Today over on the Mira Scriptura podcast is a conversation I had with @MiraScriptura covering a wide range of topics including my journey from Christianity to atheism, views on the Documentary and Supplementary Hypotheses, love for the Gospel of Mark, thoughts on Bernard Lamborelle’s The Covenant, and much more. I also got the chance to play inquisitor to @MiraScriptura’s work with mirror reading. If you don’t follow @MiraScriptura on Twitter or have not subscribed to his podcast, I recommend you do so. His series on the Northern book of Judges was my favorite, particularly the episode on Samson.
“What is at stake in that sad progression from Paul to anti-Paul? Why is it of importance that — at least with regard to slavery — radical Christian liberty is being changed back into normal Roman slavery. It means this: Jewish Christianity is becoming Roman Christianity.”
– John Dominic Crossan
- One of my favorite bloggers, @bibhistctxt, has written another piece in his series on Israelite origins entitled “Israelite Origins: Egyptian Domination of Canaan.” As he shows, Canaan was under Egyptian domination during the periods wherein the Israelites purportedly fled Egypt for the Promised Land. Yet there is no mention of this and related issues in the narratives we find in the book of Joshua. This is problematic for those who believe in an Exodus as described in some narrative texts of the Hebrew Bible.
- Tavis Bohlinger wrote a piece over on the Logos website on why Paul mentions his “large” hand writing in the epistle to the Galatians. Bohlinger interviewed Steve Reece, a professor Classical Languages at Saint Olaf College, on the background of this comment from Paul. Reece’s proposal is that the ending of the epistle is Paul taking over for his secretary, creating a noticeable difference in handwriting, i.e. Paul’s wrote with larger letters than his secretary did. This also may have served to show that Paul really was associated with the letter and his handwriting was proof. Reece also goes over other manuscripts from antiquity where we see this kind of phenomena.
- @StudyofChrist recently uploaded a video comparing the Matthean and Lukan genealogies, stressing that these are theological and not historical in nature and therefore do not need to be harmonized. He even quotes from Richard Dawkins!
- Last week over at The Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta posted a video of exorcist Bob Larson casting out a demon from an atheist. What Larson didn’t know is that the atheist was a plant, someone acting like they were demon-possessed to show just how ridiculous Larson’s work truly is. Larson posted the video to his YouTube channel as proof his ministry works. You can’t make this stuff up!
- Almost a decade ago New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on “The Search for the Historical Paul: Which Letters Did He Really Write?” There are seven letters which are widely regarded as authentic but others which aren’t. But why? Crossan argues that they exhibit “counter-Pauline and anti-Pauline” tendencies. In effect, “Paul is being deradicalized, sanitized, and Romanized” in those letters. Crossan is frequently the center of controversy and this piece was no exception. But it is a very good read on one scholar’s take on the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral epistles.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
“The death of the messiah [in Mark’s Gospel], at the hour of the cross, is the advent of the υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, who has come with great power and glory (13:26).”
– Danny Yencich
- On 11.25.18 Twitter users @Shann_Q0 and @paulogia0 had a discussion with pop-apologist SJ Thomason covering a wide-range of topics including Gospel authorship, the historicity of the Resurrection, the growth of Christianity, and more. I think both Shannon and Paul did a pretty good job of sticking to the facts and resting their laurels on a lot of New Testament scholarship. Thomason, on the other hand, offers the same pat answers that the pop-apologists she reads give. Also, Thomason seems to be easily distracted and I’ve noticed this in other YouTube conversations, her Twitter posts, and even in her blog posts. In any event, I really appreciate the work that Shannon and Paul put into the conversation with Thomason. They both come across as very genuine, humble, and knowledgeable people. Not bad for a couple of heathens!
- Twitter user and blogger @apetivist wrote a blog post entitled “The Problem of Evil or Suffering by Apetivist.” It isn’t intended to be a thorough discussion of the problem of evil but it does raise some interesting points. For example, often Christians employ a free will defense in a bid to rescue God’s omnibenevolence. But as Apetevist points out, many of those same Christians believe that in the future eschaton all sin and evil will be purged from the world. If that’s the case, why couldn’t God keep and maintain such a world now? Therefore, God’s omnibenevolence is questionable.
- Over on his YouTube channel @StudyofChrist is working through the genealogy of Luke’s Gospel, addressing specific errors within the text. I was able to work through three: “All the alleged Errors in Luke’s Genealogy,” “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 1,” and “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 2.“ As he is wont to do, @StudyofChrist goes deep into both biblical texts, ancient manuscripts, and extrabiblical sources. His is fascinating work. Like and subscribe to his work if you haven’t already!
- Self-professed Bible “nerd” Daniel Kirk did an interview with Pete Enns and Jared Byas on their The Bible For Normal People podcast discussing my favorite book of the Bible: the Gospel of Mark. There’s plenty of neat tidbits about the social circumstances in which the Gospel was written and how the narrative structure works within it.
- Danny Yencich, a PhD student in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Denver, wrote a piece last year in the Stone-Cambell Journal entitled “Sowing the Passion at Olivet: Mark 13-15 in a Narrative Frame.” The gist of the piece is that Mark 13, traditionally seen as an entirely apocalyptic passage, may in fact be foreshadowing the events that take place in the Passion narrative. This view isn’t unique to Yencich but he does succinctly put together the evidence for such a view and it is one that I find intriguing. While undoubtedly the Olive Discourse is apocalyptic in nature, a fact that Yencich essentially concedes, there are particular words and phrases that evoke the Passion narrative that follows. These include the use of the verb paradidōmi (13:9), the idea of “eschatological darkness” (13:24), and more.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
“Jesus’ followers are to abandon any and all means of procuring a socio-economic livelihood, or more accurately conceiving of a livelihood in socio-economic terms.”
– Steven DiMattei
- Over at his blog contradictionsinthebible.com, biblical scholar Steven DiMattei has begun a series exploring what he believes Jesus meant when he told his followers to follow him. It is entitled “In Defense of Jesus: A Challenge to Those Claiming to ‘Follow Jesus.‘” He examines some of the more difficult sayings of Jesus found throughout the Gospels and notes that these are indicative of Jesus’ call to abandon everything to pursue him in his role as the messianic king.
- The Atlantic featured a piece by Andrew Henry on the recently discovered Dead Sea Scroll forgeries at the evangelical Museum of the Bible. As you may know, the Museum of the Bible has had its fair share of problems with illegally acquired artifacts, forgeries, and more. Henry’s piece is an excellent overview.
- Ben Watkins of Real Atheology wrote a guest post back in October for the website capturingchristianity.com on why he is an atheist. He covers a wide range of subjects including ethics, the problem of evil, and divine hiddenness. For Christians who want to see how an atheist of Watkins caliber thinks about theism and atheism, this is a great example.
- Hans Moscicke, a PhD candidate at Marquette University, recently wrote an article for Currents in Biblical Research entitled “Jesus as Goat of the Day of Atonement in Synoptic Gospels Research.” Moscicke surveys the various proposals of how Jesus is portrayed in the Passion narrative and how that portrayal relates to other religious literature that may have influenced it. The best part is that his bibliography is about five pages long! I love big bibliographies and I cannot lie!
- Not too long ago Twitter user @AuthorConfusion wrote a blog post entitled “The Gospel of Atheism: The Moment You Realize You Won the Cosmic Lottery.” It is an ode to our insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things as well as a celebration of the great gift existence is for those of us who have “won the cosmic lottery” as it were. @AuthorConfusion is a superb writer (no doubt due to her skills as a literary editor) and this post is one of my favorites.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
“Outside of Christ there is no law, no hope, and no meaning.”
– Ravi Zacharias.1
To see more posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.
In part one to the introduction of this series “(Re)Considering Christianity” I discussed the earliest parts of my childhood including my salvation experience in 1992. I also brought up the tremendous influence my father had on my love for the Bible and my Christian convictions as well as how a speech impediment drove my early love for reading generally.
Books and Writing
Some of my earliest reading memories include books like The Hot and Cold Summer which I read in first grade and The Indian in the Cupboard which I read in third grade. I can also recall that with my two dollars per week allowance in hand I would go to Walmart with my mother and purchase 2 for $1 paperback classics including works like The Prince and the Pauper, The Invisible Man, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many more. I loved being surrounded by books and having them on a shelf in my bedroom was a source of both comfort and strength.
During my fifth grade year my interests expanded to science and I began reading on the topics of relativity, a la Albert Einstein, as well black holes. I can still remember the little notebook I had in which I would write down information I had read on relativity as well as various equations that made absolutely no sense to me at the time (and still don’t). And fifth grade was also the year that my interest in writing began to blossom. In the early 90s New York State required all fifth graders to participate in a writing exam and so our teacher prepared us by having us write both fiction and non-fiction stories. We would read one another’s stories and offer critiques. I usually received great feedback from both my peers and the teacher and I ended up passing the exam with flying colors.
My love for writing spilled over into the area of the Bible and at home I began regularly writing about it. In a red notebook I wrote a commentary on the first epistle of John, thoughts on the story of Samson and Delilah from the book of Judges, and even a piece refuting evolution in favor of creationism. If only I still had them so that I could reflect on just how immature I was at the time.
In sixth grade I was introduced to Carl Sagan thanks to a teacher who made a huge impression on me. Once or twice a week this teacher would turn out the lights and put on Sagan’s Cosmos that had aired on PBS in the late 70s. My first impression was negative: how dare Sagan question God and the Bible! Little did I know that this was a seed planted in my mind that would only grow and grow in the years to come. Last year at my brother’s wake this teacher showed up. He had also taught my younger brother in sixth grade and it took me a moment to figure out who he was. When he told me, I burst into tears and hugged him, thanking him for his work and the influence he had on my life and my brother’s.
Despite my exposure to Sagan, my zeal for Christianity was still strong going into seventh grade. Unfortunately puberty hit, and as I headed into eighth grade and then moved onto high school my interest in Christianity waned and my interest in sports, girls, and hanging out with friends increased. Though my Bible reading diminished, my love for books did not and I continued to read voraciously. But my interest in church and in theology had all but disappeared.
Around my seventeenth year things began to change. I had become interested in basketball and was a pretty decent shot. So a group of teenagers at my church would get together following the Sunday night service to play for an hour or so. Though I didn’t attend school with any of them, our friendship grew. Our shared connection was basketball at our church. And so church attendance suddenly became more important to me though for ulterior motives. And when evangelists would come through to preach week-long meetings, that gave all of us a chance to play basketball together an additional five times!
But this exposure to evangelistic preaching forced me to confront my own beliefs about Jesus. So I began to read apologetic literature from the Institute for Creation Research and Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. And on the fifteen minute drive to Sunday school my dad would play the radio program Let My People Think which featured talks from Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. All these influences forced me to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” Zacharias’ book Can Man Live Without God? had a lasting impression and one passage in particular stands out. After quoting from Robert Browning’s poem “A Death in the Desert,” Zacharias writes,
Christ – He is either the illimitable God or one dreadfully lost. There is no room for a theory that says He was “merely a good man.” Study His life with unyielding honesty and the answer is evident. It is this hope He brings that grants us hope for each individual, for our communities, and for our world. Without this hope of life beyond the grave, every question from love to justice becomes a mockery of the mind.2
The final chapter of the book, “The Believer’s Treasure,” ends with these words: “You be the judge. The jury has already recorded its conclusions in the pages of the Bible.”3 So what was I to make of Jesus? Was he a failed messiah or was he the resurrected Son of God?
In the next post I will discuss the decision I made, an experience that reinforced it, and the beginning of my college years.
1 Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (W Publishing Group, 1994), 61.
2 Ibid., 164.
3 Ibid., 179.
Here’s the Weekly Roundup! (Note: there will be no Roundup next Friday.)
- Over at bibleinterp.com there is an excerpt from John: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators (Eerdmans, 2018) entitled “The Spiritual Gospel: The Gospel of John in the Early Church.” In this excerpt Bryan Stewart discusses the way early Christian writers viewed and used the fourth Gospel, often drawing parallels between it and various Old Testament texts.
- Over at The Secular Outpost Bradley Bowen has posted an index to his lengthy series rebutting Peter Kreeft’s chapter on God in Handbook of Apologetics. I have not read the entire series but from what I have read it seems very thorough. Those interested in philosophy of religion may want to take a look.
- I am slowly getting caught up on @StudyofChrist’s series on the genealogy of Matthew. And I need to hurry because he has moved on to the Lukan genealogy! I recently watched four videos: “Time Variation” parts 1 and 2 and “Why Does Matthew Include Women in His Genealogy” parts 1 and 2. The two on women in the Matthean genealogy are very interesting and @StudyofChrist shows that he has really done his homework. If you aren’t subscribed to his channel, do it already!
- Over at his blog Twitter user, YouTuber, and blogger D.M. Spence has an absolutely devastating critique of a blog post by pop-apologist SJ Thomason had written on why she thinks the angel of Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Jesus. Spence’s rebuttal is simply titled “Jesus is NOT the Angel of the LORD.” I had toyed around with the idea of writing a rebuttal to Thomason’s post but I don’t need to as Spence has written exactly what I what have written and more and he did it far better than I could have. Not that Thomason cares; she is still stuck in her echo chamber.
- Last December Clint Heacock put a nice little post covering the topic of inerrancy entitled “Deconstructing Biblical Inerrancy.” Heacock traces its origins to the heresy trial of Charles Briggs, the nineteenth century Union Seminary professor whose love for “higher criticism” got him into some real trouble with the confessional crowd. It is an interesting post, one that asks some very serious questions about just how tenable inerrancy is.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
Here’s the Weekly Roundup!
- I’ve really enjoyed @StudyofChrist‘s series on the Matthean genealogy. I’m slowly getting caught up on his videos and recently watched “More Complicated Issues“ which covers issues surrounding the father of Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12) as well as where in the world Abiud (Matthew 1:13) came from. Many of the names in the genealogy are unattested which leaves you scratching your head wondering where Matthew got the names. A great video!
- Biblical scholar Steven Dimattei wrote a post over at his website Contradictions in the Bible on theTension Between Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. The former is a Priestly document showing how the various nations originated following the Flood. The latter is a Yahwist version of the same origin story but told in a narrative form and differs with the Priestly genealogy.
- I have also enjoyed @theclosetatheist and her blog The Closet Atheist. Not too long ago she wrote a piece entitled “An Atheist’s Evolution” where she talks about how she now feels free to move on from the fundamental issues related to atheism to other topics she’d like to explore. I think this is an important stage in the deconversion process but it seems that it is not one everyone goes through. Reading her journey has been very satisfying and I find myself rooting for her and her fiance!
- New Testament scholar Michael Kok wrote an article in 2015 entitled “Critical Questions for the Early High Christology Club” which seeks to “resist the tendency to treat the textual representations of Christian beliefs and praxis in the New Testament and other Christian literature as univocal.” This is something that is often resisted among apologists who like to paint early Christianity as essentially monolithic, but a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that this cannot possibly be true. The Markan Jesus, for example, doesn’t seem to become the Son of God until his baptism. In fact, he was baptized by John whose baptism was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Was Jesus a sinner? In any event, the Markan Christology is not nearly as high as the Johannine Christology or even the Pauline.
- On biblical scholar Pete Enn’s The Bible For Normal People podcast is an interview with Mark Smith, an expert in the Hebrew Bible. In this recent episode Smith discusses the history and origin of Yahweh, bringing out the parallels between Yahweh and El as well as Yahweh and Baal. It is an absolutely fascinating interview!
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons.