrew Bible, but the Hebrew Bible itself does not have a consistent term to refer to this concept. A cluster of words is used, such as oath, word, blessing, promise, and others (See Kaiser’s Messiah in the Old Testament).

b. Walter Kaiser notes that “the substance of this `promise’ was most frequently, but not exclusively, embodied in the content of the various covenants.” He further adds that the promise also includes these concepts: “that the gospel was also for Gentiles… the gift of the Holy Spirit… the resurrection from the dead… redemption from sin… Jesus the Messiah.” (see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1987).

II.  Mission in the Bible Theme:

 aThere was a universal purpose in God’s election of Abraham and of the people of Israel. They were called and brought into existencebecause of God’s missionary purpose for the blessing of the nations. Indeed, God’s commitment to Israel is predicated on his commitment to humanity as a whole.

bIsrael has an ethical, prophetic, priestly, and kingly role- this is tied to the role of the Messiah.

c. The Reign of God theme is very helpful as well. I have touched on that issue here:

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Book Review: Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land by Gerald McDermott

Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land by Gerald McDermott, Brazo Press, 2017. 176 pp. 978-1587433955

Towards the end of last year, I reviewed The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land. Therefore, I was eager to read Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land by theologian Gerald McDermott. Israel Matters is not a series of essays by various authors. Instead, this book is a reflection of McDermott’s journey and how he has wrestled with the role of Israel in the Bible and in the world today. It is important to note that this isn’t a book on the debate between Dispensational and Covenantal Theology. When it comes to why this topic is of the utmost importance to McDermott, in the introduction of the book,  he mentions a letter that was written to him:

“Some months back, a young Christian leader wrote to me about Israel. She is an intellectually curious, committed Christian who attended an elite Christian college. “I was raised in a conservative church,” she wrote, “and naively supported whatever Israel did. We were led to believe that God had given the land of Israel to his people, the Jews, and their fight for their land in 1948 was a religious act by a religious people looking to their God. “But then in college I read The Promise by Chaim Potok. As I read the novel, it seemed that Israel reclaimed the land not as a faith-filled people finding their God-given inheritance but as a people who, crushed and disillusioned by the Holocaust, decided they could not and would not wait any longer for a messiah. They felt they had to take the land for themselves, and they did it by violence. “So I have questioned whether that was right. Should the Jews have waited for the Messiah to return them to the land? Was their fight for the land perhaps turning their backs on God?”

This letter shows the overall confusion that plagues many Christians. When a Christian says they believe in the ongoing role of Israel in the Bible and that the land has a role today, they can be labeled as crazy Zionist and they get lumped in with all the prophecy gurus (John Hagee and the The Left Behind Series). The good news is that McDermott and others have identified the need for scholarly resources on this topic.

McDermott has studied the overall theme of the Bible and has come to realize the centrality and importance of Israel in God’s redemptive plan for humanity. In Chapter One, McDermott discusses the consequences of getting the Big Story Wrong. McDermott discusses the terms “Replacement Theology” and “Supersesionism.” He says:

“Supersessionism holds that all the promises that God made to Old Testament Israel are now (since the resurrection of Jesus) applied to the Christian Church. The promises were contingent on obedience to the covenant. Biblical Jews broke the terms of that covenant—both before Jesus came, by breaking God’s laws, and then after Jesus came, by refusing to accept him as their messiah. But since Jesus obeyed all of God’s law, and all believers in him are joined to him, his obedience is credited to them. So by virtue of his obedience and their inclusion in him, Christians receive the blessings of the covenant. They are members of the New Israel, which is his body, the Church. This is also called “replacement theology.” The Church replaced biblical Israel as the apple of God’s eye. God’s covenant with ancient Israel was replaced by Jesus’new covenant, which is made with all those who believe in him. The Church has replaced the Jews as the inheritors of all the biblical promises concerning Israel. When Christians read the Old Testament prophecies about the restoration of the people of Israel to the land of Israel, they should interpret those prophecies as referring to the Christian Church. The true meaning, according to this view, is that the Church will inherit the whole world in the age to come. All of those in the Church will be blessed, not just Jews. There will no longer be a distinction between Jews and gentiles among those who believe in Jesus, and there will be no land of Israel separate from the rest of the world. For the Church has replaced the ethnic people of Israel. And the little land of Israel has been replaced by a whole world. The Jews are no longer God’s people in any special way, and the land of Israel is like the land of any other country in the world—say, Uganda or Thailand.” -Pages 2-3

This chapter spoke to me. I have run into a lot of Christians who now refuse to hold to either “Replacement Theology” and “Supersesionism.” Instead, they now say they believe in what is called “Fulfillment Theology.” Unfortunately, the end result if the same. Jesus ends up fulfilling everything Israel was supposed to do. Hence, there is no role for Israel anymore. But that’s a long topic for another time. Anyway, McDermott goes onto trace the history of supersessionism in church history. This has always been related to a hermeneutical issue.

McDermott goes onto discuss the importance of the land in both Testaments and rightly notes that many have failed to see the ongoing role of the land in the teachings of Jesus and Paul. As he says:

“Jesus, they say, sent his disciples to all the world, not just to Israel. And he promised his disciples that if they would inherit land, it would be the whole world. After all, didn’t he say in his Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5)? Their argument goes like this: The Old Testament was about a particular land and a particular people. But the New Testament is about a savior for the whole world. No longer is God concerned with this tiny people and the little land of Israel. He is a big God who cares about the whole world. If he reserves any land at all for his people, it is the whole earth in the new heaven and new earth to come.” -Pages 55-56

As McDermott God points out, God can use the particular (a particular person or people) to bring blessing to the universal (the world). In the Old Testament, God uses a particular man (Abraham) and his people (the Jews) to bring blessing to their neighbors and to the world (the universal). But just because God uses the particular to bring blessing to the world, it doesn’t mean he then does away with the particular. McDermott rightly points out that Jesus didn’t come to bring a new religion (Christianity) that replaces Judaism. Granted, anyone that has kept up with scholarship that has focused on the Second Temple period (James Dunn, N.T. Wright, and others) have been saying the same thing. The first followers of Jesus were a sect of Judaism and they were one of several “Judaism’s” in the first century. Thus, is you were a Jew or Gentile in the first century and you came to follow Jesus, you were part of the Jewish world. Because of several historical, theological, and sociological factors, today, Christianity is totally separate religion that has very little do with Judaism. Because of this, many Christians view Judaism as about law and legalism, while Christianity is viewed as being about grace and love. But this is inaccurate. McDermott has come to realize this, and he does a fine job of pointing out the misconceptions Christians have about the Torah and the covenants.

McDermott also has a chapter called “What About the Palestinians?” I think this was a very important chapter. After all, many Christians assume if you can provide any scriptural support for the ongoing role of Israel in the Bible, you must not care about issues of justice and you must assume that present day Israel is spotless and can’t be criticized. But this is a strawman argument and as McDermott rightly says:

“What about the Palestinians? When I start talking about a new theology of Zionism, some eyes glaze over. Not that people don’t understand. The problem is that I’m scratching where they don’t itch. They might agree that the Bible promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. They might also agree that the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was little short of miraculous when, just a few years before, European Jews had been nearly eliminated by Hitler. In fact, they might even grant that this was a partial fulfillment of the biblical prophecies that Jews would return to their ancestral land. But they cannot follow the rest of my arguments because I am talking theology rather than justice. They are hung up on what they think is injustice. As the young woman in the introduction put it, what about the Palestinians? How can we think this is God’s doing when the Jews seem to have stolen land that rightly belonged to Palestinians? Over the course of more than twenty years, I have led twelve study trips to Israel for church folks and college students. On one of the first trips I asked a Palestinian attorney to address our group in Jerusalem. He was glad to be asked, and proceeded to stun our group with a series of allegations: that Jews stole the land from the Arabs; that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank violates international law; and that Zionism is basically secular, not religious, and in fact is racist. The worst thing, he said, was that conservative Christians support Israel unconditionally and turn a blind eye to its injustices toward Palestinians. The group was overwhelmed by these charges. Most of the accusations were new at that time (sixteen years ago) for most of the Christians.”- Pages 79-80

McDermott goes onto correct these misunderstandings and in my view, he offers a balanced view on the topic.

I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is when McDermott says the following:

“We Christians also need to be more humble when we talk with our Jewish friends. We gentiles did not have relatives die in the Holocaust. We should not be surprised if our Jewish neighbors fail to be warmed by words such as ‘Christian,’ ‘church,’ or ‘gospel,’ because those words remind them of the people in the most Christianized country in Europe who went to church on Sundays and killed Jews on Mondays. We should not be shocked that they cannot understand why Christians would worship a man, which they have been taught is idolatry. Instead, we should remember that our Savior was and is a Jew, and that according to the New Testament he still has a Jewish body in heaven” (Luke 2:21; Acts 1:9–11)”- Page 121

I am happy to endorse Israel Matters and it my prayer that many Christians will understand why Israel does matter to their theology and practice. To simply say “Well, Jesus has come and all that matters is you have him in your heart” leads to a reductionist view of salvation and ignores the entire Bible narrative.

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A Closer Look at the “Son of Man” Saying of Jesus

The Son of Man/Elect One

The “Son of Man” (bar nash, or bar nasha) expression is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37). Second, the expression  was used to describe the suffering,  death and resurrection of Jesus (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Thirdly, the Son of Man has a future function as an eschatological judge (Matt. 25:31-36; Mark 14:60-65).  Jesus spoke of this function in the following texts:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations , and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father , inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25: 31-36).

You, who have persevered with me in my tribulations, when the Son of Man  sits upon his glorious throne will also sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 28-30).

One of the most pertinent issues is Jesus’ use of Son of Man in the trial scene in Mark 14.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?  You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows (Mark 14: 60-65).

By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God. It is for this reason that we don’t want to minimize why Jesus earned the charge of blasphemy here. According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal or capital offense. If this is true, why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? Jesus affirmed the chief priest’s question that He was not only the Messiah but also the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world and would sit at the right hand of God. This was considered a claim to deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Hence, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110:1 to himself.  We shouldn’t overlook the emphasis on how the Son of Man is seated at the right hand of God.  Both Peter and  Paul recognize this important characteristic of Jesus after he is resurrected:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,” ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool (Acts 2: 32-36).

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:17-22).

In relation to Mark 14:61-62,  R. Kendall Soulen says;

 An example of how Jesus shows reverence for the divine name by avoiding its direct use is found in Mark’s account of his trial before the high priest. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (Mark 14:61–62)

“Here both Jesus and the high priest use circumlocutions in place of the divine name. “The Blessed One” and “the Power” are not freestanding designations that stand independently in their own right, like “God,” but stand-in names used in place of the divine name. Jesus and the high priest use different circumlocutions, but they have no difficulty in understanding each other. Each perceives the other to be making a veiled reference to the one God who is distinguished from every other reality in heaven and on earth by the bearing of the unspoken divine name. From a historical point of view, it is not surprising that the Gospels should portray Jesus as avoiding the direct use of the divine name. By the first century, such avoidance was normative across the variety of Second Temple Judaism’s, an axiomatic feature of what later rabbinic tradition would refer to as “oral Torah” or “oral law.” It would be startling if Jesus did not honor the practice. The more important question is whether Jesus assigned any importance to it, or whether he regarded it, as many Christians subsequently would, as something essentially perishable destined to become “dead and deadly,” along with the rest of Jewish ceremonial law.”- Soulen, R. Kendall , The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity.

Daniel 7:13-14 and the Son of Man

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven  there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,  which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one  that shall not be destroyed. -Daniel 7:13-14

When it comes to this text, the debate is over the referent.  The figure in the text is given a rule over God’s kingdom. All people groups are seen as seen as serving and worshiping this figure. The ESV translates it as “a son of man” while the JPS translates it as “a human being” which is a paraphrase.[1] Some Jewish interpretations have interpreted the text to be about a human collectively (i.e., the people of God who are “personalized as the Messiah”).  The evidence for the collective interpretation is seen in the following texts:

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.”- Daniel 7:18

And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.- Daniel 7:28 [2]

A quick glance here would seem to indicate that the collective interpretation has some merit. However, a closer reading reveals some challenges with interpreting the Dan 7:13-14 text as referring to a collective group.  First, this text reveals God is bringing a figure with a status over angelic millions in a heavenly court scene.[3]  If anything, the people on earth are supposed to find a tremendous future for themselves in this royal figure. Secondly, as already mentioned, all peoples, nations, and languages will serve the figure in Dan. 7:13-14. When “serve” is used here and in other parts of the book of Daniel it means to “pay reverence to” as seen in Dan.3:12, 14, 17, 18, 28; 6:1617; 20; 21; 7:14, 27. So now the question becomes how anyone can pay reverence to anyone other than God? 

This would make sense given the context shows this type of vision would be one of hope for the generation of people that would read this text.  Another challenge to the collective interpretation is that the figure in Dan 7:13-14 is coming with the clouds of heaven.  Daniel Boyarin says the following:

From the earliest layers of interpretation and right up to the modern times, some interpreters have deemed the “one like a son of man” as symbol of a collective, namely, the faithful Israelites at the time of the Maccabean revolt, when the book of Daniel was probably written. Other interpreters have insisted that “[one like a] son of man” is a second divine figure alongside the Ancient of Days and not an allegorical symbol of the People of Israel. We find in Aphrahat, the fourth century Iranian Father of the Church, the following attack on the interpretation (presumably by Jews) that makes the “one like a son of man” out to be the People of Israel: “Have the children of Israel received the kingdom of the Most High? God forbid! Or has that people come on the cloud of heaven?”…Aphrahat’s argument is exegetical and very much to the point. Clouds-as well as riding on or with clouds- are a common attribute of biblical divine appearances, called theophanies (Greek for “God appearances”) by scholars. J.A. Emerton has made the point decisively: “The act of coming in the clouds suggests a theophany of [YHVH] himself. If Dan vii.13 does not refer to a divine being, then it is the only exception out of about seventy passages in the Old Testament.[4]

Thirdly, the collective interpretation of Dan 7:13-14 faces some stern opposition in the Pseudepigrapha which commonly refers to numerous works of Jewish religious literature written from about 200 BC to 200 AD.

As Randall Price notes:

The concept of the Messiah as a “son of man” after the figure in Daniel 7:13 is expressed in a section of the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch  known as Similitudes, which has been argued to have a date as early as 40 B.C. It should be noted that scholars have found in Similitudes four features for this figure: (1) it refers to an individual and is not a collective symbol, (2) it is clearly identified as the Messiah, (3) the Messiah is preexistent and associated with prerogatives traditionally reserved for God, and (4) the Messiah takes an active role in the defeat of the ungodly. New Testament parallels with Similitudes (e.g., Matt. 19:28 with 1 Enoch 45:3 and Jn. 5:22 with 1 Enoch 61:8) may further attest to a mutual dependence on a common Jewish messianic interpretation (or tradition) based on Daniel’s vision. [5]

Even though the writings in Enoch  are not part of the Protestant Canon they are dated just before or around the time of Jesus. Thus, they help provide the historian with valuable information into the Jewish religious life and thinking patterns at the time of Jesus. The following examples are adapted from The Messiah Texts by Raphel Patai. [6]

And there I saw him who is the Head of Days, and His head was white like wool, and with him was another one whose countenance had the appearance of a man And his face was full of graciousness, like one of holy angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things about the Son of Man: Who is he and whence is he and why did he go with the Head of Days? And he answered and said to me: This is the Son of Man who has righteousness, With whom dwells righteousness, And who reveals all the treasures of the crowns, For the Lord of Spirits chose him. (1 Enoch 46:1-3)

He shall be a staff for the righteous. Whereon to lean, to stand and not to fall,And he shall be a light to the nations, And hope for the troubled of heart. And all the earth dwellers before him shall fall down, And worship and praise and bless and sing to the Lord of Spirits. It is for this that he has been chosen and hidden before Him, even before The creation of the world and evermore.(1 Enoch 48: 4-6)

1 Enoch 51.3: The Elect One will sit on [God’s] throne.

1 Enoch 62.5: …and pain shall seize them when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory.

1 Enoch 62.7: For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning, and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy and elect ones.

1 Enoch 62.14:  The Lord of the Spirits will abide over them; they shall eat and rest and rise with that Son of Man forever and ever…

1 Enoch 69.29:  Thenceforth nothing that is corruptible shall be found; for that Son of Man has appeared and has seated himself upon the throne of his glory; and all evil shall disappear from before his face; he shall go and tell to that Son of Man, and he shall be strong before the Lord of the Spirits.[7]

It can also be noted that Rabbi Akiba (2nd century AD) proposed that one of the thrones in Dan 7:9 should be for God and another for David (a name for the Messiah).

[1] C.W Morgan and R.A. Peterson, Theology in Community: The Deity of Christ (Wheaten: Crossway, 2011), 53-55.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] D. Boyrian, The Jewish Gospels (New York: The New Press, 2012), 39.

[5] Randall Price, The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament athttp://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;

[6] See R. Patai The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years (Detroit: Wayne State University Press), 1989.

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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 Jewish Scriptures 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 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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Responding to the objection by Christians who say “I don’t need any evidence for my faith!”

Any of us who have been involved in the apologetic endeavor are probably familiar with the comments by some Christians who say “I don’t need any evidence or reasons for what I believe.” In other words, this individual thinks it is more spiritual to trust God  because He can only be pleased by faith (Heb. 11:6). Thus, for these people, the object of faith is sometimes described as resting in God Himself (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:24). Even in the New Testament, Jesus confirms this issue (Mark 11:22). And even as God is the object of faith, the author of the Gospel of John directs his audience to Jesus as being the object of faith as well (John 20:31).

Granted, these types of individuals may be ignorant to the fact that the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ”which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). [1]

The reality is that it is impossible to even profess the name of Christ or claim to be of His followers without relying on some evidence. Granted, it is true when someone comes to faith in the Lord, they are not required to give a dozen arguments for why they have decided to made the choice to follow the Lord. However, as time goes on, they will find out very quickly that many will ask them ‘why’ they have chosen to make this decision.

Naturally, many Christians will say they have supernatural certainty for their faith and will commonly say “I experience the Holy Spirit in my life.” Obviously, they can be oblivious to the fact that they sound no different than a Mormon.

What Christians need to remember is that every experience a Christian has is based on what is already found in the Bible. And the Bible is a form of evidence. Thus, Christians are already relying on a form of testimonial evidence and they are also relying on the memories of those that wrote and recorded the events in the Bible. They think the writers of the Bible are telling the truth. The Gospel of John uses words that are usually translated as witness, testimony, to bear witness, or to testify. The total usage of these words in John’s Gospel is larger than any of the Synoptic Gospels. The book of Acts is the next book with the most references to the terms related to eyewitness testimony. We see in the following New Testament passages where testimony and witness is used as a means to verify events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christians also rely on their perception to know there is a Creator.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” (Rom.1:18-21)

In this passage, God’s knowledge is described as “eternal power and divine nature.” Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer (God is the cause), His “everlasting power and divinity” are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).For Christians, they  perceive truth about God, because the basic truths about God are “clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20). Thus, they rely on their perception.

What’s the point? 

Christians that claim to be demonstrating a ‘higher’ form of spirituality and trust in God because they say they don’t need any evidence or reasons for their beliefs are ignorant. Keep in mind that I am well aware of the limitations of apologetics and the use of reasons and evidence. But let’s admit we are already relying on some evidence for our beliefs!

  1. Garrett J. Deweese, Doing Philosophy as a Christian (Downers Grove, ILL: IVP Publishers, 2012), 78-79.
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Nastasha Crain’s New Book: Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have

Just wanted to give you a heads up on a new book that is an excellent resource for parents and ministry leaders. My friend Natasha Crain has a new book out called Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have.
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And I wouldn’t do justice to it unless I mention that she mentions us in one of her chapters called “How Much Evidence Do We Need to Be Confident God Exists?

In it she says the following:

“Ratio Christi is an organization that is making a major impact for Christ on college campuses—one of the most challenging environments for young Christians today. Their mission is to “equip university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ.” Ratio Christi does so by planting collegiate chapters that facilitate conversations on these subjects. Eric Chabot is the founder and director of the Ratio Christi chapter at Ohio State University, where he’s been engaging with students on the truth of Christianity since 2004. Chabot says that in all the years he’s been involved in campus outreach, he’s heard one objection to God’s existence more than any other: Why won’t God show me a direct sign that he exists? In other words, students feel that despite whatever evidence there is that theoretically points to God’s existence, it’s not enough. Having read the last few chapters, you may think these students aren’t aware of the compelling evidence for God’s existence in nature. And that’s undoubtedly true for many. But for others, the key problem is the amount and type of evidence. They want more in order to believe. An example of this is an agnostic student Chabot video interviewed for his blog.

Chabot asked the student, “What would be compelling reasons to believe that the God of the Bible exists?” The student replied:

” I would have to say unambiguous, direct evidence. . . . Some people will use their explanation for God existing as things we don’t know . . . [like] the arguments [that] everything is so fine-tuned, but that doesn’t do much for me. I would very much prefer to have actual, direct evidence of somebody saying, “This directly points to God Himself coming down and speaking.” And at that point I’d have to verify with someone that I’m not hallucinating. . . . It has to be some direct evidence of God, not an extrapolation of evidence from something else.”

The blog post she is referring to that we did is the following: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/the-most-common-objection-to-gods-existence-on-a-college-campus-2/

Natasha is a very gifted communicator. I hope you will get this book and use it with your family and congregation. It is much needed!

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Dr. Michael Brown Lecture on Messianic Prophecy

If you are a huge messianic prophecy fan, here is a recent webinar featuring Dr. Michael Brown.  I can’t agree more with Dr. Brown when he says the approach that says there are over 300 messianic prophesies is inadequate. I write about that here. 

See our you tube clip on messianic expectations and objections here.

Dr. Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has debated many rabbis on shows such as Phil Donahue, and Faith Under Fire. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus and is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary.  You can watch Dr. Brown on the streets of New York talking with Jewish people about the Messiahship of Jesus here:

http://www.inspiration.net/thinkitthru/index.cfm/page/2/video/1395583369

To see a more simplified version to some of the objections in each section of Dr. Brown’s books, click here:

http://www.jewishvoice.org/site/PageServer?

General Objections/Historical Objections

Theological Objections

Messianic Prophecy Objections

New Testament Objections

Traditional Jewish Objections

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