By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative

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

One objection that always comes up is that if Jesus is really the Messiah, how come there’s no peace in the world?  So one of the traditional objections is that Jesus is not the Messiah since he did not fulfill the job description. One of the Jewish expectations is that the Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4). Thus, if the Messiah has come,  it seems that there is supposed to be societal and political transformation.  Isa. 2:2–4 speaks of international harmony under the ruling Messiah will occur. While messianic salvation has been inaugurated in this present age, societal transformation of the nations has not happened yet. Passages like Isaiah 2, Micah 4:1-3  Isaiah 19:24–25, and Zechariah 14 predict nations will worship God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-missionaries like to say that  in worshiping a deified Messiah/God man, Christians and Messianic Jews are committing idolatry. But the question  is what kind of ordinary, anointed, Davidic King  can usher in such a peaceable kingdom on earth and restore the earth back to Eden? The other problem is that perhaps there is no societal peace unless there is peace between people. And the only way there can be peace between people is if mankind’s heart is changed. Thus, there needs to be atonement. I talk more about that here.

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


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative

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). 

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). 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 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. 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.

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). 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.


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative

Apologetics is the branch of theology that helps us to answer the tough questions people have about what we beleive and why we believe  in specific issues such as the existence of God, the Messiah's rising from the dead, the reliability of the Bible, etc. Most recently, I got an email from someone who had a very specific question in relation to Jewish people. Now keep in mind that this person is a professing Christian. But her question is one that has been asked before. She asks the following: 

‘Why have the Jews rejected Jesus?” Looking at the statistics, almost all of them have missed their Messiah. I can not wrap my head around this. I was told by a Jewish Christian that the majority doesn’t mean truth. That doesn’t answer the question. I look up to many prominent, intelligent, orthodox Jews in politics. They say they have really looked into their faith. The main case I have heard them give for Judaism is that the law brings about a good society. The Jewish people do appear to have a much better life structure. They seem to really flourish. I’m not convinced Jesus was the messiah based on prophecy. The Jewish people don’t look at God the same. How can you find truth when Christians say the Old Testament means one thing and Jews say another thing? I believe the case for the New Testament and Resurrection is very strong, but I just don’t understand how they could have missed it? It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know where to start on this journey. I just want to know truth and I’m afraid of missing it."- Jenny

I have seen this objection more than once. Here was my response:

Hi Jenny,

I have been dealing with this topic for about 25 years and grew up in a Jewish community. I came to faith hearing the Gospel from a Jewish believer. I am not Jewish. But anyway, as far as your question:

The scriptural answer to your question is that when you read the Jewish Scriptures/The O.T., we see in many cases, Israel was in unbelief. Their entire history was about God giving them covenants, and they obviously would break the Law/the Torah and God judged them every time. They were exiled outside the land on a number of occasions. The prophets always were sent to them to call them to repentance. So it is not as if Israel was always faithful. They had a long history of rejection. Even after the giving of the Torah, they fell right back into idolatry.

Also, there is no specific text/texts in the O.T. where it says they all would understand and embrace the Messiah when he comes.

Thus, as I say again, there are no text/texts that say, “When the Messiah comes, all will believe and know him.” Paul talks about this in Romans 9-11. Only a remnant (a small number) has believed. There has always been a faithful remnant who did believe and went on to carry out what Israel had always been called to do which is to be a “light to the nations.”

As far as prophecy, the Abrahamic Covenant was prophetic. In this sense, there are several aspects of the covenant such as land promises, etc. But as far as Gentiles, they are supposed to receive spiritual blessings, but ultimately these were fulfilled though one specific “seed” of Abraham—the Messiah. True Israel are those that are circumcised in heart (see the rest of Romans as well).

However, Romans 11: 12 indicates a staged progression in blessing the Gentiles. God allowed for a large portion of Israel to reject the Messiah, so that the “riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). Paul talks about this mystery in Romans 11. Israel will be grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles leads it to respond (Rom 11:11-12; 15, 30-32).

Also, given Israel’s calling it should be no shock that in Ephesians 2: 11-3:6, the Gentiles recipients are addressed as those who were formally without the Messiah. They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise\, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2: 12). So Israel was already near (Eph. 2:17), but the good news is that now along with Gentiles they even brought closer to God (Eph. 2:18). So through a believing Jewish remnant, we now have over 1 billion non-Jews that have come to know the one true God. So Jesus is the only Jew that has helped over 1 billion non-Jews come to know the one true God. No, large numbers don’t make something true. But given the prophetic nature of the Abrahamic covenant, this is something that should not be discarded.

Remember, the Bible speaks of a suffering/atoning, rejected Messiah: (Psalm 22; 118: 22; Isaiah 52:13-53.12, Daniel 9:25-26, Zechariah 12:10) and well as a the ruling/kingly Messiah: (2 Sam 7:10–14; Pss. 2:7; 72:1 Pss. 89:4, 26, 35–37; 132:11–12, 17–18; Dan 7:13).

As far as Jewish people not accepting their Messiah, remember, a large majority of them have never looked into it. Most of my Jewish friends couldn’t give me one reason as to why they reject Jesus. It is more of a cultural identity issue. Rejection of Jesus and  is now part of their identity. Remember, most of Judaism today is also a reaction to Christianity. Granted, there was no Christianity when Jesus and Paul were here and the Christianity many Jewish people are reacting too is a “dejudaized” Christianity. It  is a much later version. The Judaism of today is Rabbinic Judaism which is an outgrowth of Pharisaical Judaism. Also, many Jewish people don’t even think God exists. Trust me, I know because I have done campus ministry for 15 years. You don’t have to believe in God to be Jewish. So if there is no God, why care about a messiah?

Now, what about someone that says “Well, there are some really good scriptural reasons to reject Jesus as the Messiah.” I discuss these here in the post called “A Look at the Objection: “Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus!”

Hope that helps, 

Eric


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative

This is the third post in our series on “How a Christian Should View Israel?” (Part One is Here)
(Part Two is Here)

As I already mentioned,  I will expand on R. Kendall’s Soulen’s  The God of Israel and Christian Theology which has shown the long history of supersessionism in Church history.  Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC. has written on  the standard Christian “canonical narrative”—i.e., our view of the Bible’s overarching narrative framework—in such a way that avoids supersessionism and consequently is more coherent. Soulen identifies three kinds of supersessionism: (1) economic supersessionism, in which Israel’s obsolescence after the coming of the Messiah is a key element of the canonical narrative, (2) punitive supersessionism, in which God abrogates his covenant with Israel as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus, and (3) structural supersessionism, in which Israel’s special identity as God’s people is simply not an essential element of the “foreground” structure of the canonical narrative itself. Soulen sees structural supersessionism as the most problematic form of supersessionism, because it is the most deep-rooted. He identifies structural supersessionism in the “standard model” of the canonical narrative, which has held sway throughout much of the history of the Christian church. This standard model is structured by four main movements: creation, fall, Christ’s incarnation and the church, and the final consummation. In this standard model, God’s dealings with Israel are seen merely as a prefigurement of his dealings with the world through Christ. Thus, the Hebrew Scriptures are only confirmatory; they are not logically necessary for the narrative (see Lionel Windsor’s  Reading Ephesians and Colossians after Supersessionism: Christ’s Mission through Israel to the Nations (New Testament after Supersessionism Book 2)

In this post we will discuss punitive supersessionism, in which God abrogates his covenant with Israel as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus.

Punitive supersessonism has mostly resulted from Gentile Christians  assuming  the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and 135 are God’s permanent rejection of Israel. According to Philip S. Alexander, the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem handed Christians “a propaganda coup” in that it gave them the opportunity to argue that the catastrophe was “a divine judgment on Israel for the rejection of Jesus.” (see Philip S. Alexander, “‘The Parting of the Ways,’” in Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways A.D. 70 to 135, ed. James D. G. Dunn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 20.

The same was also true concerning the failed second Jewish revolt in AD 135. Marcel Simon asserts that the destruction of Jerusalem in 135 “appeared to Christians as the confirmation of the divine verdict on Israel.” (see Marcel Simon, Versus Israel: A Study of the Relations Between Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire (135–425), trans. H. McKeating (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 65

A common  proof text  used for punitive supersessionism is Matt 21: 43: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruits.”

Many have read this out of context and assume that this teaches God divorced and judged unfaithful Israel (who had murdered the Messiah) and married a faithful bride: His Church. But once again pre- 70 ad, there is no new religion what was separate from the Jewish world called “Christianity” nor was there something called the “Christian church.”  Even Reformed scholar Michael Kruger says the following:

“There is little doubt that the very earliest Christians were, in fact, Jews. They believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Jewish Messiah who would fulfil God’s extensive promises to Israel and usher in the kingdom of God. Thus, Jesus was understood quite naturally within the categories. Sure, something new was happening with Jesus – the inauguration of a new covenant, in fact (Luke 22.20). But the first Christians would not have conceived of this as the beginning of an entirely new religion; on the contrary, they would have seen it as the completion of something very old, namely the story of God’s dealings with Israel (cf. Jer. 31.31). Thus, early Christians were quite content, at least at first, to continue worshipping at the Temple (Acts 2.46) and following the laws of Moses.” –Michael Kruger, Christianity at The Crossroads, How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church.

Furthermore, regarding Matt 21:43,if we read it in context, the “you” of Matt 21:43 is identified in Matt 21:45 not as Israel or the Jewish people but as ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees,”—the temple authorities who confronted Jesus in Matt 21:23-27. The “people” referred to in Matt 21:43 is not the church in contrast to the Jewish people, but the new leadership group that will replace the old.Thus, Jesus is judging the corrupt leadership. If we read Matt 21: 45, it is clear the leadership even knew Jesus was speaking to them.

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

Romans 9-11

We already mentioned Romans 9-11. We know anyone that has read Romans 9-11 knows no possibility of Paul teaching Israel’s rejection by God. Now when I say rejection, I mean the consequences of God’s judgment on Israel would mean  Israel, was an the “earthly” people of God in the Old Testament, has been replaced, expanded, or fulfilled  in the divine plan not by another “earthly” people or peoples, but by a “spiritual” people, the church of the New Testament.

But to assert this, we need to remember that by the time Paul wrote the letter to the Romans (about 57 C.E.), it was clear that most Jewish people at that time were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. Paul called them branches of the cultivated olive tree which had been cut off. Yet he warned the Gentile believers that they must not take undue pride in being grafted into the olive tree or think themselves better than the cut-off branches, since they hold their position only by faith and without it will themselves be cut off.

But regarding Romans 9-11, despite Israel’s unbelief in Jesus, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). Israel remains God’s beloved chosen people “on account of the patriarchs” (Rom. 11:28). Paul also says God’s gifts and callings to Israel are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). Also, in Romans 11, the “riches” Gentiles are experiencing now during the state of Israel’s “stumbling” will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). The 10 references to “Israel” in Romans 9-11 refer to ethnic/national Israel so the Israel who will be saved in Rom 11:26 must refer to ethnic/national Israel. Israel will experience a national restoration and salvation at some point in the future.

It is clear that the Lord made the new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (see Jer. 31:31–34, quoted in Heb. 8:8–12) and not with the nations of the world, which leads us to ask the question: How do Gentiles get to partake in the new covenant? In response, God’s plan for Israel was to be a light to the nations and be a conduit for Gentiles to come to faith in the one true God. The only way Gentiles get to partake in the new covenant is that they grafted in as Paul talks about in Rom. 11: 13-24.. Israel will be grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles leads it to respond (Rom 11:11-12; 15, 30-32).

As we just said, in punitive supersessionism, God abrogates his covenant with Israel as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus. But this view seems to contradict Romans 9-11. Furthermore, by the time Paul wrote the letter to the Romans (about 57 C.E.), it was clear that most Jewish people were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. In Romans 11, Paul called them branches of the cultivated olive tree which had been cut off.  Yet he warned the Gentile believers that they must not take undue pride in being grafted into the olive tree or think themselves better than the cut-off branches, since they hold their position only by faith and they can be cut off as well.  Thus,  Jewish people who have rejected the Messiah (cut-off natural branches), and  Jewish people who have come to faith in the Messiah,  (natural branches attached to the tree), and Gentile believers (grafted-in wild branches) each have their own kind of ongoing participation in the one Israel. If anything, punitive supersessionism is a display of Gentile boasting that Paul had warned about.

In the next post, we will pick up the controversial topic of Zionism and why Christians are divided on the topic.


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Ministries Midwest Representative 

This is the second post in our series on “How Should a Christian View Israel? (Part One is here)

As I already mentioned,  I will expand on R. Kendall’s Soulen’s  The God of Israel and Christian Theology which has shown the long history of supersessionism in Church history.  Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC. has written on  the standard Christian “canonical narrative”—i.e., our view of the Bible’s overarching narrative framework—in such a way that avoids supersessionism and consequently is more coherent. Soulen identifies three kinds of supersessionism: (1) economic supersessionism, in which Israel’s obsolescence after the coming of the Messiah is a key element of the canonical narrative, (2) punitive supersessionism, in which God abrogates his covenant with Israel as a punishment for their rejection of Jesus, and (3) structural supersessionism, in which Israel’s special identity as God’s people is simply not an essential element of the “foreground” structure of the canonical narrative itself. Soulen sees structural supersessionism as the most problematic form of supersessionism, because it is the most deep-rooted. He identifies structural supersessionism in the “standard model” of the canonical narrative, which has held sway throughout much of the history of the Christian church. This standard model is structured by four main movements: creation, fall, Christ’s incarnation and the church, and the final consummation. In this standard model, God’s dealings with Israel are seen merely as a prefigurement of his dealings with the world through Christ. Thus, the Hebrew Scriptures are only confirmatory; they are not logically necessary for the narrative (see Lionel Windsor’s  Reading Ephesians and Colossians after Supersessionism: Christ’s Mission through Israel to the Nations (New Testament after Supersessionism Book 2)

Structural Supersessionism

We just noted that “structural supersessionism” says Israel’s special identity as God’s people is simply not an essential element of the “foreground” structure of the canonical narrative itself. There has been a slew of books that attempt to help readers understand the grand narrative of the Bible. Books such as Living God’s Word: Discovering Our Place in the Great Story of Scripture,  by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hay, or The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative by Christopher Wright are just a few of them. There is no doubt that once Christianity became a ‘separate’ religion outside of the Jewish world, one of the primary ways it began to define it’s belief system was through the use of creeds and confessions.  It is noteworthy that the two greatest creeds, the Apostles’ and Nicene, jump from creation and fall to redemption through Jesus without even mentioning the history and people of Israel. I will offer two pictures to show the difference.

Almost every Christian and almost every church has recited the Apostles Creed. I am not against this. But let me ask you a question: If you read this creed, how much would you find out about the humanity of Jesus? While there is a mentioning of his death under Pilate and his burial as well, would you ever read this and realize Jesus was Jewish or that he is Israel’s Messiah?   “Messiah” is directly related to the Davidic King in Jewish tradition (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:2, 7; 89:19-21, 26-27; Psalms of Solomon 17.32). Paul explicates this gospel “regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:3-4). Here is the creed:

“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

 While the Apostles creed is helpful to some, it really leaves out quite a bit. Anyone who reads it probably won’t walk away seeing any historical connection between Jesus and Israel. It leads me to this pertinent comment by Anthony Saldarini:

“Does Jesus the Jew—as a Jew—have any impact on Christian theology and on Jewish-Christian relations? . . . To wrench Jesus out of his Jewish world destroys Jesus and destroys Christianity, the religion that grew out of his teachings. Even Jesus’ most familiar role as Christ is a Jewish role. If Christians leave the concrete realities of Jesus’ life and of the history of Israel in favor of a mythic, universal, spiritual Jesus and an otherworldly kingdom of God, they deny their origins in Israel, their history, and the God who loved and protected Israel and the church. They cease to interpret the actual Jesus sent by God and remake him in their own image and likeness. The dangers are obvious. If Christians violently wrench Jesus out of his natural, ethnic and historical place within the people of Israel, they open the way to doing equal violence to Israel, the place and people of Jesus.”- A. Saldarini, “What Price the Uniqueness of Jesus?” Bible Review, June 1999: 17. Print.

In this picture, we see a more comprehensive picture of the biblical narrative:

 

 The Problem of the Old Testament/New Testament Divide

The other problem with structural supersessionism is it can lead to an unnecessary divide between both Testaments. We can tend to forget there was no  New Testament at the time of Jesus. Paul stated: “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for  doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the  man of God may be  perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”  (2 Timothy  3:16-17).  Here “Scripture” (graphē) must refer to the Old Testament written Scripture, for that is what the word graphē refers to in every one of its fifty-one occurrences in the New Testament.

As Walter Kaiser states so clearly:

“God never intended that the two testaments should result in two separate religions: Judaism and Christianity. The Tanach (= OT) was meant to lead directly into the so-called New Testament and thus be the continuation of one plan from creation to consummation. When the divine promise-plan of God is ruptured and divided into two distinct parts, with the climax triumphing over the earlier revelation, then we have introduced a division where God had revealed the fulfillment of what he had revealed in earlier texts! Therefore, we must investigate further how this disparity appeared among the people of God”- Walter Kaiser, Jewish Christianity: Why Believing Jews and Gentiles Parted Ways in the Early Church

N.T Wright’s Corrective?

N.T. Wright is one of the most popular New Testament theologians today. A ways back, he wrote a popular book called “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. In this book, he rightly noted that Christians have forgotten that the final destination for the Christian is not heaven. But instead, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. Wright notes that while heaven is wonderful, resurrection is even better. Thus, as Wright says, resurrection is “life after life- after- death.” With this corrective, many Christians now realize they will eventually be on a renewed earth. With Wright’s corrective, a slew of books has emphasized that God has called humans to be priests and stewards of the physical environment of the earth, and not to be fixated with our souls that are hopefully on a journey to a disembodied heaven.

But, the question becomes the following: if God’s covenant with humanity eventually will be finalized on a renewed earth, are there geographical boundaries of any kind? And if so, does Israel exist as a nation and does the land called ‘Israel’ exist?  I have come across more than enough Christians who say there is no purpose with the land of Israel.  Thus, when Jesus came, the land has no present nor future significance in the mind of God. It is no more different than Africa, Russia, or any place else. But for those that have written Israel out of the canonical narrative, where is Israel in the new heavens and new earth? Rev 21: 1 discusses the new heaven and earth (also see Isa. 65:17–25; 66:22–23; 2 Pet. 12-13). But if the new creation has a place for the earth, and especially for resurrected human life living under the lordship of the Messiah, what about the political landscape of the new creation (Rev. 21: 22-22:4)?  What tends to be forgotten is the Bible has always been a story of God, Israel, and the nations. The words “goyim” and “ethnos” refer to “peoples” or “nations” and are applied to both Israelites and non-Israelites in the Bible. In the eschaton, Israel is still in the picture along with the nations. You can’t have one without the other. After all, where does Jesus come back to? California? Russia? Or Jerusalem?  The basic geography will remain so that Israel and Jerusalem will retain their distinctive prominence (Zech 14:8–11; Matt 19:28). Hence the heavens and the Earth will not be brand new but renewed.


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative 

Note: This will be the first part of a series on the topic. 

Introduction


Obviously, one of the most challenging issues within Christian apologetics is the accusation that in many cases, Christianity has been associated with anti-Semitism. Several years ago, I remember reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith. In one chapter he interviews John Woodbridge about Christian history.  Woodbridge agreed that “One of the ugliest blights on Christianity’s history has been anti-Semitism.” Woodbridge readily conceded that, regrettably, “anti-Semitism has soiled Christian history”(The Case for Faith, pg 297).

There have been numerous books written on this topic such as Dan Cohn- Sherbock’s The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism, and Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany as well as Michael Brown’s Our Hands Are Stained with Blood.  I know Christians sometimes can say “How in the world could any Christian be anti-Semitic? Ronald Diprose says the following: “Whoever denies that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah is in fact denying the gospel which was announced to Abraham (Galatians 3:8–16; Romans 1:1–5, 16–17)”  (see Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprosepg 182). 

When a Christian or someone is accused of being anti-Semitic, we can break it down into these three categories:

1  Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jewish people because of  their group membership or ethnicity.

2.  Anti-Zionism is criticism or rejection of the right of Jewish people to have their own homeland. I should note that not all Jewish people are supportive of modern Zionism. Also,  Christians are divided on this issue.

3.  Theological anti-Semitism: critical rejection of Jewish principles and beliefs.

I should also note that  the Jewish community has at least three ideas that most, if not all, Jewish people have been socialized into:

(1) The Holocaust – to deny the Holocaust is to remove oneself from the Jewish people.

(2) The State of Israel – its right to exist and some allegiance to it.

(3) The rejection of Jesus.

Of course, many Jewish people don’t know why part of their identity is to reject Jesus as their Messiah.  But  the history of anti-Semitism has been a huge stumbling block.

Sadly, some very well-known Christian leaders such as John Chrysostom (Against the Jews.  Homily 1) and Martin Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies  contain statements that can be perceived as fitting into one of the anti- Semitic categories that were just mentioned.

Anti-Semitism is alive and well in many parts of the world. Given Israel is continually in the news, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on the topic. This will be the first part of a series of posts on how Christians might view Israel today. But why would a devout follower of Jesus care about Israel? As David Stern says:

“For years all the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) were Jewish. The New Testament was entirely written by Jews (Luke being, in all likelihood, a Jewish proselyte). The very concept of a Messiah is nothing but Jewish. Finally, Yeshua himself was Jewish—was then and apparently is still, since nowhere does Scripture say or suggest that he has ceased to be a Jew. It was Jews who brought the Gospel to Gentiles. Paul, the chief emissary to the Gentiles was an observant Jew all his life. Indeed the main issue in the early Church was whether without undergoing complete conversion to Judaism a Gentile could be a Christian at all. The Messiah’s vicarious atonement is rooted in the Jewish sacrificial system; the Lord’s Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover traditions; baptism is a Jewish practice; and indeed the entire New Testament is built on the Hebrew Bible, with its prophecies and its promise of a New Covenant, so that the New testament without the Old is as impossible as the second floor of a house without the first.”- David Stern, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, Kindle Locations, 963 of 1967.
 

Israel’s Election

What does it mean to say Israel was elected? Scott Bader-Saye says:

“Election is the choice by one person of another person out of a range of possible candidates. This choice then establishes a mutual relationship between the elector and the elected, in biblical terms a “covenant” (berit). Election is much more fundamental then just freedom of choice in the ordinary sense, where a free person chooses to do one act from a range of possible acts. Instead, the elector chooses another person with whom she will both act and elicit responses, and then establishes the community in which these acts are done, and then promises that for which the election has occurred. The content of these practical choices is governed by Torah, but there could be no such coherent standards of action without prior context of election, the establishment of covenantal community, and the promise of ultimate purpose.”–  (see Scott Bader-Saye, The Church and Israel After Christendom: The Politics of Election(Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1999), 31).

 What was Israel elected to do? 

1. Be a Holy People (Deut. 7:6 [3x]); (Isa. 62:12; 63:18; Dan. 12:7)

2.Be a Kingdom of Priests (Exod. 19:6)

3. Be a Redeemed People (Joshua 4:23-24)

4. Be a Light to the Nations (Isa. 60: 3)

5. Bring the Scriptures to the world: “To them were entrusted the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2)

6. Be the Vehicle by Which the Messiah will Come into the World (Rom 15: 8-9).

To read on, click here: 


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative 

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 Yeshua 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? See our post, Six Messianic Expectations and One Messiah. Or, see our post “Are There Actually 300 Messianic Prophecies?” 


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

The New Testament does not reveal Jesus as any ordinary prophet or religious teacher. Rather, it reveals Him as God incarnate (John 1:1; 8:58-59;10:29-31;14:8-9;20-28; Phil. 2:5-7; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Anyone who reads through the Gospels will see that Jesus made some very challenging statements that force us as humans to face our own autonomy before our Creator. Sometimes we may to be aware of the details behind the sources of what we can know about Jesus. We have to acknowledge that  Jesus said and did things that are part of his messianic ministry.

These things are found in an acronym called P.O.W.E.R.

P: Paul’s Letters

The New Testament includes Paul’s Letters: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus.  Remember, written and oral sources are divided into two kinds: primary and secondary.  A primary source is the testimony of an eyewitness.  A secondary source is the testimony source is the testimony of anyone who is not an eyewitness-that is, of one who was not present at the events of which he tells.  A primary source must thus have been produced by a contemporary of the events it narrates. Since Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, he can be considered as a primary source. He also claimed to have a personal encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:5-9).

You may ask, “Why does matter?” In response, it matters because we actually have people who think since Paul never knew the historical Jesus  that this means we can’t trust his letters. So simply pointing out the role of primary and secondary sources can answer this objection. Not to mention, I always respond by asking if we should just throw away all the books on our shelves that are written by people who never officially met the person they are writing about. So this objection is just plain silly!

What else can we know about Paul?

Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called House of Hillel. The House of Hillel  was  a school of Jewish law and thought that was very well known in first century  Jerusalem. Hillel was  known as the Academy of Hillel, founded by a Jewish sage called Hillel the Elder. We also know Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3). Paul also employs oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching within his letters.  Since  Jesus was crucified about 33 A.D., Paul became a follower of Jesus around 35 A.D. Paul’s letters are dated between AD 40 and 60. Hence, these are the earliest records we have for the life of Jesus.  For example, 1 Cor 15: 3-8 is one of the earliest records of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, to jump to the Gospels as the earliest records for the life of Jesus is a tactical mistake. To see more on Paul’s childhood and education, see here:

But since we know Paul’s Letters were written to instruct local congregations, do they really reveal any significant information about the life of Jesus? The answer is yes. For example, we see Paul talks about:

1. Jesus’ Jewish ancestry (Gal 3:16) 2. Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom 1:3) 3. Jesus being born of a woman (Gal 4:4) 4. Jesus’ life under the Jewish law (Gal 4:4) 5. Jesus’ Brothers (1 Cor 9:5) 6. Jesus’ 12 Disciples (1 Cor 15: 7) 7. One of whom was named James (1 Cor 15: 7) 8. That some had wives (1 Cor 9: 5) 9. Paul knew Peter and James (Gal 1:18-2:16) 10. Jesus’ poverty ( 2 Cor 8:9) 11. Jesus’ humility ( Phil. 1:5-7) 12. Jesus Meekness and Gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1) 13. Abuse by Others (Rom 15:3) 14. Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage (1 Cor. 7:10-11) 15. On paying wages of ministers (1 Cor 9:14) 16. On paying taxes ( Rom 13: 6-7) 17. On the duty to love one’s neighbors (Rom 13: 9) 18. On Jewish ceremonial uncleanliness ( Rom 14: 14) 19. Jesus’ titles to deity ( Rom 1: 3-4; 10:9) 20. On vigilance in view of Jesus’ second coming ( 1 Thess: 4: 15) 21. On the Lord’s Supper ( 1 Cor. 11: 23-25) 22. Jesus’ Sinless Life ( 2 Cor. 5:21) 23. Jesus’ death on a cross ( Rom 4:24; 5:8; Gal. 3:13; 1 Cor 15: 3) 24. Specifically by crucifixion ( Rom 6: 6; Gal 2:20) 25. By Jewish instigation ( 1Thess. 2:14-15) 26. Jesus’ burial (1 Cor. 15: 4) 27. Jesus’ resurrection on the “third day” (1 Cor.15:4) 28. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the apostles ( 1 Cor.15:5-8) 29. And to other eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:6); and 30. Jesus’ position at God’s right hand ( Rom 8:34)

For more reading on Paul, see:

Paul and the Historical Jesus

Evidence We Want and Evidence We Should Expect: A Look at Paul’s Letters

What Can Paul Tell Us About Jesus?

Was the New Testament Forged – Dr. Bart Ehrman vs. Dr. Darrell Bock

Darrell Bock responds to Bart Ehrman’s book “Forged

How Did Paul Receive the Gospel? Clearing Up A Supposed Contradiction Between Galatians 1:11-12, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

A Look at James Tabor on Christianity Before Paul

Why the Resurrection of Jesus is the Best Explanation For What Happened To Paul

The Earliest Record for The Death and Resurrection of Jesus: 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7

A Look at Richard Carrier’s Critique of Bart Ehrman: Part Three

Did Paul Invent Christianity?

Did Paul Invent Christianity? Is the Founder of the Christian Religion Paul of Tarsus or Jesus of Nazareth?

Ben Witherington’s Review of Bart Ehrman’s Forged

Mike Licona’s Review of Bart Ehrman’s “Forged”

O: Oral Tradition/Oral History:

We need to remember what we call “oral tradition.” In other words, there was an oral history before a written tradition. It  has been argued that some of the followers of Jesus probably took notes.

Remember, home, the synagogue, and the elementary school was where Jewish people learned how to memorize and recall information such as community prayers.  Jesus taught in poetic form, employing alliteration, paronomasia, assonance, parallelism, and rhyme. Since over 90 percent of Jesus’ teaching was poetic, this would make it simple to memorize.  Jesus was a called a “Rabbi” (Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; Mk. 4:38; 5:35; 9:17; 10:17, 20; 12:14, 19, 32; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 1:38; 3:2), which means “master” or “teacher.” There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. His disciples had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them” (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk. 1) (see Paul Barnett, Jesus and The Logic of History, pg, 138).

Therefore, it appears that the Gospel was first spread in the form of  short, memorizable oral creeds and hymns ( Luke 24:34; Acts 2:22-24, 30-32; 3:13-15; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:37-39; Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23ff.;15:3-8; Phil. 26-11; 1 Tim.2:6; 3:16; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:8;1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2). Also, there was a means of controlling the tradition because the early community had a center which was located in Jerusalem where it consisted of leaders ( the apostles) (see Acts 15). 

To see more on this, see:

Jesus, the Gospels, and the Telephone Game Objection

Jewish Scripture and the Literacy of Jesus by Craig Evans

With no scripture in place, what controlled doctrine in the 1st century? By Darrell Bock

The Issue of Oral Tradition: Dr. Darrell Bock

How Reliable were the Oral traditions about Jesus? – Dr. Craig Keener

Mark Roberts on Oral Tradition/Telephone Game Objections

A Look at Oral Tradition/The Orality Phase of the Jesus Story

James M. Arlandson: Historical Reliability of the Gospels

W: Written Sources other than Paul’s Letters:

These other written sources include the Four Gospels, Acts, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 , 2,3  John, Philemon,  Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, etc. To read more about these sources, see here:

External Evidences for the Truth of the Gospels by Dr. Timothy McGrew

Common Mistakes Critics Make When Approaching the Gospels

An Evangelical and Critical Approach to the Gospels: Michael Bird

Craig Keener on the historical reliability of the Book of Acts

Was Jesus Born In Bethlehem? Dr. Tim McGrew

Who Decided Which Books Belong In My Bible?

F. David Farnell, “The Synoptic Gospels in the Ancient Church: A Testimony to the Priority of Matthew’s Gospel,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 10.1 (Spring 1999)

Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels: Gary Habermas

Dr. Tim McGrew Lectures on Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels of Luke & John

Who wrote the Gospels? Dr. Timothy McGrew

Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually author the gospel accounts? Darrell Bock

Peter Williams Lecturing on The Reliability of the Gospels

3 Things The Gospel Authors Would Have Never Invented About Jesus

Archeology and the Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Peter S. Williams

Anthony R. Cross, “Historical Methodology and New Testament Study,” Themelios 22:3 (April 1997): 28-51.

James M. Arlandson: Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Click on the link above and here are all the articles by Arlandson

Note: James M. Arlandson teaches World Religions, Humanities, Introduction to Philosophy, and Introduction to Ethics at various colleges. He has written many articles and one book, Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997). His Ph.D. is in Comparative Literature (ancient Greek literature, religious studies, and critical theory). In the above link, he covers the following:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Archaeology and the Synoptic Gospels: Which way do the rocks roll?
Archaeology and John’s Gospel: Is skepticism chic passé?
Did Jesus Even Exist?
Authoritative Testimony in Matthew’s Gospel
Reliable Gospel Transmissions
What is the Q ‘Gospel’? The Gospel According to ‘St Q’?
Did Some Disciples Take Notes During Jesus’ Ministry?
Authoritative Testimony in Matthew’s Gospel
Eyewitness Testimony in Mark’s Gospel
Eyewitness Testimony in John’s Gospel
Are There Contradictions in the Gospels?
Similarities among John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels: Summary and Conclusion

Why the Lost Gospels Did Not Make the Canonical Cut by Michael Bird

Craig Blomberg: Jesus of Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him And Why It Matters

New Testament Canon: Craig Blomberg

84 Confirmed Facts in the Last 16 Chapters of the Book of Acts

59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John

The Historical Reliability of John by Craig Blomberg

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg

The Historical Reliability of Acts: Support from Extra-Biblical Primary Sources

E: Early Preservation of Manuscripts:

In this case, we are discussing the fact that people made copies of the completed Gospels and distributed them throughout the world. The greater the quantity of copies of an ancient manuscript we possess, the greater the potential database of our textual comparisons and reconstructions.  E.J.Epp has noted that the “riches in NT manuscripts, however are not only in their quantity but also their quality-that is, the abundance of relativity early texts. Of the more than eighty New Testament papyri, over twenty containing portions of one of more of the Gospels can be dated to the third and fourth centuries. By contrast, the earliest copy of the Homer’s Iliad we possess dates approximately nine hundred years after or more after the original. (see Boyd/Eddy, The Jesus Legend, pgs 382-384). Also, Bruce Metzger, the foremost biblical critic in history  concluded in his overview of modern biblical criticism that of the 22,000 lines in the New Testament only 40 are contested (about 400 words), the rest just given (over 99.5% transmission accuracy) and none affect any significant doctrine. (1)

Of course, it must be noted that we are not arguing that just because we have an abundance of manuscripts that this means they have recorded an accurate event.  For example, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, claimed to have received personal revelation from God on the basis of two visions, (the first allegedly given to him in 1820, the second one in 1823).  Therefore, if we have 50,000 early manuscripts  recording this event, this by no means makes Mormonism true. This is why other tests for historicity must be taken into account to establish the authenticity of the event.

To see more on this topic:

Norman Geisler: A Note on the Percent of the Accuracy of the New Testament Text

Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament: Assessing the Logic of the Agnostic View by Daniel Wallace

Dr. Daniel Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered

Can We Construct The Entire New Testament From the Writings of the Church Fathers?

An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace on the New Testament Manuscripts

A Response to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: Dr. Thomas Howe

Wallace, Daniel B: The Gospel According to Bart: A Review of Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

R: Reception

We read about what Jesus said and did in our English Bibles. In this case, an objector might say “But the Bible was not originally written in English.” This is true. So my advice is that if you don’t think we can trust those that do textual criticism and translate the languages for us, go and  learn Hebrew and Greek so you can translate yourself!

Note: The P.O.W. part was adapted from Mike Licona and Gary Habermas’ The Case For The Resurrection of Jesus. I went ahead and expanded on it and added the rest of the acronym.

1. Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 388.


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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative 

David Klinghoffer is a observant Jewish man who happens to be a big advocate of the Intelligent Design movement. He also is the author of the book  Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.

Just glancing at the title alone may lead a reader to conclude that the Jewish people at the time of Jesus rejected him. Let’s look at the evidence:

In the Book of Acts (Acts 2:41) we see 3000 Jewish people come to faith at Pentecost  after Peter’s Sermon (goes up to 5000 in Acts 4:4);(Acts 6:7). “The number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”; (Acts 21:20) Within twenty years the Jewish congregation said to Paul, “You see how many thousands (in Greek, it is literally “myriads” or “ten thousands” or “countless thousands”; Hence, we see at least 100,000 Jewish believers in Jesus. Now I know not every single Jewish person accepted him as the  Messiah. But then again, where does the Bible say a sign that the Messiah has come means that He accepted by every single Jewish person (including all of the religious establishment)? The prophets were rejected by their people and Jesus is the ultimate prophet who is the one like Moses spoke about (Deut 18:15-18).  I won’t offer a full blown review of the book here. But I want to mention one major issue:

 Klinghoffer summarizes Israel’s messianic expectation, articulated in the prophets such as Ezekiel, in the following list: (1) gathering of Jewish exiles; (2) the reign of a messianic king; (3) a new covenant characterized by a scrupulous observance of the commandments; (4) eternal peace; (5) a new temple; and (6) the nations recognize God. Klinghoffer argues that these criteria disqualify Jesus for any messianic claim because none of them was fulfilled during Jesus’ lifetime.—David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 36.

Sadly, this doesn’t represent the entire scope of messianic thought. And it always lead to the “heads, I win, tails you lose approach.”  In other words, “Jesus doesn’t fulfill any of the messianic prophecies so we have that all settled and we can move on and wait for the true Messiah to come.”

The reality is that we have the same problem Jesus had when he was here. Hence, the Jewish expectations of the kingdom what would come would be (1) visible, (2) all at once, (3) in complete fullness, (4) when God’s enemies would be defeated  and (5) the saints are separated from the ungodly, the former receiving reward and the latter punishment. But  once again, as Beale and Gladd note in their book Hidden, But Now Revealed, the kingdom  that is revealed by Jesus is (1) for the most part invisibly, so that one must have eyes to perceive it (2) in two stages (already- and- not yet), (3), growing over an extended time from one stage to the last stage, (4) God’s opponents are not defeated immediately all together, but the invisible satanic powers are first subjugated and then at the end of time, all foes will be vanquished and judged and (5) saints are not being separated from the ungodly in the beginning stage of the kingdom, but such a separation will occur on the last day, when Jesus’ followers receive their reward and the latter punishment.

Also, the other problem with the assertion by Klinghoffer is that it ignores the contingent element to messianic prophecy. In other words, the covenants that were made between God and Israel both have a conditional and unconditional element to them. Obviously, we see for Klinghoffer and Jewish people, the redemptive work of the Messiah is a one act play that isn’t broken up into different time periods.  Thus, when the Messiah comes to bring his kingdom, it is to this world that he comes and in this world that he establishes his reign. Hence, the Jewish expectations of the kingdom what would come would be (1) visible, (2) all at once, (3) in complete fullness.

But what can be forgotten is that while God made unconditional promises to Israel in both of these covenants, Israel has to do their part to obtain the fullest blessings of the covenant. Because of the conditional nature of the covenant God made with Israel through the Torah, Israel was judged and sent into exile. Thus, there is a delay in the blessings. But even Israel’s failure to obey God’s commands doesn’t negate the promise. Therefore, the prophecy of restoration follows every message about the prophecy of judgment and doom. Hence, there are several passages that speak to the issue of a restoration of Jewish people back to the land (Isa.11:10-16; Jer. 3:11-20; 12:14-17; 16:10-18; 23:1-8; 24:5-7; 30:1-3, 10-11; 31:2-14; 32:36-44; Ezek. 11:14-20; 20:33-44; 28:25-26; 34:11-16, 23-31; 36:16-36; 37:1-28; 39:21-29). 

 Notice that Klinghoffer says two of the messianic qualifications are that the nations recognize God and  there will be a new covenant characterized by a scrupulous observance of the commandments. It is true that the Jewish Scriptures say that Gentiles (goyim) will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (e.g., Ps. 87:4-6; Is. 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer. 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11).  Regarding what Jesus has done, even Jewish scholar  Michael Kogan says:

Has Jesus brought redemption to Israel? No, but he has brought the means of redemption to the gentiles—and that in the name of Israel’s God—thus helping Israel to fulfill its calling to be a blessing to all peoples. A Jewish Messiah for the gentiles! Perhaps, as I have suggested, an inversion of Cyrus’s role as a gentile Messiah for the Jews. Israel is redeemed by engaging in redemptive work. Perhaps redemption is not a final state but a process, a life devoted to bringing oneself and others before God. To live a life in relationship to the Holy One and to help the world to understand itself as the Kingdom of God—which it, all unknowingly, already is—is to participate in redemption, to live a redemptive life. This has been Israel’s calling from the beginning.”–Michael S. Kogan, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity (Oxford University Press. 2007), 68.

Because of the finished work of Jesus and the nations of the world have been allowed the opportunity to participate in the New Covenant, we need to heed the words of Paul who said that in the future God will fulfill his promises to Israel. For Paul, while Gentiles are experiencing spiritual blessings during the state of Israel’s “stumbling,” this will escalate with the “full number” of national Israel’s salvation (see Rom. 11:26). Hence, while Israel that has been hardened, in the future, all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:26–29, quoting Isaiah 59:20–21).

In conclusion, Jesus has fulfilled these messianic qualifications. The issue is that it isn't a one act play. Part two will happen in the future. This post isn’t meant to be a full review of the book. But I felt compelled to respond to this issue. Grace and peace!


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By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative (Note: if you click on my profile here, you can always email me questions).

Given that historians look to those who are contemporaries of the events, Paul is an important resource for what historians can know about Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the earliest documents we have for the life of Jesus are Paul’s letters. Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin.  Both Christian and non-Christian scholars have come to have great respect Paul. Allow me to mention a few comments here:

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

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

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

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

1. Paul was educated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Paul spoke mishnaic Hebrew/Aramaic as well as Greek (cf. Acts 21:37), in addition to possessing a reading knowledge of biblical Hebrew. Paul also demonstrated he was familiar with Greek poets (e.g., Epimendies, Aratus, Euripides, Memander).  Therefore, since Paul’s letters show familiarity with rabbinic methods for interpretation of Scripture and popular Hellenistic philosophy to a degree, this makes it likely that he received a formal education in both areas.

 2. Paul as an active persecutor

The language Paul uses in his pre-revelatory encounter with the risen Lord shows how antagonistic he was towards the messianic movement. In Gal. 1:13-15, Paul uses terms such as “persecute” and “destroy” to describe his efforts to put and end to the spread of the early faith.  We see here:

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (Acts 8: 1-3).

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

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

3. Paul’s Antagonism Towards the Early Messianic Movement 

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

 4. Paul’s Encounter with the Risen Messiah

Paul did not follow Jesus from the beginning. However, Paul is still considered an apostle, though “abnormally born” and “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). His turning to Jesus happened though a dramatic revelatory encounter (Acts 9: 1-7). His first years as a follower of Jesus in Arabia remain a mystery. Three years later he went to Jerusalem to visit; this is where he saw Peter and James.  Paul’s account of his calling in Galatians 1:15-16 is similar to what Jeremiah’s says about his own calling:

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

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

Regarding what happened to Paul, he more likely received a “call” rather than a conversion to a new religion. He says “ I am a Jew” (Acts 22;3) “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23;6), and “I am a prisoner for the sake of the hope of Israel”  (Acts 28:20).  Notice that Paul didn’t say “I was a Pharisee” or that “I was a Jew.”  He saw his calling as being in line with the same divine mission that was given to the prophets of the Old Testament.

 5. Paul’s Letters: Primary and Secondary Sources

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

6. Paul’s use of oral tradition terminology

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Final Thought: James Dunn offers a nice exhortation here: 

“As Paul wrestled with what it meant to be a Jew who believed in Jesus Messiah, so Christians today must wrestle with what it means to be a Gentile who believes in the Messiah of Israel. As Paul wrestled with the issue of what is central in Israel’s heritage and what continued to be the Word of God for him, so Christian (and Jew) cannot escape the same issue. And as Paul resolved these issues, so far as he did resolve them, by making the key defining factor the purpose of God and the relationship with Christ, so today’s Christians may learn to resolve the issues which plague them by the same priorities.”- James D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels, ( Grand Rapids, Erdmans, 2011), pg 132.


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