Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 6

As we have engaged in our evaluation of Jesus according to the historical method, the previous articles have demonstrated that the historical Jesus passes the historical method with flying colors. However, we must continue our quest in asking, “Do we have eyewitness testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth?” That is, do we have the accounts of Jesus from those who personally knew Him? If someone is investigating a person or an event of history, the investigator will want testimony from those who actually knew the person, or witnessed the event.

Admittedly, this area of study pertaining to the historical Jesus is among the most controversial. Many prominent New Testament scholars hold that the accounts that we have of Jesus come from second-hand sources, which would eliminate any eyewitness account that one possesses of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

Muslims, for example, will tell you that the New Testament Gospels have been “altered”, so you cannot really trust them. The Science of Textual Criticism is able to prove these allegations to be false. I recently read a book by James White called, “What every Christian needs to know about the Quran”. In his book, Dr. White makes a great case for demonstrating that the Bible has been accurately preserved. If we are considering the Bible as a book of antiquity and Muslims will call it “corrupted” using that term freely – without explaining what the term means – then we can also prove the Quran has been corrupted. And badly.

Back to the historical method, there are just as many scholars who hold that the testimonies in the New Testament come from eyewitnesses. This article will examine the reasons for holding that the Evangelists record eyewitness testimony. The second installment will look into the weight of this eyewitness testimony as it tells us who provides the witness. For this investigation, we will examine the Four Gospels. Since at least 7 letters of Paul are undisputed and since Pastor Brian have previously discussed the pre-NT traditions found in Paul’s letters, we will not focus on proving the eyewitness nature for his material.[1]

Internal Evidence of the Gospels

Within the Gospels, one can find reasons to hold that the testimony comes from eyewitness testimony.

Internal Testimony of Matthew

Matthew has traditionally been ascribed to the disciple Matthew who was a former tax-collector. It is odd that the church would ascribe the Gospel to one who was a tax-collector if it was not true. Tax-collectors were hated in ancient times. Internally, one finds reasons for holding Matthean authorship. Blomberg writes,

This author, at least of an original draft of this book (or one of its major sources), seems quite probably to have been the converted toll collector, also named Levi, who became one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (cf. 10:3; 9:9–13; Mark 2:14–17).”[2] In addition, Cabal adds that “The Gospel also contains clear evidence that the author possessed a strong command of both Aramaic and Greek, something that would be a prerequisite for most tax collectors. Furthermore, the author of Matthew used the more precise term nomisma for the coin used in the dispute over tribute (Mt 22:19) than Mark’s and Luke’s denarion (Mk 12:15; Lk 20:24).”[3]

This would have been something that a tax-collector would have known.

Internal Evidence of Mark

The church unanimously agreed that John Mark had recorded the eyewitness testimony of Simon Peter in the Second Gospel. The internal nature of Mark’s Gospel seems to indicate that John Mark was indeed the author. Grassmick notes that

“Several features also point to the author’s connection with Peter: (a) the vividness and unusual detail of the narratives, that suggest that they were derived from the reminiscences of an “inner-circle” apostolic eyewitness such as Peter (cf 1:16–20, 29–31, 35–38; 5:21–24, 35–43; 6:39, 53–54; 9:14–15; 10:32, 46; 14:32–42); (b) the author’s use of Peter’s words and deeds (cf. 8:29, 32–33; 9:5–6; 10:28–30; 14:29–31, 66–72); (c) the inclusion of the words “and Peter” in 16:7, which are unique to this Gospel; and (d) the striking similarity between the broad outline of this Gospel and Peter’s sermon in Caesarea (cf. Acts 10:34–43).”[4]

The tradition that Mark records Simon Peter’s testimony is affirmed by the internal nature of the Gospel as well as the external witness which will be given later in the article.

 Internal Evidence of Luke

The physician Luke is normally ascribed to have been the author of the Third Gospel. Internally, one finds evidence for this association. While Luke was not an eyewitness, Luke acknowledges his use of eyewitness material by saying, “just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us” (Luke 1:2).[5] Thus, Luke never claims to be an eyewitness but uses eyewitness material.

Internal Evidence of John

The Fourth Gospel is normally ascribed to the apostle John. John is nearly universally agreed to have been the last Gospel written. While some may disagree, the episodes of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) within the Gospel points to an inner circle disciple. Peter and James are mentioned in such episodes, but never John. The Gospel ends by saying, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know his testimony is true” (John 21:24). In addition, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is assigned by Jesus to care for Jesus’ mother Mary (John 19:27). The letters of early church leader Ignatius confirms this report. Thus, the internal evidence is clear. John the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel either by his own hand or dictating the information to a student.

Now that we have considered the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels by the internal evidence, let us consider the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels given by external testimony.

 External Evidence of the Gospels

The early church was unanimous in their acceptance of the four canonical Gospels. Early on, church father Papias provides a glimpse at how the Gospels were written.

Testimony of Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 95-130)

Papias may not have personally known John the apostle, although he may have heard John speak.[6] Nevertheless, Papias knew Polycarp and others who knew John well. Papias recorded the following pertaining to the writings of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew that he received from the presbyter (presumably John, but perhaps Polycarp):

“And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements…Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.”[7]

It must be remembered that we do not possess the entirety of Papias’ writings. However, we are benefited by the documentation of those who knew Papias’ writings well.

Testimony of Irenaeus of Lyons (c. AD 175)

Irenaeus of Lyons probably knew the writings of Papias well. Irenaeus describes the writing of all four Gospels by documenting the following:

“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”[8]

 These testimonies would find further corroboration by church historian Eusebius.

Testimony of Eusebius of Caesaria (c. AD 325)

Eusebius of Caesaria was a church historian writing around AD 325. He writes the following pertaining to the writing of the Gospels:

“But Luke, who was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession, and who was especially intimate with Paul and well acquainted with the rest of the apostles, has left us, in two inspired books, proofs of that spiritual healing art which he learned from them.”[9]

“For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.

And when Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry.”[10]

 Evidence from Dating

We mentioned in a previous article that good reasons exist for holding that the three canonical Gospels were all written before AD 64. Primarily, it was argued that Luke does not record the death of Paul and Peter, quite odd if Acts was written after Peter and Paul’s execution. Some scholars hold that Peter and Paul died around AD 64. If this is true, then Acts must have been written before AD 64, forcing the Gospel of Luke and the borrowed material from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark prior to the 60s. An early dating bodes well for claiming that the Gospels hold eyewitness testimony because the time-frame puts the writings well within the time of the eyewitnesses.

Conclusion

While there are many who deny the authenticity of eyewitness testimony in the four canonical Gospels, I feel that the evidence strongly supports the assertion that the Gospels are based upon eyewitness testimony. If the findings of this article are true, then Matthew and John provide first hand eyewitness testimony, whereas Mark and Luke provide documentation of eyewitness testimonials. In the next section of this article which will be published next week, we will look at the number of eyewitnesses we have in the New Testament alone. The historical Jesus continues to pass the historical methodological test.

Bibliography

Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. The New American Commentary, Volume 22. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Cabal, Ted, et al. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith.Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Eusebius of Caesaria. “The Church History of Eusebius.” In Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Volume 1. Second Series. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890.

Grassmick, John D. “Mark.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

Irenaeus of Lyons. “Irenæus against Heresies.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Papias. “Fragments of Papias.”In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Endnotes

[1] In addition, we are looking for material for those who knew Jesus during his earthly ministry.

[2] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 44.

[3] Ted Cabal et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith(Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1402.

[4] John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 95–96.

[5] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[6] This is an area of dispute. It depends on one’s understanding of Papias’ testimony.

[7] Papias, “Fragments of Papias,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 154–155.

[8] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 414.

[9] Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 136.

[10] Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 152–153.

Jesus and the Historical Method – Part 5

This article picks up where the last article left off. We continue our glimpse at the early testimony for Jesus of Nazareth.

The Argument for the Early Dating of the Synoptic Gospels

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all said to be the “Synoptic Gospels.”

“Synoptic” means that they are seen through the same eye. These three Gospels tell the story of Jesus in a familiar fashion. Some have claimed that the Gospels all should have been written after AD 70 due to a prophecy given that relates to the destruction of the Temple (occurring in AD 70). However, many scholars are beginning to change their mindset concerning these dates.

J. Warner Wallace makes a compelling argument, an argument held by some NT scholars, that all three Synoptic Gospels must have been written prior to AD 63. Wallace argues that “The New Testament fails to describe the destruction of the Temple…The New Testament fails to describe the siege of Jerusalem [70 A.D.]…Luke said nothing about the deaths of Paul and Peter…Luke said nothing about the death of James [62 A.D.]…Luke’s Gospel predates the Book of Acts…Paul quoted Luke’s Gospel in his letter to Timothy.”[1]

Therefore, since Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and does not mention the details that Wallace has noted, then it only stands to reason that Acts was written before AD 64 with Luke being written sometime prior to Acts. Since Luke uses Mark and Matthew, then it is feasible to claim that Mark and Matthew predate the writing of Luke. If Wallace is correct, then the Synoptic Gospels were all composed within 30 years of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be comparable to currently writing about an event that transpired in 1986. With several eyewitnesses and with fond memories of the 80s, one could write a trustworthy account within that timeframe.

Even if one is not persuaded by Wallace’s argument, suffice it to say that there exist several early traditions in the Gospel texts that predate the NT. Even with the Gospel of John which is normally attributed to the late first-century, many scholars—including some liberal ones—hold that John reports traditions that fit well within the early the time of Christ. This includes the inclusion of a miracle by Jesus at one Pool of Bethesda. The Pool of Bethesda was destroyed prior to AD 70.[2]

Earliest New Testament Letters

  1. Galatians

In addition to the previously listed material, one should note that many of the epistles listed in the New Testament canon are considered early. Consider the Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Gerald Peterman writes concerning Galatians that “Probably the letter should be dated to AD 49…Paul came to Christ probably around AD 35 and the events described in Gal 2:1-10 must have occurred before the letter was written. Therefore, the reference to ‘fourteen years’ (2:1) must be all-inclusive—that is, the ‘three years’ previously mentioned (1:18) plus 11 more. This yields AD 49 (35+14).”[3]

 2. James

The letter of James is another early manuscript. While some date the letter to the latter first-century, an idea based upon the skepticism that James, the half-brother of Jesus, would not pen a work; many Bible scholars hold that James not only was written by the authentic James, the half-brother of Jesus, but that the work was extremely early.

Kurt A. Richardson writes that “If the epistle’s author is James the Lord’s brother, then it was written before a.d. 62, perhaps in the previous decade. James is the only likely candidate for authorship, as, indeed, Christian tradition has affirmed.[4] John F. Hart takes the date a step further. Hart holds that James was written extremely early since that the Epistle of James does not indicate any reference to the Jerusalem Council. Thus, Hart notes that “If the book was written before the Jerusalem Council (AD 49), the date of writing could be as early as AD 45-48 (most evangelicals). If the dispersion in 1:1 refers to the scattering of Jewish believers in Ac 8:1, dated at about AD 34, the book could have been written as early as AD 35-36. James is probably the first NT book written.”[5]

If Hart is correct, then we have a reference to Jesus of Nazareth, that is “the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1), as early as 2-5 years from the time that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and resurrected!

3.  1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians is another work that provides early testimony to Jesus of Nazareth. 1 Thessalonians, like Galatians, Romans, and the Corinthian letters, is one of the letters universally attested to Paul. 1 Thessalonians, the book that provides the eschatological concept of the Parousia, was most likely written around AD 51, a mere 18-21 years from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Kevin D. Zuber denotes that “Paul probably arrived before Gallio began his tenure in AD 50. He probably wrote 1 Thessalonians in early AD 51 and 2 Thessalonians later that same year. Although these two letters are among the earliest of Paul’s ‘canonical correspondence’ (only Galatians is earlier), the themes and issues reflect a mature faith and a consistency of doctrine.”[6]

 Conclusion

This article has only scratched the surface of early testimony that one finds for Jesus of Nazareth. No other person in all of antiquity holds the early reliable testimony that Jesus of Nazareth enjoys. Those who are skeptical of the Christian faith may not accept the claims made about Jesus of Nazareth. However, if one is to be honest with the evidence, then one must admit that not only was Jesus of Nazareth an authentic person of history, but also that He was crucified and was thought to have resurrected from the dead from the outset of the Christian movement.

This evidence holds such power that it was used by God not only to bring Pastor Brian back to a strong Christian faith, but also led him back into the Gospel ministry. For me, it stopped me from becoming Muslim. It grounded my Christian faith on the evidence I never knew we had as Christians.

Thus far, Jesus of Nazareth has passed the historical test with flying colors. Will Jesus continue to pass the historical test when we investigate eyewitness testimony?

© January 25th, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Albright, W. F. Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1955.

Habermas, Gary. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996.

Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.

Richardson, Kurt A. James. The New American Commentary. Volume 36. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.

Rydelnik, Michael, and Michael Vanlaningham, eds. The Moody Bible Commentary.Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.

Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013.

Endnotes 

 [1] J. Warner Wallace, Cold-case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013), 161-163.

[2] In the 19th century, many scholars dismissed the Gospel of John as a late invention over this Pool of Bethesda. That is, until the Pool of Bethesda was excavated and discovered in the late 19th to early 20th century.

[3] Gerald Peterman, “Galatians,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1827.

[4] Kurt A. Richardson, James, vol. 36, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 39.

[5] John F. Hart, “James,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1947.

[6] Kevin D. Zuber, “1 Thessalonians,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1877

Jesus – Son of Man, Son of God, Son of David

When it comes to messianic expectations at the time of Jesus, Christians can be unaware that other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.”

Two of these names are “Son of God” and “Son of Man.”

The “Son of Man” (bar nash, or bar nasha) expression is seen in Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37). But even in His earthly ministry, Jesus speaks of His authority on earth because the Son of Man has received his authority from God in heaven (as depicted in Dan. 7:9–14). For example, Jesus says to the scribes who question His presumption in declaring the paralyzed man’s sins forgiven: “… that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 2:10). 1

Having received His authority from heaven, Jesus now exercises it in His ministry on earth. Even authoritative claims such as, “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mk 2:28) would cause a Jewish hearer to remember that God is the only one who commanded his people to respect it (Exod. 20:8–11).2 While Son of Man is used to refer to the the suffering, death, and and resurrection of Jesus (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33), it also refers to eschatological judgment (Matt. 25:31-36; Mk.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; Lk. 22: 28-30).

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

We DO NOT 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. Let’s look at Daniel 7:13-14

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.

In this text, the figure is given a rule over God’s kingdom. All people groups are seen as seen as serving and worshiping this figure. Yet, in some sense the figure is divine yet in human form who is a second divine figure who reigns alongside the Ancient of Days (the term for God in the text).

Son of God and Son of David

When it comes to the question as to whether Jesus is the Messiah, both Christians and Jewish people agree that the Messiah has to be a descendant of David. The area of disagreement is when Christians make the claim that Jesus is the divine, Son of God. What Christians tend to forget is that when Jewish people think of the Davidic King as the Son of God, it has very little to do with thinking the Son of God is the second person of the Trinity.

In other words, at the time of Jesus, “Son of God” didn’t necessarily denote divinity. 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 Davidic king. While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually reach it’s climax in the birth of a person who would guarantee David’s dynasty, and throne forever.

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, etc-1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne.3

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King is 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. In Psalm 110, the Davidic King is invited to sit at God’s “right hand” (vs.1) and his called called “lord” (vs.1) and called a “priest” after the pattern of Melchizedek.

Keeping this 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. Thus, Jesus is “designated” or “declared” as the Son of God, the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).”4 Paul’s goes on to reference Jesus as the incarnate Son who dies and is raised from the dead (see Rom. 5:10; 8:3, 29, 32; Gal. 1:16; 4:4–6; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:10).

To summarize, Jesus did consider Himself to be both the unique Son of God and the Son of Man. When we understand the cultural context of these names for the Messiah, it becomes evident that Jesus is both divine and human. Because of this, He is the only one who can provide both atonement for our sins as well as a covenantal relationship with God through his death and resurrection.

REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOUR MUSLIM FRIENDS TELL YOU JESUS NEVER CLAIM TO BE DIVINE, OR THAT THE NEW TESTAMENT NEVER PORTRAYS JESUS AS GOD.


1.Craig A Evans, From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 49.

2.Ibid.

3. 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.

4. C.W Morgan and R.A. Peterson, Theology in Community: The Deity of Christ(Wheaten: Crossway, 2011), 119.

New Testament Contradictions

I have watched many debates and talks that discuss the New Testament  alleged contradictions. This has been a topic that grabbed my special interest ever since I was living in India. The reliability of the text of the New Testament is something that is particularly attacked in the Muslim world.

I hope Dr. Licona’s lecture on Bible Contradictions will help people realize that the contradictions are not really so. Also, you might want to watch some of Dr. Licona’s debates with Barth Erhman regarding the Resurrection of Jesus. You can easily find those on YouTube.

If you ever decide to give Dr. Erhman a chance to mess with your mind, I can assure you he will. I have come to appreciate him – only by watching his debates – and he seems like a nice, funny guy. Bart Erhman has made a living by writing books that create doubt in the minds of Christians. But that is all there is. He is good at casting doubt, but he kinda has a double standard.

In one of his famous books Misquoting Jesus, Erhman concludes that you cannot really trust the manuscripts, and therefore, you cannot really know what the original manuscripts of the New Testament said. However, in the same year when he wrote Misquoting Jesus (2005), he also cowrote an academic book called The Text of the New Testament with Bruce Metzger – the greatest manuscript scholar of the last century.

In The Text of the New Testament, Metzger and Erhman conclude that the manuscripts of the New Testament have been accurately copied, and that we know what the original ones said. So when Erhman writes for a lay audience, he says you cannot trust the manuscripts. But when he writes for an academic audience, Erhman says you can actually trust them.

Why would a respected scholar do this? Same year, same texts, but two different conclusions. I think Erhman knows he cannot get away with these conclusions within an audience that knows what he is talking about. But he can get away with it with the popular audience. And these books that cast doubt into the Bible text – unfortunately – are very popular and sell a lot of copies.

Actually, many Muslims adore Erhman because he is a former Christian who is now a critic of the New Testament. Muslims often exploit Ehrman’s work and parade his anti-Christian rhetoric in videos and articles.  It is important to note, tough, that Erhman, along with the majority of serious scholarship, holds the view that Paul was a true disciple of Jesus Christ who met with the leaders of the early church shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion – not a usurper.

Also, Dr. Ehrman remarks that we can say with confidence that Jesus actually did die, he probably was buried, and that some of his disciples (all of them or some of them?) claimed to have seen Him alive afterward. Erhman also says that NO scribe EVER changed the cardinal doctrines of Christianity i.e. Council of Nicea (on the divinity of Christ).

Now that you have the background on who Dr. Bart Erhman is, you can enjoy the lecture 🙂


If you have doubts about the Christian faith, have you put those doubts *themselves* to the test as much as you have Christianity?

Andy Bannister


Are there contradictions in the Gospels?

The Tolerance Jesus will not tolerate

Great article by Kevin DeYoung from The Gospel Coalition.


Christians cannot be tolerant of all things because God is not tolerant of all things.

We can respect differing opinions and try to understand them, but we cannot give our unqualified, unconditional affirmation to every belief and behavior. Because God doesn’t. We must love what God loves. That’s where Ephesus failed. But we must also hate what God hates. That’s where Thyatira failed.

Of the seven cities in Revelation, Thyatira is the least well known, the least impressive, and the least important. And yet, the letter is the longest of the seven. There was a lot going on at this church–some bad, some good.

Let’s start with the good. Verse 19, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance.” Ephesus was praised for its good deeds and strong work ethic. Thyatira is even better.  It has the deeds that Ephesus had and the love that Ephesus lacked. The church at Thyatira was not without genuine virtue. It was a tight-knit bunch who loved, served, believed, and endured.

Maybe Thyatira was the kind of church you walked into and immediately felt like you belonged: “Great to meet you. Come, let me introduce you to my friends.  Here, I’ll show you how you can get plugged in, use your gifts, do ministry. We’re so glad you’re here.” It was a caring church, a sacrificial church, a loving church.

That was the good part. And the bad part? Its love could be undiscerning and blindly affirming. The big problem at Thyatira was tolerance. The folks at Thyatira tolerated false teaching and immoral behavior, two things God is fiercely intolerant of. Jesus says, “You’re loving in many ways, but your tolerance is not love. It’s unfaithfulness.”

The specific sin in Thyatira was the tolerance of Jezebel. That wasn’t the woman’s real name. But this false prophetess was acting like a Jezebel-leading people into adultery and idolatry. We don’t know if her influence was formal–she got up in front of people and told them these deceptive things–or if it was informal–taking place in conversations and by word of mouth. However it was happening, this woman in Thyatira was a spiritual danger, like her Old Testament namesake.

Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians. She worshiped Baal and Asherah and led her husband, Ahab, in the same. Jezebel is the one who plotted to kill innocent Naboth for his vineyard. She was called “that cursed woman” (2 Kings 9:34). As a punishment for her wickedness, she was eventually pushed out a window, trampled by horses, and eaten up by dogs. She was a bad lady. And she lead many Israelites down a bad path.

Jesus says to Thyatira, “You are allowing a woman like that to have sway over your people. Why do you tolerate her? Don’t affirm her. Don’t dialogue with her. Don’t wait and see what happens. Get rid of her… or I will.” Apparently, by some means, the Lord had already warned her to repent, but she refused. And so now the Lord Jesus promises to throw her onto the sick bed and make her followers suffer as well, unless they repent. “I will strike your spiritual children dead,” says the Lord. Jesus isn’t messing around here. This isn’t a secondary issue. This is a serious sin worthy of death.

It was also an entrenched sin. There were a number of trade guilds in Thyatira. Suppose you belonged to the local BAT, the Bricklayers Association of Thyatira, and one night the guild got together for a feast. You’d be sitting around the table, ready to partake of this great celebration with your friends and colleagues, and the host would say something like, “We’re glad you could make it. What a happy occasion for the BAT. We have quite a feast prepared for you. But before we partake, we want to recognize the great god Zeus who watches over the bricklayers and has made this dinner possible. Zeus, you see his statue in the corner, we eat to you, in your honor, for your worship. Let’s dig in.”

What would you do in that situation? Stay or go? What would your participation signify before your fellow Christians, before the watching world, before God? Christians in the ancient world didn’t have to go searching for idolatry. It was woven into the fabric of their whole culture. To not participate in these pagan rituals was to stick out like a Yankees fan at Fenway Park. These feasts, with their idolatry and the sexual revelry which would often follow, were a normal part of life in the Greco-Roman world. To remove yourself from them could be socially and economically disastrous.

Which is why false teachers like this Jezebel in Thyatira or the Nicolaitans in Pergamum gained such a hearing. They made being a Christian a lot easier, much less costly, must less counter-cultural. But it was a compromised Christianity, and Jesus could not tolerate it. He was going to make an example of Thyatira to show all the churches that Jesus has eyes like fire, too pure to look on evil, and feet like burnished bronze, too holy to walk among wickedness. He wanted all the churches to know that he was the searcher of hearts and minds and he would repay evil for unrepentant evil.

The error of Jezebel was a serious sin, an entrenched sin, and a subtle sin. The people had probably been told that the “deep secrets” wouldn’t harm them. We don’t know exactly what it meant for the church to learn Satan’s so-called deep secrets. We don’t know if that’s what the false teachers called them or if that’s what Jesus is calling them. But what was going on was probably some kind of false teaching that devalued the material world.

This Jezebel may have been saying, “The physical world doesn’t matter. It’s the spiritual realm that counts. So go ahead and participate in idol feasts and do whatever you want sexually. Those are material things. God doesn’t care about that.” Or she may have been saying, “Look, if you are truly spiritual, then your relationship with God will be strong enough to withstand the deep things of Satan. So go ahead. Participate in evil practices. You can handle it and you’ll probably even learn more about the enemy in the process.”

Whatever it was that she was saying, it was a lie and it was leading people into sin.

The church was more tolerant than Jesus, which is never a good idea.


FAITH AND DOUBT – PART 3

Abdu Murray was Muslim – a very serious Muslim.  His story really impacted me last year. It impressed me that people were willing to go years looking for Truth. Why wouldn’t I do the same? It took Abdu nine years – nine years – to investigate the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions and views. Abdu became Christian.

I was a Christian! Yet, here I was doubting. I have heard testimonies of people becoming Christians because the evidence for Christianity compelled them. What was that about? I just had to know. I was about to jump ship on Jesus. Being honest, I never had the conviction in my heart of Mohammad being a prophet. And all due respect to Islam, I don’t think there is anything new or anything kinder or gentler or more compassionate in Islam’s teachings than what I had already learned from Jesus.

If I almost left Christianity, it wasn’t because I thought Islam was true. I almost left Christianity because I didn’t know how to handle my doubts. Not knowing what the TRUTH was consumed me day and night.

In all equality, I also heard many testimonies of Christians becoming Muslims. You know what, tough? It was never the evidence for Islam what made these people accept Islam. They always left Christianity – at least the people I watched – because no one was able to answer their questions. They never understood The Trinity, or they were sick of the hypocrisy in the Christian world.

There are thousands of people who leave Islam and join Christianity and vice versa. I know the videos I watched are not representative of the whole picture. But for me, DOUBT was definitely important to deal with. I think it should be addressed when talking about Christian Faith.

If you are not a believer in anything, you deal with doubt all the time. But even Christians, we have doubts, too.  We doubt because of our circumstances, and I think that is a very human thing we do. God has answered my prayers many times. I have logs full of answered prayers. And last year in India, when I looked at them, I was almost cynical about it.

After eight years, I looked at those journals, and I doubted that those answers had actually come from God. Or maybe it had been God – but not Jesus. You have to understand where I am coming from. I was confronted with Islam on a regular basis, so almost all my doubts had to do with Jesus not answering my prayers. Or Jesus not being God. Or Jesus not claiming divinity. Or the New Testament being corrupted. Or Jesus not dying on the cross. I am talking Muslim-Christian apologetics.

So as I was listening to Rich Nathan’s series on Faith – Heroic Faith – I felt somehow able to breath. It was okay to have doubts. And I also heard Abdu’s podcast. Both were saying the same thing. They were talking about Richard Dawkins, and how blind faith is something Christians SHOULD NOT practice. They were also saying that Faith in something in the face of contradictory evidence, or even in the face of NO evidence at all, is absolutely UNBIBLICAL.

But the Faith encouraged in the Bible is the active action of TRUST based on evidence. We exercise this on a regular basis, we just don’t think about it anymore. We get on a car and we trust the brakes will work – because they have always worked. We trusted our lives on that car – because of previous evidence.

Cars don’t just explode on ignition and brakes don’t fail out of the blue. They might fail. Sure. Did I have CERTAINTY? No. I had Faith on that car because I have taken a ride for thousands of times, and it has never exploded. I trusted the evidence I had available.

WHAT IS DOUBT?

Doubt is NOT a dirty word. According to Murray, there are a lot of solid followers of Jesus who have doubts. Doubt is not a bad thing if it drives you to sincere search. In the Bible, Jesus never says not to question Him. Actually, Hebrews 11:6 teaches that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Jesus helped those who sincerely confessed their unbelief to Him. He never drew them away.

Murray encourages asking questions, and he sees that this is a challenge that the Church is facing. Some people have doubts, but they never ask questions mainly because doubt is often seen as a bad thing. When a teenager asks a question, Murray says, sometimes he doesn’t ask his parents. And it is not because the question doesn’t have an answer, but because of the parents’ unwillingness to be questioned about it. Or sometimes, the parents themselves do not know the answer.

Inquisitive minds sometimes cannot settle for “The Bible says it. I believe it, and that settles it for me”. So it was refreshing for me to know that asking the tough questions was perfectly fine.

My heart was set on really finding God so I had peace about it. Sincerity is proven by our willingness to be proven wrong.  I was well aware that The Gospel could be false, but it could also be true. Sincerity is determined by our willingness to go where the evidence points. I had to be willing to accept that to say that all religious traditions believe basically the same thing, or that to say that our differences don’t matter was insulting for those faiths and for me.

If I agreed to say that all paths lead ultimately to God, what I was really saying was that my choices don’t really matter. But real choice emerges only when the options have consequences. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a choice.


I wish I had your faith. You seem to have a peace about you, a confidence regarding the future. You don’t worry the way I do about everything. I wish I had your faith. But I really struggle with faith. I have lots of doubts. I still have lots of questions about God or about Christianity…

What does Faith feel like?


I was so sure about many things, and then I wasn’t sure about anything. Rich Nathan, tough, continued in the series saying that most folks believe that Faith is something you either have or your don’t have.

But in Hebrews 11:23-28, we find that Faith is a choice. It is a decision regarding how we’re going to look at life based on the clues that God has given us. Again, Faith is based on the evidence. Moses chose to be mistreated. People saw things at a distance. Faith feels like a choice to see and not look away. Faith and Truth are more than a feeling.

So it is okay to doubt… I was happy about this. I seriously was. Doubting did not mean I did not have Faith. My Faith was based on the exercise of my will. My choice.

And I was in good company. Jesus’ followers where doubters all the way until the Resurrection. They didn’t even know who He really was. And that is something that skeptics seem to dislike about Jesus’ disciples. They render as shameful the fact that Jesus’ closest friends did not really understand Jesus’ purpose. For a historian, however, that is called Principle of Embarrassment. It is very likely that an event who might embarrass the author is true. So the eyewitnesses writing these gospels were very likely telling the truth.

John The Baptist was a doubter himself. When he was in jail, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. John was thinking maybe he had the wrong guy. And this is John the Baptist. The one who was prophesied by Isaiah about making straight paths for the Lord. This is John, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth found out that Mary was pregnant. This John is doubting whether or not Jesus is the Expected One.

And what did Jesus do? He NEVER calls John out on his doubts. Jesus actually heals more people right there in front of John’s disciples. He gives them more evidence so that they can go and tell John!


John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ In that hour He [Jesus] healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And He [Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Luke 7:21-23


That was Jesus’ gentle answer. He eased John’s doubts.

Every one of us has different doubts. When we ask God with a sincere heart, He will always guide us. So as followers of Jesus, we deal with doubt by asking sincere questions. But the attitude in our hearts when we ask those questions is also very important.

Why are we asking? Do we really want answers or are we asking just for kicks? Last year, there came a time when I was just so used to question Islam and Christianity that I kind of became a cynic. I began questioning just for the sake of questioning. I was praying, and my prayers were being answered during my season of doubting.

But as soon as my prayers were answered, I kept on questioning whether or not it had only been a coincidence. I was almost demanding God to perform for me. I knew I had to stop. I repented from my cynical approach, and I made a choice based on the evidence I had recollected for and against Christianity during my year in India.

My Faith is stronger. My Faith is very well placed. I am so thankful that my God never let go of me during those difficult times. I am thankful for my Savior who died for me. I am thankful that the information was available to me because it helped me recommit my life to Christ. I want to make the information available to people who might need it 🙂


Who is the King of the Jungle? Who is the King of the Sea? Who is the King of the Planets? J-E-S-U-S!

– My sweet daughter


Sources:

FAITH AND DOUBT – PART 2

So Faith is attacked when The New Atheists uniformly say, “We base our lives on reason. You Christians base your lives on blind faith”.

But if reason is the authority when it comes to belief, and you can rely on reason because your own reasoning tells you – then you’re busted. It’s a totally circular argument. Unless you have something outside of reason to calibrate reason, you don’t know if your reasoning is accurate.

I think of this often when I watch debates. We, Christians, say Jesus died for our sins by crucifixion. Three days later He rose from the dead. Why do we believe that? Well, because the Bible says so is definitely one answer, but that answer won’t satisfy everybody. It will definitely not be enough for a Muslim, for example. Quran 4:157 says nobody kill Jesus nor they crucify Him. But God raised Jesus up to Himself.

When I began reading the Quran, my Bible stopped being the only source for my ‘reasoning’ – if that makes sense. Last year I found out that apart from the Bible, there are a lot of ancient non-biblical sources that talk about the crucifixion of Jesus as an event in history. When I evaluated the evidence that Islam has for Jesus not dying by crucifixion, I was confronted with many theories about it.

I read about different interpretations of that particular Quran ayat (verse). One interpretation is that God made Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, look exactly like Jesus. So it was Judas who died. Another version is that the person who was crucified was not Jesus, but someone who bore His likeness, whom the Jews and the Romans had disgracefully put on the cross, while Jesus was standing nearby and laughing at their folly.

Yet another version is that the one who was nailed to the cross was Jesus, but He did not die on the cross, and was alive when He was taken down from it. They even argue Jesus might have died a natural death years later. But the theories (in Muslim Apologetics) go as far as they can go – as long as they have Jesus NOT dying on the cross.

But the more debates I watched, the more I knew that the position of the Muslim apologists was to say “We really do not have any further details, except that Quran tells us that Jesus was not the one who was crucified, but somebody that looked like Him”. 

I respect that. Absolutely I do. But I made the personal decision to go with the ancient historical evidence and not the theories. So I was able to calibrate the Bible with something outside of the Bible – call them Tacitus, Josephus, The Jewish Talmud. These accounts were not bad, given this information was coming from ancient accounts hostile to the Biblical record.

I realized that the Christian Faith is not that blind. Actually, it is not blind AT ALL.

Faith is a very important word in the New Testament. It is used over 24 times. Faith is so important that it is a prerequisite for being saved by God. On one occasion, a jailer asked Paul and his traveling companion, Silas, “What must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without Faith it is impossible to please God.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11:1-3


We can see several things in this passage.

FAITH IS RATIONAL. Biblical Faith is never set against reason. Biblical Faith – Christian Faith – involves thinking. It involves our brains. Christian Faith is never a leap in the dark. The Greek word for Conviction is Elenchos. It means proof. It’a a conviction that comes when something has been tested.


Faith is trusting what we have good reason to believe is true.

Faith is trusting the evidence of the One who promised.


Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Evidence that appeals to your mind. Take any fact of history. Sure, you can’t prove in a lab that the American Revolution took place, or that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, or that George Washington was there when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

We believe this based on historical evidence – eyewitness testimony, records that were kept, historical investigations. There are lots of things that we reasonably believe that can’t be proven by the scientific method. But just because we cannot recreate them in a lab does not mean they never actually happened.

Was I there to see how Jesus died? No. Was I there to witness the Holocaust? No. But I believe the Holocaust happened because there are documents that were written about it. People preserved these records of history. I guess I can ALWAYS questioned whether the Holocaust took place because I wasn’t there to see it with my own eyes, but it is very likely that it happened. The same goes with the crucifixion of Jesus. And if you study the Resurrection – your mind will be blown away.

You can always find a counter-argument against Christianity. That’s for sure. You need to know, tough, that Christian Faith does not mean you have to be completely certain about something. Jesus tells us that even a little bit of Faith can go a long way. Faith IS NOT an all or nothing proposition.

I was so happy when I learned this.

FAITH GRABS HOLD OF THE FUTURE. Faith is the assurance – Hupostasis – of things hoped for. Faith gives substance to things. Faith reaches into the future Kingdom of God where life will be like when there are no wills contrary to God’s will – no human wills rowing in the opposite direction. Right now we rebel, and we want things contrary to what God wants for us. There are also demonic wills working in this present world.

But when the Kingdom of God is finally established on Earth, no child will ever die again. There will be no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more heartbreak, no more Alzheimer’s, no more diabetes, no more murders, or kids in jail, or funerals, or wars, or mental illness, or addiction. No more tears, no more crying, no more pain. God Himself will wipe your tears away. That is the hope given in Revelation 21:4 for all the children of God by adoption through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So Faith gives substance to that future Kingdom and makes it real now. By Faith we bring God’s Kingdom of justice into this world now – as we work for justice. By Faith we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of healing into the world  – as we pray for the sick. By Faith, we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of forgiveness and we make it real now – as we forgive others and ask for forgiveness.

FAITH IS A WAY OF SEEING THE PRESENT. Faith is seeing life the way Jesus saw it. People say that Christian Faith is looking at life through rose-colored lenses. But Scripture says quite the opposite. Faith is taking off your rose-colored lenses. All the myths and lies that the marketing machine of this world keeps pumping out – “You can have it your way” or “Life is all about you and your desires – your wants”.

Jesus was the only clear-sighted person in all of human history. He is the only one who saw with perfect vision how to live a completely full life no matter what your circumstances are. Jesus taught that if you want to have a great life – what He called abundant life – you have to deny yourself. Do not try to affirm everything about yourself, instead, deny yourself.

Forgive everyone for everything they’ve done against you, and you will live a full life. Forgiving takes Faith that God will uphold you and defend you. Be patient when you have all the reasons to lose your patience. Respect your husband when he doesn’t deserve your respect – specially when he doesn’t deserve it. Love your wife when she is absolutely hard to love – specially when she is very difficult to love.

Christian Faith makes sense of this world.

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