My post “How many guards at Jesus’ tomb?” has drawn thousands of visitors. The bulk of these come during the Easter season. I suspect that there are a lot of churches putting on Passion plays and they’re looking for some guidance on this topic. This year I have written essays that corroborate various claims made within that post. Hopefully, in time for the Easter 2013 season.
I had an interesting email exchange about a month ago concerning whether or not it was ‘necessary’ for Jesus to atone for humanity’s sins by the shedding of his blood. In some follow up conversation, we talked about different ways of looking at the question, turning on the word ‘necessary.’ As I recall, ‘free-will’ was …
When I was a high school religion teacher I ran into a bit of trouble because, for the final exam, I expected the students to be able to recall facts from the Bible that we had covered that semester. Yes, I know. If it had been chemistry class, recalling chemistry facts covered in the semester would have been an obvious thing to have on the exam. I think the reason there was resistance to requiring that students know biblical facts is because a lot of people- even parents of kids in Christian schools- don’t actually think the Bible is true. To them, ‘religion class’ is absurd; the only thing one needs to know is that God loves you and accepts you for who you are.
That is essentially ‘Sunday School’ religion, and basically why so many people today are falling away from the faith. After all, it isn’t like its true or anything, right?
So, my title is meant to poke atheists (and get some web traffic 😉 ) but what follows can be useful to anyone, Christians included, who wish to actually understand the Bible. Unfortunately, many people don’t. This is largely because they don’t grasp the over-aching framework of the Scriptures. This is then coupled with the fact that what they do know consists largely of Sunday School versions of popular Bible stories at best or Disney re-tellings of those stories at worst. However, even people who buckle down to read the Bible straight through will likely fail to understand it if they don’t keep some important principles in mind. So, note: if you are an atheist whose knowledge of the Bible stems from nothing more than Sunday School from 1st grade to 8th grade… pay attention.
To begin with, Mr. Pulliam, the blogger, says, “even if the gospels do record eyewitness testimony, that is no guarantee of their accuracy.” Responding to a book on the subject, Mr. Pulliam says, “Bauckham maintains that the gospels are reliable history because the accounts contained in them are either from eyewitness testimonies or very close to eyewitness testimonies.”
If Bauckham really presents his argument in this fashion it will be the first that I’ve heard it that way. I would think that it is pretty foolish to infer that simply because the gospels are (or are derived from) eyewitness testimonies that makes them reliable. That would be pretty dumb. Eyewitness testimony needs to be checked out, just like we need to check out the information that comes to us by any other epistemological method.
Who has suggested otherwise? Bauckham? On Mr. Pulliam’s telling… but given the weakness of eyewitness testimony which Mr. Pulliam putatively has proven- Mr. Pulliam’s recounting of Bauckham’s position cannot be simply trusted since this recounting is, of course, eyewitness testimony: Mr. Pulliam’s.
A long time ago I engaged in some online debates attempting to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah. My opponents were atheists and a Noachide- in other words, I was fighting off both sides. Sad to say, I had to turn my attention elsewhere and the thread dropped. Here is the original conversation.
I mention this for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to attack the prevailing sentiment that Messiahs are a dime a dozen and that religions derived from them are plentiful- thus, Christianity is nothing special. The truth, however, is that 99% of all messianic movements were brutally crushed… even Jesus was crushed, and yet he, and only he, gave rise to an entirely new religion with billions of followers. Odd. It requires explanation.
The second thing that I wanted to demonstrate was that there was at the time of Jesus an intense expectation for a Messiah. There had to be a reason for this. The reason I propose as the best explanation is that the first century Jews interpreted the Old Testament in such a way as to believe that the Messiah was to be expected ‘soon.’ Jews today reject these interpretations today, but surely what matters is what they believed then?
For a homespun story of great historical value, I submit Mrs. Bettina’s It Happened in Italy. Given current trends in America, Europe, and the world at large, I greatly fear that a hundred year’s hence there will be need for books documenting humanity’s bravery in the face of unadulterated murderous evil. I suspect that here too the story will be the same: the most educated people on the planet created and carried out their calamities… and the ‘uneducated’ simple folks tried to stop them.
I have three books sent to me due for reading and reviewing. It is going to be a week or possibly longer to get to one or all of them so I wanted to throw up a little blurb to each in the meantime.
Finally, Athanatos Publishing Group (an extension of the ministry of this site) released yesterday a book related to the Holocaust: Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible: A Scriptural Analysis of Anti-Semitism, National Socialism, and the Churches. My review of this book is available here.
It took a few years after my personal battle with atheism for me to realize the importance of Jesus’ Jewishness in understanding Christianity- and defending it. The character of the Jewish people at that time is well documented by both the Old Testament and extra-biblical sources. Some things about Christianity, or perhaps more precisely, the New Testament, make no sense apart from the Jewish context that it arose in. The brief video presentation below is not an argument for Christianity but rather foundation laying for such an argument. Everyone loves a puzzle! Puzzle me this- how has the Jewish nation managed to remain intact over thousands of years in the face of immense hostility to the point where they were able to emerge in numbers enough to re-claim their ancient stomping grounds? When you’re done with that, how did a people whose devotion to “Hear Oh Israel, The Lord your God is ONE” managed to become the womb for a new world view where God became a man?
Due out on Hitler’s birthday (April 20th, 2009), Joe Keysor’s book, Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible: A Scriptural Analysis of Anti-Semitism, National Socialism, and the Churches in Nazi Germany is an important book counteracting the growing clamor that Christianity was the driving ideology behind Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. It is very important- for obvious reasons- for secular humanists and atheists to show that brutal tyrants were not operating on their principles but rather on Christian principles. In some cases such as Mao and Pol Pot the operation cannot even be attempted. In others, such as Lenin and Stalin, more headway is made. In Hitler, secularists consider the matter a slam dunk.