Singular Events and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Science requires that we repeat events. History doesn’t allow it. Does science prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Last Easter I was reading an article in the Washington Post about the Resurrection of Jesus, a popular topic at that time of year. Considering the source, I knew that the author’s conclusion would be something other than affirming the physical, bodily resurrection that is the cornerstone of authentic Christianity. As Paul wrote, “if Christ is not raised then our preaching is vain and your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).” Genuine Christians may disagree on many things, but to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ is to deny Christianity; no real Christian can do it. The article met my expectations, stating that the sightings of Jesus after the crucifixion had a “dreamy sense” and suggesting that His resurrection was either spiritual or illusory altogether. This is a standard line of secularists and others seeking to discredit Christianity. Unfortunately, such people never provide reasons for their arguments except that “people can’t rise from the dead.” This apriori assumption makes it impossible for those who hold it to ever believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

On the face of it no other reason is necessary because in all of human history, as far as many people know, everyone has died. There have been many stories of people physically rising from the dead, but most are rendered suspect by the circumstances. Was the person really dead? Did they merely resuscitate? Is the whole story a myth? In most cases, it is impossible to verify the medical diagnosis of death, which is typically brain death. In other cases, the story bears all of the traits of myth, such as the Egyptian story of the “resurrection” of Osiris. Considering the purported resurrections commonly noted in history, it is easy to conclude that since everyone else died and stayed dead, Jesus must have also. If this is true, there must be some other explanation for the story in the Gospels, and Biblical Christianity must be false.

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Being a Doer

We must do the commands of God. Do we dare?

How can we be doers of the word and not just hearers?

James 1:22-25

1. Be familiar with the Bible – it is not enough to know a few stories and a smattering of principles, we must know the overall story of the Bible and how its pieces fit into the whole.

When a man learns to fly he needs to know about the engine and elevators, lift, drag and thrust, and the other principles, but he must also know how it all fits together.

This is just as true for God’s revelation. In His general revelation, He created the world. The general revelation is immediately available to everyone on earth and proclaims Him to them (Psalm 19:1). The Bible is His special revelation. It in He chose a man (Abraham), then a people (Israel), then a man (Jesus), then a people (Christians), who must then proclaim Him to the world. God’s pattern for His total revelation is therefore: World – man – people – man – people – world. That is the story of the Bible.

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Will Jesus Come Again?

Jesus has waited 2000 years to return…is He ever going to come?

Daniel Whittle and James McGranahan wrote the famous hymn I Know Whom I have Believed. The song concludes with a question and a note of hope:

I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noonday fair, nor if I walk the vale with him, or meet him in the air.

But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.

The hope of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has been a source of great comfort to Christians, especially during persecution, for two millennia. However it has also been a source of doubt since Jesus gave no specific time and the event seems delayed. If this troubled the readers of 2 Peter around 65 AD, how much more is it a concern for Christians in 2015. With every passing year, and certainly with the technological and lifestyle changes since first century Israel, it gets harder and harder to believe that Jesus will actually come again. Believers are reminded of this every time someone predicts the return of Christ on a specific day, only to have it not occur.

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Key Concepts of Paul in Salvation – Romans

The Apostle Paul emphasized righteousness, faith, redemption, and justification in his letter to the Romans.

The book of Romans has been described as the magnum opus of the Apostle Paul.  In it, Paul laid out his theology of Christ and salvation in his clearest, most concentrated style.  Scholars have labored to plumb the depths of Paul’s words and concepts for centuries, and much is still to be written.   Luther and the other Reformers found in the first five chapters of Romans their fundamental idea for the Reformation, justification by faith alone.

Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη dikaiosynē) to Paul was not a result of good works, earned by the person, as though he could gain a favorable account with God by his deeds.  Rather, righteousness is a standing imparted by God as a result of faith (Romans 4:3), which is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  For centuries, Christian scholars have contrasted righteousness by faith, a Pauline Christian teaching, with righteousness by works, a Judaistic teaching.  E.P. Sanders work minimized “righteousness by works” in Judaistic teaching in the first century and emphasized “righteousness by covenant”.  This has significantly shaped the modern discussion, and borne some good fruit by improving Jewish-Christian understanding.  However, Sanders’ “covenantal nomism” has a serious flaw.  If the Jews are saved because they are God’s covenantal people, but must still perform good works to stay in that relationship, salvation still depends on works.

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“Pseudonymity”, “Pseudepigraphy” and the New Testament

Learn a little about how the New Testament was actually written, and by whom. 

Letters were a common way of communicating in the first century.  The vast Roman Empire, with its excellent roads, efficient administration, reliable seaborne trade and generally peaceful interior made travel easy, and made mail both necessary and possible.

Papyrus, a paper made from the reeds in Egypt, was the favored vehicle for written communication.   Parchment, made from sheep and goat skins, and vellum, made from calves, was also available but much more expensive.  The scroll was the most common form, but occasionally books with bound pages (called codexes) were produced.  An author would usually dictate his book to a scribe called an amanuensis.  The ink was atramentum, based on carbon black (soot), gum and water.  Quills served as good implements.  Letters typically contained a greeting, address, a body, and a farewell.

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Paul’s Life – Background and Chronology

The Pharisee Saul, better known as Paul, laid the foundation for the Church. What can we learn from him?

Paul, possibly the most famous of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was a scion of Jews of the Diaspora.  Until the Babylonian exile beginning in 605-586 BC, Israelites of the tribe of Judah were concentrated in Southern Palestine.  Afterwards, they were scattered all over the ancient Near East, with large communities thriving in Alexandria and Rome.  A sizeable community arose in Tarsus of Cilicia, a province in what is now southeastern Turkey close to the border of Syria.  Tarsus was a major Roman city of trade and learning, and Cilicia was famous for its cloth products.  Both influences can be clearly seen in Paul’s later life as an educated traveler and scholar who made tents to support himself.

Jews of the Diaspora formed communities wherever they lived and so were able to maintain much of their religion and culture, including attending synagogues and observing dietary laws.  Paul, the son of observant Jewish parents, was raised as a “Hebrews of Hebrews” in this environment.  Paul’s parents were also Roman citizens, a rare honor, and so Paul inherited citizenship, which greatly helped his ministry.   At some point in his childhood he traveled to Jerusalem and learned Judaism at the feet of Gamaliel, the famous 1st century Jewish teacher.  Passionate for his Hebrew faith, Paul became a Pharisee, and excelled among his peers in every way.

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