Tag Archives: Bible Study

What historical evidence is there to support the post-mortem appearances of Jesus?

Eric Chabot of Ratio Christi Ohio State University has a great post up about the post-mortem appearances of Jesus.

The post contains:

  • a list of the post-mortem resurrection appearances
  • quotations by skeptical historians about those appearances
  • alternative naturalistic explanations of the appearances
  • responses to those naturalistic explanations

Although there is a lot of research that went into the post, it’s not very long to read. The majority of scholars accept the appearances, because they appear in so many different sources and because some of those sources are very early, especially Paul’s statement of the early Christian creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, which is from about 1-3 years after Jesus was executed by the Romans. Eric’s post lists out some of the skeptical scholars who the appearances, and you can see how they allude to the historical criteria that they are using. (If you want to sort of double-check the details, I blogged about how historians investigate ancient sources before)

Let’s take a look at some of the names you might recognize:

E.P. Sanders:

That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know. “I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: ‘I saw him first!’ ‘No! I did.’ Paul’s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus’ followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions.” “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it.”[1]

Bart Ehrman:

It is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. Thus, for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in the resurrection.[2]

Ehrman also says:

We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.[3]

 Ehrman also goes onto say:  

Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record.[4]

Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19).[5]

Marcus Borg

The historical ground of Easter is very simple: the followers of Jesus, both then and now, continued to experience Jesus as a living reality after his death. In the early Christian community, these experiences included visions or apparitions of Jesus. [8]

The references to Paul are because of the early creed he records in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, and his conversations with the other eyewitnesses in Galatians. Eric has another post where he goes over that early creed, and it is something that every Christian should know about. It’s really kind of surprising that you never hear a sermon on that early creed in church, where they generally sort of assume that you believe everything in the Bible on faith. But skeptical historians don’t believe in the post-mortem appearances by faith – they believe it (in part) because of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

If you want to see a Christian scholar make the case for the resurrection appearances in a debate, then here is a post I wrote with the video, audio and summary of the William Lane Craig vs James Crossley debate on the resurrection.

Walt Russell explains how to read the Bible effectively

Dr. Walt Russell’s book on the subject of interpreting the Bible is called “Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul“. I like that book, but I found four articles that summarize the main points of the book so people can understand how to read the Bible at a high livel.

Here is part one which talks about how postmodern relativism is at odds with discovering the original intent of an author.

Excerpt:

Twenty-four year-old “Janet” (not her real name) was angry at my emphasis on seeking to discover authors’ intentions when we read their texts. She was an evangelical Christian and a second grade teacher in a public school. She prided herself in helping her 20 students learn to love literature. She would read them a story as they gathered around her, and then ask each child, “What does the story mean to you?” She prodded them to come up with their own unique meanings. With such strong encouragement, the class of 20 would eventually have 20 different meanings for the one story. Janet sensed that I was a naysayer about such “love of literature.” Pouring a little emotional gasoline on the fire, I said, “Janet, you’re certainly doing your part to insure that these 7 year-olds will never recover from a radically relativistic view of meaning!” Now I had her full attention.

Here is part two which talks about the importance of knowing the genre of a text before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” — the newspaper headline virtually screams out at you. The thought of something being slain is repulsive. You’re gripped by a mental image of southern India’s Bengal tiger. You imagine its beautiful face, its stripes and piercing eyes. Then your image is shattered by the sudden blast of a high-powered rifle. You see the exquisite creature writhe in pain, fall gracelessly in its tracks and die. Having read no further than the headline, you feel sick, as if you’ve witnessed something tragic.

But should you feel this way? The slaughter of an endangered species — especially one as magnificent as the Bengal tiger — is horrifying, no doubt. But suppose you failed to notice that the headline “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” appeared in the sports page of the morning paper. Clearly enough, it now refers to different Indians, different Tigers and a different manner of slaying than you originally thought. And is it really that tragic that the Cleveland Indians badly beat the Detroit Tigers in a major league baseball game last night? Not unless you’re a long-suffering Detroit Tigers’ baseball fan. But how do you now know that the headline is about baseball and not tiger-slaying in India? You look at the words “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS” and you know exactly what each word means. When you combine these words, how can they not mean exactly what you first thought they did — that Indians slay tigers? Answer: because their meanings are communicated (as the meanings of all words are) through genres!

Here is part three which talks about the importance of reading the context of a verse before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“Never Read a Bible Verse!” That’s the title of a little booklet my friend and Christian radio personality, Gregory Koukl, has written to help people read the Bible well. What great advice. “That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph — at least.” But the current is flowing the other way in our popular sound-bite culture. Not to be left out (or left behind!), the Church has its own version of sound-bite culture: verse-bite culture. In verse-bite culture we take a sentence or sentence-fragment from a biblical paragraph, memorize it out of context, write it on a little card, put it on a billboard, a plaque, a rock, etc. Somehow we think that just because this little chunk of Scripture has a verse number in front of it, it was meant to be a free-standing unit of thought. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Apart from the fact that chapter and verse divisions weren’t added to the New Testament text until 1560 — long after the New Testament’s inspired authorship — there is a more important reason for never reading just a Bible verse, and instead reading at least the paragraph that contains it.

Here is part four which talks about the importance of applying the words of the Bible to your life.

One verse that is often misinterpreted is missing from the articles, but present in the STR lecture. It’s Philippians 1:6 that says “6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Russell says in the lecture that this promise is specifically intended for the church in Philippi, to whom Paul is writing, not necessarily to all Christians. He is giving them a promise just after directly referring to their good work in supporting him in his ministry. Some verses are just not meant for us, and the context reveals it.

Andreas Kostenberger explains what the Bible says about marriage and family

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

A long essay posted by the Family Research Council, and written by the expert on Bible and marriage.

About the author:

Andreas J. Kostenberger is the Director of Ph.D. Studies and Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) and founding president of Biblical Foundations, an organization with the aim of “restoring the biblical foundations of the home, the church, and society.” Dr. Kostenberger holds doctorates awarded by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and the Vienna University of Economics. His publications include the commentary on John in the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series, and God, Marriage, and Family. With Peter O’Brien, he wrote Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, and The Book Study Concordance with Raymond Bouchoc.

Intro:

Incredible as it may seem, we can no longer assume that people in our culture understand what the proper definition of “marriage” and “the family” is. Not only is this a sad commentary on the impact of same-sex marriage activists on our society, it also shows how the culture’s memory of the biblical tradition on which it is largely based is fading fast. What is marriage, biblically defined? And what is the biblical definition of a family? In this brief treatise on marriage and the family, we will take up these questions and proceed to discuss a number of related matters, such as singleness, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality, in an effort to develop a full-orbed understanding of the biblical teaching on the subject. As I have sought to demonstrate at some length in my book God, Marriage, and the Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, marriage and the family are institutions under siege today, and only a return to the biblical foundation of these God-given institutions will reverse the decline of marriage and the family in our culture today.

[…]These aspects of marriage–the complementarity of male and female, and the irreplaceable role of male-female relations in reproducing the human race–are part of the original order of creation, and are evident to all human beings from the enduring order of nature. These common elements of marriage are at the heart of our civil laws defining and regulating marriage. Therefore, people of all cultures and religions–including those who lack faith in God, Christ, or the Bible–are capable of participating in the institution of marriage. However, we who are Christians believe that the fullest understanding of God’s will for marriage can be derived from a careful examination of scriptural teachings. It is incumbent upon the church to educate both itself and the larger culture regarding the full breadth and depth of God’s intentions for marriage.

The essay itself covers many useful areas:

  • difference between a contract and a covenant
  • 5 principles of marriage: permanence, sacredness, intimacy, mutuality, exclusivity
  • alternatives to marriage: polygamy, divorce, adultery, homosexuality, sterility
  • the Biblical pattern for marriage and what it means
  • how marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with his church
  • singleness, chastity, celibacy
  • homosexuality
  • divorce

For my two excerpts, I want to focus on two things that I have personally encountered with a young Christian woman, who disagree with both of these points.

First, marriage as a covenant means that you stay in it regardless of feelings:

Today, marriage and the family are regularly viewed as social conventions that can be entered into and severed by the marital partners at will. As long as a given marriage relationship meets the needs of both individuals involved and is considered advantageous by both sides, the marriage is worth sustaining. If one or both partners decide that they will be better off by breaking up the marriage and entering into a new, better marital union, nothing can legitimately keep them from pursuing their self-interest, self-realization, and self-fulfillment.

[…]In essence, a covenant is a contract between two parties that is established before God as a witness, a contract whose permanence is ultimately safeguarded by none other than God himself. In this sense, marriage is a covenant: it is entered into by the husband and the wife before God as a witness. Because it is ultimately God who has joined the marriage partners together, the husband and the wife vow to each other abiding loyalty and fidelity “till death do us part.” Rightly understood, therefore, a marriage entered into before God involves three persons: a husband, a wife, and God. For this reason, it is not self-interest, human advantage, or an unfettered commitment to personal freedom that governs the marriage relationship, but the husband and wife’s joint commitment to conduct their marriage based on God’s design and sovereign plan.

And you should practice self-denial, self-sacrificial love, etc. before the marriage. Practicing how to do whatever makes you feel good even when it hurts others is not preparation for marriage.

Second, the notion of male headship, which means that in marriage, men set the overall strategy and enable their wives to help them by clearing obstacles and encouraging her to engage:

Wives, for their part, are called to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord. As the church submits to Christ, so wives should to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:21-24). Husbands, in turn, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. They are to provide for their wives both physically and spiritually and to cherish them as God’s special provision for them (Ephesians 5:25-30).

If you want to know what the Bible says about marriage, read this article. I’m sure you’ll learn something new about marriage as God intended it. It’s always good to look in the Bible and see what God wants from us. We should not be reading it n order to try to make it serve our feelings. Let’s open the Bible and see who God is first. Once we know God, then we can make decisions and plans that respect him, and pursue those plans regardless of our feelings and desires.

Wayne Grudem explains what the Bible says about spending, saving and charity

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

A practical lecture on money – spending, saving, charitable giving – from famous pastor Wayne Grudem.

If you’re like me and you struggle with Bible study and church sermons unless you get something practical out of it, then these Bible studies are for you. You’ll like the way that Grudem navigates the Bible finding the passages that tell you who God is, so that you can make better decisions by analyzing alternatives and choosing the one that gives your Boss a maximum return on investment.

The MP3 file is here.

The PDF outline is here.

Spending:

  • Christianity does not teach asceticism (= don’t enjoy anything in this world), Paul condemns it in 1 Timothy 4:1-5
  • When you buy nice things, even if it is a little more expensive, it’s an opportunity to be thankful for nice things that God has provided
  • Even being rich is OK, but don’t let it make you haughty and arrogant, and don’t set your hopes on your money (see 1 Tim 6:17)
  • It is important for you to earn money, and you are supposed to use it to support yourself and be independent
  • It is possible to overspend and live recklessly (Luke 15:13) and it’s also possible to overspend and live too luxuriously
  • Increasing your income through career progression is wise, because it allows you to give away more and save more
  • God gives us freedom to decide how much we spend, how much we give away, and how much we save
  • every choice a Christian makes with money will give him or her more or less reward in his or her afterlife
  • Do not spend more than you have – you should make every effort to get out of debt as quickly as possible

Saving:

  • Saving money is wise so you can help yourself and others, and have money in your old age when you will not be working
  • If you do not save your own money, you end up being dependent on others (e.g. – family or taxpayers)
  • Not saving money for the future is a way of “putting God to the test” (Matt 4:7)
  • You are to “be dependent on no one”, to the extent that you can (1 Thes 4:12)
  • We don’t know the future, that’s why we should prepare for an emergency, and buy insurance to guard (James 4:13-17)
  • It’s right for us to learn how to save to be able to buy bigger assets, like a car or a college education
  • Saving and investing in stocks and bonds lets people in business start and grow companies, creating jobs and new products
  • Don’t over-save, trusting too much in money more than you trust in God (Ps 62.10; Matt 6:19,24; Luke 12:15-21)

Giving:

  • it is required for the people of God to give something out of what they earn, but no percentage is specified (Deut 26:12-13)
  • you do not give money to become right with God, you can’t earn your salvation
  • a Christian gives to show God that you trust him to take care of you, and to experience trusting him through your giving
  • the quality of your resurrection life with God is affected by giving you do for the Kingdom (Phil 4, Matt 6:19-21; 1 Tim 6:18-19)
  • when you get involved in the lives of others and give to them, you have the joy of experiencing caring for others (Acts 20:35)
  • it’s possible to give too little, but it’s also possible to give too much – be careful about pride creeping in as well

The first part of this lecture made me think of my treat for the week, which is to go to an Indian buffet on Wednesdays, if I can. It costs $10, which is more than my usual $3.50 for a frozen meal for lunch and another $3.50 for a frozen meal for dinner. Spending a little more on a yummy plate of my favorite food makes it easy for me to remember to say grace, which is what Grudem said about spending making you thankful.

Theology that hits the spot
My weekly treat causes me to be VERY thankful

I was so happy listening to this talk because he was condemning bad stewardship, which I see in a lot of young people these days. I was happy until he got to the part about trusting in your savings for your security, and then I thought – that’s what I do wrong! I save a lot but it’s not just for emergencies and to share with others, like he was saying – I want a sense of security. This was more of a temptation in my 20s than it is now in my 30s, though.

Ironically, I woke up Wednesday morning and was singing this song in the shower:

It’s a song about being wanting to be righteous, and yet being unable to attain it on your own. I must think that being justified by faith in Jesus is more important than money, because I never wake up singing about the security I get from my savings. Still, I consider myself warned.

I can remember being in my first full-time job as a newly hired junior programmer when the 2001 recession struck. I would cry while signing checks to support William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith ministry, because I was so scared. I had no family or friends where I lived to help me if anything went wrong, and that’s been the story of my working life. If anything goes wrong, there is no backup. But it’s that experience of crying when I gave that allows me to say today “that’s when I became the man I am, that’s what a man does when he is a follower of Jesus”. If you are not doing the actions of charity, then you will not having the experience of trusting God and letting him lead you. There is more to the Christian life than just saying the right things – you have to do the right things.

If you’re scared about giving when you are young, then do what I did in my 20s: work 70-hour weeks, get promoted often, and save everything you earn. I volunteered every Saturday for 9 months in order to get my first white-collar part-time job when I was still in high-school. The faster you increase your savings, the easier it’s going to be to take a genuine interest in caring for the people around you. Read Phil 1 (fellowship), Phil 2 (concern for others), and Phil 4 (charity). Turn off your emotions and desires, and put Philippians into practice. Note that your freedom to give is very much tied to the quality of your decisions of what to study, where to work, how much you spend on entertainment, and so on. That’s why you need to turn off your feelings and desires and do what works, even it it’s not fun, and even if it involves responsibilities and obligations.

Wayne Grudem explains what the Bible says about war

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

A two-part sermon from famous pastor Wayne Grudem.

The part 1 MP3 file is here.

The part 2 MP3 file is here.

The PDF outline is here.

Part 1 topics: (just war and conduct of war)

  • the commandment to not kill does not apply to killing enemy soldiers in war
  • government is authorized to prevent foreign countries from harming citizens the same way it prevents criminals from harming citizens
  • there are examples in the Bible of using military force to stop an aggressive nation, e.g. – David vs Goliath
  • principles of a just war, and relevant Bible passages, e.g. – just cause, only as a last resort
  • Moral principles for the conduct of a just war, e.g. – proportionality, combatants vs non-combatants
  • Can a Christian serve in a just war in good conscience?
  • What should a Christian do if called upon to fight in an unjust war?

Part 2 topics: (responses to pacificism)

  • what are the arguments in favor of pacifism?
  • government can do some things that individuals cannot do, e.g. – taxing vs stealing, punishing criminals vs revenge
  • it’s wrong for individuals to use force to advance the gospel, but not wrong for government to use force to restrain evil
  • Jesus loves everyone, but even he will come in judgment one day and use force to punish evil
  • what about nuclear weapons, nuclear arsenals for deterrence, and defenses to long-range nuclear missiles?
  • missile defense systems work, e.g – Iron Dome in Israel stopped about 85% of incoming missiles
  • building defenses does not embolden the enemy to attack us, it deters the enemy from attacking us
  • “turn the other cheek” means don’t return an insult, but you can defend yourself from physical threats

My favorite part of this two-part series was the midpoint of part 2, when a lady asked him a question about what is behind pacificism. Dr. Grudem runs through all the places in society where the secular left is opposed to authorities judging and punishing bad behavior with force. There are so many examples of this: parents disciplining rebellious children, teachers disciplining misbehaving kids, police catching criminals (lots of that lately!), courts putting criminals in jail for long periods of time, giving murderers the death penalty, using waterboarding on terrorists, and of course pacifism in the face of aggression, e.g. – Iran vs Israel, Russia vs Ukraine. Then another lady asked him why the same people who are so concerned about going easy on violent criminals and aggressive nations are so intent on being able to kill defenseless innocent children in the womb. Good question.