Students of Bible prophecy have generally overlooked an important tool for understanding this chapter; mainly, the archaeologist's spade. Archaeology has a direct bearing on this passage from two different angles. First, there are ancient inscriptions that give first hand accounts, or historical reflections, of the fall of Babylon in 689 BC. Second, there is confirmation of this destruction by the German excavation at the beginning of the 20th century. With this, let us turn our attention to Isaiah 21.
Commentary on recent archaeological discoveries, current issues bearing on the historical reliability of Scripture and other relevant news concerning the Bible.
- Category: Contemporary Issues
In the July/August 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, a disturbing and highly prejudicial, anti-Christian column was published. The main thrust of this article aims directly and antagonistically at Christian scholars who hold to any form of orthodoxy.
- Category: Contemporary Issues
A review of The Edited Bible, by John Van Seters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. This recent book by John Van Seters should have a revolutionary impact on the critical study of the Bible, particularly on the study of the Pentateuch/ Hexateuch in the OT.
- Category: Contemporary Issues
In March of this year we were treated to yet another edition of information media's relentless infatuation with reinterpreting and redefining the Bible with its insufferable post-modern spin. The Discovery Channel's Who Framed Jesus? was released just in time to throw a wet blanket on anyone who might actually believe the Bible's account of the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion. Paraded before us was the predictable mixed bag of scholars and pseudo-scholars, who, in the fashion typical of those who have rejected the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, offered their mush-minded opinions of what must have 'really' been the cause of Jesus' supposed 'framing.' Forgive my dripping disdain for such academic arrogance.
The irony of using the word 'discovery' with such meandering nonsense makes us wonder how any true conclusions can be drawn from any ancient documents. As if our conclusions could be somehow arrived at by some sort of scholarly free-for-all, group-think process. But such is the reality once we reject the Bible as an inspired and inerrant document, given to us as the very oracles of God. Mind you, I am not minimizing the importance of research and the healthy process of uncovering facts and information that elucidate the text of Scripture. But human reason, fallen and autonomous reason, unaided by the Holy Spirit, and confident of its own ability to discover truth, will always end up in this place of judging Scripture and not being judged by it. Jesus said, 'Without me, you can do nothing' (John 15:5b). These scholars would do well to heed those words.
The primary thrust of this two-hour spectacle of skepticism was an effort to zero in on who might have framed Jesus. The speculation that was offered up as potential history served as a kind of structure for the program…a 'top ten' list of possible villains, as it were:
- disgruntled religious leaders in Jerusalem,
- Caiaphas as head of the priestly dynasty,
- the Pharisees,
- the Romans,
- the Sadducees,
- disgruntled disciples,
- Herod Antipas,
- and the coup de grace…Jesus Himself.
The Scripture, of course, clearly answers this question, even though our friends at Discovery Channel found it necessary to pick apart the uniformity of the biblical account with the 'assured doubts' of an esteemed team of skeptics. Some of the cast included: Bart D. Erhman, PhD. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Paula Fredriksen, PhD. Boston University; Obery M. Hendricks, PhD. New York Theological Seminary; James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary (these first four scholars were all trained at Princeton University…so we are not surprised at the prejudiced approach they take to Scripture); Yisca Harani, a Tel Aviv-based historian of Christian pilgrimage; and a few others. Dr. Craig A. Evans was a notable and refreshing exception, and was a voice crying in the wilderness amongst this cast of skeptics. Such an unnecessary and ineffectual approach was properly mocked by conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg in a creative piece in National Review Online, posted on March 15, 2010. Under the framework of tweeting on Twitter, we read: 'I'm pretty much speechless. I was unaware the case was open. That said, good luck getting the Procurator of Judæa to prosecute. Guy's got a serious conflict of interest.'
Based on my knowledge of cable tv, I hypothesize the new suspects are:
- Midgets or dwarfs (TLC only)
- A bridezilla
- Flava Flav or Bret Michaels
- The Real Housewives of Galilee
- Some shirtless guy on Cops.1
I'm glad I'm not the only one who found much of this long-winded discussion quite pointless. However, the implications of such rampant skepticism contained in programs like this are actually quite important, as they are a part of an unending process of biblical criticism that harms the faith of those who are not well grounded. I personally received numerous questions from those who saw it - especially from those who are young in the faith - and they were confused by what they saw and heard.
The program asserted that the Bible was wrong in numerous ways, but I'd like to dissect two of those efforts here. First, it has become a favorite approach of liberals and skeptics to simply declare that someone, some place, or some thing did not exist, even though it is clearly spoken of in the Bible. In this academically reckless TV special there were numerous examples of this. In order to dismiss Judas as the betrayer (or framer, to use the program's term), it is postulated that not only was the account of the 30 pieces of silver used as bribe money fictitious, but that Judas himself was created by the gospel writers for their purpose. James Charlesworth of Princeton University asserted that the character Judas was so contrived that he may not have been real…instead he may have been used as a literary device. Later it is suggested that the accounts of Jesus' cleansing of the Temple either didn't occur at all, or else the gospel writers embellished the accounts. By placing the writing of all the gospels after the destruction of the Temple, certain scholars suggest that the moneychangers were made up by the gospel writers to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. When it comes to the trial of Jesus, Erhman says that when you place the gospel accounts together it is jumble of confusion2…and Charlesworth blatantly states that the trial never took place. Over and over again these scholars simply play fast and loose with the biblical text, guided only by their skeptical presuppositions and their personal opinions of what they think happened. Anchored to a foundation of sand, these academics ironically sound like the very jumble of confusion they accuse portions of the Bible to be.
A second way in which the skeptics in Who Framed Jesus? play with the text and meaning of Scripture is to play the role of what I like to call 'literary shrinks,' claiming to know what the psychological intentions of the writers were behind their actual words. The effect of such literary psychoanalysis makes the gospel writers appear as liars, controlled only by ambition, politics, and their own distorted and narrow view of Jesus and their culture, making the New Testament a concoction of propaganda and misinformation.
A couple of examples of this will suffice. The program's narrator was careful to point out that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had to make a conscious choice in their writings between support for the Jews or support for the Romans…indicating that one of their primary motives in writing was political. Such analysis only reveals the bias of the shrinks, and says nothing about the text of the New Testament. The one very clear pulse that comes through the text of the New Testament, and especially through the gospels, is that Jesus Christ came to die and rise again to transform the hearts of mankind and NOT to establish a political movement. It was not to be an earthly kingdom, but a kingdom of the heart. This reality courses through the pages of the New Testament, and one only needs to be reminded of Jesus' statement in Matthew 22:21, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'
Another example of this same sort of this sort of psychological analysis is seen in the way these various liberal scholars attempt to explain the gospel writers' view of Pontius Pilate. Instead of seeing how the Holy Spirit provides us with a tapestry of views or perspectives from the individual gospel writers, they instead read into the text all sorts of political and personal biases so that each writer progressively softens their views of Pilate…and so that John (as the last gospel writer) ends up making him a lackey with little or no culpability in the death of Jesus.
Such analyses are based on a belief that God did not inspire the writing of Scripture and that these scholars are capable of an unbiased process of reasoning that will bring us to a clearer understanding 'of what really happened.' That is a joke. The one very clear impression one gets from such distorted analytical processes is that we are left with absolutely no understanding of anything in the text, since any and every word, sentence, and idea is left to the whims and opinions of the 'experts' in the hallowed halls of liberal theological academia, some 1900 years after the fact.
Who framed Jesus? There indeed are many individuals and groups that conspired to have Jesus arrested, leading to His scourging and death. But the Scripture is CLEAR…Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and his act of betrayal became the greatest betrayal in all of history.
God declared that He has spoken in Scripture. You either come to the Bible believing that God inscripturated His word or He did not. If you believe autonomous Human Reason over the Divine Revelation of Scripture, you will be left confused and will never be able to come to the knowledge of the truth. By becoming the Bible's judges they become white-washed tombs full of dead men's bones, since they cloak themselves with Pharisaic authority in the name of science and reason.
May God grant us all repentance for our unbelieving hearts, and may we be brought to a healthy and proper submission to Jesus Christ and to the Word of God inspired.
1. Jonah Goldberg: 'Who Framed Jesus?' National Review Online, posted March 15, 2010. http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YWFhNDMxOWQzYzkxNjUxN2ZlNjYyMmFlMjFkNzJmYTc=
(accessed May 14, 2010)
2. For a refutation of the so-called 'jumble of confusion,' see: Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007). And: Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's Publishing, 2006).
- Category: Contemporary Issues
The discovery of Noah's Ark was announced last Sunday (4/24/10) by a Chinese organization from Hong Kong (Noah's Ark Ministries, International). The problem with this is that it seems like the 'discovery' of Noah's Ark is getting to be almost an annual event. What in the world is going on? We think it's a question that is easy to analyze.
Genesis 1-11 is the most attacked portion of Scripture for its historicity. Finding an antediluvian artifact like Noah's Ark could be the greatest archaeological discovery ever. It evokes many wannabe Indiana Joneses to search for Noah's Ark. We see no problem with this quest, and would welcome such a discovery. The problem is not in the finding of the Ark; but in its substantiation. Amateur archaeologists can and do find things that turn out to be fantastic discoveries. Witness the treasure hunter, Terry Herbert, in Staffordshire, England, who recently found a huge cache of Saxon gold artifacts that was reported in National Geographic. However, to properly document a discovery, the proper scientific protocol must be followed. Scientists are trained to gather and analyze evidence. They then publish their research so that other scientists can test their results. These 'Indiana Joneses' invariably do not do this. They put the cart before the horse by holding a spectacular press conference declaring what they discovered rather than publishing their results in a scientific journal. The news media, on the other hand, is all too eager to comply for what gets good ratings, and at the same time put evangelical Christians in a bad light.
This Hong Kong group claims they are 99.9 % sure that the wood they found belongs to the Ark of Noah. Since we have spent a few thousand hours digging into the subject of the Noah's Flood and the Ark, we have the following questions about the alleged discovery:
- When archaeologists make a discovery they must be able to prove exactly where they took their specimen out of the ground. How do we know this video showing the rooms was filmed where they said it was?
- It is claimed that this discovery was found in an ice and rock cave on Agri Dagh, also known as Mt. Ararat. It is a known fact among geologists that nearly all of the icecap on this mountain consists of moving ice, that is, glacier. A glacier is a river of ice which flows down the mountain. Any wooden structure inside this ice would be ground to bits from the glacial action. In their news releases they have reported this site to be at 13,000 feet and in another report at around 14,000. With these altitudes it would have to be on the ice cap or at the very edge.
- Most geologists believe this mountain was formed in relatively recent times, i.e., after the Flood. It is a complex volcano with no clearly discernible layers of sedimentation that would have been laid down by flood waters.
- The group claims they have had the wood carbon dated by a lab in Iran with the results being almost 5000 years old (with the Flood occurring about 3000 B.C.). Why did they have the wood tested in Iran, we ask? Will other scientists have access to the lab results? Are there any good labs in Iran that can do this kind of testing? Or, was the wood tested in Iran because the lab results might be harder to trace by other scientists? Why wasn't a lab in the United States or the United Kingdom used? Just asking!
- Is this wood coated with pitch (bitumen)? The Bible says God instructed Noah to treat the wood with pitch, either asphalt or pine pitch (Gen. 6:14). At least some of this wood should test positive for this coating. Also, has a botanist examined the wood to determine what kind of wood it is?
- What about motives? Only God knows their true motives, but it sure makes one nervous when these groups looking for the Ark are planning a documentary video so early in the project before any truth claims are established. One of the members of this Chinese group just happens to be a filmmaker. Most readers interested in this subject probably notice that about once a year a new docudrama about Noah's Ark appears on one of the cable channels. They would not keep doing this if they didn't make money. Hopefully, this group's motives are other than financial.
- What are the plans to publish this material in scientific peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publications? We would have hoped that this would have been primary to a news conference and videos. True archaeology is not forwarded by this sequence, but we certainly understand their excitement and the desire to be the first to report such a discovery.
In addition to the above questions, we have some reasons to question the integrity of this discovery for the following reasons:
- This group had a local guide who is a known for his deceit and fraud. It is this guide who initially informed the Chinese group that he knew the location of the Ark in 2008. However, since then he has led them to more than one location. The first location was a cave at a low altitude, a small cave with a tree growing in front! Apparently the current cave is at the 13,000 or 14,000 foot level on the icecap.
- The specimens taken from this first cave (at the lower altitude) were claimed to be petrified wood from the Ark. In actuality, they were nothing than volcanic tuff.
- In one of the photos of the rooms, straw is seen on the floor and even a spider web in one of the corners. Really! Do spiders live at 13,000 or 14,000 feet? Can they survive the freezing temperatures?
- There is a real problem with evangelists (which is what they claim to be) who use this kind of discovery to prove the Bible, and hence convince non-believers of its authority, when in fact the truthfulness of the discovery had not been established. I [Bill Crouse] know firsthand of one 'Indiana Jones' who spoke eloquently and emotionally about his adventures, and when he gave an invitation at the end of his presentation, many in the audience stood up to commit their lives to Christ. When the speaker was confronted about the truthfulness of some of the stories he told that night, he replied: 'But look how many stood up to receive Christ.' This becomes very problematic when at some point the convert learns the real truth. They often become very embittered about all things Christian, and understandably so.
- There seems to be more than the usual gullibility here in that the Hong Kong group was warned about this local guide who has led others astray. We say usual gullibility, because it seems to be a characteristic of some ark-hunters as well, in that they tend to uncritically accept all the local lore. While many of these ark-hunters mean well, it seems that they want to believe every report seemingly at all costs; putting everything through a rational grid often is avoided as being too skeptical.
At this point we are skeptical of these new claims but would rejoice in the end if they proved to be true. If this someday is the case, we will be the first to apologize for our doubts. We would strongly urge the Hong Kong group to follow proper scholarly procedures and publish this material in scientific, peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publications so that the scholarly community can examine the material first hand and critique it in order to offer helpful, and constructive, criticism. For the person in the pew, we caution you to not get too excited about something that is at best, unsubstantiated; and at worst, a fraud perpetrated by an enterprising local guide!
Note: The authors are both members of the Near East Archaeological Society and the Evangelical Theological Society. We both believe that Noah was a real historical person and that the Flood was a literal event in space-time history. In our own research we came to a different conclusion about the landing place of the Ark. Nothing we have seen so far causes us to doubt or change our position.
Read more at these ABR links:
'The Search for Noah's Ark' by Gordon Franz
Noah's Ark Update by Rick Lanser
Has Anyone Discovered Noah's Ark? by Gary Byers
An Armenian Perspective on the Search for Noah's Ark by Rick Lanser
Did the BASE Institute Discover Noah's Ark in Iran? by Gordon Franz
Noah's Ark in Iran? by Rick Lanser
- Category: Contemporary Issues
Earthquakes play a role in Bible prophecy. They are mentioned in the Book of Revelation (6:12-17; 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:16-21) as well as the books of Isaiah (2:19,21; 5:25; 24:19), Ezekiel (38:19,20), Joel (2:10; 3:16) and Zechariah (14:4,5). A number of prophecy teachers point to what they assume to be an increase in the number of earthquakes and associate these quakes with the words of Jesus to show we are in, or near, the last days (cf. Matt. 24:7)...
- Category: Contemporary Issues
Is the Resurrection historically reliable? The writers of Scripture, particularly Paul and the gospel writers, seem to have thought so....
Is the Resurrection historically reliable? It depends on whom you ask. The human writers of Scripture, particularly Paul and the gospel writers, seem to have thought so. In fact, Paul went so far as to suggest that if Jesus did not rise, Christianity is nothing but a blind alley-a fool's hope (1 Cor 15:14). To be sure, a good number of people think Christianity, along with its tale of resurrection from death, is precisely that-a tale. These routinely suggest that the Resurrection did not happen, and that the existing records (especially the gospel accounts) are themselves the problem. These records, it is claimed, are simply the late and largely fictitious creations of that strand of Christianity eventually dubbed 'orthodox' (much to the chagrin of the competitors it snuffed out).1 Therefore, we must ask, can the history Scripture teaches be trusted, or has this alternative view gotten things right?
The alternative view has gotten things wrong, because it erroneously assumes two things about Scripture's account.2 First, it wrongly assumes the accounts of Jesus' resurrection were written long after the death of the historical Jesus (i.e., the Jesus nearly everyone admits lived and died in the first century). Second, it mistakenly assumes these later writers fabricated the accounts of Jesus' resurrection, so that the historical Jesus would match the Christ they were already worshipping. To deal with these false assumptions, we must show that the records are both early and filled with details not likely to have been invented by later Christian groups. We will do this by noting three firm facts.3
Fact 1: The Empty Tomb
This fact is supported by three considerations. First, Jesus was buried in a well-known tomb. This is important, because if the location of Jesus' tomb was uncontroversial, the claim by the early Church that Jesus had vacated His tomb could have been easily verified (or, for that matter, discounted).4 That Jesus' tomb was well known is attested by material both early and non-legendary. Mark's gospel, written no more than 30 years after Jesus' crucifixion and itself based on even earlier sources, mentions that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Mk 15:43). This early detail was not likely a fictitious insertion by later Christian authors. After all, Joseph was a member of the Jewish Council (or Sanhedrin; Mk 15:43).5 In other words, why would later Christians invent a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist helping Jesus? Had the early Christians created this detail, the Jewish authorities could have disproved it easily. They could have checked the records to find out whether or not Joseph had been a member of the Council and/or whether or not his tomb had been used, not to mention vacated, by Jesus.6
Second, not only was Jesus' tomb well known, it was also found empty. This detail is also found in very early sources, this time not only in Mark's report (16:1-8) but also in Paul's (implied in 1 Cor 15:4).7 In fact, many scholars date the tradition Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:3 to within five or six years after Jesus' death. Moreover, Mark's report of the empty tomb contains obviously non-legendary material. It indicates that the tomb was found empty by women. In Jewish society at that time, the testimony of women was considered unreliable.8 As Josephus, the early Jewish historian (ca. AD 31-100), notes, women were not allowed to serve as credible witnesses in Jewish courts.9 To this, N.T. Wright adds, 'If [the early Christians] could have invented stories of fine, upstanding, reliable male witnesses being first at the tomb, they would have done it.'10
Third, Matthew's still relatively early account itself adds to the historicity of the empty tomb. Matthew records what the early Jewish response was to the apostolic preaching of Jesus' resurrection. Significantly, it was not: 'These fellows are out of their minds-here is Jesus' body!' Rather, the Jewish authorities invented a tale that suggested the disciples had stolen away the body (Mt 28:13). In short, the earliest Jewish response was itself an attempt to explain why the body was missing and the tomb was empty.11
The Nazareth Inscription is one of the most powerful pieces of extra-biblical evidence that the resurrection of Christ was being preached right from the beginnings of Christianity. It is a Greek inscription on a marble tablet measuring approximately 24 inches by 15 inches. The exact time and place of its discovery is not known. The text records an abridged decree by Emporer Claudius (AD 41-54), instituting the death penalty for robbing bodies from tombs, a very unusual act of theft and level of punishment for such an act. This inscription strongly supports the assertion that the belief in the resurrection of Christ was widely known almost immediately after His crucifixion. In other words, the story of the resurrection of Christ must have been a story that was circulated by his Apostles themselves, and it was not a later invention by Christians of the post-apostolic period, as some scholars argue. The Nazareth Inscription does force modern scholars into making a choice of either believing in the resurrection of Christ or of believing that His disciples stole His body from the tomb in order to perpetrate a great religious fraud. Since its original publication in 1930 by M. Franz Cumont, no scholar has published evidence to disprove its authenticity.
Fact 2: The Resurrection Appearances
Paul's early account speaks of hundreds of witnesses who claim to have seen Jesus risen (1 Cor 15:5-9). This detail is not only early, but it is also non-legendary. Timothy Keller explains,
Paul indicates [in this text] that the risen Jesus not only appeared to individuals and small groups but he also appeared to five hundred people at once, most of whom were still alive at the time of his writing [ca. 56] and could be consulted for corroboration. Paul's letter was to a church, and therefore it was a public document, written to be read aloud. Paul was inviting anyone who doubted that Jesus had appeared to people after his death to go and talk to the eyewitnesses if they wished. It was a bold challenge and one that could easily be taken up, since during the pax Romana travel around the Mediterranean was safe and easy. Paul could not have made such a challenge if those eyewitnesses didn't exist.12
Fact 3: The Rise of the Early Church's Belief in the Resurrection13
Three considerations demonstrate that the early Church's belief in the Resurrection was not something they simply created. First, the majority of Jews did not believe in a resurrection in the middle of time (i.e., before the final judgment), and they would not have called a non-bodily appearance a resurrection.14 Rather, for a Christian Jew (as the disciples were) to proclaim, 'He is risen' meant that Jesus was indeed bodily risen.15 Therefore, we must ask, from whence did this belief in a bodily resurrection before the final judgment come, if not from the reality of Jesus' Resurrection appearances?
Second, resurrection, though important, was central to neither the Hebrew Scriptures nor Jewish thought in the time between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament period (often referred to as Second Temple Judaism). In contrast, resurrection moved to the center of Christian belief (see Paul's 'first importance,' 1 Cor 15:1-6). Again, we must ask, what made resurrection so central to early, largely Jewish, Christianity?
Third, we must remember the disciples were so convinced of this event that they were willing to risk their lives testifying to it. One must explain therefore, what happened to the disciples between their fearful flight (Jn 20:19) following Jesus' arrest and crucifixion and their bold preaching soon thereafter (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:2). (We might add to these the conversions of Paul and James; see Acts 9:1 and John 7:5 respectively.) In short, we must ask, what caused these remarkable transformations?
In the end, the alternative view's assumptions simply do not account for these three facts. The empty tomb, the appearances, and the rise of the early Church's belief in the Resurrection are details that come from early sources and cannot be satisfactorily explained as the creation of later Christian writers. Still, these three facts do not automatically prove the Resurrection, since any number of explanations could be and, in fact, are given, given for them (e.g., someone stole Jesus' body, the disciples hallucinated, Jesus did not die on the cross).16 Presently none of these alternative explanations has gained much traction, since each stretches the bounds of credulity. It is, however, important to point up (1) that alternative explanations of these facts are offered, something which provides a certain amount of confirmation of the firmness of these facts, and (2) that incredible alternative explanations are given, since believing in a resurrection, it is claimed, is even more incredible. After all, for some skeptics the Resurrection would be a miracle and miracles, it is routinely asserted simply do not and cannot happen.
To evaluate whether something can or cannot happen brings one to a consideration of worldviews. As postmodernism helpfully reminds us, everybody has one of these. It is the lens through which each of us interprets reality.17 It is the thing that tells one to expect what goes up to come down or to expect things in motion to stay in motion. It is what tells us to expect 'y' to not equal 'non-y' or 'y y' to always equal '2y.' The question, then, is not whether or not someone has a worldview, but whether or not one has the correct worldview.
The mechanism for evaluating worldviews and attempting to locate the correct one involves criteria such as coherence (internal consistency), scope (comprehensive explanatory power), efficacy (livability), and simplicity (simplest is often the best explanation), among a few others.18 The trouble that those run into whose worldview denies the possibility of the miraculous is that their worldview falls short on a number of these criteria. For instance, the miracle-denying worldview is founded upon the basic premise that all human knowledge is gained by either sense experience or reason (e.g., inductive reasoning). However, neither of these explains the near-universal belief in moral obligation (e.g., it is always wrong to rape, sex-traffic, torture children, etc.). In other words, nothing from sense experience or reason suggests that something ought not to happen or that something ought to happen, yet most people are deeply committed to knowledge of this sort.19 Can a worldview be sufficiently comprehensive if it is unable to explain some nearly universal phenomenon? Other examples could be given. Suffice it to say that this worldview comes up short time and again. Therefore, to reject the possibility of the miraculous on the basis of a largely inadequate worldview is, at the least, bad form.
If the facts are patiently considered and one's worldview is not illegitimately predisposed against the miraculous, then Scripture's claim that Jesus rose from the dead is at least a possible conclusion. In other words, the Resurrection could be historically reliable. We might even say, for the moment, that since no better alternative explanation of the facts has arisen, Scripture's explanation is presently the most satisfactory or plausible. The trouble is, Scripture, not least its divine Author, is not content with the Resurrection being deemed 'possible' or 'most satisfactory.' In fact, Scripture is not even content with 'definite' and 'best,' because its purpose points beyond belief in historical events. Scripture's goal is not simply assent to history but, rather, conversion. As such, Scripture not only demands the events it records to be recognized as historical, it wants the explanations it gives those events to be believed (e.g., 'Jesus was raised for our justification,' Rom 4:25). For this to occur, more than evidences are required, since forces, some supernatural, are at work that prevent the proper functioning of the human mind (see Rom 1:18-32 and 2 Cor 4:4). In the end, how one views the evidence for the Resurrection is inextricably bound up with how one views its significance. Since this is the case, historical proof must be accompanied by divine illumination. This sort of thing, at other times called faith, comes only by hearing and reading Scripture (see Rom 10:17).
- Bauckham (2008: 506) calls this attitude toward the gospels' testimony 'epistemological suicide,' since ancient eyewitness accounts are normally not assumed to be guilty (i.e., unhistorical) until proven innocent (i.e., historical).
- For a similar categorization, see, e.g., Blomberg 2007: 137, 323 and Keller 2008: 98.
- For a similar presentation, see the material by William Lane Craig, especially that which is available at http://bethinking.org.
- Craig 1989: 194-95.
- Craig (1985: n.p.) notes the opinion of the eminent Roman and Greek historian A.N. Sherwin-White regarding the historicity of Mark's (and the other gospels') account(s):
According to Professor Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman history are usually biased and removed at least one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence what really happened. He [then] chastises NT critics for not realizing what invaluable sources they have in the gospels. The writings of Herodotus furnish a test case for the rate of legendary accumulation, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states for these to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be 'unbelievable'; more generations are needed. All NT scholars agree that the gospels were written down and circulated within the first generation, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Indeed, a significant new movement of biblical scholarship argues persuasively that some of the gospels were written by the AD 50's. This places them as early as Paul's letter to the Corinthians and, given their equal reliance upon prior tradition, they ought therefore to be accorded the same weight of historical credibility accorded to Paul.
Cf. also Sherwin-White (1963: 187): 'It is astonishing that while Graeco- Roman historians have been growing in confidence, the twentieth-century study of the Gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, has taken so gloomy a turn.' Also, Blomberg (1994: 206) furthers Craig's point, demonstrating a terminus ad quem of ad 60-62 for Luke-Acts. This date then puts Mark, whom (most agree) Luke used in his own composition, sometime in the middle to end of the 50s. Cf. also Bauckham 2006: 155-82.
- Craig 1989: 354.
- Craig 1989: 363. Brown (1970: 980) agrees, saying, 'The basic time indication of the finding of the tomb [viz., Mark's: 'first day of the week'] was fixed in Christian memory before the possible symbolism in the three-day reckoning had yet been perceived.'
- 'Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women' (Talmud, Sotah 19a). 'The world cannot exist without males and without females-happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females' (Talmud, Qiddushin 82b).
- Ant. 4.215. Cf. Craig 1989: 366.
- 2003: 608.
- Craig 1989: 377. As Craig (369) further remarks, 'The fact that the Christian fellowship, founded on belief in Jesus' resurrection, could come into existence and flourish in the very city where he was executed and buried seems powerful evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb.'
- 2008: 204.
- For an extensive treatment of this particular point, see N.T. Wright 2003. Craig (2006: 148) calls Wright's book, 'The most extensively developed version of [this] argument.'
- As Jeremias (1974: 194, quoted in Craig 1989: 409) has observed: 'Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event of history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to doxa as an event of history.' Cf. also Reymond 1998: 565.
- Cf. Wright 1998: 4.
- See, e.g., Geisler 1999: 644-47.
- E.g., Wright (1992: 123) describes them in this way: 'Worldviews provide the stories through which human beings view reality.'
- See, e.g., Herrick 1999:791-92.
- Frame (1987: 117-18) says, 'Statements about sensible facts do not imply anything about ethical goodness or badness, right or wrong, or obligation or prohibition.'
2006 Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
1994 'The Historical Reliability of the New Testament' in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, ed. William Lane Craig. Wheaton: Crossway.
2006 'The Historicity of the Resurrection' in The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue, ed. by Robert B. Stewart. Minneapolis: Fortress.
2007 The Historicity of the Gospels, 2nd ed. Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity.
1970 The Gospel according to John. Anchor Bible Reference Library. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.
Craig, William Lane
1985 'Contemporary Scholarship and the Resurrection of Jesus,' Truth 1. Pp. 89-95. http://bethinking.org/bible-jesus/advanced/contemporary-scholarship-and-the-resurrection-of-jesus.htm (accessed July 7, 2008).
1989 Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 16. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.
1987 The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed.
1999 'Resurrection, Alternate Theories of' in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, ed. Norman Geisler. Grand Rapids: Baker.
1999 Reason and Worldview: An Introduction to Western Philosophy. Orlando: Harcourt.
1974 'Die älteste Schicht der Osterüberlieferungen,' in Ressurrexit, ed. Edouard Dhanis. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
2008 The Reason for God: Christian Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton.
Reymond, Robert L.
1998 A New Systematic of the Christian Faith. Nashville: Nelson.
1963 Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon.
1992 The New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1: Christian Origins and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress.
1998 'Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,' Sewanee Theological Review 41/2. Pp. 321-37. Cited 7 July 2008. Online: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Historical_Problem.htm
2003 The Resurrection of the Son of God, vol. 3: Christian Origins and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress.
ABR Director of Development, Henry B. Smith Jr., discuss the Nazareth Inscription and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Category: Contemporary Issues
At Easter you may have unique opportunities to share your faith with others who otherwise pay little attention to the Christian creed. Are you prepared to provide them reason to believe?.