Resurrection: What are Scholars Saying? A Sample

Resurrection: What are Scholars Saying?


Dr. Gary Habermas has coined a method to show the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus called “The Minimal Facts” approach to the resurrection.

These facts are used by Habermas for three main reasons:

  1. The vast majority of scholars accept these facts as historical.
  2. They are well established by the historical method.
  3. The only explanation that can account for the existence of all these facts is the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Actually, Habermas uses about 11 or 12 minimal facts but the resurrection can be demonstrated using only about 3 or 4. Here we will include the 6 facts that fulfill the requirement of being accepted by most scholars. These facts are:

  1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
  2. The disciples had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
  3. The disciples were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief.
  4. The apostolic proclamation of the resurrection began very early, when the church was in its infancy.
  5. James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
  6. Saul (Paul), the church persecutor, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Habermas knows this because he has traced about 3400 sources including atheist, agnostic, and other critical scholars in French, English and German. Often when I talk to skeptics, I am challenged to provide these sources. This brief serves to show a representative sample of these sources (also see below for another related list). 

Taken from Risen Jesus and Future Hope by Dr. Gary Habermas. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2003.

  1. Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Scribner’s
    Sons, 1951, 1955), 1:44-46, 52, 60, 80-83.
  2. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 2:153-58.
  3. John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 171-77
  4. Gunther Bomkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Irene and Fraser McLuskey with James M. Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), 179-86.
  5. Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 2:84., 2:84-86, 100.
  6. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 13 vols., ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. E Torrance (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1961), vol. 4, part 1,334-36,351-53.
  7. Emil Brunner, Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950-79), 2363-78.
  8. Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implication of a Christian Eschatology, trans. James W. Leitch (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 165-66, 172, 197-202.
  9. H. Dodd, “Appearances of the Risen Christ: An Essay in Form-Criticism of the Gospels,” in More New Testament Essays (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1968), 124-25, 13 1-33.
  10. Norman Perrin, Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 78-84.
  11. John A. T. Robinson, Can We Trust the New Testament? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1977), 113-29.
  12. Reginald H. Fuller, Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 27-49.
  13. Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (New York: Scribner, 1977), 174-79.
  14. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, 2nd ed., trans. Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 88-106.
  15. Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection: Biblical Testimony to the Resurrection: An Historical Examination and Explanation, trans. A. M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1977), 6-16, 112-14.
  16. Joachim Jeremias, “Easter: The Earliest Tradition and the Earliest Interpretation,” New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), 300-311.
  17. Wemer Georg Kummel, The Theology of the New Testament: According to its Major Witnesses: Jesus-Paul-John (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1973), 102-5.
  18. Raymond E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973), 80-82, 128.
  19. Leonard Goppelt, “The Easter Kerygma in the New Testament,” in The Easter Message Today, 35-37, 43-53.
  20. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), 3-12.
  21. Marcus Barth and Verne H. Fletcher, Acquittal by Resurrection (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), part 1 (Barth), 11-15,37-39.
  22. Paul Van Buren, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel: Based on an Analysis of its Language (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 126-34
  23. William Wand, Christianity: A Historical Religion? (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1972) 51, 59, 84, 93, 108.
  24. M. Hunter, Jesus: Lord and Saviour (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eardmans, 1976), 98-107.
  25. M. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ (London: Collins, 1961), 35-45.
  26. T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy, 5 vols, 2nd ed., (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), 2:34-35, 39.
  27. George Eldon Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1975), 36-43, 93, 109-11.
  28. Daniel Fuller, Easter Faith and History (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965), 208-29
  29. Helmut Thielicke, “The Resurrection Kerygma,” in The Easter Message Today, trans. Salvator Attanasio and Darrell Likens Guder (London: Thomas Nelson, 1964), 59-62, 86-91.
  30. Grant Osborne, The Resurrection Narratives: A Redactional Study (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1984), 231-33, 276-77, 281-88.
  31. Pheme Perkins, Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984), 84-95, 196-210.
  32. Howard Clark Kee, What Can We Know about Jesus? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990),1-2,21-23,60-61,85-86,90.
  33. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983),91-99, 125-31
  34. Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986), 101-18.
  35. Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1997), 115-34, 159-61.
  36. William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989), 36-38, 53-82, 163-96, 379-420.
  37. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 10-13, 125-26, 133-36, 277-81.
  38. Gerald O’Collins, Jesus Risen: An Historical, Fundamental and Systematic Examination of Christ’s Resurrection (New York: Paulist Press,1987), 99-147.
  39. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), 110-22, 133-36.
  40. John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), 47-56, 239-43, 255-60.
  41. John Drane, Introducing the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), 77-107.
  42. Robert Funk, Honest to Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), 33-40, 260, 267-7.
  43. Murray Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983), 5-11, 60.
  44. Gerd Ludemann y Alf Ozen, What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approah to the Resurrection, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 9-7, 102-5, 125-34.
  45. Thonvald Lorenzen, Resurrection and Discipleship: Interpretive Models, Biblical Reflections, Theological Consequences (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1995), 13 1-36, 141-44, 184-87.
  46. Neville Clark, Interpreting the Resurrection (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), 89-101.
  47. Paul L. Maier, In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1991), 164-88, 204-5.
  48. John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), 372-75, 397-98.
  49. John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), 135, 145, 154, 165, 190.
  50. Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 15, 177-85.
  51. Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 227-31.
  52. John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 3 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1987-2001), 3:67-71, 146-47, 234-35, 251-52, 625.
  53. J. M. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1999), 4-15,47, 113-17, 188.
  54. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 111,353-54,400-401.
  55. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2 of Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 109-12, 480,487,551-52,659.

Another related list is a sample of scholars,  again, including atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians who believe that the disciples had experiences that led them to conclude that they had appearances of the Risen Jesus, whether or not this happened.

The list of scholars who affirm or strongly imply this as historical is:

  1. Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 284.
  2. Michael Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric,” in Resurrection Reconsidered, ed. Gavin D’Costa (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1996), 48.
  3. Marcus Borg, “Thinking about Easter,” Bible Review 10 (1994): 15.
  4. John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), 190.
  5. Robert Funk, Honest to Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), 40, 266.
  6. Roy W. Hoover, “A Contest between Orthodoxy and Veracity,” in Jesus’s Resurrection: Fact or Figment, 131, 92-97, 111, 141.
  7. Rudolf Pesch, The Resurrection of Jesus as History 47“Zur Entstehung des Glaubens an die Auferstehung Jesu: Ein neuer Versach,” Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theologie 30 (1983): 87.
  8. Anton Vogtle in Vogtle and Rudolf Pesch, Wie kam es zum Osterglauben! (Dusseldorf, Germany: Patmos- Verlag, 1975), 85-98.
  9. John Galvin, “Resurrection as Theologia Crucis Jew: The Foundational Christology of Rudolf Pesch,” Theological Studies 38 (1977): 521-23.
  10. Hans Conzelmann, I Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 258-66.
  11. Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 80-83.
  12. Gerd Ludemann in collaboration with Alf Ozen, What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 37, 50, 66.
  13. Jack Kent, The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth (London: Open Gate Press, 1999), 18-19.
  14. James Keller, “Response to Davis,” Faith and Philosophy 7 (1990): 114.
  15. Hans Werner Bartsch, “lnhalt und Funktion des Urchristlichen Osterglaubens,” New Testament Studies 26 (1980): 180, 194-95.
  16. James M. Robinson, “Jesus from Easter to Valentinus (or to the Apostles’ Creed),” Journal of Bibilical Literature 101 (1982): 8, 20.
  17. A. Wells, Did Jesus Exist? (London: Pemberton, 1986), 32, 207.
  18. Michael Martin, The Case against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 83, 90.
  19. John Shelby Spong, The Easter Moment (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 51-53, 173.
  20. Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986), 91.
  21. K. Elliott, “The First Easter,” History Today 29 (1979): 209-10, 220.
  22. J. M. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1999), 47, 188.
  23. Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, trans. William V. Dych (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), 265, 277.
  24. Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Die Auferstehung Jesu: Historie und Theologie,” Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche 91 (1994): 320-23.
  25. Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology, trans. James W. Leitch (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 172-73.
  26. Raymond E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist Press, 1973), 125-29.
  27. James D. G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster Press, 1985), 75.
  28. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), 136.
  29. Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, new ed., trans. V. Green (Mahweh, N. J. Paulist Press, 1976), 124-25.
  30. Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 182.
  31. E.B Cranfield, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Expository Times 101 (1990), 169.
  32. Hugo Staudinger, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Saving Event and as ‘Object’ of Historical Research,” Scottish Journal of Theology 36 (1983), 312, 318-20.
  33. Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1982), 97, 117-19.
  34. John Alsup, (The Post-Resurrection Appearance Stories of the Gospel Tradition: A History-of-Tradition Analysis with Text-Synopsis, Calwer Theologische Monographien 5 [Stuttgart, Germany: Calwer Verlag, 1975], 55), 274.
  35. Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 47-49, 181.
  36. Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien-Geschichten um Geschichte, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, Germany: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1981), esp. 153-55.
  37. Ben F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1979), 60.
  38. John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 3 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1987-2001), 3:70, 235, 252.
  39. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 10-13, 278-80.
  40. N. T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review 41 (1998): 118.
  41. Joseph Dore, “Croire en la Resurrection de Jesus-Christ,” Etudes 356 (1982), 532.
  42. Francis Schussler Fiorenza, “The Resurrection of Jesus and Roman Catholic Fundamental Theology,” in The Resurrection, 238, 243-47.
  43. Gerald O’Collins, Jesus Risen: An Historical, Fundamental and Systematic Examination of Christ’s Resurrection (New York: Paulist Press,1987), 118-19.
  44. William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989), esp. part 3.
  45. John A. T. Robinson, Can We Trust the New Testament? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1977), 120-27.
  46. Philip Jenkins, Hidden Gospels: How the Search for the Historical Jesus Lost its Way (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 78.
  47. Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (New York: Scribner, 1977), 176.
  48. John Drane, Introducing the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), 101-4.
  49. Charles Austin Perry, The Resurrection Promise (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1986), 4.
  50. Lindars, “Resurrection and the Empty Tomb,” in The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 127.
  51. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983), 125-28.
  52. David Samuel, “Making Room in History for the Miraculous,” Churchman 100 (1986): 108-1 0.
  53. Hansjurgen Verweyen, “Die Ostererscheinungen in fundamentaltheologischer Sicht,” Zeitschrift fur Katholische Theologie 103 (1981): 429.
  54. Thonvald Lorenzen, Resurrection and Discipleship: Interpretive Models, Biblical Reflections, Theological Consequences (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1995), 123, 130-32.
  55. Donald Goergen, The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, vol. 2 of A Theology of Jesus (Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1980), 127-28, 261.
  56. William P. Loewe, “The Appearances of the Risen Lord: Faith, Fact, and Objectivity,” Horizons 6 (1979): 190-91.
  57. Howard Clark Kee, What Can We Know about Jesus? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 1-2, 23, 86, 113.
  58. Ben Witherington III, “Resurrection Redux,” in Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan, ed. Paul Copan (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 131-32.
  59. John Pilch, “Appearances of the Risen Jesus in Cultural Context,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 28 (1998): 59.
  60. Adrian Thatcher, “Resurrection and Rationality,” in The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 180.
  61. Traugott Holtz, “Kenntnis von Jesus und Kenntnis Jesu: Eine Skizze zum Verhaltnis zwischen 48 Chapter One historisch-philologisher Erkenntnis und historisch-theologischem Verstandnis,” Theologische Literaturzeitung 104 (1979): 10.
  62. Peter Stuhlmacher, Was geschah auf Golgatha? Zur Heilsbedeutung von Kreuz, Tod und Auferweckung Jesu (Stuttgart, Germany: Calwer Verlag, 1998), 58-64.

Childhood, Immortality and the Little Prince

Childhood, Immortality and the Little Prince

By Chris Du-Pond

 

A treasure I inherited from my grandmother “Nanný” when she passed, was a soft copy of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) by Antone de Saint-Exupéry. It is a beautiful 1946 edition in French with original illustrations. This book has been read, that I know, by at least five generations in our family (my daughters included) in its original language.

This tiny book of less than 100 pages is the fourth most translated book in history; it has been translated to over 250 languages and it grosses annual sales of over two million copies. In France it was named the most noteworthy book of the 20th century.

And here we may ask:  ¿What is so extraordinary about a story for children?

After wrestling with this question for some time, I concluded that The Little Prince touches the heart of the reader because it deals marvelously with two deeply held human longings:

The first theme is the deep desire we have to preserve the imagination and innocence of our childhood. There is something supremely special in childhood that we lose with time. We tend to stop dreaming about becoming a fireman or an astronaut; we stop playing with marbles and cars; our bike ceases to be a rapid stallion, and the tree in the middle of the park is no longer a rocket to distant worlds in outer space. We leave behind the time when a girlfriend was a soft whisper and never a kiss. That age when our “whys” would not let people rest. To grow up eventually becomes the slow murder of the child we all have within. We lose a type of purity to be replaced by selfishness, envy, arrogance, and worse. Growing up is, in a sense, tragic.

In the process of becoming an adult, we realize it is time to attend the funeral of the child we once were. He left us one day, almost without knowing and without saying goodbye.

The second theme in The Little Prince is the deep human longing to attain immortality. At the end of the novel (serious spoiler ahead), the Little Prince is confronted with a yellow serpent, the type that “kills you in less than thirty seconds.” “Do you have good venom?, Are you sure I will not suffer long?” Asked the Little Prince. Finally, the serpent’s venom would become his ticket to “go back home” to asteroid B 612 with his rose, his volcanoes, his sunsets, and his sheep.

 “The following morning”, Antoine tells us, “I was comforted…though not completely. Because I know well that he is back to his planet, for I could not find his body on the sand.”

I remember reading The Little Prince many times as a kid, but I don’t remember ever feeling anguish or nostalgia after the episode with the yellow serpent. Besides, the Little Prince returned to his planet, with his flower, his sheep, and his sunrises! That is how I saw it. But now as an adult, mind and reason tell me that he was bitten by a poisonous snake. The Little Prince must have surely died…that is what happens when you are wounded by a viper.

In the final analysis, we long to continue to be like a child. There is this strange relationship between eternity and childhood that we lose with the passing of the years.

In the final analysis, we long to continue to be like a child. There is this strange relationship between eternity and childhood that we lose with the passing of the years. But, I believe this relationship is very real and that is the reason this book has touched the hearts of many. We have, very deep in our soul, a desire and a thirst for eternal things, to live forever… 

Another great writer, C.S. Lewis, also identified, at least in part, this relationship:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” 1 

But the main reason I believe this relationship between childhood and eternity to be real, is because many centuries before Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, another person in history spoke of the very same thing:

«Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it» Luke 18:16-17

As wonderful as it is, the story of The Little Prince is not telling us anything new. Jesus, the “Logos”, spoke something similar over 2000 years ago—and not in the context of a novel but in real life. I am convinced that the success of the Little Prince is due to the fact that the story got too close to a heartfelt human longing to endure, to transcend the stars, mock death, and return to our innocent origins. We all desire that.

The difference between Jesus and Saint-Exupéry is that the latter incorporated into a story this innate desire of his in a manner that we could relate, almost without realizing that we longed for it to begin with. However, it was Jesus whom, “in the beginning,” put this desire within the human soul. Jesus is, not only the originator of this story but of the desire itself! And here, I submit to you something very simple: what we need is indeed to become like children and run to His arms to unchain the eternity captive in the dungeon of our hearts. He said, “whoever believes in me has eternal life” (John 6:47).

“God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” Ec. 3:11

 

  1. CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco Publishers, 2001), 136-137.

The Deity of Jesus: A Defense. Part 6/6

Jesus Shares the Seat of God

In this series of 6 blog posts, I show that, using only historical data that critical/skeptical scholars grant, it is possible to build a cumulative case demonstrating that Jesus not only was considered God by his followers and the early church, but that he claimed to be divine and acted consistently with such claim.

In the previous post, we argued that Jesus is God because he shares the Deeds of God.

Now we follow along the same line, arguing that Jesus is God because he Shares the Seat of God:

Part 6. Jesus Shares the Seat of God

Historically speaking about Jesus, one has to answer the ultimate question:

Why was he killed?

If he was such a loving, charismatic, and wise person, why did he end up dead as a lowly thief? The answer is relatively simple: blasphemy. And by blasphemy here we mean “making oneself equal to YHWH.” When Jesus forgives sins (Matt. 9:3; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21) the scribes take him to commit a blasphemous act. We can conclude this from their questioning,

“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”1

Modern skeptics can try to soften the fact that Jesus made himself equal to God, but what is important is the reaction of the Jews/Scribes opposing Jesus and what they understood at that time. A clear self-designation that Jesus used that would warrant the charge of blasphemy was the term “Son of Man.” “Not only is it Jesus’ favorite self-designation, according to the gospels, but it is found in all the traditional gospel sources or strata!”2 This is a well attested title Jesus used for himself, confirmed by by the “criterion of dissimilarity.”3

Why would the term “Son of Man” warrant the charge of blasphemy? The answer is found in Daniel 7:13-14. In this passage, “Son of Man” is a divine figure sent by YHWH (the Ancient of Days). This divine figure is pre-existent and is sent forth to set up “The Kingdom of God.” In Mark 14:61-64 Jesus is charged with blasphemy (and the high priest tore his garments) after the exchange:

“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus’ answer was enough to warrant execution:

“I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus makes several claims that can be interpreted as blasphemy individually: (1) the affirmation “I AM” (Ego eimi), (2) the use of “Son of Man” (3) seated at the right hand of Power, and (4) coming with the clouds of heaven.  Dr. Gary Habermas sums up the situation:

Now, what set off the high priest?…In this passage in Mark 14, Jesus responded, Ego eimi, as in “I am the Son of God.” Then he said that, as the Son of Man, he would be seen sitting on God’s right hand and coming with the clouds of heaven. So Jesus claimed to be the preexistent one who came from the Ancient of Days to set up God’s Kingdom. He also used the enigmatic phrase, “coming with the clouds.” That phrase is used often in the Old Testament as a reference to God. But scholars often agree that claiming to sit on God’s right hand was the most serious and blasphemous claim of the entire passage.

The high priest…in contemporary terms, instead of tearing his clothing, he might have responded with an energetic fist-pump in the air, followed by something like, “Yeah, we’ve got him now. He’s going to die for this.”4

Conclusion

While it is true that Jesus didn’t seem to have uttered the words “I am God” or “I am Divine,” we can certainly derive such conclusion from the way he was perceived, his words, and the form in which he conducted his life. After all, it would be hardly needed to be said, “I am a chef” if instead I show skill with the knife, deep knowledge of ingredients and cooking techniques, and I own a restaurant in which I prepare 5-course meals day after day. With Jesus we have the same phenomenon: we have shown—using only data granted by critical scholars—that Jesus shares Honors, Attributes, Names, Deeds, and the Seat of God almighty (Easily remembered by the HANDS acronym). With these data in place—as cumulative evidence—the conclusion is clear: Jesus considered himself to be divine. This was agreed by his followers, and his enemies tacitly granted that fact declaring him a blasphemer worthy of death and nailing him to the cross. The implications of this are tremendous, given the overwhelming evidence in favor of his resurrection.5 Not only did he claim to be deity but he provided evidence to back up that rather bold claim by coming back from the dead. Now the question is:

Will you trust him with your life? The final choice is yours…

  1. Ibid., 2670. Kindle.
  2. These sources are, as indicated: “Gospel of Mark; ‘M’–the special material that Matthew includes that none of the others include; ‘L’–the special material that Luke has alone; the Gospel of John; and this enigmatic ‘sayings document’ that critical scholars call ‘Q,’ which is their name for the verses that are contained in both Matthew and Luke, but which are not found in Mark.” Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 34.
  3. This is a test of historicity for a saying of Jesus. The test indicates that we can confidently accept a saying of Jesus if such saying was not taken from Jewish sources and if it is not found in use by the early Church. Both terms “Son of Man” and “Son of God” fit such criteria. Ibid.
  4.  Ibid., 38.
  5. Christophe A. Du-Pond, “Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?”, Personal Blog http://veritasfidei.org/en/resurrection-fact-or-fiction/, (accessed November 30th, 2015).

The Deity of Jesus: A Defense. Part 5/6

Jesus Shares the Deeds of God

In this series of 6 blog posts, I show that, using only historical data that critical/skeptical scholars grant, it is possible to build a cumulative case demonstrating that Jesus not only was considered God by his followers and the early church, but that he claimed to be divine and acted consistently with such claim.

In the previous post, we argued that Jesus is God because he shares the Names of God.

Now we follow along the same line, arguing that Jesus is God because he Shares the Deeds of God:

Part 5. Jesus Shares the Deeds of God

It is likely that the earliest pre-Pauline creed can be found in 1 Cor. 15:3-7. Even critical scholars like John Dominic Crossan,1 Robert Funk,2 E.P. Sanders,3 and Bart Ehrman4 agree that this material can be traced back to within 3-5 years from the crucifixion—or even earlier. In verse 1-2 Paul states that the creedal (gospel) message (3-7) has to be believed to be saved. Then in v.3 he states that the message is “of first importance.” Paul then delivers the message:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

The message is clear. Human salvation depends on the belief that Jesus died and was raised from the dead.5 Salvation in the Jewish context is always a work of God. It is also important to note—contrary to the belief of Pinero6 and other skeptics—that Paul was not the founder of Christianity as we know it. Paul claims in 1 Cor. 15:11 that “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Paul was not the only one preaching the same message and he was also not the originator. In fact, after his missionary journeys, Paul travels to Jerusalem to corroborate his message with the other apostles, and they give him “the right hand of fellowship”7 as a sign of approval. Not only Paul didn’t invent Christianity or the deity of Jesus but, these beliefs can be traced back to the events right after the cross.

In another “Q” passage,8 Jesus says,

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Here Jesus claims to be, not one Son but the Son. And that the knowledge of the Father is unequivocally a power exclusive to the Son. The conclusion from Jesus’ words is that this way to know God is an exclusive prerogative of Jesus. This puts Jesus in a different level from all humanity. Seen within the context of salvation, and that salvation is a work of God, establishes Jesus in a divine category.9

We already mentioned that Paul presents God and Jesus—on par—as creators of all (1 Cor. 8:6).  Pinero doesn’t interact with this passage in his published work, however scholars such as Robert Grant affirm that here,

“The supreme Father resembles the supreme Zeus, while the work of the Lord Christ is like that of the various demiurgic gods…”10

To this objection, it is hard to improve on the response from Dr. Richard Bauckham:

Paul has in fact reproduced all the words of the statement about YHWH in the Shema…but Paul has rearranged the words in such a way as to produce an affirmation of both one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ…. Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema a “Lord” the Shema does not mention. He is identifying Jesus as the “Lord” whom the Shema affirms to be one.11

Bauckham then delves into the Greek of 1 Cor. 8:6 to show that Paul “assigns the final cause [of creation] to the Son” thus putting Jesus and YHWH at the same level of creative power.12

Jesus also spoke with authority previously unheard of. In the sermon of the mount he frequently uses the phrase “You have heard…. But I say to you.” This is equivalent to affirming “this is what Moses wrote from YHWH, but this is what I say.” Two of these passages—at least—are confirmed “Q” sources (Matt. 5:39, 44) thus we have no reason to doubt that the sermon is an authentic saying of Jesus. This is different from the formula used by prophets: “thus says the Lord” or “the word of the Lord came.” Jesus never used such formula but spoke in his own authority, “I say to you.”13 Similarly, the double use of the word “amen” by Jesus (a word of Aramaic origin אמן) often translated as “truly” or “verily” when used at the beginning of a sentence “has no precedent in the Old Testament, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient literature.”14 We can conclude that Jesus’ self-understanding included a divine authority with no precedent in Jewish history. This understanding was also well acknowledged by Paul and Peter.15 In the very first sermon of Peter in Acts 2:4-42—on the Day of Pentecost—the apostles are filled with the Spirit, an act that Peter affirms to be the fulfillment of Joel 2:28. Peter’s logic is simple:

“What Joel’s prophecy states that God would do…Jesus did.”16

This is clear from Acts 2:32-33:

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”

Therefore Jesus pours the Holy Spirit as Joel prophesied God would do.

As a last bastion of evidence showing that Jesus executed the deeds of YHWH, we should note that Paul and the early church also considered Jesus the rightful judge of mankind—a task exclusively attributed to God. This is evident in passages too numerous to cover individually, and the frequent references to “the day of the Lord.”17 Let´s review a clear example:

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom. 14:10)

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ” (2 Cor. 5:10)

It is interesting that in 2 Cor. Paul writes that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” but in Rom. 14:10 he uses the very same language but replaces only Christ with God. It is evident that Paul is referring to the same judgment seat, therefore Jesus is God since Jesus is the executor of God’s judgment.

In the next post we will see that Jesus is God because he shares the Seat of God.

To be Continued…

  1. J.D Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 254.
  2. R.W Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do? (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1998), 466.
  3. E.P Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).
  4. Bart Ehrman,  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 282.
  5. For a detailed argument about the early dating of this creed see chapter 1 of, Gary R. Habermas, “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith?,” www.garyhabermas.com/evidence1, (accessed November 11, 2015).
  6. Antonio Pinero, “Para Entender a Pablo,” Personal Blog, http://www.tendencias21.net/crist/Para-entender-a-Pablo-de-Tarso-3-01_a38.html, (accessed November 11th, 2015). My Translation.
  7. See Galatians 2:1-10.
  8. Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22.
  9. This is especially obvious after our prior analysis of the Creed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. In verses 1 and 2 Paul basically says: “If you believe the message of the Gospel that follows, your are saved, if not, you’ve wasted your time.”
  10. As Quoted by Bowman, Robert M. Grant, Gods and the One God, Library of Early Christianity 1, ed. Wayne A. Meeks (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 112.
  11. Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 38.
  12. Ibid., 39.
  13. Bowman, 2414. Kindle.
  14. Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Amen,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 1:69.
  15. In Gal 2:19-20 Paul affirms that to “live” is to be “crucified with Christ”. For Paul, Jesus is the author of life. Peter spoke of Jesus in his early sermons as “the author of Life” (Acts 3:15). See also Rom 6:23; Phil. 1:21, and 2 Cor. 4:10-11).
  16. Bowman, 2474. Kindle.
  17. See Acts 3:30-31, 1:24; 1 Cor. 4:5, 1:8, 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-11;

The Deity of Jesus: A Defense. Part 4/6

Jesus Shares the Names of God

In this series of 6 blog posts, I show that, using only historical data that critical/skeptical scholars grant, it is possible to build a cumulative case demonstrating that Jesus not only was considered God by his followers and the early church, but that he claimed to be divine and acted consistently with such claim.

In the previous post, we argued that Jesus is God because he shares the Attributes of God.

Now we follow along the same line, arguing that Jesus is God because he Shares the Names of God:

Part 4. Jesus Shares the Names of God

In the nativity narratives (another “Q” passage) Jesus is named as such because he will “save his people from their sins” since Jesus means “Yahweh Saves.” Again, in the Jewish context, only God has the prerogative to save. The early church always baptized into the name of Jesus as an identification with the early gospel message (See argument for the early creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-7 in the next post) with Jesus’ death and resurrection. All this comes from sources that critics grant such as 1 Cor. 1:13-15; cf. Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27.1 Early pre-Pauline sermons in Acts confirm that Jesus Christ is “the name” under which people receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), can be saved and that Jesus is the cornerstone rejected by men but approved by God (see acts 4:11-12 as a direct reference to Psalms 118:22). This predates Paul but coincides with the Pauline message (Rom 10:13).

The use of Lord to refer to Jesus as deity is well known but usually dismissed by critical scholars; however, there is a key “Q” passage in which Jesus refers to himself as “Lord, Lord” (κύριε κύριε) saying,

““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”2

 

But, is the double repetition of the word “Lord” a rhetorical resource or does it have special significance? As it turns out, “this double form of address occurs repeatedly in the Septuagint in place of the Hebrew ‘Lord YHWH’ [יהוה אדני] (Deut. 3:24; 9:26; 1 Kings 8:53; Ps. 69:6; Ezek. 20:49; Amos 7:2,5) or ‘YHWH Lord’ [אדני יהוה] (Ps. 109:21; 140:7; 141:8), but never in reference to anyone but YHWH.”3 We already argued that Rom. 10:9 is quoting the name of the “Lord” Jesus as a direct reference to “YHWH” in Joel 2:32. The same reference to Joel happens in the early and pre-Pauline Acts sermon in 2:21:

 

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 4

Paul uses the term “kurios” (Lord) extensively as a reference to “Yahweh” in Old Testament texts.5 One prominent example already mentioned is Philippians 2:10. This passage affirms that in the name of Jesus “every knee should bend and every tongue confess,” and belongs prominently to Isaiah 45:23. The Septuagint uses similar language to leave no doubt that Paul is equating Jesus to God’s name:

“To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” [κάμψει πᾶν γόνυ καὶ ἐξομολογήσεται πᾶσα γλῶσσα].

Compare with Philippians 2:10:

“every knee should bend” [πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ] and “every tongue shall swear allegiance” [καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται].

Even without Greek knowledge, the reader may appreciate the same word usage in the text of the NT and the Septuagint.

The conclusion is simple: in the oldest and most historical passages from from the New Testament,  the first followers of Jesus equate his name with the name of YHWH unequivocally. They considered him to be divine.

In the next post we will see that Jesus is God because he shares the deeds of God.

To be Continued…

  1. Ibid., 1371. Kindle.
  2. This Q source comes from Matt. 7:21-22; Luke 6:46. See also Matt 25:11
  3. Bowman, 1738. Kindle.
  4. In fact this is the first recorded sermon of Peter..
  5. For en extensive review of all Pauline texts see Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Theological Study (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007).

The Deity of Jesus: A Defense. Part 3/6

Jesus Shares the Attributes of God

In this series of 6 blog posts, I show that, using only historical data that critical/skeptical scholars grant, it is possible to build a cumulative case demonstrating that Jesus not only was considered God by his followers and the early church, but that he claimed to be divine and acted consistently with such claim.

In the previous post, we argued that Jesus is God because he Received the Honors due to God.

Now we follow along the same line, arguing that Jesus is God because he Shares the Attributes of God:

PART 3. Jesus Shares the Attributes of God

God is sui generis as attested in numerous passages in the Old Testament; there is no one like Yahweh.1 Yet, in 2 Cor. 4:4 Paul states that the “Christ” is the “image” of God. The use of the term (eikôn) indicates that Paul is equating the Son with the Father. “Whereas God created and made human beings in his image (Gen. 1:26-27), Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, is the image of God.”2

We have also analyzed Philippians 2:5-11 at some extent. What we haven’t mentioned is that this passage implies that Jesus pre-existed in heaven as deity. Similarly, in Luke 12:51/Matt. 10:34—a “Q” passage—Jesus affirms his preexistence,

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”3

If Jesus has come to earth, then if follows that he existed beforehand elsewhere. Setting this in context with Jesus’ salvific mission, role as judge4 of humanity, and worthy of worship, we have to conclude he is claiming to have existed with the Father in heaven before his earthly life as Gal 4:4-6 affirms:

“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem…”5

Not only was Jesus “sent” but he has always existed.6 In another “Q” passage,7 Jesus says that he “often wanted to gather together” the people of Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” but they “were not willing.” This is a reference to the past epochs when the Jews killed the prophets sent forth by God. Jesus is basically saying “I sent prophets to warn you and protect you, but you rejected me.” Accordingly, the metaphor of a hen protecting her chicks comes from the Old Testament.8 This implies that Jesus is the same God who sent the prophets, but Paul affirms in 1 Cor. 8:6 that

“there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

This is an affirmation that the Father is the Creator of all things, and that Jesus Christ exists at that same level of Creator of all things, including humanity. Creation is always a divine work. Therefore here Jesus is considered divine.

In another “Q” source passage,9 Jesus shows omnipresence through the remote healing of a man’s servant. Jesus did not even have to see the ill person. It is also evident that the Apostles recognized Jesus’ ability to discern people’s hearts as recorded in the first prayer addressed to him in Acts, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart’ (Acts 1:24).10 Another “Q” passage affirms that Jesus knew counterfactuals about people from Sidon, Sodom, and Tyre.11 He would have to be omniscient to know what people would have done hundreds of years before his birth.12
So far we have reviewed the historical sources from which we get the passages we analyze. We saw that Jesus is God because he received the honors due to God alone and because he shares the attributes of God.

In the next post, we argue that Jesus is God because he shares the names of God.

To be continued…

 

  1. See Exod. 8:10; 9:14; 15:11; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chron. 17:20; Ps. 86:8; Isa. 40:18, 25; 44:7; 46:5, 9; Jer. 10:6-7; Mic. 7:18. Bowman, 703. Kindle.
  2. Ibid., 754.
  3. Ibid., 833. Emphasis in the original.
  4. See “L” passage Luke 19:10.
  5. See also Rom 8:3: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son…”
  6. Bowman, 926. Kindle.
  7. Matt. 23:37; 13:34.
  8. See Deut. 32:11; Ruth 2:12; Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4.
  9. See Matt. 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10.
  10. Bowman, 1236. Kindle.
  11. Matt 11:21-23; Luke 10:13-15.
  12. A Molinist would recognize this as an affirmation of Middle Knowledge. For a deeper analysis of this passage and Molinism in general see Christophe A. Du-Pond, “Predestination and Free Will: Is Molinism Biblical?” Personal Blog http://veritasfidei.org/en/predestination-and-free-will-is-molinism-biblical/, (accessed November 30th, 2015).