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By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

I direct two apologetic ministries. One is at The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College. We tend to use a question of the day which helps us engage students in a gentle and respectful manner. Probably my favorite question is “Does God Exist?” It is short and students tend to want to discuss this question. Remember, many Jewish people don't even believe in the existence of God. You do not have to believe in God to be Jewish. This is a popular question. 

 

Why does this question matter and why do I like to use it? Richard E Simmons III says the following:

“A number of years ago, Encyclopedia Britannica published a 55-volume series entitled The Great Books of the Western World. This series presented the most important ideas that scholars and intellectuals have considered and investigated over the course of recorded history. The longest essay was on God. When noted philosopher, author, and co-editor of the series, Mortimer Adler, was asked the reason behind this, he replied, “It is because more consequences for life follow from that one issue than from any other.”4 I believe Dr. Adler’s assessment is spot on. The major issues of life are understood with the greatest clarity only after the question of God’s existence is placed in its proper context. Everyone has a certain perspective on how life works. It is the lens through which we see life. It is what most people call a “worldview.” When we are born, we begin to try and understand how life works. Over time, we formulate a philosophy of life, a worldview, and this worldview influences how we see ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we live our lives. Armand Nicholi, the Harvard psychiatrist I mentioned in the preface, and the author of The Question of God says that our worldview informs our personal, social, and political lives. It helps us understand our purpose. Further, he said that our worldview determines our ethics, our values, and our capacity for happiness. It helps us answer the big questions of life: How did I get here? How am I to live? Where do I find meaning in life? What is my ultimate destiny? Basically, Nicholi is telling us that our worldview is more telling than perhaps any other aspect of our lives. Another way to understand our worldview is to see it as a map, a mental map that helps navigate life effectively. As author Nancy Pearcey says, “…we need some creed to live by; some map by which we chart our course.” This is worldview. In forming our worldviews, Dr. Nicholi says that we make one of two assumptions about life. The first is that we live in a godless universe; we are a product of nature that has evolved over time. This is a secular worldview that emphasizes scientific knowledge and its motto is “What do science and nature have to say?” The second assumption is that there is a supernatural intelligence who gives the universe order and life meaning. This is a spiritual worldview that is rooted in Biblical revelations. It places emphasis on spiritual truth and wisdom and its motto is: “What does God have to say about this?”-Richard E Simmons III, Reflections On The Existence Of God: A Series Of Essays, pg. 15.

Even though I co-authored a short book on the topic, there are two new books on the topic of God’s existence. Check them out!


By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Michael S. Kogan is a Jewish scholar who does not think Jesus is the Messiah. However, in his book “Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity, he says the following:

“If we view the Nazarene sect—later, Christianity—as one of the Judaisms of the first century (and how else can we view it?), we must conclude that this group of Jews had as much right as any other to develop its own unique conception of the Messiah. And unique it was—as were they all—but only in the sense that it combined in a distinct fashion elements of Jewish messianic speculation that had been circulating for centuries. The earliest messianic references in Hebrew Scriptures had referred to kings and priests who were contemporary historic personages. Jesus was such a personage. Later messianic language became idealized and futurized. Jesus would come again in glory. All the well-known terms, Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, shepherd, king, high priest, suffering servant, son of David, et al., were eventually reinterpreted and applied by the Christian sectarians to their redeemer figure. They were certainly not unique in their application of these terms to a living man or to a figure of the future; they were unique in holding that one man could be both of these. By conceiving of a first and second coming of Jesus, Christian thinkers found a way to apply virtually every previous messianic name and function to one person.

Theirs was certainly the most comprehensive messianism of any of the many Jewish sects that reworked the ancient images into their own speculative patterns. We have seen that the Christians could hardly be called nonorthodox in their messianism, since there was no reigning orthodoxy (and no orthodox Judaism for that matter). Were they radicals? Perhaps, but no more than the Qumran covenanters or the author or community that produced 4 Ezra. What ultimately led to their break with other Jewish sects was probably more their openness to gentile participation than their messianic views. The question so often asked as to whether Jesus was the Jewish Messiah is therefore the wrong question.

He was a Jewish Messiah. As were the Davidic king, the Aaronic priest, and their futurized and idealized images; as was the suffering servant and the exalted Son of Man; as was the Lion of the forest and the Man from the sea. The humble man of Galilee who will return in glory takes his place among these and all the other messianic figures of Israelite tradition. But there is a difference. This Messiah who suffers and dies for the redemption of the world has broken out of his original Israelite context This Messiah who suffers and dies for the redemption of the world has broken out of his original Israelite context. He has, via his interpreters, brought the salvific word of Israel’s God to the gentiles. If for Jews his story was a new expression and combination of familiar themes, for gentiles his message was wholly new—and for many it was convincing. 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.”- Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity, pgs, 67-69.

Note Kogan says, “The question so often asked as to whether Jesus was the Jewish Messiah is therefore the wrong question. He was a Jewish Messiah.” He is correct that within Jewish history, Jesus is viewed as one of many messianic figures. But in my two books here, I discuss why I think Jesus is not just Messiah, but the Messiah.

The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah by [Eric Chabot]


 

The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently by [Amy-Jill Levine, Marc Zvi Brettler]

By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

In the book The Bible With And Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read The Same Stories Differently, the authors Amy- Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler say the following:

“According to the Gospel of Mark, which makes no mention of Jonah, Jesus’s contemporaries ask him for a sign: they want some sort of proof that he is the Messiah. Healings, resuscitations, and nature miracles do not prove messianic status, for ancient prophets such as Elijah and Elisha, and contemporary Jewish charismatic figures such as Haninah ben Dosa and Honi the Circle Drawer, do the same. Wise teaching does not prove messianic status, as the stories of Solomon and biblical wisdom literature show. How can one “prove” messianic status? The people were expecting universal changes: a general resurrection from the dead where everyone returns to life, a final judgment, and peace on earth. The request is understandable: assertion needs to be backed up with action.”

I think the authors are correct that assertion needs to be backed up with action.  But their response that miracles so not prove messianic status and that Jesus is no different than other contempoaries is rather simplistic. Allow me to elaborate:

There is not a ton of disagreement that Jesus was a miracle worker and  considered to be a exorcist. As Christopher Price notes in the article here:

Any fair reading of the Gospels and other ancient sources (including Josephus) inexorably leads to the conclusion that Jesus was well known in his time as a healer and exorcist. The miracle stories are now treated seriously and are widely accepted by Jesus scholars as deriving from Jesus’ ministry. Several specialized studies have appeared in recent years, which conclude that Jesus did things that were viewed as ‘miracles’.” B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, pp. 11-12 (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998).

• “[T]he tradition that Jesus did perform exorcisms and healings (which may also have been exorcisms originally) is very strong.” R.H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles, p. 39.

• “[B]y far the deepest impression Jesus made upon his contemporaries was as an exorcist and a healer. . . . In any case he was not only believed to possess some quite special curative gifts but evidently, in some way or other he actually possessed them.” Michael Grant, An Historian’s Review of the Gospels, pp. 31, 35.

• “Yes, I think that Jesus probably did perform deeds that contemporaries viewed as miracles.” Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, p. 114.

• “There is no doubt that Jesus worked miracles, healed the sick and cast out demons.” Gerd Theissen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition, p. 277.

• “In most miracle stories no explanation at all is given; Jesus simply speaks or acts and the miracle is done by his personal power. This trait probably reflects historical fact.” Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician, p. 101.

• “There is agreement on the basic facts: Jesus performed miracles, drew crowds and promised the kingdom to sinners.” E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, p. 157.

• “Yes, we can be sure that Jesus performed real signs which were interpreted by his contemporaries as experiences of an extraordinary power.” H. Hendrickx, The Miracle Stories and the Synoptic Gospels, p. 22.

• “That Jesus performed deeds that were perceived as miracles by both him and his audience is difficult to doubt.” Witherington, The Christology of Jesus, page 155.

• “[W]e must be clear that Jesus’ contemporaries, both of those who became his followers and those who were determined not to become his followers, certainly regarded him as possessed of remarkable powers.” Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God , p. 187.

• “[T]he tradition of Jesus’ miracles has too many unusual features to be conveniently ascribed to conventional legend-mongering. Moreover, many of them contain details of precise reporting which is quite unlike the usual run of legends and is difficult to explain unless it derives from some historical recollection; and the gospels themselves show a remarkable restraint in their narratives which contrasts strangely with that delight in the miraculous for its own sake which normally characterizes the growth of legend.” A.E. Harvey, Jesus and the Constraints of History, p. 100.

But What is a Miracle? A Clear Definition

Five clear senses or types of miracle can be distinguished: This is adapted from David Hume’s Fatally Flawed Arguments Against Miracle Reports: by Hendrik van der Breggen:

Miracle (1) A “miracle” in the sense is positive and unexpected. Someone might shout, “It’s a miracle!” merely to express a subjective reaction, such as surprise or astonishment, to winning the lottery, for example. Such events are easily explained naturalistically, as coincidence. A religious believer might interpret the event (questions concerning the ethics of lotteries aside) as a result of God’s providential care. By “miracle,” however, people frequently mean something stronger than a prearranged coinciding.

Miracle (2) A “miracle” in this sense is mildly unusual, natural (therefore expected), and yet deemed marvelous. People may use the word miracle hyperbolically to express a positive reaction to such an event’s complexity and mystery. A young couple might speak of the “miracle” of birth as they look adoringly at their baby who was born without complication, even though they expected no complication. We typically use a more literal sense of miracle, however, and thereby mean something more than marvelous, though certainly not less.

Miracle (3) A “miracle” in this sense is allegedly uncaused and therefore inexplicable. A scientist might talk about the “miracle” of a quantum particle popping into existence causelessly because it arises out of a quantum vacuum. This use of miracle, however, flies in the face of the philosophical and reasonable principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Quantum particles certainly come on the scene spontaneously; nevertheless, they are embedded in a physically necessary set of causal conditions and so are not causeless.

Miracle (4) An event is a “miracle” in this sense if and only if: (1) it is extraordinary or unusual with respect to the regular course of nature; (2) it wholly involves natural principles operating in existing matter or energy to transform that matter or energy; (3) it is produced by an agent (whether human or supernatural) of superior knowledge and/or ability who taps into generally unknown natural principles to manipulate existing matter or energy; and (4) it is religiously significant. An example of this sense of miracle would be so-called psychosomatic, mind-over-matter, “faith healings.”

Miracle (5) An event is a miracle if and only if: (1) it has an extraordinariness or unusualness that consists of a “violation” of the usual course of nature (i.e., the event contrasts with what nature’s laws would predict if there were no intervention); (2) nature is incapable of producing it, either at all or via the natural causes at the scene at the miracle’s occurrence; (3) it consists of a creation and/or annihilation of complex specifically-structured matter or energy; (4) it is directly caused by a powerful, intelligent, and nature-transcending source of matter or energy, that is, God or a God-like being; and (5) it is religiously significant.

Examples of the fifth sense of miracle include Jesus’ healing of a leper (Luke 17:11-19), His multiplication of a few fish and loaves of bread to feed several thousand people (Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-9), and His virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7) and resurrection (John 20-21). In Jesus’ resurrection, matter and energy are created to generate or renew the various seriously damaged tissues in Jesus’ crucified body (though some wounds were only partially healed, according to the record). Jesus’ resurrection would be unreasonable to believe if Hume’s arguments were successful.

The Context of Jesus’ Miracles-God’s Relationship With the Nation of Israel

The historical and religious context for the miracles of Jesus is God’s interaction with the nation of Israel. Even during thousands of years of Bible history miracles were clustered in three very limited periods:

(1) The Mosaic period: from the exodus through the taking of the promised land (with a few occurrences in the period of the judges)

(2) The prophetic period: from the late kingdom of Israel and Judah during the ministries of Elijah, Elisha, and to a lesser extent Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time where miraculous deeds would be the sign of both the spiritual and physical deliverance of Israel (Is.26: 19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1).

(3) The apostolic period: from the first-century ministries of Christ and the apostles. Occurrences of miracles were neither continuous nor without purpose. (1)

Jesus as the Inaugurator of the Kingdom of God: The Actions of the King

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43).

In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

Within the context of first-century Jewish miracle workers, how much weight should be given to Jesus’ miracles?As Ben Witherington III says:

“The miracles themselves raise the question but do not fully provide the answer of who Jesus was; what is important from an historical point of view is not the miracle themselves, which were not unprecedented, but Jesus’ unique interpretation of the miracles as signs of the dominion’s inbreaking, and also the signs of who he was: the fulfiller of the Old Testament promises about the blind seeing, the lame walking and the like.” (2)

Wolfgang Trilling, a German New Testament scholar argues for a consensus in New Testament scholarship that Jesus performed some sort of miraculous acts ascribed to him in the Gospels. Jesus’ authority is evident as His role as an exorcist. He said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, than the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

This is significant for three reasons: (1) It shows that Jesus claimed divine authority over evil (2) It shows Jesus believed the kingdom of God had arrived; in Judaism, the kingdom would come at the end of history (3) Jesus was in effect saying that in Himself, God had drawn near, therefore He was putting Himself in God’s place. (3)

In Matthew 11:13, John the Baptist, who in prison after challenging Herod, sent messengers to ask Jesus the question:

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus’ responded by appealing to the evidence of his miracles. As Jesus said, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matt. 11:4-6).

Jesus’ evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:

1.If one does certain kinds of actions (the acts cited above), then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3.Therefore, I am the Messiah. (4)

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in Matt.11: 4-6:

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (5)

Jesus as the Sign Prophet of Deut 18: 15-18:

One of the most pivotal texts that speak about the first coming of the Messiah is Deuteronomy 18: 15-18:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 15-18)

In order to be like Moses, this prophet will have to be a “sign prophet.”

God says, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

When Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” the Lord gives Moses two “signs”: his rod turns into a snake (Exod. 4:3) and his hand becomes leprous (Exod. 4:1–7).

Moses “performed the signs before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

How does Jesus fulfill the role of a “sign prophet?”

Remember, “sign” (Gr.sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels).

“Sign” is also used of the most significant miracle in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus  from the grave.

Jesus repeated this prediction of his resurrection when he was asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1, 4). Not only was the resurrection a miracle, but it was a miracle that Jesus predicted (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19; John 2:19).

Nicodemus said of Jesus “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).

Some Jewish people object to the miracle issue as not being a vital piece of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. After all, Elijah did miracles as well. Perhaps he is the sign prophet ‘like Moses?’ Regarding Elijah, yes he did miracles because it was another case where God was confirming a true prophet. But to be like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), Elijah must fulfill all the requirements which he does not. Also, Jesus did his signs in the context of the in breaking reign of God. They were done more to confirm the messianic claim (not just the prophetic claim like Moses and Elijah).So if Jesus did rise from the dead (which he said would be a sign), that would make him rather different from Elijah.

Jesus and His Contemporaries

During the time of Jesus, there were other “holy men” are what are called “Hasidim.” A Jewish Hasid was someone who had a close relationship with God and had the ability to call upon God for power over the natural realm. Two examples of Hasid’s are Honi, “the Circle Drawer” and Hanina ben Dosa. In comparing the miracles of Jesus and Honi the Circle Drawer, the records of Honi’s miracles are from are the Mishnah (c. A.D. 200) and from Josephus (c. A.D. 90):

In comparing these healers with Jesus, we also see some other glaring differences. First, the earliest portions of the Misnah date no earlier than roughly a.d. 200, becoming part of the Talmud even later. Josephus relates other cases of Jewish holy men, but his account was written perhaps a.d. 93–94, at the very end of the New Testament period. Also, Honi had no control over the forces of nature, but he could ask God for rain. Other Jewish exorcists resorted to power other then themselves through prayer to send away demons. They even invoked “powerful” names such as those of God and Solomon. Jesus was quite different because when He did a healing He did not “receive” power before he drove out the spirits; He did it with a simple, powerful word that was His own. Rather than invoking the name of Solomon, he said “Behold, something greater than the wisdom of Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). Furthermore, Jesus did not ask God to quiet the storm or calm the waves; He did with His own word. (6)

Hellenistic Divine Men?

There have been other comparisons between Jesus and Hellenistic divine men such as Apollonius of Tyana. Philostratus, his biographer, tells that Apollonius cast out a demon from a young man and ordered it to provide a sign that it had left. A nearby statue promptly fell down. This example sounds like the account of Jesus expelling the demon from the Gadarene man (Mark 5:1–20). Did this account influence the Jesus story?

Gary Habermas points out four problems with the Hellenistic Divine Men theory:

The first problem is that Jesus was obviously Jewish and was probably even widely considered by some to be a Jewish holy man. We are told that he was sometimes addressed as Rabbi (John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 6:25), as was John the Baptist (3:26). Still, we have no clear signs of mimicry. The ancient definition of magician, one who was involved in such practices as incantations, sorceries, spells, and trickeries, hardly seems to have applied any influence on the Gospel depiction of Jesus.

Secondly, there are few parallels between the magicians, divine men, and Jesus. Clearly, the Gospels are much more closely aligned with the Old Testament, Palestinian Judaism, and rabbinic literature. But given this, it becomes very difficult to establish the influence of pagan ideas on the Gospels. As Habermas notes, historian Michael Grant has shown that Judaism strongly opposed pagan beliefs, helping us understand why these ideas never gained much of a foothold in first-century Palestine.

Thirdly, the evidence for Apollonius is rather scant. While the miracles of Jesus pass the test of multiple attestation, the single account of Apollonius was recorded by Philostratus nearly 2-300 years later. This means it may have borrowed from the Jesus story, not the other way around.

Fourthly, Christianity centers on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and this message is not borrowed from the beliefs of others. Habermas also notes that the late Martin Hengel asserted, “The Christian message fundamentally broke apart the customary conceptions of atonement in the ancient world and did so at many points.” (7) .

Scholar Werner Kahl provides some insights about three characteristics of miracle workers: First, the person who has inherent healing power is called a “bearer of numinous power” (BNP). Kahl uses the term “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP) for those who ask God to perform the miracle. Between both (BNP) and (PNP) is what Kahl calls the category of a “mediator of numinous power” (MNP), which can apply to an individual who mediates the numinous power of a BNP in order to produce a miracle. Kahl concludes being a MNP or PNP clearly is not the evidence of deity, whereas being a BNP could possibly be evidence of a deity. (8)

Eric Eve makes another valuable contribution to this topic in his published dissertation The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles. Eve observes that only the God of Israel is the only BNP while Moses is an example of an MNP and Elijah is an example of a PNP. After studying the miracle accounts in Josephus, Philo, the wisdom and the apocalyptic literature of the period, as well the Qumran texts and Jewish literature such as Tobit, Eve concluded that it can be demonstrated that the God of Israel is the only BNP. Hence, Eve contends that the Gospels display Jesus’ miracles as departing from Jewish tradition since Jesus is shown to be a BNP and his miracles point to him as being the incarnation of the God of Israel.

The Gospels provide valuable insight into the relationship between prayer and the miracles of Jesus. Jesus has no need to pray before performing any miracle, and the exceptions are prayers of only thanks or blessing, not prayers asking God to effect the miracle (Mark 14:9; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 9:16; John 6:11; 11:41-43). Eve concludes that the Gospels show no hint of Jesus being a “petitioner of numinous power” (PNP). (9)

It must not be forgotten that Jesus did not perform any of his miracles independently of the Father; instead Jesus did all his miracles in union with the Father (John 5:36; 10:38; 14:10-11) so that His audience would see the unique relationship between the Father and the Son.

Conclusion

It is evident that Jesus’ miracles are best understood within the context of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Most importantly, God took the initiative by revealing to mankind a fuller part His kingdom program through the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ miraculous deeds, healings, and power over nature as well as His role as a Suffering Servant was another stage of inaugurating the kingdom of God. Jesus, being the divine Messiah exhibits the same attributes as the God of Israel. One day, Jesus will return to fulfill the promise of completing the earthly aspect of His kingdom work. May all of us as wait with eager anticipation.

As the Apostle Peter said,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:10-12).

Sources:

1.  Geisler N.L., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999),  468-469.

2. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001),  12.

3. Craig, W. L. Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaten, ILL : Crossway Books.1984),  233-54.

4. Douglas Groothuis, “Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist,”http://www.theapologiaproject.org/JesusPhil.pdf/2002{accessed January 10, 2011}.

5. See Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.

6. Skarsaune, O. Incarnation: Myth or Fact? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House: 1991), 35-36.

8. Geisler, N.L., and Paul K. Hoffman Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books. 2001), 112-113.

9. Kahl, W, New Testament Miracle Stories in Their Religious- Historical Setting: A Religionsgeschichtliche Comparison from a Structural Perspective (FRLANT 163. Gottingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 76; cited in Eric Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231 (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007). 195-206.

10. See Eve, E, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, JSNTSSup 231. London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002, 15; cited in R. M. Bowman and J.E. Komoszewski, Putting Jesus Back In His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 195-206.


Is Yeshua the Jewish Messiah? by [Eric Chabot]

By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Jewish messianism is a concept study. 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 Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” Hence, we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.

Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah  comes, he will do x, y,  and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example:

The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by  famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” (1)

“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

Remember:  the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.”  To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:

Intertestamental and New Testament literature suggests that the expectation was all over the map. Some Jewish people did not expect a Messiah. Others thought that the Messiah would be a priestly figure, still others a royal deliverer. Some scholars interpret the evidence to suggest that at least one group of Jewish thinkers believed there would be two messiahs, one priestly and one royal. From what we know we can be certain that the New Testament did not create the idea of the Messiah. But we can also be sure that there was nothing like a commonly agreed delineation of what the Messiah would be like. The latter point means that modern-day Christians who shake their heads about why the Jewish people did not universally recognize the Messiah, considering all the fulfilled prophecy, really do not understand Old Testament literature.-Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (McMaster New Testament Studies), 29.

Varied Messianic Expectations at the Time of Jesus

#1: The Davidic King Expectation

While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually culminate in the birth of a specific person who will guarantee David’s dynasty, kingdom, and throne forever.  Royal messianism is seen in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 2  which is a coronation hymn, (similar to 2 Kings 11:12) is  the  moment of the king’s crowning. God tells the person to whom he is speaking that He is turning over the dominion and the authority of the entire world to Him (v 8). While David did have conquest of all the nations at that time, (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek, which is described as the conquest “of all the nations”  1 Chron. 14:17; 18:11) in Psalm 2, one day God will subjugate all the nations to the rule of the Davidic throne. (2)

In Psalm 89, the Davidic King will be elevated over the rivers and seas (v.24- 25) and  is the most exalted ruler on earth (v. 27). He also  will be the “firstborn” and enjoy the highest rank among all earthly kings. As Israel went into the Babylonian captivity, the prophet  Hosea says that Israel will be without a Davidic king for many days (Hosea 3:4).However, in the last days, God kept his promise of the Davidic covenant by rebuilding Israel which includes the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom (Isa.11:1–2; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11–12).  The Davidic King will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), even though he is not spoken of specifically  as “The Messiah.” Ezekiel also spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). There are other texts that speak of the Davidic King as the “Branch” who will reign and rebuild the temple and be a king-priest on His throne (Zech. 3:8; 6:12–15; Jer. 33:1–8, 21–22).

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

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

Even though this is one expectation in the Second Temple Period, it is not the most prominent one in the New Testament.

#2: A Transcendent Messiah/The Son of Man

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. First of all, “Son of Man ” is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). In other words, there is a correlation between the returning Son of Man and the judgment of God.

The term “Son of Man” in the time of Jesus was a most emphatic reference to the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14). The title reveals divine authority. In the trial scene in Matthew 26:63-64, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents because of His application of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself. Jesus’ claim that he would not simply be entering into God’s presence, but that he would actually be sitting at God’s right side was the equivalent to claiming equality with God. By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God.

As Randall Price notes:

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

#3: A Miracle Working Messiah

Even though miracles are often overlooked in the traditional messianic expectation (as in the article I posted),  it is evident that Jewish people at the time of Jesus did look for signs/miracles to accompany the Messiah’s work. In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” The references to the word “kingdom” can be seen in two classes: First, it is viewed as a present reality and involves suffering for those who enter into it (2 Thess 1:5). Second, the kingdom is futuristic and involves reward (Matt 25:34), as well as glory (Matt 13:43). In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. But if the kingdom is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives  and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”- Luke 4: 18-19

Even in the Messiah Apocalypse, which is dated between 100 and 80 B.C.E mentions a similar theme as seen in the Luke 4 text:

“He [God] frees the captives, makes the blind see, and makes the bent over stand straight…for he will heal the sick, revive the dead, and give good news to the humble and the poor he will satisfy, the abandoned he will lead, and the hungry he will make rich.” (4)

Also,  Paul says:

“ For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Paul notes here about how Jews demand signs. While actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophets such as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God.

“Sign” (sēmeion) is used seventy-seven times (forty-eight times in the Gospels). As far as the “signs’ Jesus does,  29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:18; 61:1). In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs three “signs,” at the beginning of his ministry; the water turned into wine at Cana at Galilee (2:1-12), the healing of the son of the royal official at Capernaum (4:46-64), and catching of the fish in the sea of Galilee (21:1-14). The link between the first two signs in Jn 2:12 while the link between the last two are seen in Jn 7:1, 3-4, 6, 9. Jesus follows the pattern of Moses in that he reveals himself as the new Moses because Moses also had to perform three “signs” so that he could be recognized by his brothers as truly being sent by God (Exod. 4: 1-9). In the exchange between Nicodemus said to Jesus, Nicodemus said, We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2). Also, the signs of Jesus are part of the apostolic preaching:

#4: A Prophetic Messiah

Moses and Jesus both claim to speak the words of God. It is also evident at the time of Jesus, that Jewish people were looking for a prophet like Moses. For example:

The people said, “When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is the Prophet!” (John 7:40)

Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)

John the Baptist began to preach, he was asked, “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:19-23).

Also, Peter refers to Jesus as the prophet of Deut. 18:15-18:

And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.—Acts 3: 17-24

Peter is referring to the Deut.18: 15-18 text:

 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Here, we can notice the emphasis, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The prophet only respeaks the words of God (cf. Jer 1:9: Isa. 59: 21). God said to Moses “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exod. 4:12).

We see  in the context of Numbers 16, Moses faced his opposition in that they challenged his headship and authority.  Hence, they challenge the idea that Moses has a special mission and that he was sent  from God.  In response, Moses  defends his mission in that he has never “acted on his own,” i.e., claiming for himself an authority which he did not have.  Moses says, ” Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord”  (Num.16:28).

As far as Jesus being like Moses, we see a similar pattern in that Jesus doesn’t claim to speak or act on his own authority:

 So Jesus answered them and said, My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”  (John 7: 16-18)

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught meAnd he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. (John 8:26)

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (John 12: 49-50).

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works (John 14:10).

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:24).

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me (John 17:8).

Also,  while actions by other prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah etc. show some significant parallels to Jesus, Jesus is closer to the actions of the Jewish sign prophetssuch as Moses. “Signs” have a specific apologetic function in that they are used to provide evidence for people to believe the message of God through a prophet of God. Hence, the signs Moses does proves he is truly sent from God.  Moses had struggled with his prophetic call when he said “ But they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exod. 4:1). God assures Moses that  the “signs”  will confirm his call:

God says, “I will be with you. And this will be אוֹת “the sign”to you that it is I who have sent you” (Exod. 3:12).

“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” (Exod 4: 8-9).

We see the signs are used to help people believe.

 Moses “performed the “signs” before the people, and they believed; … they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:30–31)

“Works” are directly related to the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 5:20; 36;10:25; 32-28; 14:10-12; 15:24) and is synonymous with “signs.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus speaks of miracles and he calls them “works” he doesn’t refer to  Exod. 4:1-9, but to Num. 16:28, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.” For example:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;  but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38).

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36)

#5: A Priestly Messiah

The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).  There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).  In the Qumran community which predated the time of Jesus was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22). The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

As Harvey E. Finley says:

Psalm 110:4 reads: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” This is a royal psalm. Two significant points are made about the One who is to sit at God’s right hand. First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God’s oath. Neither of these affirmations applied to the Aaronic order of priesthood. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3; Hebrews 7:13; Hebrews 7:16), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12; Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:3).  Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven (8:1). (5)

#6: A Suffering Messiah

As far as any expectation of a suffering Messiah, see Michael Brown’s pdf here.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the are a variety of Messianic expectations, I think Jesus is the most likely candidate to fulfill all six of the ones mentioned here.

Sources:

  1. David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, “Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge (Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune,  In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.
  2.   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.
  3. See The Concept of the Messiah in the Old Testament at http://www.worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/The%20Concept%20…;
  4.  Evans, C.A., and P. W. Flint, Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1997). Qumran is the site of the ruin about nine miles south of Jericho on the west side of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls contains some 800 scrolls with parts or the entirety of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, discovered in the caves near Qumran.
  5. Harvey E. Finley, Melchizedek” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).

By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

In this post, I want to examine some of the methods and apologetic approaches that Paul used in reaching his culture for the Gospel. There has been a lot of debate on the topic of apologetic methodology.  Which approach should we take in following Paul’s example? Presuppositional or Evidential? Many will quote one Pauline text and assert Paul favored one approach more than then the other. Sadly, this is not helpful at all. We need to look at various approaches Paul used before declaring there is only one approach to use in our present culture. I have noted elsewhere about the educational background of Paul.

Paul’s use of General Revelation

General revelation  serves to explain the worldwide phenomenon of faith. Many people are religious, because they have a type of knowledge of God. All people have knowledge of God although it may be suppressed to the extent of being unrecognizable or unconscious. It is still there, and there will be areas of sensitivity to which the message may be effectively directed as a starting point.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. ;For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.;For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”-Romans 1: 18-21.

First, Paul says God’s “divine nature” should be evident to all. This means we can see the non-moral attributes of God in creation such omnipotence in the created order. “Perceive” means to “perceive in the mind.” “What has been made” means God’s workmanship can be seen. The created order is more than a physical act, but the work of design, or art where the craftsman brings his will, thoughts or emotions, love and skill into it.

Remember, the Greco-Roman religious world which Paul is addressing would have assumed that only the wise were the ones who had knowledge of their gods. Also, being that Paul was Jewish, he knew that Jewish people would have seen the pagans as having no knowledge of the one true God. So Paul is turning things upside down here in saying that knowledge of the true God is  available to all. Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that are made” (nature).

When we observe the effects in the world, we can infer there are two kinds of causes—natural and intelligent. In other words, there are really two general kinds of explanations for events: intentional accounts (which demonstrate signs of value, design, and purpose) and non-intentional accounts (which lack values, design, and purpose).

Moral Knowledge

 “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:12-15).

The Greek word for conscience is “suneidesis” which means “a co-knowledge, of oneself, the witness borne to one’s conduct by conscience, that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God as that which is designed to govern our lives; that process of thought which distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, condemning the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting to do the former, and avoid the latter.” This type of natural revelation is called intuitive knowledge. It is instantaneously apprehended. The issue of moral knowledge is what C.S. Lewis discusses in The Abolition of Man. Lewis recalls that all cultures, Greek, Hebrew, Egyptian, Babylonian etc. show that natural revelation is true. In Romans 2:15, “suneidesis” stands alongside with the “heart” and “thoughts” as the faculty that allows the pagan world to live a life that corresponds to the Jewish people who have the written law (The Torah).

The argument Paul is making is not whether people know they have moral knowledge. From an epistemological standpoint, they most certainly do!

Paul’s Use of  Historical Revelation: Messianic Prophecy

In many cases  Paul’s audience were Jewish people who were already theists. Paul is seen going to the Jew first  (Rom. 1: 16) in The Book of Acts. Paul goes to the synagogue first in Salamis (13:5), Pisidian Antioch (13:14), Iconium (14:1), Thessalonica (17:2), Berea (17:10), Corinth (18:4) and Ephesus (18:19 and 19:8). In other words, they were already believed in the God of Israel. Hence, Paul had no need to establish whether there was a God with them. That is why his apologetic methodology was to go right into the Jewish Scriptures.

Let’s see where Paul utilizes prophecy:

Acts 13

In his sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13: 16-41), Paul says Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

Paul also says Jesus is the fulfillment of Ps. 2:7 and Ps.16:10 (see Acts 13:33-37).

Let me mention some other Pauline passages:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:1-17).

We see here:

1.The Messiah died according to the Jewish Scriptures (most likely he is referring to the entire redemptive plan of the Old Testament).

2.He was raised according to the Scriptures (once again, he is probably referring to the redemptive plan of the Old Testament ).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-7:

 “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see that:

1  Paul says that the information about the coming Messiah was written about beforehand in the Jewish Scriptures.

2. Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

3. Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

Acts 17:1-4:

“Paul went into the synagogue reasoning and giving evidence that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead.”

In this passage, Paul appeals to fulfilled prophecy which is probably a reference to Isa. 53:1-12; Ps. 22:1-16;16 or the entire redemptive plan of the Old Testament.

What about today? Can we use Paul’s approach with Jewish people? The answer is yes and no. When I debate Orthodox Jews or anti-missionaries(e.g.,Jews for Judaism), we are always debating prophecy and the issues in the Old Testament. So it depends on the Jewish person. However, there are many Jewish people that are not Jewish theists. They are agnostics or in many cases atheists. The majority of Jewish people that I have spoken to on a major college campus don’t have any strong convictions about whether God exists or not. Hence, I have to establish that God exists with them.

Paul’s Preaching and The Crucified Messiah

For Paul, “Christ Crucified” is central to his preaching and apologetic.

Donald Juel dicusses the challenge of a crucified Messiah:

“The idea of a crucified Messiah is not only unprecedented within Jewish tradition; it is so contrary to the whole nation of a deliver from the line of David, so out of harmony with the constellation of biblical texts we can identify from various Jewish sources that catalyzed around the royal figure later known as the “the Christ” that terms like “scandal” and “foolishness” are the only appropriate responses. Irony is the only means of telling such a story, because it is so counterintuitive”  (1)

Even Paul commented about the challenge of proclaiming a dying Messiah to his fellow countrymen:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor.1:21-22)

A Misunderstood Text?

1 Corinthians 1: 19-21: ” For it is written, I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

This is the text that many presuppositional apologists like to point out. For them, any apologist who tries to appeal to mankind’s fallen reason is on shaky ground. In response, no mature apologist thinks reason alone could give anyone a relationship with God. I have been at this long enough to know that sin can dampen the cognitive faculties that God has given us to find Him. In other words, sin affects the whole person—mind, emotions, and will. Human beings are radically depraved in their being. People can and do harden their hearts towards God. Sometimes they can reach the point where they are desensitized towards the ways of God. Furthermore, in relation to the text above, Greek orators prided themselves with possessing “persuasive words of wisdom,” and it was their practice to persuade a crowd of any side of an issue for the right price. So, since Paul is most likely condemning hubris (pride), he is against false pride, or prideful use of reason, not reason itself. (2)

From Idolatry to Devotion to Jesus

Given Paul was a Torah observant Jew, he was well aware of the prohibitions against idolatry. For example:

“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air,  the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.  But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.   Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.  For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land.  Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deut 4: 15-24.

So here we have a prohibition against creating any male or figure into an idol. But Paul says the following:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”- Phil 2: 5-11.

Following the exile and subsequent intertestamental struggles, the Jews no longer fell prey to physical idolatry. Also, idolatry is rarely mentioned in the Gospels. But there are warnings about idolatry in other portions of the New Testament(1 Cor. 6:9-10 ; Gal 5:20 ; Eph. 5:5 ; Col 3:5 ; 1 Peter 4:3 ; Rev 21:8).  Paul instructs believers not to associate with idolaters ( 1 Cor. 5:11 ; 10:14 ) and even  commends the Thessalonian for their turning from the service of idols “to serve the living and true God” ( 1 Thess1:9). So I guess my question is the following: Why would Paul or the early disciples commit an idolatrous act and but then later speak against idolatry?  It seems rather inconsistent.

They are also the earliest letters we have for the Christology of Jesus. In several of Paul’s Letters Jesus is referred to as “Lord” (Gr. kyrios) (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6-8). Hence, the willingness to do this place Jesus in a role attributed to God in Jewish expectation.” For a Jewish person, when the title “Lord” (Heb. Adonai) was used in place of the divine name YHWH, this was the highest designation a Jewish person could use for deity.

Also, as pointed out by Richard Bauckham in his work on this topic, Paul believed that  Jesus was God by attributing attributes to him that were distinctly reserved for God. And he did so in a distinctly Jewish manner while also preserving  monotheism. There were three attributes that first century Jews uniquely assigned to God:

1. God is the Sole Ruler of all things

2. God is the Sole Creator of all things

3. God is the only being deserving of worship

So let’s look at how Paul matches up the data here:

1. Jesus participates in God’s sole rule over all things

 Phil: 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

 

 Eph. 1:21-22: Paul speaks of Jesus being ”far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet…”

Here, Jesus is clearly given the authority to rule above every one of God’s created beings.

2. Jesus as the Creator of all things

Jesus is clearly thought by Paul to have been the creator of the universe. This attribute is reserved only to God in Second Temple Judaism. Paul makes it clear that Jesus created all things.

Col. 1:15-16: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

3. Jesus as worthy of worship (see Phil 2 text above).

As discussed above, only God was worthy of worship in Second Temple Judaism. Nevertheless, Paul discusses the worship of Jesus. Since God is the sole Creator and Ruler of all things He alone should be worshiped. Even within the Roman Empire, Jews worshiped God alone. No other entity was worthy of worship.

Paul and Work of the Holy Spirit

Paul insists that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14).. But Paul does not say that the undegenerated person cannot perceive truth about God, but that they do not receive (Gk. dekomai, “welcome”) it. Paul emphatically declared that the basic truths about God are “clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20). The problem is not that unbelievers are not aware of God’s existence but that they do not want  God  to exist because of their desire to live an autonomous life apart from God.

Anyone who does evangelism will generally experience several objections to the Christian faith.  Hence, it is almost impossible to do evangelism apart from some apologetic training. Josh McDowell has gone on record saying, “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.,”

Therefore, the mature apologist knows the  Holy Spirit has to play an integral part of the entire process.  Apologetics may serve as a valuable medium but the mature apologist knows faith is never the product of historical facts or evidence alone. For example, in James 2:19, it says that the demons believe that God exists. But just because the demons think God exists, this doesn’t mean they have saving faith. Objectively speaking, apologetics or evidence for God may help someone believe that God exists. However, the individual still needs to place their trust in God. This can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15).

What Can Apologists Learn From Paul?

1.Know your audience: As we see, Paul knew when to use general or historical revelation.

When Paul appeals to the evidence for design in nature (Rom 1:18-21), some assume we can  use Romans 1 and to walk up to a skeptic and shout “You know God and are suppressing the truth.” But this will probably fall on dear ears. This doesn’t mean I doubt what Paul is saying. I do think God has given knowledge of himself. But I have yet to have any success by telling people “You already know God.”  It just may be a matter of how we explain this text.  Maybe we can ponder the following comment by Alvin Plantinga:

“Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork. Our knowledge of his character and his love toward us can be smothered: it can be transformed into resentful thought that God is to be feared and mistrusted; we may see him as indifferent or even malignant. In the traditional taxonomy of seven deadly sins, this is sloth. Sloth is not simple laziness, like the inclination to lie down and watch television rather than go out and get exercise you need; it is, instead, a kind of spiritual deadness, blindness, imperceptiveness, acedia, torpor, a failure to be aware of God’s presence, love, requirements.”

2. Paul’ use of messianic prophecy: I am not going to hold back here: many popular level apologetic books  are too simplistic on this topic. If you really want to engage the topic, see our bibliography here. I don’t advise using the common line, “There are over 300 messianic prophecies and they are all fulfilled in Jesus.” Skeptics and Jews as well have written on the problem with this approach. So while the good news is that there are answers, Christians need to work harder on this topic. Furthermore, given all the supersesessionism that permeates the Church ,many Christians don’t know the role of Israel and Jewish missions (Rom 1:16).

3.Education: I gave some background on Paul’s education. It is evident that God used Paul’s  education and background to reach different audiences. So the question is the following: Who is your audience? What area of study should you target?

4. The Power of the Gospel: Paul preached the crucified and risen Messiah. This is the first task of our outreach efforts.  We are called to be faithful and let God handle the results.

Sources:

1.  Donald H. Juel, “The Trial and Death of the Historical Jesus” featured in The Quest For Jesus And The Christian Faith (Word &World Supplement Series 3 :St. Paul Minnesota: Word and World Luther Seminary, 1997), 105.

2. J.P Moreland  and  W.L. Craig, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003) 13.

3. Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2000), 214-125.


By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17).

As of today, people are still trying to answer the same question that Jesus asked Peter 2,000 years ago. In his book The Case For The Real Jesus, Lee Strobel says if you search for Jesus at Amazon.com, you will find 175,986 books on the most controversial figure in human history.

Here are some of the current views of Jesus in the surrounding culture:

Yes, there is a group called Ask a Muslim who actually spends time and money telling others Jesus was Muslim.

Here we also see Mormons have their own view of Jesus:

We have also have those that have their identity wrapped up in politics. Both sides assume Jesus falls more in line with their political party.

To see more about The Black Hebrew Israelite Movement, see here: 

To see one of many responses to the Aslan book, see here:

To see a response to the Smuley book, see Michael Brown’s book here.

As see here, there is plenty of confusion about who Jesus is. For over 100 years, there has been a quest to identify the historical Jesus and differentiate between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. Here are some of the aspects of these quests.

Books That Deal With These Issues

I quickly want to mention two books. I advise reading The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition: By: Paul Rhodes Eddy, Gregory A. Boyd and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony: by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham’s book is very significant in that he lays out some of the differences between ancient and modern historiography. After all, this issue plays a tremendous role in understanding the Gospels/New Testament (see more below). And by the way, The Jesus Legend is critical response to legend theorists. For those that want to see how silly it is to propose the theory that Jesus didn’t exist- click here to read Did Jesus Really Exist? By Paul L. Maier, The Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

Let’s Look at the Quests

The First Quest Period-1778-1906:

The First Quest was marked by works such as David Strauss’s, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Under the influence of David Hume, Strauss dismissed the reliability of historical and supernatural elements in the Gospels as “outrageous” and “myths” Another important work of this period was Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus. (1)

The No Quest Period-1906-1953:

Rudolf Bultmann regarded Schweitzer’s work as methodologically impossible and theologically illegitimate. (2) Schweitzer’s thesis marked the end of the Old Quest and the beginning of the No Quest period. Through the first half of the twentieth century, the pursuit of the historical Jesus seemed to some scholars to be futile and irrelevant. The failure of the Old Quest, as N.T. Wright has said, had left a “deep ditch” separating the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. During the period of the No Quest, critical scholars became more interested in examining the New Testament for what it revealed about the early church and its evolving message. Rudolph Bultmann was a primary leader in what is called form criticism during this period. Form criticism sought to draw distinction between various literary forms within the gospels- parables, pronouncements, proverbs and so on- and to identify the stages of development of the texts and the traditions behind them as they passed from oral to written form. (3)

The New Quest Period- 1953-1970:

Ernst Kasemann, a student of Bultmann began the “new quest” in a 1953 lecture. While he rejected some of Bultmann’s views, he was concerned with the person of Jesus as the preached word of God and his relation to history. The major work of the new quest is Gunther Bornkamm’s Jesus of Nazareth (1960). (4) Among the New Questers were German scholar Joachim Jeremias whose works in the 1950’s and the 1960’s focused heavily on the message of Jesus rather than on reconstructing a full-blooded biography. In the United States, the groundwork for the New Quest was laid by the eminent New Testament scholar James Robinson of the Claremont School of Theology, whose 1959 book called A New Quest of the Historical Jesus defined many of the issues that would come to dominate the scholarly community for decades.(5)

Weaknesses of The First Quest, The No Quest and The New Quest:

Naturalism: The naturalistic worldview came to be more prominent during the Enlightenment period. In this worldview, miracle accounts and any references to the non-natural realm are generally rejected. This is unjustified. For theists, miracles (which are paramount to the Christian faith) are non-natural but not anti-natural. A miracle, of course, is a special act of God in the natural world, something nature would not have done on its own. (6) It is beyond the scope of this article to defend the philosophical basis for miracles. For an excellent treament of this topic, feel free to read Norman L. Geisler. Miracles And The Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992).

Therefore, the entire starting point in studying the life of Jesus is about one’s presuppositions. Metaphysics is the study of being or reality. It is used interchangeably with ontology (Gk. ontos, “being,” and logos, “word about”). Without metaphysics, a person would be incapable of constructing a worldview. A worldview must explain all of the pieces of the puzzle we call reality.

These issues demonstrate that in investigating the evidence for the life of Jesus, every historian interprets the past in direct relationship to his own Weltanschauung (the German word for worldview). Hence, a worldview will always impact one’s historical method/philosophy of history. Philosophical or metaphysical naturalism refers to the view that nature is the “whole show.” If one has a commitment to philosophical or metaphysical naturalism, several aspects of the life of Jesus will be interpreted in a naturalistic way. Remember, naturalism is not a discovery of science. It must always be viewed as a presupposition of science as presently practiced.

To read more about this issue- see the Boyd/Eddy book or The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright. There is also new book by Mike Licona called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.

 A false separation: These quests fail to show that there needs to be a dichotomy between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. They assume the Gospels are non-historical. (7) In relation to the resurrection, Ben Witherington III says:

“Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.” (8)

A non-Jewish Jesus: Many Jewish scholars view the “New Quest” period as just another attempt to “de-Judaize Jesus” or deny his Jewishness.

The Third Quest Period-1970 and on:

As of today, biblical scholars have embarked on what is called “The Third Quest” for the historical Jesus, a quest that has been characterized as “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.” Rather then saying Jesus broke away from Judaism and started Christianity, Jewish scholars studying the New Testament have sought to re-incorporate Jesus within the fold of Judaism.(9) In this study, scholars have placed a great deal of emphasis on the social world of first- century Palestine. The scholars of the Third Quest have rejected the idea that the Jesus of the New Testament was influenced by Hellenic Savior Cults. (10) Some of the resources that deal with this issue are the following:

The Players in the Third Quest

1. E.P Sanders

Sanders is noted for asserting in 1985 the historical authenticity of eight activities of The Historical Jesus:

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist 2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed. 3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of their being twelve 4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel 5. Jesus engaged in controversy about the temple 6. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by Roman authorities 7. After his death Jesus’ followers continued as an identifiable movement 8. At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement

In 1993, in a more popular work, Sanders added six more facts to his list:

1. Jesus was born circa 4 B.C., at the approximate time of Herod the Great. 2. Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee 3. Jesus taught in small villages and towns and seemed to avoid cities 4. Jesus ate a final meal with his disciples 5. Jesus was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, apparatnly at the orders of the High Priest 6. Although they abandoned Jesus after his arrest, the disciples later “saw” him after his death. This led the disciples to believe that Jesus would return and found the kingdom.

Both E.P. Sanders and James Charlesworth say “the dominate view today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first- century Judaism.” (11)

2. N.T. Wright

Wright has been another major player in the Third Quest. Wright agrees with Sanders list but still adds some of the following items about what we can know about Jesus:

1. Jesus spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, and probably some Greek 2. Jesus summoned the people to repent 3. Jesus made use of the parables to announce the kingdom of God 4. Jesus effected remarkable cures, including exorcisms, as demonstrated the truth of his proclamation of the kingdom 5. Jesus shared table fellowship with a socially and diverse group, including whom many Torah observant Jews would regard as “sinners.’

In his book Jesus and the Victory of God,Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2, author Wright says that the historical Jesus is very much the Jesus of the gospels: a first century Palestinian Jew who announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God, performed “mighty works” and believed himself to be Israel’s Messiah who would save his people through his death and resurrection. “He believed himself called,” in other words says Wright, “to do and be what, in the Scriptures, only Israel’s God did and was.”

3. Craig Evans

One of the active scholars in the Third Quest is Craig Evans. One of his recent books is Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Evans this past May. His knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls, early Judaica, and the cognate languages is unsurpassed.

Evans adds a few items to the lists of Sanders and Wright: 1.The public viewed Jesus as a prophet 2. The Romans crucified him as “King of the Jews.” 3.That following Easter his followers regarded him as Israel’s Messiah.

The Core Facts

Gary Habermas makes an important point when he says, “Certainly one of the strongest methodological indications of historicity occurs when a case can be built on accepted data that are recognized as well established by a wide range of otherwise diverse historians.”Historian Christopher Blake refers to this as the “very considerable part of history which is acceptable to the community of professional historians.” (12)

Here are five well-evidenced facts granted by virtually all scholars who study the historical Jesus: (see See Habermas. G.R. and Licona, M. L. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus):

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion 2. Jesus’ followers sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead 3. Early eyewitness testimony to belief in Jesus’ resurrection 4. The conversion of Jesus’ skeptical brother, James 5. Paul, once an enemy of the early faith, became a commited follower of Jesus the Messiah

Who are some of these critical scholars that Habermas mentions? To read more about this see: http://preventingtruthdecay.org/jesusresurrection.shtml

It is important to understand that I don’t want to say that just because I offer a list of core facts that are universally agreed on by historians and Biblical scholars makes it true. If so, that would be what is called a “consensus gentium fallacy” which is the fallacy of arguing that an idea is true because most people believe it. Habermas completed an overview of more than 1,400 critical scholarly works on the resurrection from 1975 to 2003. He studied and catalogued about 650 of the texts in English, German and French. Habermas reports that all the scholars who were from across the ideological spectrum agreed on the five facts that are mentioned. Therefore, the scholars and historians that Habermas researched were not all from a conservative or traditional perspective. So there was some impartiality in the study.

The Jesus Seminar

It is important to mention that another group of scholars who are involved in the Third Quest are the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar come from various academic, professional, and  religious backgrounds.  Among the seventy scholars and laypersons that comprise the group, the  individuals that are regularly in the public eye include Robert W. Funk  (co-chair), John Dominic Crossan (co-chair), and Marcus Borg (Oregon State   University). For most of those in the Seminar, there is a dichotomy  between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” The “Christ of faith”  is seen as a figure of the early church who was elevated to a divine status by  the use of early Christian creeds and through the mythological embellishment  accounts of the Gospels that were written later. (13) In  a debate with John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, William Lane  Craig exposed Crossan’s naturalistic presuppositions. Craig asked Crossan if  there was anything that would convince Crossan that Jesus rose from the dead as  an historical fact. Crossan responded by saying a person has the right to say,”I by faith believe that God has intervened in the resurrection event.” However,  Crossan then goes on to say, “It’s a theological presupposition of mine that  God does not operate in that way that they.” (14)  To see some critques of Crossan and the Seminar’s views see here:

Conclusion:

The good news is that the quest for The Historical Jesus may be shifting to what is called “The Interdisciplinary Quest.” This means that there are many people from a variety of academic backgrounds such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology, etc., that are all weighing in on this topic. It should be interesting to see what happens in the future. I can only speak for myself in that I see no dichotomy between the Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History. You can decide for yourself.

NOTE: SEE OUR RESOURCE PAGE HERE: 

ALSO SEE OUR SUGGESTED READING LIST

Sources:

1.Geisler N. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999, pgs 385-386. 2.Ibid. 3. Sheller, Jeffrey L. Is The Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures, New York. Harper Collins Publishers. 1999, 176-182. 4.Ibid. 5.Ibid. 6.Geisler, pgs 385-386. 7.Ibid. 8.B. Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, pg 167. 9.Craig, W L. Christian Reasonable Faith, Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books. 1984, 240-241. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Geisler, N.L., and Paul K. Hoffman, Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books. 2001, 152.

13. House. W.H.,and Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and  Christian Evidences.Grand Rapids,   MI: Zondervan Publishing House,  2006, Chart 51.

14. Copan, P. Will The Real Jesus Stand Up? A Debate between William  Lane Craig and John Dominic CrossanGrand  Rapids, MI: Baker  Books. 1998. 61-62.


By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

The “Why” Questions

 

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How can we talk to people in the midst of all the raclial tension in our country.?  Just yesterday, while in a part of downtown Columbus, Ohio (see my display here), I saw two young girls with a sign that said “justice.” I asked them three things: “Why” do they care so much about justice and where does their concept of justice come from? “Why” do people matter so much? And, “why” do they feel so morally obligated to protest and fight for how humans should be treated?  Yes, they hadn’t thought much about it and by the end of the discussion I asked them “Don’t you think you should know “why” you are out protesting for justice? One thing is for sure: the concern over such a topic demonstrates that people live as if they care about justice, equality, and human rights. I plan on using this approach with many others.  Where am I going with this?

 

Why do people matter so much?

Given people are spending their entire lives fighting for what they consider to be inequality, justice and human rights. But, why do humans matter so much if all of reality is reducible to matter, chance, and the laws of nature? Biological reductionism, metaphysical materialism, and psychological behaviorism say that impersonal, physical, and valueless processes cause valuable, rights-bearing persons to be.Humans, therefore, can assign value to fellow humans by sheer choice. However, this assignment of value to human life is subjective, not objective. Assigning value to people based on personal choice leads us to ask, “What if someone doesn’t think a group of people are not valuable?” Rights, it seems, are linked to personhood. The Bible, for example, says that humans are made in the likeness and image of God, and that they are therefore intrinsically valuable. Rights come by virtue of who human beings are by nature, as opposed to function, productivity, or ‘usefulness.’ 
The two girls that I spoke to fell into some kind of postmodern individualism which says the grounding for human significance is based on subjectivism. In this outlook, significance is a matter of personal preference or is conferred by some external authority such as the state. This is why I asked them the following question: “What if Hitler doesn’t think people matter?” Maybe that is just his opinion?

 

Why are you morally obligated to fight for justice?

What is the justification for our moral knowledge? If God exists, then objective moral values are valid, independent of our opinions or preferences. The fact that we think we are morally obligated to speak out as to why many injustices are morally wrong establishes this point: we do believe in objective moral truths. Most of these protestors invest in activities that promote the kind of world they want. Many will admit they want to spend time making the world a better place. But who gets to define what “better” is? Most likely, people want a world of justice, equality, and for humans to be viewed with dignity and respect. But how do we know what the world should look like unless we have some standard as to what is just and unjust? People who fight for justice know how things ought to be, and they assume a standard of justice and goodness in order to bring to fruition their preconceived notions of a just, fair, and equitable society. On a secular worldview however, things happen either by “blind, pitiless chance” as Richard Dawkins says, or by the laws of nature. On this line of thinking, there is no grand plan or purpose behind the evil and injustice we observe. If there is no God, evil is just a social construct, and merely an illusion. I am asking these people the following: what is the grounding for the following three things?

Moral Values: are what matter to us (love, justice, mercy,  justice). They are what motivate our behavior. They ground our  judgments about what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable.

Moral Duties: indicates an oughtness of action; whether an act is obligatory. ‘’I shouldn’t do that, or you ought to do that.”

Moral Accountability: What difference does it make to you if  you just go ahead and disregard your moral obligations to  whomever?

 I know many of us may say “That’s too much to think about?” My response:  I am happy to walk people through it.  This is a great opportunity to share how the Biblical worldview grounds the need for justice, morality and wht humans matter.


By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Over the years I have seen more than my share of articles and books written on what is called "The Historical Reliability of the New Testament."

The irony is that hardly any of them have actually defined what "historically reliable" even means.

I recently finished Michael Bird’s book The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus.  In it, he mentions  the issue of ‘historically reliability.’ He says:

“What is more, when we say that the Gospels are historically reliable, we do not mean that they were intended to be judged by the standards of modern historiography or that they are the ancient equivalent of what it would have been like to follow Jesus around with a hidden video camera. They are historically rooted in the memories of the earliest eyewitnesses. ”

“While I think the overall historical reliability of the Gospels is vitally important, lest we treat them as religiously laden fiction, we should not import anachronistic and modernist criteria of historical reality into our treatment of the Gospels and make it a condition for theological validity.”

This is helpful. Bird is mostly talking about genre criticism and eyewitness memory. But let’s take it a bit further. I think most, if not all  the following issues come up when people think of what we mean by ‘historically reliable.’

1. Archaeological/External Evidence: Are the people and events mentioned in the New Testament based on real, ‘historical’ people. Did they exist? Have we found archaeological confirmation of many of the geographical locations, cities, events? There has been quite a bit written on this topic. I have included some posts on my own blog on this issue:

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

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

59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY: FACTUAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE HISTORICITY OF THE BIBLE

RESOURCES: ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONFIRMATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: A BIBLIOGRAPHY

CRAIG EVANS: JESUS AND THE EXORCISTS: WHAT WE LEARN FROM ARCHAEOLOGY

Craig Evans: Is the Bible Reliable?

2. Is the New Testament based on ‘eyewitness testimony?’ Of course, we need to ask what book we are talking about here. The Gospels? Paul? There still is a lot of ignorance about this issue. Here are some resources on this topic:

Are the Gospels a Reliable Eyewitness Account of the Life of Jesus?

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Why We Should Expect Witnesses to Disagree

Who wrote the Gospels? Dr. Timothy McGrew

The Hearsay Objection: How Can the Gospels Be Eyewitness Accounts If They Include Things the Writers Didn’t See?

Why Should We Trust the Gospels When Eyewitness Testimony Is So Unreliable?

Richard Bauckham Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Are the Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony? The Test of Personal Names

Can A Witness Be Trusted If He Can’t Be Cross-Examined?

3. Can we offer responses to every single ‘apparent contradiction’ in the New Testament? Here, people like Bart Ehrman makes this out to be a big ticket item. It is an ‘all or nothing’ issue. Once again, there has been more than enough responses to this issue as well.

Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions: James Warner Wallace

Old News! Approaching Contradictions in the Gospels

Michael Licona on ancient biography and harmonizing Bible contradictions

4. Can we expect people to accept something as ‘historically reliable’ if we have documents recording resurrections, people walking on water, etc?  Can the historical method ever allow for any explanation that isn’t a natural explanation? This is a methodological issue that is still being debated. Mike Licona talks about that here.

5. Has the New Testament been faithfully transmitted? In this case, the question is whether the New Testament has been faithfully transmitted. In other words, what does textual criticism have to say about this issue? Here are the following sources:

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?

Is the Bible Today What Was Originally Written? By Andreas J. Köstenberger

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

So these are some of the things that come up when discussing The Historical Reliability of the New Testament. Let’s make sure we are defining our terms!


By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Anyone who has been reading some our posts here  knows we have spent a lot of time on Jewish messianism and messianic prophecy. I have discussed messianic expectations and whether the Hebrew Bible teaches a two act play of the coming of the Messiah.

In  Craig Evan’s book,  From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation. he says: the following: 

 “Did Jesus intend to found the Christian church? This interesting question can be answered in the affirmative and in the negative. It depends on what precisely is being asked. If by church one means an organization and a people that stand outside of Israel, the answer is no. If by a community of disciples committed to the restoration of Israel and the convers…ion and instruction of the Gentiles, then the answer is yes. Jesus did not wish to lead his disciples out of Israel, but to train followers who will lead Israel, who will bring renewal to Israel , and who will instruct Gentiles in the way of the Lord. Jesus longed for the fulfillment of the promises and the prophecies, a fulfillment that would bless Israel and the nations alike. The estrangement of the church from Israel was not the result of Jesus’ teaching or Paul’s teaching. Rather, the parting of the ways, as it has been called in recent years, was the result of a long process”—Craig Evans , From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation

One of the common objections from the Jewish community is that Jesus failed to restore Israel or bring the kingdom. When they say “kingdom,” or “restoration” they generally mean that the Messiah will bring  universal peace and recognition of God (Isaiah 2:1-4; Zephaniah 3:9; Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Isaiah 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34) and the Messiah himself will be a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection (Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5). Also, the kingdom is characterized by a building of the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28) and a gathering of  all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6). There will be an era of world peace, and an end to all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4). Furthermore, the spread of the universal knowledge of the God of Israel  will unite humanity as one. As it says: “God will be King over all the world—on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9).

The problem is that when it comes to the reign of God theme in the Bible, it can’t be reduced to these expectations alone. While it is true there was an expectation of an earthly kingdom, many theologians assume Jesus shattered this expectation by bringing a spiritual kingdom.  Whether Jesus offered the political, earthly, aspect of the kingdom of God to Israel (as seen in Matt. 3-12), is hotly debated. One thing for sure: in Matthew 12: 22-32, something happened between Jesus and the Jewish leadership:

“Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.  And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”  But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”  Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.  And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

It seems after the Pharisees attributed the miracles of Jesus to demonic origin, Jesus  then went on to tell of a mystery form of the kingdom (Matt. 13:11) that is taking place between His first and Second Coming.  In relation to the kingdom of God, Jesus now offers an invisible, spiritual reign through a new birth to both Jew and Gentile that will last throughout eternity (John 3:3-7; 18:36; Luke 17:20-21).

What did Jesus do?

The kingdom theme in the New Testament is part of the great cosmic battle and a reversal against sin and Satan. It is also the kingdom over which Jesus is currently ruling (1 Cor. 15:25; Rev 1:5-6). The New Testament authors identify Jesus in God’s presence and at His right hand (Acts 2:24-33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Eph.1:20-21; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 2 Peter 3:22). By participating in God’s rule, Jesus is able to place all things in subjection under His feet. This theme, seen in the following New Testament passage exhibits that in early Jewish monotheism Jesus came to be recognized as ruling the cosmos from heaven: “Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:21-22).

It is God’s reaching out to restore Israel and through Israel to extend covenantal peace to the world.  Israel is elected for mission by God for the sake of these other families so that God’s blessing might come to all of them through what Israel is and what Israel does. The calling of Israel would  be to see the inclusion of Gentiles (“goyim” or “people groups” ) into the covenant.

We see in Jeremiah 1:5 that this prophet is chosen by God, not simply as a prophet to Israel, but as prophet “to the nations.” Other prophets like Jonah or major writing prophets, addressed twenty-five chapters of their prophecies to the Gentile nations of their day (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32). Amos also spoke of all the nations coming to the God of Israel (Amos 9:12). So the point is that while Israel was called to have an inward focus, they have an external calling.

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.  With that said, I say act one of the messianic task is a success. One day, Jesus  will return and establish the earthly, national aspect of the kingdom of God. (Is. 9:6; Amos 9:11; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14; 27; Is. 11:11-12; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech.14:1-9; Matt. 26:63-64; Acts 1:6-11; 3:19-26). In other words, one day the Messiah will be King over His people (Matt. 19:28).

I recently quoted R.C Sproul who says:

First , because of the ascension, Jesus went up to His coronation. He did not go up simply to enter into His rest. He went up for His investiture service. He ascended to the throne, to the right hand of God, where He was given dominion, power, and authority over the whole earth. The Lamb who was slain became the Lion of Judah, who now reigns over the earth. Again, the church has failed to understand. Many still look at the kingdom of God as something in the unfulfilled future. But the kingdom has begun. Why? Because the King has been enthroned. When we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” He now sits in the seat of authority at the right hand of the Father, acting, as it were, as the celestial Prime Minister. The New Testament gives Him the titles of King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6: 15; Rev. 17: 14; 19: 16). Jesus is no longer a peripatetic rabbi, walking around Galilee and Judea. He is enthroned, and no monarch in this world can rule for a second apart from His authority. He brings kingdoms up and brings kingdoms down. He is accountable to no earthly ruler. Needless to say, the reign of our Lord is a tremendous benefit for those who love Him and follow Him. For this reason, it is clearly better for us that Jesus left than if He had stayed.”–see Sproul, R. C. The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus’ Life Mean for You (p. 188), Kindle Edition.

Jesus is God’s agent to inaugurate the reign of God:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Jesus linked his miracles and exorcisms to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives  and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”- Luke 4: 18-19

How Can We Show the Reign of God is Here? 

The way I see it, there are some practical  ways that Cwe can show the reign of God is here. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Forgive
  2. Love unconditionally
  3. Demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
  4. Be peacemakers
  5. Be agents of justice
  6. BE THE OPPOSITE OF THIS LIST HERE: “ But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant,revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal,[a]haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of[b]godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.-2 Timothy 3:1-5
  7. Represent our Lord by being  agents of both truth and love!
  8. Be open to self-denial (Luke 9:23).

By Eric Chabot, CJFM Midwest Representative  

Not to my surprise, topics that center on the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus, brings up the issue of relevancy.  In other words, people aren’t always asking whether it is true. Instead, they are asking, “What difference does this issue make in my life?”  I previously did a post called Does It Matter Whether God Exists? Even though I discuss these in this video here, here are a few reasons why I think such a topic such as the resurrection matters:

1.The Resurrection of Jesus provides evidence that the God of the Bible exists. Let’s look a the following syllogisms. 

I1. f Jesus rose from the dead, the God of the Bible exists
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3.Therefore, the God of the Bible exists 

“In a debate with Gary Habermas, former atheist Antony Flew agreed that if it is a knowable fact that Jesus rose from the dead literally and physically it then constitutes “the best, if not the only, reason for accepting that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.”–Gary R. Habermas and Antony G. N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 3

Next syllogism

1.If the God of the Bible exists, then I’m not a naturalistic accident
2.The God of the Bible exists
3. Therefore, I’m not a naturalistic accident

“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.” — Stephen Hawking

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books. 1995), 133.

“Human beings cannot be deserving of a special measure of respect by virtue of their having been created ‘in God’s image’ when they have not been created at all (and there is no God). Thus the traditional conception of human dignity is also undermined in the wake of Darwin.”-R. Bontekoe, The Nature of Dignity (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 15– 16.

On theistic belief, all human beings enjoy, the right to life and the resources to sustain it, for life is a gift from God. Humans have a right to human dignity, i.e. the right to receive respect irrespective of age, gender, race or rank or any other way. A responsibility to secure/protect/establish the rights of others. Rights are linked to personhood. Because humans are made in the likeness of a personal God, they are intrinsically (essentially) valuable. Rights come by virtue of who we are by nature (or essence), not our function. So if Jesus rose, than huan beings do have value, dignity, and they are not just molecules in motion. 

2. If Jesus rose from the dead, it provides answers to the four worldview questions. Let’s look at this syllogism. 

1 .If Jesus rose from the dead, it answers the four worldview questions
2. Jesus rose from the dead
3. Therefore, it answers the four most important worldview questions

Here are the four worldview questions:

1.How we view man’s origins/what is a human? (How did we get here?)

2. What is wrong with the world, and how to fix the problem? (The human condition)

3.Where are we headed as a human race? (Our destiny)

4. How we know right from wrong? (Morality)

Believe it or not, a worldview will impact our view of our vocation, our family, government, education, the environment, etc. A worldview also impacts ethical issues in our culture such as homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research etc. Remember, the issues of competing worldviews shape the past, present, and future of a nation.

3. If Jesus rose from the dead, it provides answers to existential questions. 

Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith - By: Clifford Williams

1.If Jesus rose from the dead, then people can have their existential needs met (i.e., need for meaning, hope, transcendence, love, security, etc.)

2.Jesus rose from the dead

3.Therefore, people can have their existential needs met.

These are some of the reasons why a topic such as the resurrection matters. Granted, I haven’t discussed objections or evidence for the resurrection of Jesus in this post. That’s a topic that has been discussed elsewhere.


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