“Does God Exist” question

Reflections on Asking the “Does God Exist” question on a major college campus

by chab123

A Look at the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus: Data, Inferences and Claims

https://chab123.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/a-look-at-the-death-burial-and-resurrection-of-jesus-data-inferences-and-claims/

Was Jesus Always Nice?

We live in day when we are pressured to be politically correct. Sadly, it seems like many Christians view Jesus as no different than Barney the dinosaur. It’s as if Christians  have never even read the Gospels. This means that when it comes to the hot button issues many Christians tend to back down and simply play the love card. I constantly see Christians taking passages out of context to make their point.  Now why is this? First, there is no doubt that many Christians haven’t been loving and have been overplayed the truth card. In other words, “This is the truth and that’s the way it is.” However, this doesn’t give a Christian full license to just love the person and not discuss the truth issue. I run into this all the time. When the emotions run strong on a particular topic, the truth issue gets put on the back burner. So the bottom line is the following: If you’re going to attempt to emulate Jesus, please read the Gospels and be willing to see him in all His attributes.  We do nobody any favors when we only emphasize love at the exclusion of truth. And by the way, while I think we should show great love and compassion,  the “love only” approach  may end up allowing someone to destroy themselves and others. Sin seems to have  a habit of doing that.

One book that is helpful on this topic is Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee. The authors say the following:

“Jesus called those who weren’t Jewish “dogs” and upheld the special status of the Hebrews in a way we would call ethnocentric if not racist (Mk 7:24-30//Mt 15:21-28). With no women among the twelve apostles, he looks pretty chauvinistic. He apparently had anger issues, cursing a fig tree because it didn’t have any fruit on it, and driving merchants out of the temple with a whip (Mk 11:12-24//Mt 21:12-22; Lk 19:45-47). He sent two thousands pigs to their death in the sea (Mk 5:1-20//Mt 8:28-34//Lk 8:26-39). One person who didn’t think Jesus was so great after all was English philosopher Bertrand Russell. In his famous essay “Why I Am Not a Christian,” Russell claimed that Jesus was mistaken when he predicted that he would return within a generation, and unethical when he cursed a fig tree and caused the death of thousands of pigs. He found Jesus’ teaching about hell particularly reprehensible: “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”

The word most commonly translated “hell” in the New Testament comes from the Hebrew term Gehenna, meaning the “valley of (the son of) Hinnom.” This was the valley on the southwestern side of Jerusalem that became notorious as a place of pagan sacrifices, where children were burned alive as an offering to the Canaanite gods Molech and Baal (2 Chron 28:3; 33:6; Jer 7:31; 19:5-6; 32:35). King Josiah destroyed the shrines in the valley to stop this pagan practice (2 Kings 23:10), and the place came to be used for dumping and burning garbage. In the period between the Old and New Testaments, the name Gehenna began to be used symbolically for the place of divine punishment—the fires of hell. “- Pg 11.

Which Jesus?

As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah? (Matthew 27:17)

Relate:  Jesus was a very common name. In fact, Josephus, the famous historian of Israel around the time of Christ, records nineteen people with the name between two of his books. Four of those 19 even were high priests.

Some scholars have speculated that it was Jesus Bar Pandira who founded the Essenes. Incidentally, he was considered a “wonder worker” who made a career out of preaching end times prophecy. This Jesus upset the Maccabean king of his time and was hung on a tree on the eve of the Passover.

Then there was Jesus Bar Gamala. He led the peace party inside the besieged city of Jerusalem in 68-69 AD. This Jesus was carrying on negotiations with the leaders of the Idumeans who had the city under siege (those leaders were named James and John the sons of Susa). Unfortunately, the negotiations led nowhere and this Jesus was killed when the city fell.

There was also Jesus Bar Thebuth. He also was in the city when it fell, but this Jesus didn’t die. He actually bought his life. You see this Jesus had the fortune of being a priest. So he stole some of the goods from the temple and used the stolen goods as a bribe to save his own neck.

Jesus Bar Ananias also bears some similarities with the Jesus we know. In 62 AD he gets up in the Temple and starts saying some very disturbing things about the Temple. This upsets the Temple authorities enough that they hand this Jesus over to the Romans. The Romans whip him, declare him a madman, and then let this Jesus go. He could still be seen inside Jerusalem 7 years later during the city shouting out, “Woe to the city and the temple and the people!” It is said that the last time this Jesus shouted this he added, “and woe to me also.” Immediately a stone flung from a ballista scored a direct hit on this unfortunate prophet.

There was another Jesus who was crucified by the Romans in the town of Lydda about 75 years after the Messiah. There is also the Jesus that Paul refers to in his letter to the Colossians. The book Ecclesiasticus was written by a man named Jesus. Even the guy who led the Israelites into the Promised Land shares the same Hebrew name as Jesus. But we call his book “Joshua” to avoid confusion.

Read the rest of the blog at: http://theriverwalk.org/2021/02/12/which-jesus/

Perfect

If you present an animal from the herd as a peace offering to the Lord, it may be a male or a female, but it must have no defects.
(Leviticus 3:1)

Relate: From the title and picture above, you probably already know that I am talking about perfection today. I know that some of you, the perfectionists, are rubbing your hands with delight. I know who you are. You’re the ones who will be sending me an email because I forgot to set the scripture reference link to open up in a separate tab or because I switched tenses between my “relate” and “react” sections and you will have a list of rules for why I shouldn’t have done so. I’m half tempted to leave ten mistakes in this post. Let’s see if you can find them all.

The rest of you, the ones like me, are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Oh great. Here we go again.” You have heard pastors preach on perfection from Matthew 5:47 or holiness from 1 Peter 1:16 more than enough times already. You are sick and tired of people demanding a standard that you know you can never meet, and that they aren’t meeting either. You will hear me say that God demanded from the Israelites a perfect sacrifice. Also, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. And if we are to be like him, then we also should offer ourselves as a perfect sacrifice. Each statement is true, but in each case, the presentation of perfect has a different meaning.

We use perfect many ways in English. I can say, “this room is perfect for you” or “they are the perfect couple.” I am not saying that the room is absolutely flawless or that the couple never has any fights, arguments, or misunderstandings. I am saying that one thing is perfect, or highly suitable, for something else. I can tell my students that I want them to translate this using the present perfect tense. As one student pointed out, there is absolutely nothing perfect about the English language. I just answered, “I know English is tough. Though it can be understood through thorough thought.” She just threw up her hands and walked through the door.

Some of my football friends still talk about the Superbowl where the Giants ruined the Patriots’ perfect season. Does that mean that every play in every game was performed flawlessly? No. It simply meant that they had not (yet) lost a game until David Tyree’s helmet catch left the world in awe. By the way, any time an announcer talks about a “perfect” catch, comparisons are made to this one. But any coach trying to get his high school players to play to perfection would chew out anyone trying to replicate it. So is it perfect or not? What is perfect?

React: In Malachi, God takes the Hebrew people to task because they were not following up with the requirements for a sacrifice God laid out here in Leviticus 3. They were offering an imperfect sacrifice and then they were wondering why God was not blessing them. It is in this context that one of the most commonly used Bible verses for the offering appeal pops up: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)

Read and respond at: http://theriverwalk.org/2021/02/16/perfect/

How Not to Read the Bible

It is true that many people do become skeptics by reading the Bible. Atheists use billboards like the following one here to mock the teachings of the Bible. The sign quotes a verse totally out of context and then proceeds to have a picture of a slave. Then atheists accuse Christians of adhering to Bronze Age Myths. What else could be more superficial? Furthermore, signs like the one above make them look like they just want to present a distortion of the Christian faith which is not backed up by proper research.

Passages that are quoted out of context and give no attention is given to both the historical and cultural background of the texts that are quoted. In other words, no attention is given to sound Bible interpretation. With the advent of the internet, memes and You Tube clips abound with skeptics who want to demonstrate that Christians ignore these “problematic” passages in the Bible.

A new resource is available that deals with these kinds of issues. Granted, one could consult a good commentary or a good book on the cultural background of the Bible which would help answer a lot of these issues. But that takes work. So the good news is that author Dan Kimball has released a book called How (Not) to Read the Bible: Making Sense of the Anti-women, Anti-science, Pro-violence, Pro-slavery and Other Crazy-Sounding Parts of Scripture.

https://chab123.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/new-resource-how-not-to-read-the-bible/

On Earth In Heaven

Read: Genesis 16:1-18:15, Matthew 6:1-24, Psalm 7:1-17, Proverbs 2:1-5

Our Father in heaven,
……….May your name be kept holy.
……….May your Kingdom come soon.
……….May your will be done
On earth
as it is in heaven.
………..Give us today the food we need,
………..And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
………..And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!
(Matthew 6:9-13)

Relate: When Jesus is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, He says, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship the Father must worship in spirit and in truth.” We recognize that Jesus is speaking truth to that woman, but one thing that sometimes gets lost in translation is that Jesus is doing this in poetic form. In speaking this truth, He is using a chiasm. This is a form of poetry found throughout the Bible. Rather than trying to explain it, it would be easier to just show it…

A – True worship
B – The Father
C – God is Spirit
B1 – The Father
A1 – True Worship

Read more at Eric’s original blog: https://theriverwalk.org/2021/01/07/on-earth-in-heaven/

Be Perfect

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! …If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
(Matthew 5:43-48)

Relate: Be perfect. Those aren’t necessarily healthy words to tell a person who already tends a bit too legalistic. I take James’ words to heart when he says, “Faith without works is dead.” But sometimes I take it too far. I work, and I work, and I work forgetting that there is supposed to be a faith that centers and grounds all that I am doing. I know that it is good and healthy to spend a certain amount of time each day with God in prayer. But sometimes I seem to be more concerned with making sure that I am “logging in my time” than I am in actually using the time in prayer to grow my relationship with God or to be an intercessor on behalf of my world. I know that it is good and healthy to dive into studying God’s Word each day, but sometimes I am more concerned with the accumulation of knowledge of the study than with the God who should be the center of my attention. So “Be perfect” might not be the best thing for Jesus to tell me. Taken out of context, this can be more of a stumbling block than a challenge.

Read more: https://theriverwalk.org/2021/01/06/be-perfect/

A Look at the Top Six Objections to the Christian Faith

https://chab123.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/a-look-at-the-top-six-objections-to-the-christian-faith/

A Closer Look at the Virgin Birth

by Chab

Introduction

From a traditional perspective, the virgin birth has always been one of the essentials of the Christian faith. Jesus was not born in sin and he had no sin nature (Hebrews 7:26).  For those that hold to the doctrine of original sin, given the sin nature is passed down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12, 17, 19), the virgin birth thwarted the transmission of the sin nature and allowed  for the incarnation. So the virgin birth is important to both the deity and humanity of Jesus.

The First Messianic Promise

It is after the fall of man has taken place that God makes the first messianic promise:

“God said ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

The messianic interpretation of Gen 3:15 is recorded in the Palestinian Targum, (first century C.E.)

“And I will put enmity  between thee and the woman, and between the seed of your offspring and the seed of her offspring; and it shall be that when the offspring of the woman keep the commandments of the Law, they will aim right [at you] and they will smite you on the head; but when they abandon the commandments of the Law, you will aim right [at them], and you will wound them in the heel. However, for them there will be remedy but for you there will be none, and in the future they will make peace with the heel of the king, Messiah.” [1]

I should also note that Dr. Alfred Edersheim in his classic work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (appendix 9) mentions that additional rabbinic opinions support the understanding that Genesis 3:15 refers to the Messiah. The point is that we see what is called the “the Proto-evangelium” or the beginning of salvation history.  God was planning on doing something for the entire world.

Let’s look at Isaiah 7: 10-16:

“Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God;  make it deep as Sheol or high as  heaven.”But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!” Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a  virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name  Immanuel.He will eat curds and honey  at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”- NASB

Possible Options in Interpreting the Virgin Birth Prophecy

Single Fulfillment

In this case, the virgin birth has one fulfillment which is in the birth of Jesus. In some cases, the interpreter says Isaiah was prophesying of the future birth of Christ and the prophecy has little to do with the immediate context or situation at hand.

So when we look at the single fulfillment view, I do agree that there is a future referent.  However, I do think this has some challenges and I also think the next three options present some more favorable approaches to the issue of the virgin birth.

Double Fulfillment

In this view, this principle states that the prophecy may have more than one fulfillment. In other words, the immediate context shows that the sign is for King Ahaz while the Matthew 1:22-23 is a sign about the birth of Jesus. To read more about this approach, see Craig Blomberg’s article called Interpreting Old Testament Prophetic Literature in Matthew: Double Fulfillment.

Double Reference

In this interpretation, there is one block of Scripture that deals with one person, time, or event that may be followed by another block of Scripture that deals with a different person, time, and place without making any clear distinction between two blocks or indicating that there is a gap of time between the two blocks. While “Double Fulfillment” states that one prophecy can have two fulfillments, “Double Reference” says that one piece of Scripture actually contains two prophecies, each having its own fulfillment. [1]

So in the immediate context, while King Ahaz is under attack, the threat it to him and the whole house of David. God assures Ahaz that peace and safety are at hand. The first sign in vs 13, 14, is that there can’t be any attempt to destroy the house of David will fail. The second sign which is seen in verses 15, 16, is given to Ahaz personally. For Ahaz, an event 700 years in the future (about the Messiah) would make no difference to him. So in vs 15-17- the “You” is again singular and specifically for Ahaz. Before Isaiah’s son is old enough to make moral distinctions between right and wrong, the kings of Israel and Syria will be deposed and their threat removed. This was fulfilled within three years. Isaiah again uses the definite article before the term “boy.” This time there is another boy mentioned in the context.: Isaiah’s son. The boy of vs 16 can’t be the son of vs 14, but refers back to Isaiah’s son in vs 3. God promises that the attack upon him by Israel and Syria will not succeed, and before Isaiah’s son Shear-Jashub, reaches an age of moral maturity, the two enemy kings will cease to exist.

Let’s go a little deeper at the Sign to the House of David in Isa. 7:13-14. In Hebrew, there is a clear change between the singular “you” of vs 9, 11, 16, 17, and the plural “you” of verses 13-14. The sign is not just for Ahaz, but for the whole house of David. [2] In vs  14, we see the word  “Behold,” This Hebrew word draws attention to an event which is past, present, or future. However, grammatically, whenever “behold” is used with the Hebrew present participle; it always refers to a future event. That is the case here. Not only is the birth future, but the very conception is future. This is not referring to a pregnant woman about to give birth. The NASB translates it as “a virgin” which is wrong. The NIV and NKJV translate it as “the virgin”- according to the rules of Hebrew grammar, when finding the use of a definite article “the”- the reader should look for a reference in the immediate previous context. Having followed the passage from 7:1, there has been no mention of any woman. Having failed the immediate context, the next rule is called “ the principle of previous reference”- something that which has been dealt with earlier and is common knowledge among the people. [3]

Typological Interpretation

To read more, go to: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2020/12/05/a-closer-look-at-the-virgin-birth-4/