Bart Ehrman’s Challenge to Evangelicals to Renew Studies on NT Introduction
Bart Ehrman, in his youtube video “Christianity One Year After Jesus,” speaks favorably both of scholars who suggest that Luke was dependent on the writings of Josephus from the 90s AD, and other scholars who suggest that Luke was written around 120 AD. Ehrman eventually settles for around 80s AD for the date of Luke.
Not surprisingly, he also questions the historical reliability of the book of Acts. According to Ehrman, Acts says things which seem implausible given what else we know about the world at that time and what we know about early Christianity etc.
If one rejects the historical reliability of Acts, the earliest historical record of the birth of Christianity, everything else in the NT is called into question. NT history is then reconfigured according to the skeptical presuppositions of critics like Ehrman. Continue reading “Bart Ehrman on the Date and Historical Reliability of Acts. A Challenge to Evangelicals to Renew Studies on NT Introduction”
Question: Matthew cites Isa. 7:14 and says it is fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. However critical scholars argue that in the context of Isaiah 7, this verse is about a child born during the time of Ahaz. How would evangelical scholars like you respond to this critical scholarship?
Discussants: Dr. Leong Tien Fock and Dr. Ng Kam Weng.
You are welcome to join the discussion at:
Part 1. Did Isaiah Prophesy the Virgin Birth of Christ?
Please forward this message if you find the video discussion helpful.
Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Fulfilment of Isaiah’s Prophecy
Question: Earlier Ehrman claimed that pagan myths like Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyanna could have influenced how the four gospels were written. Some documentaries from National Geographic & Discovery Channel claim that Christianity borrowed he idea of resurrection and saviors from the Mystery religions and Mithraism. Is Christianity is then just a copy-cat religion?
Discussants: Dr. Ng Kam Weng and Mr. Micheal LimYou are welcome to join the discussion at:
Is Christianity is then just a copy-cat religion?
Please forward this message if you find the video discussion helpful.
I. Skepticism Toward the Gospels’ Witness of the Deity of Christ
Bart Ehrman rejects the deity of Christ for two reasons. First, he insists that Jesus did not claim to be God during his lifetime and neither did his disciples. Second, Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ changed over time. The disciples initially regarded Jesus as a man, but after reportedly having experiences of visions of the resurrected Jesus, they concluded that since the exalted Jesus was no longer physically present on earth, God must have taken him to heaven. The Son of Man became the Son of God. At the beginning, there was no belief in the pre-existence of Jesus, but over time the pre-existent Christ was adopted in order to explain the incarnation. Ehrman postulates that the deification of Jesus was due to the influence of pagan mythologies and Jewish angelology.
Ehrman finds no evidence from the gospels that Jesus went about Palestine publicly declaring “I am God.” However, Ehrman fails to consider the historical context which led Jesus to refrain from making such a public declaration. Instead of weighing calmly Jesus’ declaration of deity, the Jews would have reacted violently to Jesus as one guilty of blasphemy. They did try to stone him, after all. It would have been futile for Jesus to try to convince the intransigent Jews who had already made up their minds to reject Jesus’ teaching, no matter what evidence he could offer to back up his claim. Continue reading “Bart Ehrman’s Historical Revisionism. Part 3/3. Ehrman Misplaces Jesus among the gods”
Bart Ehrman’s primary mission in life is undeniable. It is to discredit Christianity and to deconvert Christians from their faith. Ehrman’s attack on Christianity has been effective because he claims to be speaking as an objective historian (which is debatable), in contrast to apologists and theologians defending their faith and because he is speaking as a lapse fundamentalist with insider-knowledge. Ehrman’s attack on Christianity is comprehensive, but I shall only highlight three of his favorite lines of attack on Christianity. Continue reading “Bart Ehrman’s Historical Revisionism. Part 1/3. Misquoting Scripture”
By Dr. Leong Tien Fock
In my previous piece, where I shared the highlights of my journey through ANE studies, I mentioned that “the differences between Mesopotamian religion and OT religion are structural.” This is a profound statement with far-reaching implications. I will now elaborate on what the word “structural” means in this context and then show why it is unnecessary and inappropriate for William Lane Craig to label Genesis 1–11 as “mytho-history.”
The statement can be rephrased as, “The differences between Mesopotamian religion and OT religion are integral to their respective different structures.” It helps to see what this statement means by replacing “structures” with “paradigms.” Whether we say “structures” or “paradigms,” it means that the overall difference between OT religion (monotheism) and Mesopotamian religion (polytheism) is not in degree but in kind altogether. But as we shall see, “structures” captures the difference better than “paradigms.” Continue reading “Structural Differences Between Genesis 1–11 and Mesopotamian Mythology”
My Journey Through ANE Studies
by Leong Tien Fock
I was asked to share why the more I was exposed to the literature of the “ancient Near East” (ANE), the more I became convinced of the verbal plenary inspiration of the Old Testament (OT). This is a concise presentation of the highlights in my journey through ANE studies.
I did an MA in OT studies at Wheaton College before moving on to UCLA to do an MA and then PhD in ANE studies. One of my professors at Wheaton College, who did his PhD in ANE studies at a secular university, once said: “Those of us evangelicals [who did ANE studies in a non-evangelical institution] often moved away from our evangelical position when we were there. But when we returned to teach in an evangelical institution, we gradually returned to our evangelical position.” So I was forewarned. This must have affected how I approached ANE studies in a secular university. Continue reading “Studying the Ancient Near Eastern Texts Confirms My Belief in the Uniqueness of the Bible”
“You are standing today, all of you, before the LORD your God…so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the LORD your God, which the LORD your God is making with you today, that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Deut. 29:10,13
A number of scholars have argued convincingly that there is a relationship in form between the Hebrew covenant and the ancient Near Eastern vassal treaty…
In its classical form, the Near Eastern vassal treaty has the following component parts:
1. Preamble (“These are the words . . .”).
2. Historical Prologue (“antecedent history,” i.e., events leading to and forming the basis of the treaty).
3. General Stipulations (statement of substance concerning the future relationship, which (1) is intimately related to the antecedent history, and (2) summarizes the purpose of the specific stipulations).
4. Specific Stipulations.
5. Divine Witnesses: various deities are called to witness the treaty.
6. Blessings and Curses: relating respectively to the maintenance or breach of the covenant. Continue reading “Unity and Composition of Deuteronomy as a Covenant Treaty”
One of the prominent features of contemporary historical criticism is to dissect the bible into discrete units which are taken to represent the earlier historical sources and literary traditions which underlie the biblical text. Having identified these historical sources, critical scholars then analyze how they are pieced together into the various books of the bible. As an example, critical scholars argue that the Pentateuch is a compilation of four originally independent documents: the Jahwist (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D), and Priestly (P) sources. According to critical scholars, the Pentateuch did not originate with Moses (~1400 BC), but were finally complied by some unknown redactors during the Jewish Babylonian exile (~400 BC).
Presumably, this critical historical exercise would enable scholars to gain insights into the literary intentions or ideological biases of the final redactors of the presently preserved biblical text. This exercise may enable scholars to speculate on the history of the composition of the text. But one wonders whether the critical approach may lead scholars to miss the forest for the trees, that is, to be so focused on the discrete and artificially constructed fragments of the text that they overlook the meaning of the bible which becomes evident when one reads the books of the bible holistically.
An alternative approach to the historical-critical reading of the bible would be to take the bible on its own terms, that is, to read the bible holistically. Meredith Kline argues that such a holistic reading is necessary because the bible is in its literary-formal form a covenantal document, and that biblical canon must be read holistically as a treaty-canon. Continue reading “Reading the Bible as a Covenantal Document”
The Literary Structure and Unity of the Book of Genesis
The problem with scholars who apply the historical-critical method (premised on methodological atheism rather than on believing, critical realism) on Genesis is that they refuse to acknowledge what is in plain sight, that is, the unity of Genesis. One of the clues to the unity of Genesis is found in the way in which the phrase “These are the generations of” (’elleh tôledôt) is used ten times at crucial transitions of the narratives in Genesis.
Nahum Sarna explains,
The ’elleh toledot formula is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Book of Genesis. In each of its other ten occurrences, it introduces what follows, invariably in close connection with the name of a person already mentioned in the narrative. Its use indicates that a new and significant development is at hand. Deriving from the verb y-l-d, “to give birth,” the noun form would mean “begettings” or “generations,” and in most instances it precedes genealogies that are sometimes interspersed with narrative material. In 25:19 and 37:2, where no family tree follows but only stories of subsequent events, the formula is used figuratively for “a record of events.” This is the meaning it bears in the present passage. In this sense, the entire verse may be understood as a unity referring to what follows. Further support for this interpretation lies in its parallel structure, not to mention its poetic chiasm, “heaven and earth,” “earth and heaven.” [Nahum Sarna, Genesis (Jewish Publication Society, 1989), pp. 16-17] Continue reading “Between Babylon and Egypt: Mythology or Historical Traditions in the Book of Genesis. Part 3”