The case for the real Jesus: a journalist investigates current attacks on the identity of Christ / Lee Strobel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Cover design: Kurt Dietsch Cover photo: David Paterson / Alamy For Frank Cate Who's at Home with the real Jesus CONTENTS Introduction: Searching for the. From college classrooms to best selling books to the Internet, the historic picture of Jesus is under an intellectual onslaught. This fierce attack.
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The Case for Christ—Student Edition (with Jane Vogel). The Case for . The Case for the Real Jesus STUDENT EDITION. 8. • “Jesus is J4J_CMSGW pdf. Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Atheist-turned-Christian Strobel, with four Gold Medallions and other awards, focuses on rediscovering the real. The Case for the Real Jesus [Lee Strobel] on caite.info *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. What IS the truth about Jesus? Today, the traditional picture of.
He addresses questions about issues such as how the New Testament quotes and interprets the Old Testament, the historical accuracy of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus is a must-have resource book. The first compendium of its kind for decades, it is the first of three planned volumes.
This first volume addresses thirty-five different objections comprehensively with an engaging, readable style. Future volumes will include theological objections, objections based on messianic It's not even a messianic prophecy. This book provides real answers to twenty-eight theological objections many Jewish people raise regarding Christianity. The author treats these objections seriously and fairly, building answers from some surprising rabbinic teachings as well as from the Hebrew Scriptures.
As Brown's answers progressively demonstrate, belief in Y'shua Jesus is From the liner notes: Have you ever questioned God's goodness during tough seasons? It's easy to accept that God is loving when you receive a promotion and that he's merciful when someone forgives you. But, God's characteristics during troubling times can appear so abstract that applying his identity to our life circumstances can seem like a theological puzzle: Watch the trailer in p HD! Charts, maps and time lines can enrich your understanding of God's Word and support effective Bible teaching, but reliable information is often difficult to find and share with a class.
Jesus' beloved teachings on finding hope and joy offer a true picture of God's blessings for believers. Understanding the Beatitudes will help Christians learn how to live the "Kingdom" life. Those who follow Jesus will be inspired and challenged to live out these attributes in contrast to worldly values: Poor in spirit Mourning Meekness Righteo The Liberated Wailing Wall provides you with a unique worship experience on their eleventh album of original Jewish gospel music.
From the driving rhythms of the title song to the standard, Hava Nagila, from the prophetic petition of Solomon's Prayer to the haunting melody of V'ahavta, you will enjoy an experience of worship that is both ancient What's the worst thing that can happen to a successful Jewish businessman?
Perhaps it's a phone call from his college-age daughter, telling him she now believes in Jesus. A loving father embarks on a quest to reclaim his "lost" daughter, and in the process, finds his Messiah.
Great gift idea for your larger bible studies or spiritual family. This set of 8 colorful bookmarks with beautifully rendered scenes from the Bible will remind you of Scripture and the Jewish people whenever you read. Makes a wonderful gift. Features full-color charts, pictures, scripture references, definitions, and study questions. Unfolds to 38" long,14 panels. Fits in most Bibles. Why do I feel this way?
What is God doing to me? Have you ever asked these questions? Don't be discouraged God wants you to have a beautiful, intimate, and rewarding relationship with Him.
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Called to Controversy, over ten years in the works, tells the truth about Moishe in a variety of voices from his past. Find out: What Moishe Rosen was like Cedars of Lebanon is the strong, fragrant wood used to build David's house, Solomon's house and much of the First Temple.
It was also used along with hyssop in the cleansing of a leper's house. It speaks of strength, permanence and wholeness. Ps This is a set of 6. The author carefully explains the significance of each feast, the materials necessary to observe them, and full directions for the events. This road map will highlight each of the seven feasts giving the Old Testament Scripture references, cultural background information, and Christ's teachings around the feasts as well as other New Testament references.
A great reference for anyone wanting a better understanding of the Jewish feasts still celebrated today. Feasts include: This book rounds out the series so that all three Aliyah Festivals are covered in this series Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles and Christ in the Passover. David Brickner and Rich Robinson invite you to explore the origins of the Christian holiday that many consider the birthday of the Church.
Why did God choose this Jewish holiday to empower Get in touch with the Jewish roots of your Christian faith as you learn the meaning behind Jesus' claims to be the "Light of the World" and to give us the "living water. This bestselling panel foldout chart examines types, parallels and illustrations of Jesus throughout the Old Testament,,including men such Melchizedek, King David, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and many others. When v Get in touch with the Jewish roots of your Christian faith as you discover the amazing connection between the cup of redemption, the bread of affliction and the One who is the bread of Life.
See the deep bond between the ancient Passover Feast and our communion celebration today. Now you can join us for Passover from the comfort of your living room. David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, takes you step-by-step through the seder, the Passover meal that Jesus observed with His disciples. You will learn the Hebrew names and meanings of each element of this biblical festival, view scenes of a Jewish family as Also illustrates the parallels between the Passover in the Old Testament and the work of Jesus Christ as the perfect Passover lamb in the New Testament.
This is a good way of explainin In a perfect world, how would we live? Someday believers in Yeshua will find out. Until then, we have the Sabbath. Shabbat is a foretaste of the world to come, a glimpse beyond our hurting world. Above all, Shabbat is fulfil Here is the story of Jesus' birth and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in a beautiful pamphlet that can be used as a handout at Christmas and as a Bible study to use during Advent.
Using traditional wording from Matthew and Luke's Gospels, and beautiful full-color art, this pamphlet starts with the angelic announcement of John the Bap Also illustrates the parallels between the Passover in the Old Testament and the wor Enjoy tasteful instrumenta An Adult Coloring Book. From the Liner Notes: Track Listing: SIDE 1: Come and Praise 2: Come to the Light 2: JPL Books.
Shopping Cart. My Account. Welcome to JPL Books! Login Create Account. Home Jews for Jesus Store. Quick View. The glossy, panel fold-out pamphlet is color coded to show Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the New Testament. Fits inside most Bible covers. More Info. Sold Out. The true story of how this Holocaust survivor came to believe in Jesus and became a spokeswoman for reconciliation before huge audiences in Germany is a drama of epic proportions—yet it is personal enough to speak into the life of any reader who has struggled with issues of forgiveness.
As I shook my head at this senseless loss, one thought coursed through my mind: Beliefs have very real consequences. These victims believed in Jones. They subscribed to his utopian vision. His dogma became their own. But ultimately the truth is this: Search for Jesus at Amazon.
Since then he has been exploited by Christians, particularly Americans. He helps me stay sober one day at a time. His name could have as well been Mor- ris.
Too bad he was in male form this time around. Better luck next time. I believe I am a Son of God. He lives today, and he will come to earth again. If he was, the legends around him — a Son of God who was born of a virgin, worked miracles, and rose from the dead — were com- mon stories in the ancient Near East.
The myths about Jesus are not even original. A highly moral person, much like Teresa of Calcutta. No less, but no more. Anything more is fantasy. We are all One, all Divine, just like Jesus. He suffered from what contemporary psychologists now know to be delusions of grandeur, bipolar disorder, and probably acute schizophrenia.
An apocalyptic prophet who bet wrong and died as a result. He should be ignored, not celebrated. Asked one philosopher: So who was Jesus? Wilson propose? Was he a magician who sought to lead Israel astray, as the Talmud holds? Was he a self-proclaimed prophet who died in disil- lusionment, as Albert Schweitzer maintained? Was he some first-century personage whose purported miracles and divin- ity were mere myths or fabrications by the early church — as David F. Strauss, Rudolf Bultmann, and John Hick suggest?
That depends on how you answer a more foundational question: Are you willing to set aside your preconceptions and let the evidence take you wherever it will?
And what about me — am I willing to do the same? I had to honestly ask myself that question when I was an atheist and decided to investigate the identity of Jesus. And more recently, this time as a Christian, I had to face that issue squarely once again when I was confronted by six potent challenges that could undermine everything I had come to believe about him.
If you had asked my opinion about Jesus when I was the legal edi- tor of the Chicago Tribune, I would have given you an adamant answer: Claims about his divinity clearly were manufactured by his fol- lowers long after his unfortunate demise.
As an atheist, I ruled out any possibility of the virgin birth, miracles, the resurrection, or anything else supernatural. After nearly two years of studying ancient history and archaeology, I found the evidence leading me to the unexpected ver- dict that Jesus is the unique Son of God who authenticated his divinity by returning from the dead. For my book The Case for Christ, in which I retraced and expanded upon my original journey, I sat down with respected scholars with doc- torates from Brandeis, Cambridge, Princeton, the University of Chi- cago, and elsewhere, peppering them with the tough questions that had vexed me as a skeptic.
I walked away all the more persuaded that the cumulative evidence established the deity of Jesus in a clear and convincing way. That book was published in Since then the Jesus of historic Christianity has come under increasingly fierce attack. From college classrooms to bestselling books to the Internet, scholars and popular writers are seeking to debunk the traditional Christ.
But the issues go much deeper. What made the Jesus Seminar unique was that it bypassed the usual academic channels and instead enthusiastically took its find- ings directly to the public. At the same time, the Internet spawned a proliferation of websites and blogs that offer out-of-the-box speculation about the Nazarene.
Meanwhile, college classrooms, increasingly dominated by liberal faculty members who grew up in the religiously suspicious s, provided a fertile field for avant-garde beliefs about Jesus and Christianity. According to a landmark study by profes- sors from Harvard and George Mason universities, the percentage of atheists and agnostics teaching at U. They are among the most pow- erful and prevalent objections to creedal Christianity that are currently circulating in popular culture.
Searching for the Real Jesus 15 countless spiritual seekers about who Jesus is — or whether they can come to any solid conclusions about him at all.
As someone whose road to faith was paved with painstakingly researched facts and logic, I simply could not gloss over these allega- tions after repeatedly encountering them the last several years. They are too central to the identity of Jesus. I had no choice but to grant them their full weight and open myself to the possibility that they could legitimately undermine the traditional understanding of Christ. For the sake of my own intellectual integrity, I needed answers.
The Gospel of Thomas, discovered sixty years ago but only now becoming widely popular, and the Gospel of Judas, whose discovery was announced with much fan- fare in , are among the ancient manuscripts fueling a widespread interest in Gnosticism, a movement that its proponents claim is just as valid as mainstream Christianity. Although Gnosticism is diverse, New Testament scholar N.
Wright says Gnostics historically have held four basic ideas in com- mon: The reason is these elements fit well with the American values of independence and individuality. Said Cimino and Lattin: The Gnostic factor can be found in the growth of occult and esoteric teachings and movements, where access to supernatural secrets are avail- able through individual initiation and experience rather than through publicly revealed texts or doctrine.
Searching for the Real Jesus 17 At the heart of this controversy is the reliability of the Gnostic gos- pels that have been uncovered over the past six decades, many of which were republished in as a new collection called The Nag Ham- madi Scriptures.
Do they support the claims that Gnosticism flourished in the first century when Christianity was being formed? More insidiously, has the church tried to suppress the inconvenient truths contained in the Gnostic texts? Bart D. Are essential teachings about Jesus in jeopardy — for instance, the Trinity and the resurrection? If the Bible contains even a single error, can any of it be trusted at all?
What about the inauthentic passages that Ehrman says should never have been included in the Bible in the first place? A new generation of aggressive atheists has fashioned fresh and potent objections to the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. At the same time, Muslim apologists, who know that undermining the resur- rection casts doubt on all of Christianity, have been more and more outspoken about their belief that Jesus never died on the cross and therefore could not have conquered the grave as the New Testament claims.
In , questions concerning the resurrection received wide- spread attention when an astounding 57 percent of Americans either saw or heard about a Discovery Channel documentary in which Titanic movie director James Cameron and film documentarian Sim- cha Jacobovici said archaeologists had discovered the tomb of Jesus and his family just south of the old city of Jerusalem. If the belief that he rose from the dead is a legend, a misunderstanding, or a deliberate falsehood perpetrated by his fol- lowers, then Jesus is quickly demoted from the Son of God to a failed prophet — or worse.
I could not claim to love truth and at the same time turn a blind eye toward the most serious charges against the resurrection. How strong — really — is the affirmative case that Jesus returned from the dead? Can the resurrection be established by using historical evi- dence that the vast majority of scholars in the field — including fair- minded skeptics — would accept as being true? And do any of the most current alternative theories finally succeed in putting Jesus back in his grave?
So why should anyone give any credence to similar claims about Jesus that were obviously copied from these earlier pagan mystery religions? Searching for the Real Jesus 19 This critique, popularized a century ago by German historians, has now returned with a vengeance, becoming one of the most ubiq- uitous objections to the historical understanding about Jesus.
It has spread around the World Wide Web like a computer virus and been forcefully presented in numerous bestselling books, including one that received a prestigious award from a British newspaper.
Were the supernatural qualities of Jesus merely ideas borrowed from ancient mythology and attached to the story of the Nazarene by his overzealous followers in the decades after his ignominious death? Is Jesus no more divine than Zeus? Are the reports of his resurrec- tion no more credible than the fantastical tales of Osiris or Baal? No honest examination of the evidence for Jesus could avoid addressing the alarming theory that the followers of Jesus were nothing more than spiritual plagiarists.
Is Jesus — or is he not — the Messiah whose coming was foretold in scores of ancient Jewish prophecies? He is, they charge, nothing less than a messianic failure because he never ushered in the world peace foretold by the prophets. What are the real facts? Without a doubt, these issues call the fundamental mission and credibility of Jesus and the Bible into question, and therefore they cannot in good conscience sim- ply be glossed over. An increasing number of people are bypassing the dogma of tra- ditional Christianity and creating their own belief system, rejecting tenets that seem hopelessly outdated, and accepting those that they feel are appropriate.
The Jesus who emerges is generally kinder and gentler — or at least a lot more broadminded and tolerant — than the rigid and demanding version frequently found in the church. Is the Jesus I discovered in my initial investigation merely the Jesus for me personally?
Or are there objective truths about him that are binding on all people in all cultures? If history is only a matter of subjective interpretation, then can I know anything about him for sure? Is Christianity just one among many equally legitimate pathways to the divine?
These questions are more than a product of idle curios- ity: Searching for the Real Jesus 21 to Jesus were scrawled across the front page. Leslie glanced over them, squinting at times to make out my nearly illegible handwriting, and then looked up at me. She knew what this meant. If any of them is true, it changes everything. She was aware that I had been wrestling with some of these issues for a while. And after nearly thirty-five years of marriage, she knew that I was someone who had to pursue answers, regardless of the consequences.
My itinerary was already taking shape in my mind: I resolved to put the most probing questions to the most credible scholars I could find. At the conclusion, I was determined to reach whatever verdict was warranted by the hard evidence of history and the cool demands of reason. Yes, I was looking for opinions, but they had to be backed up with convincing data and airtight logic — no rank speculation, no flights of faith.
Like the investigations I undertook at the Chicago Tribune, I would have no patience for half-baked claims or unsupported asser- tions. There was too much hanging in the balance. After all, as Jesus himself cautioned, what you believe about him has very real consequences. In , this cir- cumstance changed. Religion professor Stevan L. Commentator Andrew Sullivan2 T he rumor mill was churning.
A political operative called one of my reporters with a tip that a candidate for Illinois governor had recently been detained by police after allegations that he had abused his wife.
If this was true, the irony would be devastating: Since other news media had been alerted as well, I knew we had only a short period of time to nail down the story. I immedi- ately assigned five reporters to pursue various angles of the investi- gation. We needed indisputable confirmation — preferably, a written document — before we could publish the story.
The reporters milked their sources. One of them came up with a time frame for the incident.
The information was too vague and uncorroborated. Finally, another reporter was able to obtain the key piece of evi- dence: But there was a snag. Because no criminal charges had been filed, privacy laws dictated that all names on the report be blacked out.
At first glance, it looked like there would be no way to link the candidate to the incident.
As the reporter studied the report more carefully, though, she discovered that the police had inadvertently failed to delete one refer- ence to the person involved. Still, his name was rather common. How could we be sure it was really him?
Digging deeper in the report yielded the final clue: A match. He stead- fastly denied it ever occurred — until I handed him a copy of the police report. Faced with the indisputable evidence, he finally admitted the encounter with police. Within seventy-two hours he had withdrawn from the gubernatorial race.
Even so, detective work needs to be done to establish the authenticity and credibility of any written record. Who wrote it? Was this person in a position to know what happened? Was he or she motivated by prejudice or bias? Has the document been kept safe from tampering?
How legible is it? Is it corroborated by other external facts? And are there competing docu- ments that might be even more reliable or which might shed a whole new light on the matter? That last question has come to the forefront in the quest to under- stand the historical Jesus in recent years.
In modern times, however, archaeological discoveries have yielded a fascinating crop of other documents from ancient Palestine. But can they really be trusted? In the s, several Jesus Seminar participants and others, led by Robert J. Miller, published The Complete Gos- pels, which juxtaposed the New Testament gospels with sixteen other ancient texts.
All of them contain traditions independent of the New Testament gospels. That would mean they would contain very early — and therefore perhaps historically reliable — material. For example, Karen L. King, professor of ecclesiastical history at Harvard Divinity School, said the Gospel of Mary may arguably have been written in the late first century.
Dewey, associate professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, date its early stage to the middle of the first century. Award- winning scholar Morton Smith of Columbia University, author of Jesus the Magician and other books, reported finding two and a half pages of this formerly unknown gospel in a monastery near Jerusalem in Scott G.
Brown, who based his doctoral dissertation on the gos- pel, asserted in a book that it was penned by the same author who wrote the Gospel of Mark and was reserved only for those spiritu- ally mature enough to handle it.
And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. Yet the gospels of John and Thomas come to opposing conclusions concerning pivotal theological issues. Foul is the human if a lion eats it, making the lion human.
What made them so dangerous? Was the first century a maelstrom of clashing doctrines and practices — all equally valid — with one dominant viewpoint eventually elbowing its way to promi- nence and brutally squelching the others? Is it possible that my earlier conclusions about him have been unduly colored by New Testament accounts that in reality were only one perspective among many?
I need to have confidence that the right people used the right reasoning to choose the right documents in the ancient world. I need to know if there was any historical support for these alternative texts seeing Jesus in a different light. Surely the Jesus that emerges from many of these documents looks radically different from the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Says Jenkins: Generally, the hid- den gospels offer wonderful news for liberals, feminists, and radicals within the churches, who challenge what they view as outdated institutions and prejudices. Knowing there are almost as many opinions as there are experts, I wanted to track down someone who has sterling credentials, who would be respected by both conservatives and liberals, and who, most impor- tantly, could back up his insights with solid facts and reasoning.
That meant flying to Nova Scotia and driving to a quaint village to interview a highly regarded historian whose professional endors- ers range from the orthodox N.
After driving more than an hour from my hotel in Halifax, I rang the doorbell at the colonial-style house of Craig A.
Evans in a heav- ily wooded community near Acadia University, where he serves as a professor of New Testament. Evans came to Acadia University in after spending more than twenty years as a professor at Trinity Western University, where he directed the graduate programs in biblical studies and founded the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute. In addition, he also has served as a visiting fellow at Princeton Theologi- cal Seminary.
He is a prolific writer known for his scholarly precision as well as his ability to pierce the fog of academia with uncharacteristic clarity. More recently Evans has been expanding his work into the popu- lar arena. How Modern Scholars Dis- tort the Gospels, was published for a general audience in Evans and his wife of thirty-two years, Ginny, opened their front door and invited me in.
He was casually dressed in a short-sleeve striped shirt and dark slacks. His graying hair, parted neatly at the side, and his wire-rim glasses gave him a professorial air, while the tone and cadence of his voice sounded vaguely like commentator George Will.
Evans thought for a moment. Most of his teaching was in Aramaic, and his scriptures were in Hebrew or Aramaic paraphrases. Jesus and his world were very Semitic, yet most New Testament scholars lack adequate training in the very languages and literatures that reflect his world. Since they know Greek, they gravitate toward making com- parisons between the Jesus of the Greek Gospels and various Greek philosophies and the Greco-Roman world. He said in Luke What are your criteria?
It prompted ques- tions, investigation, and exploration. Some disciples ran to the tomb to confirm it. And I think rather than expressing automatic skepticism, scholars ought to similarly investigate claims with an open mind. Nobody is going to get excited if you say the tradi- tional view of the Gospels seems correct. Moving to the issue of the alternative gospels, I asked Evans to set forth the criteria that historians use in determining whether an ancient document is reliable.
When was it written? Same with the New Testament. This would have a corrective effect. But if a document is written sixty, eighty, or a hundred years later, then that chain is lost.
Rather than delve deeper into that topic at this point, however, I asked Evans to continue discussing the historical criteria. Did the writer have an axe to grind? These things are often transparent and we can detect them. But they also make all kinds of statements that can be evaluated. Are they culturally accurate? Are they true to what we know from other historical sources?
The answers are yes. They were written from other places with strange and alien contexts. We find inaccuracies at key points. Actually, these other historians were much further removed from many of the events that they wrote about. And would anyone claim that the so-called Gospel of Peter — found in the coffin of a monk in the ninth century — really has a connection with Peter? Come on! Is it true that the earliest Christianity was a fluid melting pot of all kinds of different perspectives about Jesus?
The question is: What really did happen in the first century? What are the facts? This is nonsense. To take second-century diversity and exaggerate it, and then to try to smuggle those controversies into the first century by hypothesizing that there was some earlier version of second-century documents, is just bogus.
Real historians laugh at that kind of procedure. The real story behind Thomas, I was soon to learn, was even more fascinating. An interesting start. Among the thirteen leather- bound codices found in a jar was the Gospel of Thomas in Coptic.
But now the small number of scholars who have com- petence in the field believe that may not be true. Instead, Thomas was probably written in Syriac. Over half of the New Testament writings are quoted, paralleled, or alluded to in Thomas. Nobody doubts their authenticity. Then along comes the Gospel of Thomas and it shows familiarity with fourteen or fifteen of the twenty- seven New Testament writings.
Stevan L. It should be dated AD 50 — Are they wrong? Thomas has forms that reflect the later developments in Luke or Matthew. Mark is not real polished in terms of Greek grammar and style, while Matthew and Luke are much more so. And in the Gospel of Thomas we find these more polished Matthew and Luke forms of the sayings of Jesus. It gets even worse when we find that some of the material that certain scholars think is old and independent actually reflects Syrian development.
Of course, it goes eastward, where people speak a form of Aramaic called Syriac. There was a guy named Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, who created a written harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the year So the first time Syrian-speaking Christians had access to the Gospels was not as separate Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but as the blended, harmonized form.
All of this means Thomas must have been written later than the Diatessaron in Now everything begins to add up. Of course Thomas knows more than half of the New Testament. And Thomas reflects Syrian ideas.
Also, the Syrian church was very much into ascetics. They did not like wealth. They did not like businessmen and commercialism. That shows up in Thomas. They were into elitism and mysticism. And guess what? That also shows up in Thomas. It appears to be just a random collection of what Jesus supposedly said. But if you translate it into Syriac, something extremely intriguing emerges. Suddenly, you discover more than five hundred Syrian catchwords that link virtually all the sayings in order to help people memorize the gospel.
And Saying 3 has a certain word that leads you into Saying 4. It was a memorization aid.
Everything points to Thomas being written at the end of the second century, no earlier than and probably closer to Still, I knew Thomas supporters would raise arguments to the contrary. And by the end of the second century, a collection of sayings of the rabbis was produced. The collections genre was just as popular in Syria at the end of the second century as it was anywhere else in an earlier period. Frankly, there is no such evidence.
They know this evidence embarrasses their theory that Thomas is very early. So they hypothesize a different form of Thomas that they claim was ear- lier than the one we now have.
That is, instead of modifying their theory to fit the evidence, they modify the evidence to fit the theory. You deal with the evidence that you have. Think about this: There was no need to try to provide an answer. Evans had done a persuasive job in establish- ing that the Gospel of Thomas dates to the late second century and therefore lacks credibility in its depiction of Jesus. However, I was still interested in how this ancient text portrays him.
That, of course, is the Gnostic element. For every female who makes herself male will enter the king- dom of heaven. So there you go: As Witherington points out: Thus it is not true that women are more affirmed as women in the Gnostic literature than they are in the canonical Gospels. Quite the opposite is the case. Challenge 1: The reason for the Christian movement in the New Testament is that an event of history has taken place.
Jesus has become flesh, we have seen him, we have touched him, he died on the cross, and on Sunday morning he was resurrected. But for the Gnostics, Jesus is a revealer — he tells us things and we must internalize and live in light of them.
What actually happened becomes less relevant. Why not any mishmash written by anyone at the end of the second century that takes second- and third-hand materials, blends them together, and creates an inauthentic setting? Would even a Jesus Seminar scholar argue sincerely that the Jesus of Thomas is closer to the historical Jesus of the 20s and 30s than the Jesus we have presented in Mark or Q?
Then they can say all these documents were written at approximately the same time by approximately the same kinds of people in terms of their qualifications. But that grossly misrepresents the evidence. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were earlier than all these other gospels, and they have credible connections with the first generation, apostolic, eyewitness sources. Now, I call that dogmatic and prejudiced! I decided to ask his opinion about something else Pagels had said to me — suspecting that he would again be direct in his answer.
Everything distinctive in Thomas turns out to be late second-century Syrian tradition. The new portrait of Gnosticism is profoundly attractive for mod- ern seekers, that large constituency interested in spirituality without the trappings of organized religion or dogma.
Good grief! Now I think the church chose wisely. In this codex was the Apocalypse of Peter, an account of the martyrdom of St. But because the apostle Peter appears in the text and narrates it, and because it was accompanied by the Apocalypse of Peter when it was found, archaeologists assumed it was the lost Gospel of Peter that the ancient church historian Eusebius and Bishop Serapion had warned was falsely attributed to the apostle.
If the text is understood rightly, it implies he felt the pain but controlled himself. I mean, we have an NBA dream team here! You wonder — how does it ambulate? Is it a pogo stick? Does it have wheels?
They would not do that — and anybody writing in the middle of the first century would know that. Also, the fragment is anti-Semitic, which would reflect lateness, not earliness. Because who would write a gospel in the 50s? So now we supposedly have an anti-Semitic person writing a document on which the Jewish authors — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — would base their accounts?
Would they base their accounts on a document that has manifest errors that would be obvious to them? This probably represents embellishment of the Shepherd of Hermes, written between AD and , and an addition to Ezra in the mid-second century. What about the cross being buried with Jesus — and talking? This is the stuff of later legend.
In contrast, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke circulated anonymously. Their authority and truth were transparent. But in the second century, they had to force it. Scholars are virtually unanimous about this. A guy may want to be a bishop, but he must meet cer- tain specified qualifications. Deaconesses likewise must be this and not that.
And this Gospel of Mary appears to be something of a protest in the middle of the second century against rules that were prob- ably shutting out eccentric, offbeat teachers, maybe some of whom are women. The bishop declines permission, maybe appealing to the pastoral letters. So the Gospel of Mary, with a decidedly Gnostic flavor, deals with that particular issue by saying that Jesus told Mary in a revelation not to lay down rules.
The gospel defends the right of women to be teachers, perhaps in opposition to the growing institutionalization of Christianity that put some restrictions on women. Only the truly gullible — or those advancing their own theological agenda — buy into that.
He took a sip of water and then settled into his chair. At a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in , he announced that two years earlier he had made a historic discovery at the Mar Saba Monastery in the Judean wilderness.
Smith speculated that a monk cop- ied the letter onto the blank pages at the back of the book to preserve it, maybe because the original papyrus had been crumbling. The letter then ends very abruptly, just after it indicates that something really important was going to be revealed. They made some pretty bold claims about it. But from the beginning there were rumblings that this might be a forgery.
The next day came this headline: But he did photograph it, and after he died in , large color photographs of the text were studied by Stephen Carlson. This was absolutely incredible to contem- plate: He himself was gay, which was a closely guarded secret in the s. He had been denied tenure at Brown University and may have wanted to demonstrate his intellectual superiority by pulling off something like this. Smith was forty years old and might have been perceived as over-the-hill.
A successful hoax could be exactly what Smith needed to prove to himself that he was smarter than his peers and might even jump start his career in the process.
The big issue is whether he did, indeed, write the text — and I believe the evidence is compelling that he did. There are shaky lines, pen lifts in the middle of strokes — all kinds of indications that this was forged.
More likely, the book was from somewhere else — Europe or North America. By the way, a copy of that book back in the s would have cost only a couple of hundred dollars and easily could have been smuggled into the mon- astery library.
But there are two unusual things about it. First, Smith himself dated this sample to the twentieth century, rather than the eighteenth century when the Clement letter was supposedly written. Certainly seems possible. It was written during the s, during an especially oppressive moment in American history when mainline ministers were urging the police to crack down on gay men gathered in public parks.
What could be more upsetting to the Establishment in this historical moment than the inti- mation, revealed in an ancient text by the author of the oldest gospel, that they are crucifying Jesus Christ all over again? In fact, some in the Jesus Seminar were too quick to say, well, yes, there probably was a Secret Mark floating around and, well, yes, it probably is earlier than the canonical Mark.
Baigent says he met somebody who said that in , while excavating underneath a house in Jerusalem, he found two documents written in Aramaic, which he showed to two famous archaeologists who confirmed their date and authenticity.
They dated them to roughly the time that Jesus was put to death. Oh, but did I mention that Yadin and Avigad are dead? This is just the dumbest thing. But you have to remember that no papyrus buried in the ground in Jerusalem will survive two thousand years, period. This might happen in the dry sands of the Dead Sea region or Egypt, but it rains in Jerusalem.
Any archaeologist will tell you that. The National Geographic Society had recruited Evans to be part of a team to assist with interpreting the codex, which was discovered in the late s and took a circuitous route to end up the focus of intense worldwide interest. Carbon dating indicates the papyrus dates back to AD to , although team members leaned toward and I pulled out a copy of some commentary I had printed out from the Internet.
Evans was taken aback. Someone is accepting what Dan Brown says about the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century determining what was in and out of the Bible — which, of course, is pure poppycock.
So whoever wrote this document may have been indicating that Judas should not be understood as the author of the gospel, but rather that this is a gospel about Judas. But still, it does have historical significance. It tells us something about second-century Gnosticism and perhaps a group called the Cainites, who are a bit mysterious to us. Did they really exist? So they would lionize Cain, Esau, the people of Sodom — and naturally Judas fits right in there. Just how positive the portrait of Judas is in this new text remains an open question.
And Judas was walking around with the treasury box. Jesus had apparently made a private arrangement with Judas; we also have other examples of Jesus having a private arrangement with a few disciples. Does that concern you? Contrary to the claims of a few far leftwing scholars, however, all of them failed the tests of historic- ity. The Gospel of Thomas could tell me something about second- century mysticism and Gnosticism, but nothing about Jesus beyond a few quotes lifted from the New Testament.
The Gospel of Peter, with its talking cross and giant Jesus, flunked the credibility test. The gospels of Mary and Judas were written too late to be meaningful.
All of this brought me back to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I asked Evans what he considered to be the best criteria for assessing their reliability. Are the Gospels consistent with what we know about the history and cul- ture of Palestine in the 20s and 30s? Tacitus, same thing. The Gospels are much better than that. I think Mark had to have been within the shadow of the Jewish-Roman war of 66 — Jesus says in Mark It hap- pened in the summer.
This statement makes sense if Mark was pub- lished when the war was underway or about to occur. But if it was written in 71 or 72, as some have speculated, that would be an odd statement to leave in place.
Jesus died in 30 or 33 AD, and a lot of scholars lean toward Other people in their 30s and 40s grew up hearing stories about Jesus from firsthand eyewitnesses.
People were meeting frequently, reviewing his teaching, and making it normative for the way they lived. The teaching was being called to mind and talked about all the time. This was a living tradi- tion that the community discussed and was constantly remembering, because it was normative, it was precious, they lived by it.
Horsley, head of the religion department at the University of Massachusetts, commented recently: Look at the sources. They tell us that people in antiquity observed that Jesus could do things far bet- ter, far more effectively, far more astoundingly than the scribes could in dealing with healings and exorcisms. Others saw the Son of David as coming to kill Romans, including the emperor.
That was the popular view. Jesus then shocks everyone by saying, no, actually he wants to extend messianic blessings even to the Gentiles. Any prophet or priest could claim that. No, the anoint- ing is more than that — there is a divine sense.
In that story told by Jesus, the vineyard owner leased his place to tenant farmers, but when the landowner would send servant after ser- vant to collect his share, the tenants would beat or kill them. When the parable is interpreted in its context, we see that the vineyard owner is God, the tenants represent ancient Israel, and the servants represent prophets.
The point is clear: God sent his son. Otherwise, he would just be one more messenger, one more prophet. Caiaphas understood what he meant. He was outraged! What do you say? That could have gotten him a good beating perhaps, especially if he criticized the ruling priest or made threats. I anticipated that he would further elaborate on the divinity of Jesus — and yet our discussion ended with an unexpected turn. Personally, I think a lot of Christians — even conservative, Bible-believing Christians — are semi-docetic.
How human was Jesus? For a lot of them, the human side of Jesus is superficial. Orthodox Christology also embraces fully the humanity of Jesus. When that part gets lost, you end up with a pretty superficial understanding of Christology. For example, could Jesus read? At the age of three days, was Jesus fluent in Hebrew? Could he do quantum physics? Well, then, why does the book of Hebrews talk about him learning and so forth?
He dies in our place as a human being who dies in our place. We can iden- tify with him: How was he tempted if he was just God wearing a mask — faking it and pretending to be a human? Jesus has a huge amount of credibility if we see him as fully human and he actually, as a human, has faith in God.
They avoided errors and pitfalls to the left and to the right. I think the church got it right. And then he goes further and demonstrates that he was speaking accurately. If you have any doubts, the Easter event should remove them. Yet the resurrection confirmed who he was. And the resurrection is, of course, very powerfully attested, because you have all classes, men and women, believers, skeptics, and opponents, who encounter the risen Christ and believe in him.
The Missing Gospels. Nelson, Carlson, Stephen C. The Gospel Hoax: Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, Evans, Craig A. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Dis- tort the Gospel. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, Jenkins, Philip. Hidden Gospels: Oxford University Press, Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel Code. What Have They Done with Jesus? San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, Wright, N. Judas and the Gospel of Jesus.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, In some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake. Ehrman1 There is.
Atheist Richard C. Carrier 2 W hen I was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, a college student from a small Midwestern town was hired as a summer intern. Her parents were nervous about her working in such a big and volatile city, so her mother made a habit of regularly calling to check up on her. The term morgue is still in use today, but technology has radi- cally transformed how newspapers handle their archives.
Outside researchers were rarely granted access to the morgue because of concerns about protecting this valu- able repository of history. Today many newspaper archives can be electronically searched through the Internet. In , the New York Times announced it was giving its home subscribers free access to every article published in the newspaper since — a treasure trove of historical nuggets that offer on-the-spot accounts of times gone by.
Instead, they get an elec- tronic copy of the story — one that easily could have been altered by someone intent on rewriting history. For example, the New York Times, to its unending embarrassment, was repeatedly scooped by its rival, the Washington Post, during the Watergate investigation in the s.
When a researcher accessed those altered articles, how would he be able to figure out what had been part of the original stories and what had been added later? There would be numerous clues: Their writing style may differ subtly from the rest of the story.
Instead of fitting into the smooth narrative of the article, they may seem awkwardly out of place. Most importantly, researchers could visit municipal libraries around the country and check micofilm copies of the same Times articles. These versions would predate the counterfeit articles, and a comparison would quickly unmask alterations to the electronic copy. This is roughly analogous to the way scholars try to reconstruct the original text of the New Testament.
The earliest papyrus copies have long ago been reduced to dust. Up until the first Greek New Testament was produced on a printing press in the early sixteenth century, scribes would make handwritten copies of New Testament manuscripts. They meticulously comb through manuscripts in a painstaking search for anomalies. Challenge 2: Ehrman, penned the first general-interest book on the topic, Misquoting Jesus, which exploded onto the bestsellers list in For months, it was the top religion book in America.
Ehrman, head of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reported that the number of vari- ants, or differences, between various handwritten manuscripts, total between , and perhaps , — more variants among the manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament!
We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways. Was Jesus an angry man? Was he completely distraught in the face of death? Did he tell his disciples that they could drink poison without being harmed? Did he let an adulteress off the hook with nothing but a mild warning? Is the doctrine of the Trinity explicitly taught in the New Testament? The questions go on and on. He came to a turning point while studying at the more liberal Princeton Theological Seminary, where he wrote a paper to offer ways to explain away an apparent discrepancy in the Gospel of Mark.
Instead, the professor simply wrote on the paper: Please help me. This book has devastated my faith. Is Ehrman correct? At stake was nothing less than whether the New Testa- ment can be trusted to provide a reliable picture of the real Jesus. Daniel B. Wallace could be one of those stories. Okay, that calls for an explanation. First, some background: The title of his doctoral dissertation suggests how specialized the study of New Testament Greek can be: Semantics and Significance.
Wallace has traveled the world so he could personally study ancient manuscripts, visiting the Vatican, Cambridge University, Mt. He was the senior New Testament editor of the New English Translation of the Bible NET , which has more explanatory footnotes than any other one-volume Bible translation ever published, and is a member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.
But Wallace is most famous among seminarians for his textbook Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, which is used by more than two-thirds of the schools that teach intermediate Greek, including Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Cambridge University. It was after Wallace completed this textbook that he was stricken with a crippling bout of viral encephalitis, which confined him to a wheelchair for more than a year and wreaked havoc with his memory.
Eventu- ally, he lost his knowledge of Greek almost completely — which is what prompted him to use his own book and others to actually relearn the difficult ancient language. And that, as radio commentator Paul Harvey likes to say, is the rest of the story.
We sat around his kitchen table, enjoying dinner and a casual conversation, and then adjourned to his office, a two-story dark-wood library with a capacity of six thousand books.
Carefully removing a thick volume from the bookshelf, he slowly opened it on his desk. It was one of only modern reproductions of Codex Vaticanus, a manuscript dating less than years after the New Testament was written. Some say the original codex was among the fifty Bibles that Emperor Con- stantine ordered to be produced after the Council of Nicea.
The truth was that I was awestruck. So detailed was this copy, meticulously handmade at the Vatican, that it even features holes in the pages at the same spots where the actual manuscript is worn through. We retired to two facing leather chairs for our chat. Wearing a dark green T-shirt, blue jeans, and white socks, and with gold-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, Wallace was animated and focused even as the hour began turning late.
He was a fascinating blend: Scholars who are arguing for the reliability of the New Testament might also be accused of bias. Readers end up having far more doubts about what the Bible says than any textual critic today would ever have.
I think Ehrman has simply overstated his case. Gordon Fee, the highly respected New Testament scholar, put it this way: What kind of chaos would we have if people claimed to have an origi- nal of a particular book? Or if we actually did have the originals intact, what would happen? My guess is that those manuscripts would be ven- erated but not examined. They would be worshiped but not studied. That includes his Word. Who is he to set terms for how God should act?
Essentially, scholars do not have to come up with conjecture about what the wording of the original text might be. We have the wording of the original in the manuscripts somewhere. Pragmatically, we could say that the wording of the original can be found in the text of our published Greek New Testaments or in their footnotes.
The Bible is a human book, whether or not you have the original manuscripts. Martin Hengel said that the only difference between a fundamentalist and a radical liberal is their starting presuppositions.