Comments Policy

What’s a blog without juicy comments from blog readers and subscribers?

I hope you’ll act on that impulse to comment on the entries you read. That’s what the “Comment” box is for. And it’s easy. Just click on “Leave A Comment” at the bottom of the post, type your comment into the comment box, then click “Submit Comment.”

I want you to know, though, that all comments are moderated. That means I see them before anyone else does. It also means I have the option of canceling or editing a comment. I might do this if:

  • A comment is more like a personal note that has little general interest for those who visit or subscribe to this blog. If you post a personal note to me in the comments box, you’ll hear back from me, but you may not see your note posted on the blog.
  • Harsh language or profanity is included in a comment. I don’t kill a comment just because it is laced with hate speech or expletives. If there’s substance to a comment and that can be salvaged with a reasonable amount of editing, it’ll probably get posted in edited form.
  • The length of a comment is excessive. 200 words is the limit in most cases. For longer comments, you may want to post your reflections at your own blog, then use trackback to direct your readers to my blog.
  • There are typos or grammatical mistakes. I’ll correct these before a comment shows up on the blog. You make me look good when you post quality comments. I return the favor with careful proffreading—I mean proofreading. I may even alter the diction or syntax, if it will help.
  • A lengthy comment is written as a single paragraph. I’ll probably break it into smaller paragraphs, to make your comment more reader-friendly.

If the editing of a comment is extensive, I’ll make a note of that at the end of the comment. I will never intentionally alter the basic meaning of a comment that is approved for posting to my blog.

One More Thing

When you post a comment to my blog, you are granting me the right to edit your comment, and to use and display it however I choose to, in perpetuity.

24 Responses to Comments Policy

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Very cool, Kathy

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  2. Kathy says:

    Yeah, I’d be interested in the KindlingsFest. It seems to be up my alley. My husband works very part time for one of the airlines (just so I can travel whenever I’d like), so I get to travel often. As a matter of fact, I was in Seattle and Orlando the second week of June. I attended a conference….R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, etc…It was GREAT!

    Aloha

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  3. Doug Geivett says:

    Kathy, maybe you’ll get to KindlingsFest sometime. Do you get over to the mainland much?

    Erin helped me immensely with some last minute improvements to the appearance of my slides. The “sketch” is actually just a cartoonized digital photo taken with my MacBook Pro laptop. I know, it’s cheating.

    -Doug

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  4. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    I met Sharon and Dave when they lived in Hawaii and attended the North Shore Christian Fellowship (my husband and I have been going to this church for most of our 31 years of marriage). They eventually moved to Oregon and are still living there.

    The very same day you mentioned KindlingsFest, Sharon wrote about it on her facebook wall. I sent her a quick note asking about it and she said, “….We’re here right now. We came the first year also, but missed last year. It’s definitely something you would enjoy…..The intellectual discussions and speakers on Christianity in the arts and culture are awesome….”

    I tried to find a link for you to view her artwork (other than on her facebook page), but all I found was this article. It might be of interest to you: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_8100/is_20061203/ai_n51344159/

    Aloha, Kathy
    P.S. I read your presentation slides from the “Always Be Ready” conference and also saw the portrait of you at the end. Did your daughter,Erin, do the sketch? You wrote a “special thanks” to her.

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  5. Doug Geivett says:

    Kathy, it’s too bad we didn’t meet Sharon and Dave. Where are they from? Did they enjoy KindlingsFest?

    I read David Needham’s book when it was first out. That was so long ago, I really should re-visit it.

    -Doug

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  6. Kathy says:

    Hi Doug,

    My friend, Sharon (she’s a metal sculptor), and her husband, Dave, also attended KindlingsFest. It sounds wonderful! I’d like to check it out next year. You must be very proud of ALL the creative and talented women in your family.

    Have you read Needham’s book, BIRTHRIGHT? I really liked it and agreed with his theological point of view. In his chapter A CRY FOR MEANING, he uses a vivid illustration likening the human race to an art gallery filled with empty picture frames. As an artist, I’ve never forgotten his analogy.

    Thanks for watching and commenting on my demo reel and interview with Rusty. I appreciate it!

    Aloha, Kathy

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  7. Doug Geivett says:

    Kathy, sorry to have replied so late. I just returned from holiday in Washington state. I left for Orcas Island the day of your comment.

    Orcas is home to the KindlingsFest. The theme this year was friendship. The festival appeals primarily to Christians interested in the arts and ideas, and Christian engagement with culture. “The Kindlings” is the name of C. S. Lewis’s home in Oxford. Lewis’s respect for culture provides much of the inspiration for KindlingsFest. I’ll probably be posting about it later.

    Yes, the arts are big in my family. Dianne, Kaitlyn, and Erin sing and play various instruments. They mess with the visual arts and assorted crafts. Dianne makes jewelry. Kaitlyn and Erin are actors. Kaitlyn has been studying directing. (The girls are students at Biola University.) What I lack in talent is more than made up by their creative energies. Kaitlyn writes, mostly in the genre of fantasy fiction. She’s interested in voice acting and stepping into the world of audio book reading if an opportunity comes her way. Dianne’s been seeking a publisher for a creative concept in women’s Bible study.

    Yes, I was in courses with David Needham (in the lates 70s!), but they didn’t seem at all like classes, for the reasons you describe. I always thought he should write more.

    I’m intrigued by your demo reel for the show you have. I like the energy! The other link, for Rusty Humphries, illustrates how that sort of energy transfers from one person to another. Keep at it, Kathy.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    I’ve never heard of the Kindlings Festival. I’ll have to Google it to see what it’s all about. Amazing that your daughters and wife are all into the arts. What kind of art and songs do they engage in? Are they also writers (like you)?

    Ed Blum was by far my favorite teacher! I took many courses from him. He’s brilliant and has a great personality. He’s able to relate with people from all walks of life. I took only one class from David Needham (and read his book Birthright). Every day that I was in his class, most of the students (including myself) would break down crying. This was profoundly odd and quite unusual—especially, in a Baptist college class. The way this man expressed his love for the Lord was powerful and, most certainly, uninhibited. During his theological lectures, all of a sudden (and, unannounced), he’d break into a personal dialog with the Lord (adoration and praise), as if we, the students, weren’t even in the room. He was such an example. Was he like this in the classes you took with him?

    Here’s a short 3-minute demo reel of my show (it’s meant to be very light):



    Here’s an entire episode with conservative radio talk host, Rusty Humphries. He’s very funny! This show covers his life and work:

    http://olelo.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=25&clip_id=13761

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  9. Doug Geivett says:

    Kathy,

    I had one course one course with Edwin Blum and several with David Needham.

    I like the concept of your TV show, and the variety. Sounds like my blog. My wife and daughters are artists, actors, singers. (We’re attending the Kindlings Festival on Orcas Island in Washington state this summer.)

    I would be happy to watch an episode of your show if you don’t mind sending a link!

    -Doug

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  10. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    I enjoyed J.P.’s Apologetics class (over 15 years ago). I read that you also attended Dallas Theological Seminary and Multnomah. Do you know Dr. Edwin Blum, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and Dr. David Needham? These three men were my favorite instructors and either taught at or attended Dallas or Multnomah.

    My TV show is an interview show (I can send a link to watch an episode, if you’re interested). I’ve interviewed all kinds of people….Athletes, artists, actors, authors, doctors, pastors, bikers (this, I suspect, would be of interest to you, since you appreciate motorcycles), etc. I sincerely enjoy talking with and getting to know people. I’m interested in their stories. I’m a national award winning hairstylist, a professional artist –drawing portraits (realism) & paintings (expressionism), BA in Psychology, love most sports, interested in politics, cultural issues, theology, apologetics.

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  11. Doug Geivett says:

    Thanks for the update, Kathy. Yes, J. P. Morland and I are in the same department.

    Tell me about you radio/TV work.

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  12. Kathy says:

    Hi Doug,

    Update: Earlier today, my Jewish friend called to touch base and they brought up the comments from you and the other professor, as well as other “Jesus” related talk (so much for their adamant refusal to ever again respond to me about Jesus). I let them know that you wrote an additional response. They said (politely), “You can send it to me, but I won’t be responding.” In defense of my friend, they are extremely busy with work, and have a host of other obligations. Therefore, it may be that they simply don’t have time to discuss a topic in which they do NOT embrace (and, from their vantage point, will NEVER embrace).

    Aloha, Kathy
    P.S. Several days ago, I mentioned that I had taken a class from J.P. Morland. Was he ever one of your colleagues at Talbot or Biola?

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  13. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    While I was painting my dresser, I turned on the Christian TV station. The show in which you appeared came on. The subject was of interest to me, so I paid particular attention to the content. Of all the contributors (historians, professors) giving their opinions about Jesus (on that show), I respected your presentation the most. You sounded credible and knowledgeable. Near the end of the show, I had the thought to contact you about my friend’s objections.

    By the way, when I found your name on Talbot’s website, I also noticed J.P. Morland’s name. Back in the early 90’s, he was a visiting Professor (Apologetics) at the Bible College I attended here in Hawaii. He’d never remember me….I was just another student.

    If you end up in Hawaii, I’d be nice to interview you on my TV show.

    Thanks again.
    Aloha, Kathy

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  14. Doug Geivett says:

    Kathy, thank you for inviting me to consider your friend’s questions. It would be best now to cultivate your friendship without constant reference to these disagreements. She may bring them up again!

    By the way, how is it that you happened to contact me about these things? As far as I know, we’ve never met. (I’ve never been to Hawaii.)

    -Adieu

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  15. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    Thanks, once again, for taking the time to write a response. I’d love to forward it to my friend, but, this morning, at the end of their letter, they said they refuse to respond any further about Jesus. Who knows, maybe at some point in the future, we’ll be able to engage in a conversation about the Lord. For now, I’d like to express my gratitude to you, for your willingness to write a clear, precise and smart response. You’re a wonderful writer!

    Aloha, Kathy

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  16. Doug Geivett says:

    Well, Kathy, I’m now in doubt about the open-mindedness of your friend.

    (1) Somewhat understandably, she conflates my comments with those of the other teacher you wrote to. I wouldn’t call the Gospels “interpretations” of Jesus’ life and teachings. They are selective and summary in form. Your friend may be reading far more into the word “interpretations” than the other commenter intended. And she should know that she has adopted an extreme “interpretation” of what we both have written.

    (2) Your friend seems a little naive about the Old Testament. Consider each of the prophetic books. Though they present the word of God, they bear the imprint of their respective authors’ personality and writing styles. They clearly differ in these respects. She seems to think that all was dictated to them by God, and then handed down precisely in dictated form. That is the view of Muslims about their Scriptures, but it is difficult to support this view with regard to the Hebrew Scriptures. True, the Ten Commandments were inscribed by God, apparently word-for-word. But this is a special case, which is why your friend keeps repeating this example. The Pentateuch gives no indication of being dictated by God to anyone, whether it be Moses or anyone else. So even the OT demonstrates precedent for the divine authority of inspired narrative accounts of the life of Jesus, such as we have in the Gospels.

    (3) Would your friend deny that God could inspire an inerrant account of the life and ministry of Jesus, including his sayings and acts, if he wanted to? This is what we believe God has done. She assumes that God must express himself in only one way, the way she accepts, and the way she (probably mistakenly) believes God has revealed himself in the OT.

    (4) Your friend may not realize that the apostles of the NT were, in effect, God’s prophets for the period in which they lived and wrote. They were authorized by Jesus, God’s Son, to be his witnesses. Yes, something new and different has happened in God’s salvation history, but it is continuous with the Hebrew prophetic tradition. It is dangerous, especially from a Jewish perspective, to dictate what God can and cannot do in his involvement with humanity.

    (5) Jesus is more than a prophet. He is God incarnate. Your friend can hardly demand that Jesus, as God incarnate, behave in precisely the same way as any previous prophet of God. Consider what John the Baptist said of Jesus.

    (6) Your friend is confused if she thinks I contradict myself when I say what I do in the sentence she quotes, about Jesus’ lordship. She wants an explicit statement that Jesus claimed to be God. But this is sophistical. Anything that Jesus said that entailed that he believed himself to be God is tantamount to claiming to be God. Suppose I say, “My older daughter is shorter than me and my younger daughter is taller than me.” What follows about the comparative height of my two daughters? The answer is a matter of simple logic. Likewise, if Jesus claims to be able to forgive sins, purports to forgive sins through specific acts, and believes, as an orthodox Jew, that only God can forgive sins, what follows? The answer is a matter of simple logic. And the Gospels are replete with such indicators that this is what Jesus believed about himself, what he expected others to believe, what others actually did believe (at the time, mind you), and what they taught.

    (7) Your friend cites no evidence in support of her assertion that Jesus was not worshiped by his disciples during his lifetime. The evidence is on the other side. (Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They recounted various answers they had overheard. He then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Their reply? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If this isn’t an expression of worship, nothing is.)

    (8) Once again, the resurrection is sidestepped. This is what it boils down to. Let us start there. The biggest obstacle to her entire thesis is the resurrection of Jesus.

    Kathy, I encourage you to be a faithful friend. I’ve written directly to her claims, assumptions, and fallacies. This may not be received very well, because it is so direct. It would be much easier to distort my claims and arguments if I did not state them plainly. This is seen even in her response to my previous remarks. I feel no antagonism toward her, of course. There is much at stake for her, as she no doubt understands. We all must answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” The answer she gives today may not be the answer she gives tomorrow. I feel confident, though, that the answer she gives today deserves adjustment in light of fuller consideration of the actual evidence.

    Bless you.

    -Doug

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  17. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    Okay, here are the comments made by my Jewish friend. If you have any thoughts, please let me know….Thanks.

    “Kathy, Both these responses totally miss the point. Why? Because there is no credible Christian answer, honestly, for the obvious objection I’ve raised.

    First of all, I’ve never doubted that Jesus was a “legitimate rabbi” (as one of your correspondents suggest). Yes, many rabbis of the period never had their words preserved as they spoke them. But then again, many rabbis of the period did — that’s what the Talmud is all about. The first portion of that collection of material (the Mishna) was compiled at roughly the same time as the Gospels, and it’s written in Hebrew, not Aramaic. By the way, as to the closeness of Hebrew and Aramaic, I’ve studied Talmudic text in both languages (the later portion of the Talmud, the Gmorah, is written in Aramaic), and several of our daily prayers are in Aramaic. So are portions of the Passover Haggadah that Jews have used for 1600 years. Aramaic and Hebrew are so close that many Jews don’t even recognize the difference. Why is any of this relevant? Think of the absurdity of one of the points below: that if the Gospels had been written in Hebrew or Aramaic, they might not have been preserved! Consider the fact that the Old Testament– the Five Books of Moses, the prophets, much more– HAS been successfully preserved, though it’s even older than the New Testament (by nearly a thousand years, some of it).

    Or consider the profound contradictions inherent in this line: “The question is not whether Jesus ever called himself “Lord,” but whether he regarded himself as the Lord, worthy of this designation when used by others.” So— hold on — is your interlocutor saying it doesn’t matter whether the Gospels are honest and accurate or not? One of the crucial arguments from all Christian apologists (including CS Lewis) is that Jesus was either “liar, lunatic, or Lord.” If he didn’t, in fact, call himself Lord (as I strongly believe) then the whole argument falls apart.

    The same point is made concerning the laughable (really, it is) admission that the Gospels are not an accurate transmission, but an “interpretation.” I think that’s true, by the way. The Gospels were assembled about a generation after Jesus’ crucifixion by people who are already part of a flourishing new religion. They did, in fact, “interpret” their retroactive understanding of the meaning of his life and death.

    Now— the most important point of all: compare this approach to the approach regarding the Old Testament. Do any traditional Christians believe that the Ten Commandments, say, were an “interpretation” of what God actually commanded the people at Sinai? That Jeremiah and Jonah and Isaiah all recorded only “interpretations’ of what these people said, transmitting the word of God? Of course not. Ancient Hebrews cared so deeply about the actual text — the letter for letter communication of the Tablets of the Law that they made those Tablets (with words engraved as God spoke them) the center of their worship inside the Ark of the Covenant. The Covenant is explicit — word for word, not interpreted, or felt, or remembered.

    If it were true (as I feel certain that it is not) that the followers of Jesus hailed him during his lifetime as God incarnate, isn’t it a certainty that these highly literate people (nearly all Jews at the time could read and write in order to study Holy Scripture) would have written down his words as he communicated them, and preserved these texts as the most precious gift ever delivered?

    Either these Jews were consistent with their own heritage— a heritage of verbal specificity and careful linguistic preservation — or they had abandoned that heritage to start a new religion. But no one can claim that Jews schooled in the importance of every word, every letter, of God’s word (the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the authenticity of this approach) would both 1) worship Jesus as God and 2) neglect to preserve his words as he spoke or wrote them.

    If God cared so much about words that he wrote the Ten Commandments out directly for Moses, why, if he took the shape of Jesus later, would he write nothing new?

    Kathy, all the tendentious and mostly irrelevant material below only supports my underlying point:
    Jesus led a group of fervent followers, who viewed him as an inspired teacher. They tried to recall his words and actions as best they could. But they did not worship him as God until after his death (and his claimed resurrection. And if resurrected, why wouldn’t he hand over some scroll, some authoritative source or Truth at that point, during his brief returns? He had time to sit down for fish with his followers, but not to write out specific instructions?).

    The idea that Jesus was worshipped as God in his own life time cannot survive one simple fact, never denied below: his followers neglected to preserve his words in the same way that words of lesser prophets and teachers were preserved by their followers in preceding, less literate, and much earlier generations and centuries.”

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  18. Kathy says:

    Doug,

    Before I send my Jewish friend’s response, it’ll be helpful for you to first read the comments made by the other Professor (see below):

    “Hi Kathy, Well, your friend certainly has a long and involved argument filled with highly questionable assumptions and claims. I think to get to the heart of the issue is the question of whether one can indeed communicate thoughts accurately from one language to another. Your friend believes it is impossible. However, this scepticism is unwarranted, particularly since the disciples are not giving us a *transcript* of what Jesus taught (which was probably in both Aramaic and Greek) and what he did, but an *interpretation* of his meaning in their Greek compositions. That is quite in keeping with the Scriptures in general and the reason why God appoints preachers and teachers to explain in their own language the meaning of his truth. This point is really key and worth repeating. The Gospels are inspired *interpreations* of the words and works of Jesus where the authors faithfully and inerrantly expressed the truth of what he said and did. Your friend simply denies this by demanding that the only way God could have done this is the way he himself imagines.

    By the way, Aramaic is not just Hebrew with a different accent, but a different language which is why the Jews in Jesus’ day (and before) paraphrased and translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic (called the Targum).

    “If scholarship is correct that this earliest of the four gospels was written some 60-70 years after the crucifixion” — this reference to “scholarship” is misleading. *Some* scholars believe this but not all and not the best. There is much still being done now on the origin of the Gospels and their sources and one of the more interesting by a leading scholar named Richard Bauckham traces the Gospels back to eyewitnesses with none of the long-development imagined by earlier scholars.”

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  19. Doug Geivett says:

    Yes, Kathy, I would like to know what you heard back.

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  20. Kathy says:

    Hi Doug,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response to my friend’s objections. I appreciate it! Yesterday, I sent your comments (as well as a paragraph from another Professor) to my friend. This morning, I received a negative response from them. If you’d like to read it, let me know. Aloha, Kathy

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  21. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Thank you for your post with questions about your email correspondence with a Jewish friend. I encourage the kind of mutually respectful dialogue you’re having with each other. She seems to be genuinely interested in the issues, since her questions and comments are framed with respect and with a commendable knowledge of background issues.

    Here are a few thoughts to consider sharing with her:

    (1) The New Testament was composed in a Greek dialect called Koine. This “everyday” form of Greek was the language of ordinary speech and public interaction in the cosmopolitan world of the Roman Empire during the first century, including Palestine.

    (2) Far from being an odd and unsuitable means of divine revelation during that period, Koine Greek was perfectly suited. The language was used far and wide, due to the earlier conquests of Alexander the Great. It was also well-suited to the task of communicating a universally significant message with beauty and clarity. The language permits a degree of precision in communication that is matched by few languages. The Greek language permitted subtle shades of meaning not possible in many languages. The Greek of the New Testament influenced the ongoing development of the Greek language, and there also appear to be some words in the New Testament that were coined by their writers for specific purposes, something made possible because of the flexibility of the Greek language. Even Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (i.e., the Church at Rome) was composed in Greek. This, of course, would have made no sense if few could understand the language.

    (3) Greek was the lingua franca of the day, the language shared across interacting cultures. Jews and Gentiles alike understood and spoke the language. The Christian message was intended for all, Jews and Gentiles, free men and slaves, men and women, old and young. Naturally, and by divine design, it was fitting that the language most commonly used in public discourse would also be used in the writing of the New Testament.

    (4) Most of the New Testament writers were Jewish, and yet they wrote in Greek. Set aside, for a moment, the question as to why they would write in Greek, and reflect on the fact that they did write in Greek, and that their writings have survived for two millennia as great and influential works of human history. Would this have been the case if they had been written in Hebrew? Perhaps not. Keep in mind, too, that some New Testament writers were highly educated (for example, the apostle Paul), and others were simple laborers (for example, Peter and John, who were fishermen). John even seems to have been acquainted to some extent with Greek philosophy (see the Gospel of John).

    (5) It’s likely that Jesus himself spoke Greek, as well as Hebrew and Aramaic. (That he spoke Hebrew is a little less likely, since Aramaic had displaced Hebrew as a spoken language for most Jews for quite some time.) There is evidence of various kinds that Jesus spoke Aramaic. And Josephus, the famed Jewish historian, supplies further evidence that Aramaic was spoken by Jews during the period when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. But Jesus did converse with Palestinian Gentiles, including officials of Rome. (For a dated treatment of this topic, see James Young, 3-5; for something more recent, see M. O. Wise, 441-43.)

    (6) If your friend is Jewish, then she probably knows of the Septuagint, the earliest translation of the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) into Greek. In fact, this was the first effort to translate the Hebrew Bible into another language. Again, this was a consequence of the tremendous scope of Alexander’s conquests. Jews in Alexandria, the center of Greek activity at the time, needed to adopt the Greek language and to preserve their traditions, including their Scriptures, in the language of their environment. The Septuagint translation was begun in the third century B.C. As a result, Greek forms of thought and expression influenced Hebrew culture in the centuries before Christ. And Hebrew culture, in its turn, influenced a culture that was predominantly Greek. As one scholar writes, “For many generations the LXX [another designation for the Septuagint] was the ‘authorized’ version of Greek-speaking Jews and Christians who had no recourse to the Hebrew” (S. K. Soderlund, p. 401). Great Jewish scholars, whose works are important to this day, made heavy use of the Septuagint and/or wrote in Greek (for example, Philo and Josephus). The New Testament authors made considerable use of the Septuagint, as well. This was largely because it would have been the most familiar form of Hebrew Scripture for many of their readers.

    A contemporary analogy may be helpful. English is today the linga franca of the world. Very few people in the world speak Hebrew. Even the business of foreign affairs in Israel is conducted in English. And few American Jews speak, or even read, Hebrew. It’s likely that your friend, when she reads her Bible, reads a bi-lingual edition that includes English alongside the Hebrew. The Jewish Publication Society “was first founded in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the new world.” Their best-known work, the JPS TANAKH, is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into English. (Click here for the JPS website.)

    (7) That Jesus could not have been regarded as a legitimate Rabbi and prophet since he didn’t write anything that has been preserved is groundless speculation. Jesus was routinely called “Rabbi” by his peers, and he accepted the title. He was an authoritative teacher who regularly appealed to and explained the Hebrew Scriptures. Clearly, he believed himself to be a prophet in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel. But he was more than a prophet. He was the Messiah. His method of teaching and revelation was his prerogative. And the salvation he offered was intended for all of humanity. He was careful not to play favorites in ethnically-charged circumstances. He affirmed the faith of Gentile followers as well as Jewish disciples. He healed Jews and Gentiles alike. This fact about Jesus and his message greatly impressed Saul, later to be known as the apostle Paul (see Romans 1:16; Acts 15).

    (8) Further, Jesus provided “another comforter,” whom he called “the Spirit of Truth,” that is the Holy Spirit. This is recounted, for example, in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-16. Jesus did not leave himself without a permanent witness on the earth. He commissioned his disciples and promised to be with them always (Matthew 28:19-20). They would be recipients of the Holy Spirit, and would become spokesmen, carrying the message of Jesus to the ends of the world. Jesus prayed for the success of their labors (see John 17). He understood that he had brought God’s word to the people, and that this same word was to be preached by his disciples and handed down from generation to generation. And so it has been.

    (9) Much of what Jesus said, did, and taught was preserved by eyewitnesses. There are four Gospels attesting to what Jesus said and did. As important as the precise and explicit teachings of Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount and his many parables, for example) are his actions: healing disease, raising the dead, showing compassion, and performing countless miracles of various kinds and for various purposes. His time with a select group of disciples was spent in training them for a lifetime of ministry that would rock the world. The Gospels record several “discourses” of Jesus (for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24). (A red-letter edition of the Gospels provides a convenient means of seeing how much of what Jesus’ said was recorded for posterity.)

    (10) The words of Jesus are, of course, quite important. But the language in which they were spoken much less so. Suppose he spoke only Aramaic (which is not certain on the evidence). It cannot seriously be doubted that his words are recorded in Greek in the New Testament. If these are translations, then they are faithful translations. And there is no reason to suppose that the Gospels must be based on translations of Jesus’ words. The sayings attributed to Jesus could themselves be translations by eyewitnesses. Further, there is no reason why paraphrase could not be used, whether in Jesus’ own language or in translation, for recounting the teachings of Jesus by the Gospel writers.

    (11) Peter does seem to be an important source for the Gospel of Mark. But Mark may have begun writing the Gospel while Peter was alive, and completed it following Peter’s death. On the other hand, Mark’s Gospel may have been completed much earlier even than that, and long before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. If Jesus was a prophet with reliable predictive powers, the prediction recorded in Mark 13:14 may well have been made by him some decades before AD 70. And if he wasn’t even referring to those events, but to more general mounting difficulties between the Jews and Rome, then Mark 13:14 isn’t much help in dating the Gospel. A close study of the historical data reveals, I believe, that Peter is the primary source for the Gospel, that it was written quite early, and that it has the backing of substantial eyewitness testimony temporally close to the events described (the lion’s share of which concern the passion of Jesus and his resurrection).

    (12) The question is not whether Jesus ever called himself “Lord,” but whether he regarded himself as the Lord, worthy of this designation when used by others. The historical evidence at our disposal is abundantly clear on this point. He behaved as if he believed this (though he showed humility as a servant leader), he permitted others to use this designation without correcting them, he received worship from others, he purported to exercise divine prerogatives (for example, forgiving the sins of others; see Mark 2:1-12). Jesus demonstrated the lordship of the Messiah as the Messiah. It was not so long after his crucifixion that his followers spoke of Jesus as their Lord. According to them, they often addressed him in this way while he was yet living.

    (13) I notice that little is said about the resurrection of Jesus in the correspondence you’ve had with your friend. Make of it what you will, it clearly is the crucial event according to the Christian gospel (see 1 Corinthians 15). Jesus’ followers believed that he rose bodily from the dead, in confirmation of his authority and message. This is indisputable. But why did they believe this? They would say that it was because they saw the empty tomb within hours of Jesus’ burial, and they were eyewitnesses of his person alive again for a period of weeks. These are things they believed. And many believed. They were galvanized by this belief to make living for Christ the central theme for the rest of their lives. Their personal transformation was matched by a transformation of society and culture. The Church grew at an unprecedented rate, without the exercise of military might or political clout, and in the face of opposition from deeply entrenched factions. So their belief, their personal choices, and the origin, growth, and speedy influence of the Christian Church must be explained. Your friend expresses various assumptions about what would have been more effectual in the establishment of God’s rule through the Church, but how can anyone argue with the spectacular results? Perhaps God was in it, after all?

    (14) Your friend observes that we have no record of Jesus’ own written work, if ever there was any. She contrasts this with the countless writings of others. I cannot understand her reason for demanding the same of Jesus that we find in lesser-known individuals. Maybe she should consider that Jesus’ influence has been unprecedented. For some of the very reasons she enumerates, it is perhaps remarkable that Jesus should have left such an indelible mark on human history, and that he continues to do so.

    Notes:

    1. On the languages of Jesus, consult Bible dictionaries and special studies. Examples include Larry Lee Walker, “Biblical Languages,” in the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, ed. W. A. Elwell (1988); James Young, “Language of Christ,” in the Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, ed. J. Hastings (1908); M. O. Wise, “Languages of Palestine,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. J. B. Green, S. McKnight, and I. H. Marshall (1992); S. J. Soderlund, “Septuagint,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, ed. G. W. Bromiley (1988).

    2. On dating the New Testament writings, see any reliable introduction to the New Testament. I recommend D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, and D. A. Carson, D. Moo, and L. Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament.

    3. For an first-rate the gospels as eyewitness testimony, see Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, by Richard Bauckham. Chapter 7 explores the importance of Peter the apostle to the composition of the Gospel of Mark.

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  22. Kathy says:

    Two days ago, I saw you on a TV program here in Hawaii. I’m hoping you can provide information that will effectively neutralize my Jewish friend’s objections to the New Testament’s authenticity.
    1.The NT would NOT have been written in Greek, since the Jews spoke Aramaic and would have written to each other in Aramaic.
    2. Why are there no words written by the hand of Jesus?

    Here are excerpts from our e-mail correspondance (all, his words), over the past 8 months:

    If Jesus’ followers really did consider him to be God incarnate, why didn’t THEY preserve some of his words (other than “My lord, my lord, why have you forsaken me?”) in the language in which they were spoken? All of his disciples were religious Jews. They had been raised and schooled in a tradition that took the word of God literally, and cherished the precise words which Moses brought down from the mountain more than a thousand years before.

    If you were trying to write a religious text to proselytize internationally, you’d use the international language — Greek. But if you were attempting to record the precious words spoken to you by the true Messiah, then you would certainly record them as he spoke them. No one thinks Jesus spoke Greek. He may well have spoken — and certainly could read and write – Hebrew. Aramaic is really just a colloquial form of Hebrew — Hebrew with a Babylonian accent. The fact that the authors of the Gospels didn’t write down the words of Jesus in the language he spoke them (except, oddly, his last words on the cross) indicates that they were at best working with a translation of his messages to mankind. Translations are notoriously tricky. And, by the way, the composition of the Gospels before 70 AD (that was the year the Romans destroyed the city) doesn’t make it any more certain that they were written by the actual apostles. Assuming that most of the apostles were the approximate age of Jesus, or perhaps a bit older, it would have been unusual for them to have lived through the destruction of the city. Peter died in Rome in 64.
    If scholarship is correct that this earliest of the four gospels was written some 60-70 years after the crucifixion, and written in a different language from the one spoken by Jesus, questions about its authority seem formidable, don’t they?

    If, in fact, Jesus proclaimed himself as Lord (an altogether extraordinary and, in fact, unprecedented claim) there ought to be some contemporary record of that, no?

    You can see, I suspect, why I would argue that it is at least reasonable to question whether Jesus, a real human being who lived in Judea, made the divine claims for himself that his followers began affirming only many years after his death.

    If the Old Testament is true God is deeply concerned about giving his words to human beings in a form that will last and not be distorted. When Moses got the commandments from God he didn’t just repeat, verbally, what the Lord told him. He showed up with stone tablets. Even after breaking the first set of tablets, he went back to get a second set — which was seen by hundreds of thousands and (the Bible tells us) stored in the ark of the covenant, in the tabernacle and then later in the Temple, until the first temple was destroyed in 586 BC— in other words, those tablets, with God’s words, were preserved and studied and revered for more than 500 years (and then after that, based on copies, of course).

    When St. Paul wrote his books of the New Testament his followers took his words so seriously that they preserved them in their original form. He began writing this material soon after the Crucifixion– most scholars say between 40 and 50 ad. (The Crucifixion was somewhere betwen 28 and 35, AD).

    In any event, you can see where I’m going with this, and it’s important. His followers thought that the words of Moses were important so they preserved them — reverently — in their original form, and revered the tablets he brought from the mountain. His followers thought the words of Paul were curcially important, and so cherished and treasured his letters and preserved them in their original form.

    If Jesus was God, and if the followers who knew him actually did worship him as Lord (which I doubt), then why didn’t they preserve his words as carefully as they preserved Paul’s — or those of Moses, for that matter?

    And given the Lord’s demonstrated preference for writing things down, unequivocally (hence, the Ten Commandments) why didn’t Jesus write anything down when he was alive? He was (and I believe this to be true) a great scholar, and highly learned. Other important scholars of that era wrote books that we’ve preserved. Prophets who pre-dated Jesus by more than 600 years left behind books with their inspired, Godly words. Jeremiah and Isaiah wrote down their words from God– verbatim — and followers preserved these books in which they speak to the ages in their own names. The Library at Alexandria had a million books– a million! — preserving all the crucial learning of every civilization.

    Why is their no record that anyone, ever, had a book written by the hand of Jesus?

    In the same era in which he lived, the community at Qumrun which wrote (or at least saved) the Dead Sea Scrolls, collected nearly a thousand manuscripts.

    If his followers worshipped Jesus as Lord, surely they would have preserved some manuscripts — some inspired books — written by him. His near contemporary (and fellow inspired rabbi) Hillel the Elder left behind hundreds of pages of his philosophical reflections and interpretratons of the Law. Isn’t it peculiar — very, very peculiar — that we have much better records of the teachings and savings of two dozen contemporary rabbis than we do of Jesus of Nazareth.. it makes sense if he was an obscure teacher of a tiny sect from Nazareth, never considered to be Divine by even his own followers until after the Crucifixion. (Probably long after — otherwise they still would have collected some writings right after his death (and resurrection?) to preserve for eterntiy.

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  23. Doug Geivett says:

    David, thanks for writing about the way your interests connect with what I’m doing at this blog. It’s always interesting to me to hear how one publication that pops out to someone starts a chain-reaction. I remember well my presentation at the Greer-Heard meeting. I had talked to N. T. Wright and to Dom Crossan individually the day before my presentation, and I worked late that night re-working my comments.

    As it happens, I’ll be at the Greer-Heard meeting in the spring, addressing another topic. Robert Stewart has done a great job organizing these events and seeing their results to publication.

    As my blog demonstrates, my interests are diverse. I’ve always been a close observer of the political world, especially at the national level. And I believe it is important. Glad to know that posts here have been a spur to you.

    I hope you do keep Talbot in mind for the future. And that you stay tuned here. You’ve been very kind in your comments, and I’ve been very encouraged.

    One more thing. You mentioned your background in jazz piano. A few days ago I saw the movie Anatomy of a Murder, starring Jimmy Stewart, for the first time. Jazz music, ans especially jazz piano, figures prominently and to great effect. You may want to check it out.

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  24. David says:

    Doug

    This comment falls under the category of “personal note.” I will try to be brief so as not to impose on your valuable time.

    First I want to say how much of an inspiration you have been for me as a Christian thinker, and as a result here is a short summary of what brought me to your blog.

    Background
    I grew up in the religious climate of Southern Virginia, and only about two years ago became serious about my faith. I’ll leave all the details of that aside and say that when I finally made a firm commitment, I was well aware of the intellectual struggles which would follow.

    Intersection
    Since my conversion, I have been very interested in apologetics, theology, and even philosophy; however, my undergraduate degree was in Computer Information Systems with a minor in jazz piano. Obviously I have to work a bit harder to explore these subjects.

    Several months ago I downloaded the mp3 recordings of the 2005 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum: The Resurrection. I listened to your oral presentation of “The Epistemology of Resurrection Belief.” Eventually I purchased the print edition so I could study it more in depth.

    During that study process, I discovered that you were hosting a blog, so I gladly added it to Google Reader.

    Positive Impacts
    1. For the last three months I have been engaged in a lengthy debate with an atheist named Dawson Bethrick over at http://www.bahnsenburner.blogspot.com concerning the Resurrection and the claims of G.A. Wells, Robert Price, and Earl Doherty about the existence of Jesus. I love picking on guys twice my size (he has more years of debate experience than I have lived on planet earth) but this was a thrilling experience and motivated me even more to continue studying the issues pertaining to Christian belief. I happened across an article of yours that was published in the Apologetics Study Bible about a topic we were debating – how does one know they have received revelation from God and how does one epistemologically validate such a claim when offered by another person. Mainly the discussion centered around the Apostle Paul and his recorded experiences, and also how the early church validated this belief. The debate ended up being about 400 pages long when we were done; however, my opponent’s turgid rhetoric took up more space than it was worth. 🙂

    The majority of the debate took place in the comment box of this post: http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2008/07/in-response-to-david-on-i-corinthians.html

    2. Your blog post that included How to Read a Book prompted me to finally read it and as a result there has been significant improvement in analyzing and approaching literature on various topics.

    3. You somehow managed to convince me that politics was a worthy pursuit. Perhaps this was very indirect, but when you responded to my comment on the blog, it helped me realize that all my reasons for being apathetic needed to be reexamined.

    Conclusion
    Now you may be thinking, wow this kid really likes me! Indeed your writing style and passion for a variety of subjects does resonate deeply with my own ambitions. So I thought it would be appropriate to give you the general context I’m coming from, and offer you a sincere thank you for all the work you do. You never know – if I keep saving money in order to return to school and study philosophy/theology – I may consider Talbot. 😉

    Cheers and God Bless,

    David Parker

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