Monday, September 18, 2017

Why Peter Objected to Eating Animals That God Had Made Clean

Yesterday, I was thinking about one of the worn out arguments used by skeptics, who ask why Christians object to homosexuality yet eat shrimp, etc. (as commands about both are found in the book of Leviticus). And I was pondering how these skeptics are very uninformed about the Bible and have apparently never considered the impact of Acts 15, Acts 10 and Mark 7--which quite explicitly answer this very question. As I did so, an undesigned coincidence occurred to me. (If you are not familiar with the idea of undesigned coincidences, see my blog page on them.)

In Acts 10, the apostle Peter is up on a roof praying and has a vision in which he is confronted by a voice from heaven. A sheet is lowered down from heaven which contained all kinds of animals that God had said in the Old Testament were unclean for Jews to eat. Then this voice from heaven tells Peter to take them and eat them. Peter refuses and says that he has never eaten anything unclean. The voice speaks a second time and says: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:15). The Greek word translated "made clean" is in the aorist form, that is in the past tense. So the voice is explicitly saying that at some time in the past God made all these animals clean.

But when did God make all these things clean? It most certainly was not anywhere in the Old Testament. Neither was it at the time that the sheet was being lowered down. If so, it would make no sense for Peter to refuse to eat the animals in the sheet and say: “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (Acts 10:14). The voice from heaven speaks as if Peter should know that these animals had been made clean, so why does Peter respond as if he does not know?

It had to have been something previous in Peter's experience that he had not yet fully processed.

This could be one of those unanswered mysteries, in which we just don't have enough information to answer that question. But in chapter 7 of the Gospel of Mark, there is an editorial comment inserted after Jesus' teaching about his disciples not washing their hands when they eat. Jesus' teaching on the matter is summed up in Mark 7:15: "Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them." 

Then, when the disciples are alone with Jesus, they ask him to explain. He responds to them in Mark 7:18-19: "Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” Immediately following these words, we have this editorial comment from Mark: "(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)"

The words quoted above are the New International Version's attempt to translate the Greek. But the word "declared" is not in the Greek. The only verb here is the same one translated "made clean" in Acts 10:15: καθαρίζω, katharizō, "make clean." Literally, this editorial comment in Mark 7:19 reads: "...making all things clean." 

When did God make all things clean? He did it when Jesus spoke these words recorded in Mark 7. But he did not do so explicitly and Peter had not yet fully processed Jesus' words, bringing them to their logical conclusion. He does not do so until after confronted by the voice from heaven in Acts 10.

This is just one more interesting little "undesigned coincidence" that confirms that the Biblical writers are writing down things that actually happened and not simply manufacturing stories on the fly.

But wait, there's more! Curiously, though Jesus' teaching about washing hands is recorded in Matthew 15, only Mark records this editorial comment that Jesus was making all foods clean. Why is that interesting? Because Mark is recording the testimony of Peter and it is Peter who is confronted by the voice from heaven. Evidently, this confrontation with the heavenly voice brought Jesus' words about washing hands to mind and it all made sense. And so, this editorial comment reflects the impact of that interaction in Peter's experience. And by the way, guess who asks Jesus to explain the parable. Yep, Peter (Matthew 15:15). And he does it at Peter's house (see Howson's remarks below).

So this not only becomes another small piece of evidence in our overwhelming cumulative case for the historicity of the Gospels but also for the traditional authorship of the Gospel of Mark as passed on to us by the apostolic father Papias (that Mark is recording Peter's testimony). 

*******
Below is the full text of John Saul Howson's remarks on the this undesigned coincidence in his book Horæ Petrinæ: or, Studies in the Life of St. Peter (London: 1883), p.35:

Among the sayings uttered by our Lord which may be truly termed parables, though not always formally classed under that designation, was this: "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man."1 The first part of this sentence, though only referring to outward things, carries with it large and far-reaching spiritual meanings. Hence it may correctly be termed a parable.

These words, too, like those with which we were occupied in the preceding chapter, were spoken at Capernaum. The Lord had come back from across the lake; and certain Pharisees, with some scribes from Jerusalem, visited Him, and found fault with His disciples for eating with unwashen hands. This led to a stern rebuke of formality and hypocrisy, and of that religion which consists of an observance of externals. And now the Lord, having finished with the Pharisees and scribes, "called all the people," and spoke the words above quoted, with one emphatic addition which made them more memorable: "Hearken unto Me every one of you, and understand: If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."'
1 Mark vii. 15.

Now we come to the point of special connection with St. Peter. In order to see it distinctly, we must put together the accounts of St. Matthew and St. Mark. Both these evangelists tell us that the disciples afterwards privately asked the meaning of the parable. But one of them informs us of the place where this conversation occurred; the other tells us who asked the question that led to Christ's answer. St. Mark says that it was "when He was entered into the house from the people" that this private conversation took place. That was the house of Simon and Andrew. But St. Matthew tells us of something still more definite and personal: "Peter said unto Him, Declare unto us this parable." Peter is, as usual, ready with his words; and while, doubtless, honestly eager for instruction, by no means retires behind the others into the background. We have to thank his impetuosity, if we may reverently say so, for a very important result. For, after our Lord has explained that what goes into a man's mouth merely follows physical laws, and has no necessary effect on his character, He declares to us the solemn truth that the evil thoughts and foul desires which come from within do defile him morally and spiritually. After this statement, St. Mark adds, according to the true reading of the manuscripts: "This He said, cleansing all meats," pronouncing all food pure. 1 Matt. xv. 1-20; Mark vii. 1-23.
This is not the place for any remarks in detail on the critical question here involved. But the fact of the true reading, which has been very curiously preserved, may be stated very confidently.1 And from this fact the mind passes, by a rapid process of thought, to another occasion on which St. Peter was afterwards concerned with the same subjects. Can we doubt that a remembrance of his Lord's words came into St. Peter's mind in connection with the case of Cornelius, if not with the flash of a sudden conviction, yet with a gradual, and, in the end, irresistible persuasion, during the vision at Joppa, or in conversation at Caesarea? The Lord had spoken the words in answer to a pointed question; and the question had been asked in Peter's house and by Peter himself. We should note, too, that the identical Greek word for "cleansing," or "declaring pure," is used in the two cases. It is a most expressive word, which, besides teaching the lesson for the moment of the worthlessness of all merely external observances, proclaims all caste to belong to temporary states of society, and to be out of harmony with the true spirit of the Gospel. This link of connection between Capernaum and Caesarea, between a parable, at first obscure, and the broad, luminous teaching of the universality of the religion of Christ, is full of interest, and has not been observed so carefully as it deserves.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

G.K. CHESTERTON: LOOKING BACK 111 YEARS

(From p. 731 of the Nov. 25, 1905 issue of the Outlook)



As I was preparing to sell an old magazine on eBay this morning, I came across a critique of a young G.K. Chesterton. It is interesting to reflect on the impact that Chesterton was already having at the age of 31 (born May 29, 1874/died June 14, 1936) and continues to have well over a century later. I am sure we can learn some things from this literary giant and great defender of the faith. 

I have scanned the article which has long been in the public domain because I have not seen it shared any place else and I know others will enjoy reading it and benefit from it. One thing that struck me as I was reading it is a striking resemblance to the work of Eric Metaxas, who has also been criticized for biographical inaccuracies (i.e., in his biography of Bonhoeffer). The example of Chesterton should remind us that we should not be so scathing in our criticisms of fellow believers.

The following scans are from the November 25, 1905 issue of The Outlook (a magazine that had formerly been called the Christian Union, but had left its roots as liberalism had begun to seriously infect the Church):










*MORE RESOURCES ON CHESTERTON (and other 20th Century apologists)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DAVID MARSHALL'S JESUS IS NO MYTH!: Book Review

My review of David Marshall's latest book Jesus Is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels. This review is also posted on Amazon and Goodreads.:

"MARSHALL TURNS THE JOINT EFFORT OF THE SKEPTICS ON ITS HEAD"

Overall this book is a very enjoyable read, as David's wit and way with

words keeps the book moving along—often leaving you with a smile or a chuckle. But this book is far more than entertainment. To be sure, there are times when the detailed analysis does indeed cause the book to lag a bit, but such tedious work is sometimes important when digging for gold. And there is indeed gold in them hills!

Jesus Is No Myth is an important book for several reasons:

(1) Dr. Marshall engages the arguments of some of modern culture's most popular skeptics as they attempt to mythicize Jesus and discredit the Gospels that relate Jesus' teaching, miracles, death and resurrection. Marshall specifically engages the views of Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier, and Reza Aslan. He provides brief (chapter long) analyses of each and skillfully makes note of some fatal weaknesses. As these skeptical detractors of Jesus are having a significant impact on our society and misleading many to believe things that are just not so, this section meets a clamoring need.

(2) In the second section, Marshall lays out 30 criteria for analyzing the historicity of the Gospels (which will serve as preparation for a serious comparison with the parallels alleged by the likes of Carrier and Ehrman in the third section). Marshall makes good use of recent work by great scholars like N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and Timothy and Lydia McGrew. But he also provides his own original and helpful criteria for analyzing the Gospels' historicity. So this section is important for two reasons: (a) Helpful criteria for analyzing the historicity of the Gospels found nowhere else (so far as I am aware—and I have spent a lot of time studying this very subject). And (b) the collection of a large set of criteria into one place, which makes for a robust and powerful cumulative argument.

(3) In the third section, Marshall uses the criteria that he has just discussed related to the Gospels to see if the parallels offered by the skeptics stand up to scrutiny. Marshall carefully analyzes Apollonius of Tyana (who is most commonly offered as a historical figure parallel to Jesus), looking at his general historicity in one chapter and specifically at his miracles in the next. Then Marshall spends two chapters comparing the Gospels to ancient Greek novels--as skeptics have alleged that this might be the genre of the Gospels rather than historical biography. In the fifth chapter in this section, he compares the Gospels to the hagiography that arose in the 2nd Century and later. And finally, Marshall looks closely at a novel suggestion that Bart Ehrman recently proposed as a parallel to Jesus: the 18th Century Hasidic rabbi, Baal Shem Tov. In all cases, the parallels are clearly shown to be comical comparisons to Jesus. Again, I am not aware of anyone else who has taken the time to do this important and timely work.

(4) But perhaps the most important contribution that this book makes is that Marshall takes the skeptics' joint effort to mythicize Jesus and turns it on its head. The skeptics' desperate attempts to show that there were many others like Jesus instead reveal that Jesus is indeed unique among all persons of history. As Marshall notes: “If after ransacking your house for weapons, you challenge a thief with a butter knife, that probably means no more potent hardware lies hidden in your closet” (p.204). No one else ever claimed divinity like Jesus and left a lasting legacy...because no one else ever taught like him, performed miracles like him, showed compassion to outcasts like him, fulfilled ancient prophecies like him, died like him and rose again like him in a way that was experienced publicly and is therefore historically verifiable—and by hundreds of witnesses willing to suffer and even die for their testimony to these things. There is nothing else like this in history.

So this book provides important resources not only to anyone confused by the skeptics' claims but to anyone seeking serious analysis of the credibility of the New Testament Gospels and a mountain top view from which to see how truly unique Jesus truly is.


All that being said, David's book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test is probably still my favorite. You'll want to read it, too.

NOTE: This book does need some editing. Due to a rush to get this printed before his speaking tour, there are a significant number of typos and grammatical errors, which on a few pages show up in droves. But don't let that relatively minor issue stop you from a read that will be well worth your time.

FULL DISCLOSURE: David sent me a copy of this book for review. And David and I have been friends on Facebook for several years and are part of the same large Facebook group (The CAA: Christian Apologetics Alliance), where we first met. And I once saw him in person for a few hours at one of his speaking engagements. But that does not at all discredit my review. On the contrary, it is David's wide range of learning and his original insights into important topics that have time after time drawn me into conversation with him—along with his brilliant sense of humor! :)



Sunday, November 13, 2016

APOLOGETICS METHODOLOGY....HOW TO: Brief Article & Resources for Study

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone 
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 

But do this with gentleness and respect...." 

- 1 Peter 3:15b
~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~:~




Jesus Christ came "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Too often apologetics has been an emphasis on truth...and grace has been left out. The result has often been that the message of the Gospel has been robbed of its power and we have become as annoying as a "clanging cymbal"! (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). There must be a renewed emphasis on the whole command to "give the reason for the hope within us" by doing it "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). And there must also be a renewed emphasis on listening before speaking and being slow to anger (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19-20)--tough ones for me sometimes! 

May we all continue to grow in Christ's likeness so that our proclaiming of the truth of the Gospel may be matched by the way we proclaim it. Bathe it all in prayer, combine with wisdom and strategies from some of today's leading apologists and build the kingdom of Jesus Christ for his glory! Below are some great resources for continuing to do just that.





VIDEOS
*"Argument Clinic" (4 minutes) a classic Monty Python comedy sketch
*Four excellent lectures by Voddie Baucham delivered at Dallas Theological Seminary: "The Pastor/Teacher/Counselor as Expository Apologist" (January 22, 2016); "Expository Apologetics 101" (January 21, 2016); "Apologetics, Holiness, and Suffering" (January 20, 2016); "Doing Apologetics in an Anti-Apologetics Age" (January 19, 2016)



AUDIO
*Apologetic Methodologies Past and Present: A series of 5 lectures by Phil Fernandes. Part of the Tabor Lecture Series at Western Reformed Seminary.
*"A New Kind of Apologist": Mikel Del Rosario interviews Darrel Bock, director of leadership and cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary and Sean McDowell, expert apologist and author of the new book A New Kind of Apologist.

ARTICLES
*"Reaching Roger" an excellent article by my friend Nick Peters of Deeper Water Ministries, who draws lessons from his experience in using apologetics to strengthen a friend who was struggling deeply with questions and skepticism.
*"Are You Properly Motivated as a Christian Casemaker?" by J. Warner Wallace
*"Accessibility as an Apologetic Aim" by J. Warner Wallace
*"Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies": Nice interactive website on logical fallacies and you can even download a FREE! pdf file poster of them or buy a nicer printed one.


BOOKS
*Tactics by Greg Koukl. My #1 recommendation. A must-read.
*Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa and Rob M. Bowman, Jr. Read for FREE! online here.
*A New Kind of Apologist by Sean McDowell
*Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith with Holiness, Respect and Truth by Michael C. Sherrard. This book has received high praise from many top apologists.
*Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guiness
*How to Talk to a Skeptic: An Easy-to-Follow Guide for Natural Conversations and Effective Apologetics by Donald J. Johnson
*Five Views on Apologetics edited by Steven B. Cowan. Contributors: Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Paul D. Feinberg, Kelly James Clark and John M. Frame.


ONLINE COURSE
*Tactics (3 hours) taught by Greg Koukl



Saturday, October 1, 2016

JESUS MYTHICISM: Resources for Study

RELATED PAGES ON MY BLOG
*"Scholars Dismiss the Nonsense That Jesus Was Just a Myth"
*Jesus' Historicity: Links to my own articles on this topic and tons of other resources.
*Alleged Pagan Parallels.

AUDIO
*"Engaging the Flawed Views of Jesus Mythicism": an interview with Nick Peters

ARTICLES
*"Big Think on the Historical Jesus": a response by Nick Peters of Deeper Waters
*"History is a Problem for Those Who Doubt Jesus Was Real" by Lenny Esposito
*"5 Questions to Ask Jesus Mythicists" by Stephen Bedard
*"Are The Gospels Based on Eyewitness Accounts?" My own forthcoming extensive article that surveys the mountain of evidence for the historical reliability of the four Gospels. Just the outline for this article has reached several pages. I will probably instead post it as a series of articles once my work on it is mostly complete (and eventually publish it as a book). I hope to accomplish this by the Spring of 2017 (but I still have a lot to do).

WEBSITES
*A Christian Response to Jesus Mythicism: I anticipate that Albert McIlhenny's budding site will soon be one of the best resources on the internet for this issue (if not already). The site includes videos and links to his series of 16 books on Jesus Mythicism.
*Did Abe Lincoln really exist? A Facebook page for alincolnists. ;)

BOOKS
**Albert McIlhenny's series of 16 books on Jesus mythicism.
*Jesus Is No Myth! by David Marshall. Highly recommended. Here is my review. Here are a couple of blurbs from two top scholars on the historicity of the Gospels: Dr. Craig Blomberg: “Support for the credibility of Christianity can be found here that is available nowhere else. A must read. ” Dr. Timothy McGrew: "Full of fresh insights, penetrating analysis, and dry wit -- the section on the Baal Shem Tov alone is worth the price of the book -- and some of the best material from the rich storehouse of the history of apologetics." This book responds to Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier and Reza Aslan, and then builds a strong case for the historicity of the Biblical Gospels. 
*The Jesus Legend by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd
*Shattering the Christ Myth by James Patrick Holding
*Unmasking the Pagan Christ by Stanley E. Porter and Stephen J. Bedard

Responses to Bart Ehrman
*Of course Bart Ehrman is not strictly speaking a Jesus mythicist and has even debated Richard Carrier on the subject. The reality is, however, that this is more of a smokescreen, as Ehrman believes that Jesus was a very different person than the Gospels tell us--so for all practical purposes, the Jesus of the Gospels is a myth, in Ehrman's view.
*Web Page: The Ehrman Project: Top scholars respond to Bart Ehrman on various issues
*BookJesus Is No Myth by David Marshall. This book responds to Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier and Reza Aslan, and then builds a strong case for the historicity of the Biblical Gospels. (More Details above or at link.) David Marshall's October 2016 speaking tour on the book.
*Book: Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock and Joshua Chatraw. Published by B&H Academic in 2014. Responds to the various skeptical arguments that Ehrman has put forward. Currently only $2.99 in Kindle format.
*Book: Truth Matters, also by Kostenberger, Bock and Chatraw. This book covers pretty much the same ground as the book above but is written for a popular audience. Currently only $3.82 in Kindle format.
*5-Part Essay: "An evangelical response to Bart Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet for the New Millennium" by Neil Shenvi

Responses to Richard Carrier
AUDIO/VIDEO
*William Lane Craig debates Richard CarrierIncludes a transcript of the Reasonable Faith podcasts about the debate and links to the audio. Video of the March 2009 debate (101 minutes).
*David Marshall debates Richard Carrier: August 2016 (108 minutes). 
*Justin Bass debates Richard Carrier: March 2016 (3 hours 8 minutes). 
*Mark Goodacre debates Richard Carrier with Justin Brierly on Unbelievable? podcast (80 minutes).

ARTICLES
*"The Jesus Myth? A Response to Richard Carrier" (3-part series) by Adam Tucker
*"Richard Carrier (Mythicist). A Full Rebuttal" by James Bishop
*David Marshall blog articles concerning Richard Carrier

BOOKS
*Jesus Is No Myth by David Marshall. This book responds to Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier and Reza Aslan, and then builds a strong case for the historicity of the Biblical Gospels. (More Details above or at link.) David Marshall's October 2016 speaking tour on the book.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

THE RELIABILITY OF THE BIBLE: Resources for Study

This page is for resources that demonstrate the reliability of the Bible in general terms. For more specific issues related to the Bible's reliability, see "Related Pages on My Blog" below:

RELATED PAGES ON MY BLOG
*Historical Reliability of the Old Testament
*Archaeological Confirmation of the Old Testament
*New Testament Reliability
*Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament
*Undesigned Coincidences as Evidence for the Historicity of the Bible
*Are the Gospels Based on Eyewitness Accounts?: An Outline of the Evidence & Resources for Study....(This will be a major labor of love....hopefully coming soon)

*Contradictions in the Bible?....Interpreting Scripture

VIDEOS
"Bible on Trial: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" is a 45-minute video by Vision Video produced in a courtroom setting. There is a 4-part Bible study available to go with it. The film features attorney Craig Parton and scholars Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Dr. Randall Price of Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.; Dr. Jeff Kloha of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. and Joel Lampe of The Bible Museum, Goodyear, Ariz. 
Watch it for FREE! here.

ARTICLES (& BOOK CHAPTERS)
*Geisler, Norm and Frank Turek. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Chapter 14: "What Did Jesus Teach About the Bible?" Pages 355-376.
*"Reversals of New Testament Criticism" by Merrill C. Tenney

*"Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible Is the Word of God" (1891) by R.A. Torrey


BOOKS
*In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture edited by Steven Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. A compilation of essays by expert scholars like Paul W. Barnett, Darrell L. Bock, Daniel B. Wallace, Paul Copan,  Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Charles L. Quarles, and others. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*The Evidence of Prophecy edited by Robert C. Newman. "One of the most powerful evidences for the truth of biblical Christianity is the fulfillment of predictions made in Scripture. Here, nine authors discuss prophecies made centuries in advance about Israel, her neighbors, and her Messiah. Specific attempts to explain these away as vague, misinterpreted, or written after the event are countered." Currently only $2.99HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*Scripture and Truth edited by Carson and Woodbridge. Essays by a host of expert scholars. "From a biblical, historical, or theological perspective each essay examines a challenge to belief in the integrity and reliability of Scripture." HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*"Fundamentalism" and the Word of God by J.I. Packer. A classic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought. Carl F.H. Henry, editor
Baker Book House. Grand Rapids, Michigan (1958). FREE! 24 essays by leading evangelicals. (401 pages)

*Is the Bible Reliable? by John Piper: a FREE! 13-page booklet
*Can I Really Trust The Bible? by Martin De Hann II: a FREE! 33-page booklet published by RBC Ministries
*The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. A classic. This large collection of essays by leading evangelical scholars was originally published in a series of 12 volumes between 1910 and 1915. These volumes cover several topics but many of the essays are focused on defending the Scriptures. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Blue Letter Bible has an introduction and a nicely organized collection of all of the essays ready to read for FREE! online. You can also download the 1917 four-volume edition for FREE! as 4 pdf files: Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4. And it is only 99 cents on Kindle (click on title link).

*Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions by Craig L. Blomberg

ONLINE COURSES (FREE)

*"Why I Trust My Bible" (3 hours) by Bill Mounce
*"Why We Trust Our Bible" (20 hours) by John Piper, Craig Blomberg and Bill Mounce


BOOKS RELATED TO THE HISTORY OF THE BIBLE'S CRITICS
*The Word of God and the Mind of Man by Ronald Nash. A Nash classic. "The last two centuries of Christian theology are the record of an evolving attack on the role of knowledge in the Christian faith. The purpose of this book is to challenge the major forms of Christian agnosticism and offer an alternative theory that makes human knowledge about God possible. In other words, is there a relationship between the human mind and the divine mind that is sufficient to ground the communication of truth from God to humans?" HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
*Historical Criticism of the Bible by Eta Linnemann"In Historical Criticism of the Bible Eta Linnemann tells how modern Bible scholarship has drifted far from the truth, and why its assumptions are nonetheless so influential and thereby inherently dangerous. In part 1 she analyzes the ideas that have shaped Western thought through four centuries, explaining how secular humanism, the Enlightenment, and German idealism have influenced Western universities in general and biblical scholarship in particular. In part 2 she argues that historical criticism constitutes an ideological system rather than the objective scientific method scholars say they observe—exposing the presuppositions and dangers of the historical-critical system." 
*Biblical Errancy by Norman Geisler
*The Bible in Modern Culture: Theology and Historical-Critical Method from Spinoza to Kasemann by Roy A. Harrisville and Walter Sundberg. Not a light read but very helpful.
*Theology in Turmoil by Alan P.F. Sell
*The Rise of Biblical Criticism in America, 1800-1870: The New England Scholars by Jerry Wayne Brown
*Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters edited by Donald K. McKim. An indispensable reference volume for researching the history of the Bible's critics and its defenders and faithful exegetes.


STILL LOOKING?.....

*Check out the great resources on the Bible's reliability at bethinking


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

HOW TO WITNESS TO "JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES": An Article & Resource List

ARTICLE OUTLINE:
Part 1: STEPS FOR WITNESSING TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
Part 2: LIST OF RESOURCES

I first formed a passion for witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses nearly 40 years ago, because I had a classmate who was a JW and also some neighbors down the road. And over the years I have had many conversations with JW's who came to my door. But I never have felt that I have been successful in witnessing to them. I have been good at shutting them up but not at bringing them to a place where they receive "the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6, NASB).

I have always blamed that on the hardness of their hearts or that they were just not ready and I was just planting a seed (and that may in fact be the case), but in recent years I have begun to examine my own approach and consider the reality that that is probably just as much to blame.

A few years ago, someone emailed me asking me how to respond to a Jehovah's Witness. That is when I began to rethink my approach. (Most of it is still based on a study of the Scriptures that I did clear back in high school, but the way of presenting these Scriptures has changed.) At any rate, when I returned their email, I wrote them something very similar to what follows. And lately I added Step #1.

So the following is a suggested approach for witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses and may also be used as an outline for a presentation. In the context of a presentation, you might start off by asking the group how they respond to Jehovah's Witnesses and then discuss how we should see their coming as an opportunity to witness to them in the grace and power of Jesus Christ (even though they expect just the opposite).

Also, note: This approach can really be used with any cult member, because all cults deny the deity of Jesus (or any unbeliever at all who is already open to the idea that the Bible is the Word of God). The only section of this outline that will vary will be related to their answer concerning who they think Jesus is (#2-4). It can also be used with those who are persuaded that the deity of Christ is an invention of the Church in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th Centuries (as this study clearly shows that the deity of Christ is woven throughout the fabric of the New Testament).

**************************************

STEP 1

I recently started asking Jehovah's Witnesses questions like the following that will hopefully get them thinking about whether their devotion is to God or to an organization (the Watchtower or the Jehovah's Witnesses church): "Are you committed to God or to the Watchtower?"...."Could you go to any church that taught what the Scriptures teach?" (Invite them to yours!)....OR "If you came to realize that what the Bible teaches is different than what the Watchtower teaches, would you leave and join a church that does?"

The response that I have gotten so far is that they are committed to God and not a manmade institution. So I merely affirm that it is good that they are seeking to be faithful to God and not to an organization. And l I am hopeful that this will keep them thinking about which it really is and whether they can continue to be committed to the Watchtower as their eyes become opened to the fact that the Watchtower teaches a different Jesus and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:2-4).




STEP 2
They will likely try to talk to you about one of their slanted views on a more trivial issue. But don't let them. Tell them that these things all have their place but it seems that there is a far more important issue that must be answered first: Who is Jesus?

*John 5:39: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,"

*John 8:24: "I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."


STEP 3
Ask them: "Who do you believe Jesus is?"

What the Jehovah's Witnesses teach about Jesus: Jesus was Michael the archangel who became a man, Jehovah's first creation was his 'only-begotten Son' and was used by Jehovah in creating all other things. (This statement is found in the following three Jehovah's Witnesses' publications: Aid to Bible Understanding, pp. 390-391. "The Watchtower," May 15, 1963, p. 307; The New Word, p. 284; as cited at Blue Letter Bible's "Jehovah's Witness at Your Door - A Quick Reference Guide"
.)


STEP 4
Ask them where they find this in the Bible. (They will not be able to show you.)


STEP 5
Show them that Hebrews explicitly states that Jesus is not an angel: Hebrews 1:1-13


STEP 6
Show them that the Bible explicitly declares that Jesus is God:
*
John 1:1: The New World Translation (the JW Bible) mistranslates this verse as: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Their argument is that in the Greek, the word God does not have a definite article. But this is a misunderstanding of how the Greek language works. Most of the distortions in the New World Translation are pretty straightforward, but this one is a little more difficult to discern. For a brief but helpful discussion, listen to Michael Kruger's lecture on John 1:1-18. The part of the lecture pertinent to this issue starts at the 25-minute mark. Section IV.1. of Bruce Metzger's article on Jehovah's Witnesses addresses it fairly succinctly. Or see this excellent 16-minute video by expert apologist Robert Porter. TowerWatch Ministries also has a helpful step-by-step approach for dealing with this passage with a JW. For a much more technical discussion related to an ancient Coptic translation, see this article at CRI
*John 1:18
*John 5:18
*John 10:33
*Philippians 2:5-6
*Colossians 2:9
*Titus 2:13
*2 Peter 1:1.


STEP 7
Show them that the New Testament writers frequently take Old Testament passages that are speaking of Jehovah and apply them to Jesus. 

*Note: Use the name "Jehovah", which is the pronunciation they use when speaking of God. It is trivial and unimportant to point out that it should be pronounced Yahweh. It is a lot like saying that the New Testament writers should have used the Hebrew Yeshua instead of the Greek Iesous for Jesus. Obviously, the Holy Spirit did not think this was an issue when he inspired them to write it.

a. Jesus is called "Lord" and "the Lord" throughout the New Testament. For a Jew, this was the Greek equivalent of Jehovah, which is why in the Old Testament you will find "LORD" in all caps. Translators have used this designation wherever the original Hebrew has the name Jehovah (which the ancient Jews replaced with the Greek word kurios or "Lord").
b. John 12:39-41
says: "For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him." Where did Isaiah say that God would blind some peoples' eyes lest they see, turn and be healed? In Isaiah 6:10. Whose glory did Isaiah see in Isaiah 6? He saw the LORD (Jehovah) high and lifted up and the seraphim declaring that the whole earth is full of his glory! (Isaiah 6:1-5)
c. Malachi 3:1 says: "“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD [Jehovah] of hosts." And Isaiah 40:3-5: "A voice is calling,“Clear the way for the LORD [Jehovah] in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God...." (v.3) The Gospels clearly apply these verses to John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus (Mark 1:1-3; Matthew 3:3; Luke 1:76; 3:4-6; John 1:23).
d. In Matthew, chapters 26 & 27, we are told that the Jewish leaders paid 30 pieces of silver to Judas for his betrayal of Jesus. When Judas returned the money, it was used to buy a potter's field (Matthew 27:3-7). The Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 11:12-13 says this: "So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD [Jehovah] said to me, 'Throw it to the potter—the handsome price at which they valued me!'"
e. Palms 68:18 says: "When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious— that you, LORD [Jehovah] God, might dwell there." Paul paraphrases this verse and applies it to Jesus (Ephesians 4:7-11).
f. Isaiah 8:13-14 says: "The LORD [Jehovah] Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare." Peter says that this stone who causes people to stumble is the same stone that is laid in Zion, and the same stone that was rejected by the builders but became the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6-8; compare with Acts 4:11; also Matthew 21:42-45; Mark 12:10-12; and Luke 20:17-19).
g. Zechariah 12:1, 10 says: "....The LORD [Jehovah], who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares:....They will look on me, the one they have pierced,...." This is applied to Jesus in John 19:36-37.
h. Jeremiah 9:24 says: "....but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD [Jehovah]...." Paul applies this to Jesus in 1 Corinthians 1:31-2:2.
i. Isaiah 44:6 says: “This is what the LORD [Jehovah] says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." In Revelation 1:17-18 , Jesus says "I am the first and the last." Also see Revelation 2:8 and Isaiah 48:12.
j. Joel 2:32 says: "And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD [Jehovah] will be saved...." Paul applies this to Jesus in Romans 10:9-13: "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"


STEP 8
Ask them to describe who Jehovah is. Then show them that all these things are true of Jesus. The following are some of the most essential attributes of God's character and the Bible makes it clear that all of these things that we so rightly attribute to be true only of God are indeed true of Jesus.

a. He is the Creator of all things: John 1:3
1 Corinthians 8:6Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 3:1-4; 1:21:8-10
b. He created all things for himself (and not someone else): Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the purpose for everything and he owns it all!
c. He controls all things: Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17
d. He is eternal: Colossians 1:17; Micah 5:2 with Matthew 2:1-6John 8:58Note the importance of the "I am" statements in John and that Jesus says "before Abraham was born I am "--and not "I was."

e. He is unchanging: Hebrews 13:8; 1:8-12
f. He is Omnipresent. He fills everything in every way. He fills the Universe: Ephesians 1:23; 4:10 (compare with Jeremiah 23:23-24); Colossians 3:11.
g. He is wiser than Solomon (Matthew) and the source of all wisdom and knowledge: Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31Colosians 2:3).
h. He forgives people of all their sins: Mark 2:5-7; Luke 5:20-21; 7:48-49
i. He himself is sinless: 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; etc.
j. He is "Lord of all": Acts 10:36; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 8:6Philippians 2:11 (compare with Isaiah 45:23).

k. He is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). When Jesus declared that he was Lord of the Sabbath, it was no trivial matter. The Sabbath was instituted by God at creation (Genesis 2:2-3), written on stone tablets by God's own finger (Exodus 20:1-17; especially verses 9-11; Deuteronomy 10:4), and an everlasting sign between Jehovah and his people Israel (Exodus 31:12-17). Only Jehovah can be Lord of the Sabbath.
l. He is "Lord of lords": Note how this title is used in the Scripture to declare that God is above all others and then in Revelation 17:14 it is clearly used to speak of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain.
*Deuteronomy 10:17: "For the LORD [Jehovah] your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe."
*Psalm 136:3: "Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever."
*1Timothy 6:15: "....which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,...."
*Revelation 17:14: "They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
m. He is the Judge of all the earth: Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10; etc.

n. He is greater than the temple of God: Matthew 12:6. This is not a trivial claim. The temple represented the place of God's Presence. Speaking against the temple was the first charge brought against Jesus at his trial (Matthew 26:61 and Mark 14:58; compare with Matthew 27:40 and Mark 15:29). And it was the primary charge brought against Stephen when the Sanhedrin stoned him (Acts 6:13-14).
o. He is worshiped and is worthy of all honor, glory and praise: Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:928:16-17; Luke 24:51-52John 9:35-3920:28; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:6-14


*CONCLUSION: Ask them: "If Jesus is all of these things but still not God, what is the difference between Jesus and God?"


These things can only be said of God and no one else. God is the Creator of all things (Genesis 1; Isaiah 45:18; 44:24); and all things are for him. Only God controls all things. Only God is eternal and omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24). Only God is Lord of all, Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; etc.) and worthy to be worshiped (Revelation 19:9-10; Luke 4:8; Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 42:8). Jesus is all of these. The message of Scripture is clear: Jesus is God.


STEP 9
What difference does it make? Ask them if they are married and if it would make a difference if they thought of their spouse as an insect....or a cat....or a robot....or a child? Of course it makes a great deal of difference. Who Jesus is makes all the difference in our relationship with him and the glory that we give to him. It makes a great deal of difference in how we respond to him, how we love him and worship him, and how we realize the greatness of his love in becoming one of us and dying for us.


STEP 10
Invite them to follow Jesus Christ as the Almighty Eternal Creator of all things who rightfully demands the highest worship and who gave his life for them: Galatians 2:20.


RESOURCE LIST....
WEBSITES
*Witnesses in Transition at Institute for Religious Research. My #1 recommendation for learning more about witnessing to JW's....or for recovering JW's.
*ApologeticsIndex has a nicely organized list of resources for researching Jehovah's Witnesses.
*Christian Research Institute (Hank Hanegraaff) has lots of articles on JW's.
*Always Be Ready has numerous articles, audio, books & DVDs about JW's.
*Watchman Fellowship has many articles on JW's. Other resources.
*TowerWatch Ministries
*True Free Thinker has a nice series of articles on JW's.
*Jehovah's Witnesses and Biblical Discussion Group on Facebook is a great place to ask questions and find support.


ARTICLES
*"Jehovah's Witness at Your Door - A Quick Reference Guide" at Blue Letter Bible
*"Redi-Answers on Jehovah's Witnesses Doctrine" by Erich & Jean Grieshaber

*"How to Witness to a Jehovah's Witness" by Ray Comfort
*"Sharing the Gospel with Jehovah's Witnesses" by Neil Shenvi
*"Jehovah's Witnesses: Witnessing to the Witnesses" by Patrick Zukeran


ARTICLES ABOUT The New World Translation (the Jehovah's Witness Bible)...
*"Is the New World Translation a Valid Version of the Bible?" at GotQuestions?
*"Should John 1:1 Read 'a god'?" by Lenny Esposito of Come Reason Ministries
*"Why Do the Jehovah's Witnesses Use the New World Translation? And Should We?": an 11-page PDF file booklet at Ratio Christi

BOOKS
*Can I Get a Witness? How to Understand and Set Free Jehovah's Witnesses by Brian Garcia. Currently only $2.99 on Kindle.
*Winning the Witnesses by Daniel Rodriguez
*30 Years A Watchtower Slave: The Confessions of a Converted Jehovah's Witness by William J. Schnell
*Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse by Daniel A. Reed
*Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin. FREE! to read online and accompanied by audio lectures. Scroll down to the section on Jehovah's Witnesses.


RELATED PAGES FROM MY BLOG
*Jesus' Deity: Resources for Study