Posted: 13 Apr 2018 01:48 AM PDT
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels to the students of San Jose State University. Jane Pantig (the director of the local Ratio Christi chapter) invited me, and I was delighted to come. I’ve been working with Ratio Christi across the country to defend the Christian worldview on college campuses. If you aren’t acquainted with the work of this growing apologetics movement, you really ought to familiarize yourself with Ratio Christi and find a way to support their efforts. At the end of my presentation, during the question and answer period, a polite young skeptic asked why Jesus didn’t reveal scientific facts in an effort to demonstrate His Deity. Why didn’t Jesus describe something well beyond the scope and knowledge of His contemporaries as a prophetic proof? He could easily have described the role of DNA, the proper organization of the Solar System, or the biological complexity of cellular structures. The questioner believed this sort of knowledge would have been persuasive to him as a 21st Century skeptic, and without it, he remained unconvinced.First of all, there is no denying that the request is valid. Jesus could have said "there are bugs living on our skin and inside our bodies that are too small to see," and that prediction would have been confirmed shortly after the invention of the microscope. And since no first-century person could possibly have detected such tiny bugs, this would have been a powerful proof that Jesus was, or had access to, unearthly powers, helping substantiate his claims.
Second, people usually and reasonably respond to idiots who claim godly powers, by demanding a demonstration. If any such idiot boasts "I can levitate my body using nothing but the powers of my mind during prayer", we will not launch into research about that person's credibility, or whether his friends make claims to have seen this happen...we will simply say "let's see it, otherwise, why are you boasting of such ability while being unwilling to demonstrate it? Is there a reason why we should distinguish between miracle-claimants like you, and lying bastards who exaggerate their abilities because they are attention-whores?"
I thought this was a great question, and one I often receive but seldom talk about on the podcast or here on the blog.perhaps because it is too difficult for you to reconcile "God is very concerned about your soul" and "God refuses to do the best that he can to convince you that you are in spiritual danger".
There are a number of problems with this expectation of superior anachronistic scientific wisdom:That's not the issue. The problem is Jesus failing to do something that was within his logical power to do, and which would have been an undeniable proof of his deity, especially given all the apologists of today who insist that some biblical authors made amazingly accurate predictions of future events at a time when no human could possibly have guessed such things. Jesus telling the world about our bodies being filled with bugs too small to see, isn't different, from an apologetics standpoint, from the alleged mathematical accuracy of the messianic prediction in Daniel 9 that some apologists insist was a very precise prediction about Jesus made hundreds of years before he was born. Apparently, God is not against telling the current generation things they couldn't know or verify until thousands of years later.
The Nature of the Gospel Accounts
The New Testament authors repeatedly referred to themselves as eyewitnesses.
In the last chapter of John’s Gospel, John tells us he is testifying and his testimony is true.No, in the last chapter of John's gospel, the persons who tell you John testified and wrote those things, is not John, but a group of two or more people:
23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"Wallace continues:
24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (Jn. 21:23-25 NAU)
Language such as this presumes the author has seen something he is describing as an eyewitness.The plural "we" who "know" John's testimony is true, neither express nor imply how it is they know it to be true (i.e., whether they saw the same Jesus-events he did, or whether they merely trust his stories to be historically accurate, or whatever...). And back in the first century, hearsay wasn't as odious as it is today, so there is a substantial possibility that the "we" knew John's testimony to be true, for reasons other than having witnessed the same events he did. Universal church tradition has John writing late in his life too, so there's an increased risk that the "we" are not contemporaries equally as old as him, but younger persons who were not yet born, or else very young, when Jesus was preaching.
In addition, John and Peter identify themselves as eyewitnesses who directly observed Jesus, and were not inventing clever stories (1 John 1:1,3 and 2 Peter 1:16).Unfortunately, they do not express or imply that they were eyewitnesses of a resurrected Christ.
NAU 1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life--Let me know when you discover which precise words in your two preferred bible cites you think constitute testimony that they saw Jesus alive after he died. I've said it before and I'll say it again: generously forgetting about fatal problems of author identity, at best there are only three NT authors whose resurrection testimony comes down to us today in first-hand (eyewitness) form: Matthew, John and Paul.
2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us--
3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 Jn. 1:1-3 NAU)
15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased "--
18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Pet. 1:15-18 NAU)
While Luke clearly states he is not an eyewitness to the events in his gospel, he does tell us he is relying on the true eyewitnesses for his information (Luke 1:1).And if the Christian scholarly consensus is correct that Luke borrowed extensively from Mark's gospel text, then Luke is the type to avoid telling the reader that a substantial portion of his gospel is drawn from hearsay sources, and he prefers to instead mention only eyewitnesses as his source, and thus give the false impression that everything he reported was drawn from eyewitness testimony.
The gospel eyewitness accounts record the life and teaching of Jesus in the context of the 1st Century.Which is why a first-century preacher, telling his people about bugs too small to see are present everywhere in and on the human body, would be a rather shocking proof of his deity.
They record Jesus’ ministry to 1st Century followers. The gospels are not unhistorical volumes containing proverbial wisdom statements; they are specific eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ historic interaction with a specific group in history.Mark and Luke are not eyewitness accounts, and your trying to avoid their hearsay problem by pointing out that they draw from eyewitness sources, is like a lawyer trying to avoid the hearsay in the witnesses statement "I know she pulled the trigger because my grandma said so" by pointing out that the grandma was purported to herself be an eyewitness of the shooting. Hearsay doesn't stop being hearsay and thus inadmissible merely because you can show that it quotes the alleged eyewitness. If YOU didn't see it with your own eyes, YOU do not take the stand as an "eyewitness".
The Nature of the Ancient AudienceMaking it completely impossible for modern skeptics to provide a naturalistic explanation for Jesus saying, in the first century, that human body is full of bugs that are too small for sinners to see. If such statements of Jesus were made, and they were as textual stable as, say, any statement of Jesus found in the triple tradition, skeptics would be unable to plausibly argue that those words of Jesus were added only after Antoni van Leeuwenhoek found such bugs in the 17th century.
The context of Jesus’ ministry and message were defined by the nature (and limitations) of this ancient audience.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to approach the gospels from our 21st Century perspective (bringing our desires, needs and expectations to the text),Which is exactly what apologists do when they pretend the gospels were written with the intent to that their assertions pass critical tests of historiography.
rather than examining them from the perspective of the first hearers and readers. In order to illustrate this point, imagine yourself as Jesus. You’ve got three years to demonstrate your Divinity to those you live with in the 1st Century. Think about what approach you might take. You could reveal yet unknown scientific facts to your audience, but would this accomplish your goal?Maybe your goal is not that your immediate audience be wowed, but that your audience from a thousand years later be wowed.
If you describe the role of DNA or the anatomy of the solar system, how would your 1st Century audience confirm your statements?Why would they need to? Those who "just believed" would be true followers, and those who were suspicious that the claims were false would be "working for Satan to overthrow the faith". Stupid Christians can concoct plenty of ad hoc "what-ifs" to force their theories to work, what's stopping you now? Maybe the fact that the type of ad hoc bullshit needed here would be the kind that works against your apologetics case?
Surely claims of this nature would be unimpressive to a world without the ability to assess their veracity.Jesus could have invented the microscope in the first-century, for the limited purpose of having his followers scientifically verify such bugs. Then cause it to disappear, and then you could be here today, insisting that the historically reliable gospels assert Jesus invented the microscope, for mysterious reasons he later destroyed it, and skeptics cannot prove such gospel assertions false. NOW what's your excuse?
In fact, any combination of such claims with other demonstrations of Deity would only serve to dilute the power of your message.You are high on crack, especially given that you always push your theory that there are plenty of scientifically accurate statements in the bible which the original audiences wouldn't have been able to verify, such as the astronomical accuracy of Genesis 1 and 2, etc.
There are ways you could establish your Deity in front of such a 1st Century audience, but obscure, esoteric claims are perhaps the least effective approach.Not if the creator of the universe has the presence of mind to invent a microscope Johnny-on-the-Spot to permit verification of his body-bug claims.
The Nature of the Miraculous EvidenceNone of which was sufficient to get his own mother and immediate family members to believe those claims were true. See John 7:5 (not even his brothers were believing him) and Mark 3:21 ff (his mother and brothers search for him to put a stop to his public preaching, having concluded that Jesus had gone insane).
Jesus chose instead to demonstrate His Deity through miraculous supernatural behavior.
In fact, Jesus spoke openly about the evidential value of the miracles he performed.So does Benny Hinn. When is the last time you donated to that fool?
He said these miracles were intended to prove his Deity so His audience would believe He was who He claimed to be (John 14:11 and John 10:37-38).So were the members of Jesus' immediate family very stupid or very smart for not finding his alleged working of miracles to be evidence that he was the son of God?
Miracles of this nature were the perfect tool to reach observers in the 1st Century.They also seem to be the perfect tool for getting idiot Christians to donate to obvious con artists in this century. We have to wonder how difficult it would be for a gospel author to do in writing what Benny Hinn's followers do in speech, and spin the facts so that what was just another tent-revival with a lot of hooting and holloring and alleged miracles (which they were probably present to witness), was turned into a public display of God's power that frightened the skeptics away. GO FUCK YOURSELF.
They were immediately accessible and verifiable.So are Benny Hinn's tricks. Yet the obvious falsity of his miracle-claims doesn't slow down thousands of people from flocking to him and believing his specious claims nonetheless. We can only surmise humanity's general contempt for critical thinking and general preference to misinterpret what they saw so as to feel better about concluding it must have been a real miracle, was even more likely in 33 a.d., than in 2018 a.d.
Unlike obscure statements to be confirmed over the course of two thousand years, these diverse miracles demonstrated the Divine nature of Jesus in a variety of ways available to both contemporary and future audiences.Which means if James his brother didn't believe those claims (John 7:5, Mark 3, supra), then we have an early church leader plagued with the exact level of credibility problems that today's apologists say modern skeptics are plagued with: refusing to believe the evidence.
Miracles, unlike anachronistic wisdom statements, have the ability to validate the Divinity of Jesus across time.So basically what you are saying is that Christians who cite Isaiah 40:22 to "prove" only God could have revealed the global shape of earth to Isaiah in 700 b.c., are idiots, and you are also saying, based on your comments, that whatever god was doing in Isaiah 40:22, he wasn't giving Isaiah in 700 b.c. a scientific truth that humanity would have to wait several hundred years to verify....because in your argument, you think such procedure would constitute an "anachronistic wisdom statement".
The gospels are an account of Jesus’ activity in the 1st Century. They record Jesus’ interaction with an ancient audience, as He provided them with the kind of evidence they would find persuasive.He may have tried, but his own brothers and mother did not find that evidence very persuasive. What do you expect today's skeptics to do when they find out that Benny Hinn's brother thinks Benny is a fraud? Just tell ourselves surely this brother is only jealous that he doesn't get as much attention as Benny?
or does the unbelief of the evangelist's immediate family toward his miracle claims justify initial suspicion toward such claims? What should skeptics think when Benny Hinn's nephew says Hinn's prosperity gospel preaching is total bullshit, and why didn't you do the same when you first read John 7:5? FUCK YOU.
Wallace, you have failed to convince anybody that it would been impractical and problematic for Jesus to reveal in the first century scientific truths that wouldn't be confirmed for at least another 1,000 years.