A Simple Argument Against Premillennialism


A Simple Argument Against Premillennialism

By Aaron Brake

There are three views within Christian eschatology regarding the millennium (or thousand-year reign of Christ) described in Revelation 20: premillennial, postmillennial, and amillennial. Very briefly, the premillennial view believes Christ returns before the thousand-year reign (hence “pre”), the postmillennial view believes Christ returns after the thousand-year reign (hence “post”), and the amillennial view denies a literal, earthly reign of Christ (hence “a”), believing the millennial reign to be cotemporaneous with the present church age and spiritual in nature while Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.1 The premillennial view is by far the most widely held view among evangelical Christians, especially in America.

According to the premillennial view, after Christ returns at the Second Coming He will establish His kingdom on earth and physically reign from Jerusalem for 1,000 years (the “millennial reign”), ushering in a time of great peace and prosperity.

One of the more peculiar and problematic teachings of the premillennial view is that sin and physical death will continue after the Second Coming of Christ. According to premillennialism, the Second Coming will not put an end to death or sin, rather both will continue as individuals in their natural earthly bodies inhabit and procreate on earth during the millennial reign. Pretribulational premillennialist Craig Blaising states,

“although the millennial kingdom that John envisioned will see some of the dead raised to reign with Christ, death itself will not be completely abolished until after the Millennium has passed (Rev. 20:12-21:4).”2  

This is a non-negotiable, something premillennialists must believe because they need to give an account for (1) the sin which leads to the final rebellion in Revelation 20:7-10 at the end of the millennium and (2) the physical death of numerous believers and unbelievers during the millennial reign. But as I will argue, the idea that physical death continues after the Second Coming is something the New Testament explicitly denies.3

If it can be shown from Scripture that physical death will end at the Second Coming, this is a decisive blow against the premillennial view. The argument can be placed in the following syllogism:

  1. If Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false.
  2. Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming.
  3. Therefore, premillennialism is false.4

Premise 1 should be uncontroversial and agreed upon by everyone, including premillennialists. Again, according to the premillennialist timeline, one must believe that sin and physical death will continue on earth after the Second Coming. The argument then hinges on premise 2. Does Scripture teach that physical death will end at the Second Coming? One such passage that clearly teaches this is 1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 we read the following:

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

According to the premillennial interpretation of this passage, the millennial reign of Christ on earth fits between “his coming” (v. 23b) and “the end” (v. 24a). The reasoning for this interpretation is as follows: just as there is a lengthy gap of time between the resurrection of Christ (v. 23a) and the resurrection of believers (v. 23b) lasting 2,000 years (so far), so there is also a lengthy gap between “his coming” (v. 23b) and “the end” (v. 24a). Within this final gap between “his coming” and “the end” is the millennial reign of Christ. Christ will reign during the millennium until all his enemies are destroyed, the last of which is death (vv. 25-26). Because the millennium is viewed by premillennialists as a literal, physical reign of Christ for 1,000 years on earth, sin and physical death will continue until the battle of Armageddon after which death is destroyed, the final judgment takes place, and the new heavens and earth are ushered in.

Sam Storms summarizes why this is important:

The point of dispute is the time of the “end.” The premillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the millennial age, 1,000 years after Christ has returned to earth. The amillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the present church age, signaled and brought to fruition by Christ’s second coming.

It seems clear that all one need do is demonstrate which of these two options is correct and the millennial debate would come to a close. This isn’t as difficult as one might think. Since both eschatological schools agree that Christ’s reign consummates with the destruction of death, and since the destruction of death signals the end, we need only ascertain the time of “death’s death!”5

In other words, either physical death is destroyed at the Second Coming, or it is destroyed 1,000 years later according to the premillennial timeline. If Scripture indicates when physical death will come to an end, then we will know which millennial view is correct (and which is not). If Scripture teaches that death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false. So, does Paul elaborate further and reveal when physical death will end? As we continue to read 1 Corinthians 15, in particular verses 50-57, we find that Paul does indeed tell us when death is forever destroyed: at the Second Coming of Christ! In 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Paul states,

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is revealing the mystery of the resurrection of believers. He told us earlier when this will take place when he said, “then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (v. 23) will be “made alive” (v. 22). At the Second Coming of Christ believers will be “made alive,” i.e., resurrected and glorified. Historic premillennialist Craig Blomberg agrees that Paul is discussing the resurrection of believers at the Second Coming. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 he states,

The secret that Paul is revealing here is that believers’ bodily resurrections will occur when Christ returns. Not all Christians will die first, since some will be alive when he comes back. But all will undergo whatever transformation is necessary to give them their glorified bodies. This change will take place instantaneously not gradually. The trumpet (v. 52a) was a stock metaphor in biblical literature to herald the end (cf. Joel 2:1; Zech. 9:14; Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; and the seven trumpets of Rev. 8:2-9:14).

When all this has happened, then the way will be paved for the events of verses 24-28 to unfold. The climax of this series of events for believers is the destruction of death itself, as Isaiah had predicted (v. 54b, quoting Isa. 25:8).6

Most importantly, Blomberg rightly points out that the climax of this series of events is the destruction of death itself! Paul is highlighting the fact that the end of death at the Second Coming of Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8. There Isaiah states that God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” This raises a problem for the premillennial view.

If premillennialism is true, how can it be fulfilled that God will “swallow up death forever” at the Second Coming of Christ when physical death will continue on earth for another 1,000 years?

Let’s summarize Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15 very quickly. The bodily resurrection of believers will take place when we are “made alive” at the Second Coming of Christ (vv. 22-23) when “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed” (v. 52b). When this rapture/resurrection takes place, “the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality” (v. 54). Paul is clearly talking about the resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ in these passages. But notice what Paul says next. When all this happens at the Second Coming, “THEN shall come to pass” the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 where it was prophesied that God will “swallow up death forever.” Sam Storms explains further:

The “end” (1 Cor. 15:24) is marked by the destruction of the “last enemy,” namely, “death” (1 Cor. 15:26). All millennial views agree on this. And when is “death” destroyed? When does “death” cease to prevail? When is “death” going to be “swallowed up in victory”? Paul’s answer couldn’t have been clearer or more explicit: Death is defeated, death dies, death is swallowed up in victory and is utterly and absolutely no more, as Isaiah 25:7-9 has prophesied, at the very moment that the last trumpet is sounded, at the very moment we are all changed, at the very moment when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality! And when, might I ask, is that? It is at the time of the second coming of Christ (and not some 1,000 years later as death continues to exert its horrid influence on the human race).7

There is one last important point regarding the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 which argues against the premillennial view. According to this verse, not only will God “swallow up death forever” but He will also “wipe away tears from all faces.” Again, Paul recognizes the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 at the Second Coming of Christ. But according to Revelation 21:1-4, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (21:4) at the time of the creation of the new heavens and new earth. This raises another problem for the premillennial view.

If premillennialism is true, how can it be fulfilled that God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” at the Second Coming of Christ when tears and death will continue on earth for another 1,000 years?

Let’s look at our argument one more time:

  1. If Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming, then premillennialism is false.
  2. Scripture teaches that physical death will end at the Second Coming.
  3. Therefore, premillennialism is false.

In summary, there simply is no space in Paul’s eschatology for an intervening millennial kingdom between the Second Coming of Christ and the consummation of all things. For Paul, the Second Coming IS the consummation of all things.

Addendum: What About the Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

As a final thought, any argument against premillennialism is also a de facto argument against the pre-tribulation rapture. The debate among Christians regarding the timing of the rapture is largely an intramural debate among premillennialists. Both the postmillennial and amillennial see the rapture and resurrection as taking place at the Second Coming, all of which Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4. Therefore, if premillennialism is false, the pre-tribulation rapture is also largely undermined.

  1. The amillennial position is also “post” millennial in the sense that the Second Coming of Christ takes place after (“post”) the present church age, i.e., the millennial reign. Amillennialists therefore do believe in a millennium despite the “a” prefix. Some prefer the term “realized millennium.”
  2. Craig Blaising, “Premillennialism” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 202.
  3. I am indebted to Sam Storms and his book Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Mentor, 2015) for this argument. See chapter 5 of his book for an expanded and more detailed form of this argument.
  4. This argument applies to both dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism since both believe the Second Coming precedes the millennial reign.
  5. Storms, Kingdom Come, 145 (emphasis his).
  6. Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 285.
  7. Storms, Kingdom Come, Loc 2429 (emphasis his).

Answering: “No historical facts about Jesus”


Answering: “No historical facts about Jesus”

By Chris Du-Pond

After a recent debate with my friend, apologist Santiago Alarcón, Argentinian Historian Walter Burriguini issued the following statement:

“Christian apologists misinform their followers when they teach that there are historical evidences about the resurrection of Jesus, due to the fact that there are no serious historians (not even a Christian one) that believe this…otherwise they would be using such evidence. And that is not happening”

Furthermore, during a subsequent social media conversation (with me), he affirmed that the Four Gospels are, historically, at the same level as the novels of Harry Potter. 

Finally, he assured:

“There are no direct eyewitness accounts of a flesh and blood person named Jesus Nazareth who lived in the first century. So we do not even know if there are “facts about Jesus” to study and that’s why no historian takes the issue seriously”.

When we cited Dr. Gary Habermas, he said:

“Gary Habermas is a theologian and an apologist…The minimal facts were plagiarized from the ‘microhistory’ from Carlo Ginzburg… Serious historians have criteria to validate a source. Apologists like Habermas do not respect these criteria and that is why they do not publish their speculations in specialized historical journals or present in historical conferences. He would be considered a buffoon [in such setting].”

 
Given that some of these statements were uttered directly against Dr. Habermas and his credentials, I did write to him to give him the opportunity to answer. The following data was kindly reviewed by Dr. Habermas for accuracy, however the post is of my own authorship so any fault with it (if any) is my own responsibility. I have tried, however to be factual, accurate, and truthful.

Now, let’s answer some of Mr. Burriguini assertions in order:

Claim:

“There are no direct eyewitness accounts of a flesh and blood person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century. So we do not even know if there are ‘facts about Jesus’ to study and that is why no historian takes the issue seriously”.

Answer:

If this is the case, are we to seriously believe that Alexander the Great—and many other historical figures from the ancient past—never lived since there are no flesh and blood testimonies? This claim shows that Mr. Burriguini is completely out of touch with the historical method and ancient historiography.

Claim:

“Christian apologists misinform their followers when they teach that there are historical evidences about the resurrection of Jesus, due to the fact that there are no serious historians (not even a Christian one) that thinks this…otherwise they would be using such evidence, and that is not happening”

Answer:

This is fairly simple to answer. Suffice to frame a historical argument in favor of the resurrection of Jesus using historical data endorsed by, at least, one “serious” historian. We already have that from Dr. Gary Habermas and I have a synthesis of the (minimal facts) argument here. Since Burriguini rejects biblical scholars as a whole, let’s just focus on a few historians with impeccable credentials.

 

1) J. K. Elliott. Elliott, an agnostic, has doctorates from Oxford and Leeds. He has published in Textual Criticism and Christian Apocrypha besides numerous historical articles in one of Britain’s most prestigious historical magazines: History Today. In Volume 29, Elliott admits that the disciples of Jesus had experiences that they interpreted as apparitions of the risen Jesus. This does not prove the resurrection. It just affirms the historical fact that the disciples believed in the resurrection sincerely. It would be confused from the part of the editors of History Today to let a non-historian write 10 articles in a secular historical magazine. Source: https://www.historytoday.com/author/jk-elliott

2) Dr. Michael Grant was a Cambridge-trained specialist in classical Greco-Roman history. His translation of Tacitus’s Annals stands as one of his best works to this day. He authored more than 70 historical works that span subjects such as Roman coinage, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the Gospels. In his historical review of the Gospels (Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels), he concludes the following about Jesus: 1) he died by crucifixion, 2) his disciples believed to have seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, 3) the disciples were transformed from cowards to ambassadors of the Christian faith, 4) the proclamation of the Christian faith happened very early after Jesus’ death, 5) James (brother of Jesus) and Paul (a persecutor of Christians) both converted to Christianity shortly after Jesus’ death. Additionally, Grant affirmed that the empty tomb of Jesus can be demonstrated via the historical method.

3) Geza Vermes was a Jewish historian and scholar from Oxford University, specializing in Jewish history and the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls. Vermes declared that “we know more about Jesus than almost any other first century Jew.” Vermes even admitted that the tomb of Jesus was found empty (Jesus the Jew) and offered refutations to naturalistic explanations of the resurrection. It is more than obvious that Vermes believed Jesus lived as a simple matter of history.

4) Paul Barnett is a respected classicist historian. He did his Ph.D. on the interaction between the New Testament and Jewish history of the first century. Barnett accepts the same five historical facts above mentioned about Jesus, just as Michael Grant. Furthermore, Paul Barnett grants: “Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicates that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: for example . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.” 1

5) Dr. Paul L. Maier is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University and a much-published author of both scholarly and popular works.  His novels include two historical documentaries—Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome. His nonfiction works include In the Fullness of Time, a book that correlates sacred with secular evidence from the ancient world impinging on Jesus and early Christianity; Josephus: The Essential Works, a new translation/commentary on writings of the first-century Jewish historian; and Eusebius: The Church History.  More than five million of Maier’s books are now in print in twenty languages, as well as over 250 scholarly articles and reviews in professional journals. Paul Maier also does accept the same five facts about Jesus as Barnett and Grant.

We could add many, and I mean, many more credentialed historians to this list. I have to add that most of these are non-Christian scholars. In the final analysis, it matters very little what the likes of Mr. Burriguini think of the credentials of these individuals. People reading this are smart and can go check the data and the credentials by themselves. This shows how disconnected Burriguini is from the realm of historical Jesus studies. Herein lies a list of scholars from Dr. Gary Habermas’ readily available published works—which constitutes just a small subset of his own research of about 3400 historical sources that affirm the same five core facts above mentioned.

These, alone, do not prove the resurrection, but constitute the building blocks for the argument of the minimal facts that posits the resurrection as the best explanation for such data since alternative naturalistic explanations fail miserably. It should be noted that these minimal facts are accepted by the vast majority—about 90%—of scholars (including atheists, agnostics, Jews and other). Similarly, most of these same scholars also reject naturalistic explanations of the resurrection.

With the data above in place, Mr. Burriguini’s claims turn out to be simply false and/or misinformed. Dismissing credentialed scholars just because their focus touches on religious history commits the genetic fallacy and hints to great prejudice against historical documents of Christian origin.

Now, about his claim that the Four Gospels are, historically, at the same level as the novels of Harry Potter. Not sure where to begin here. The five historians surveyed above—and hundreds more—certainly believe the gospels contain historical data about the life and death of Jesus and his followers. Serious historical journals frequently publish about Jesus.

Let me quote just a few non-Christian scholars about this:

“Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”  Gerd Lüdemann 

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”  J.D. Crossan

“The passion of Jesus is part of history.”  Geza Vermes

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is “historically certain.” Pinchas Lapide

“The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death: he was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate, on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely, crucifixion.”  Paula Fredriksen

 “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Ponitus Pilate.” Bart Ehrman

It is interesting that Ehrman has listed 15 independent ancient historical sources within 100 years of the life of Jesus. In contrast, Alexander the Great has ZERO ancient sources within 100 years of his life. Ehrman is not a friend of Christianity and considers himself an atheist. He is simply being honest with the historical data.

Now, let me say something about Dr. Gary Habermas, not only since I consider him a friend but as my former professor at Biola.

Mr. Burriguini claimed that

“Gary Habermas is a theologian and an apologist…The minimal facts were plagiarized from the ‘microhistory’ from Carlo Ginzburg… Serious historians have criteria to validate a source. Apologists like Habermas do not respect these criteria and that is why they do not publish their speculations in specialized historical journals or present in historical conferences. He would be considered a buffoon [in such setting].”

What Mr. Burriguini seems to ignore, is that history of religion, historical Jesus questions, and even miracles are discussed in serious secular historical journals. As an example, the leading, yes, leading secular journal! on the most theoretical area of history, History & Theory, ran an entire issue on the miracles question—an entire issue plus a few odd articles in other issues thereabouts. You can see examples of these articles here, here, here and here. This is a fully secular, very reputable journal that discussed miracles for more than one whole issue.

Regarding the accusation that Dr. Habermas plagiarized the “minimal facts” from Carlo Ginzburg:

To asset that this resurrection argument was plagiarized from the “microhistory” from Carlo Ginzburg indicates the superficial level of the critique, since Ginzburg wrote nothing similar on this topic, neither does microhistory specialize in religious topics, nor is it plagiarism when there is nothing there from which to plagiarize in the first place!

Finally, about the insinuation that Dr. Habermas is not a true historian, let me say this:

To obtain his Ph.D. Habermas had to satisfy the requirements of the History Department at Michigan State University. Furthermore, one of the historians on staff at MSU served on his dissertation committee.

Now, this is to put it mildly. Dr. Habermas is recognized worldwide as a scholar, historian, philosopher and a foremost expert on the historical Jesus. His numerous books and publications are a testament to his erudition and credentials. Mr. Burriguini’s statements are nothing more than that: empty assertions and personal attacks geared to avoid addressing the elephant in the room: real evidence.

I wonder why we have hundreds of scholars interested in the life of Jesus as a historical matter and zero scholars interested in Harry Potter as a historical figure. If Jesus and Harry Potter are the same level, as Mr. Burriguini claims, I challenge Mr. Burriguini to explain why, historically, scholars are interested in one but not the other. We will patiently wait for the answer.

  1. Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History (Grand Rapids, Mich.:Eerdmans, 1997), 104–5.

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;