Apocrypha: Inspired Scripture?

Is the Apocrypha Scripture?

by Aaron Brake

 

Roman Catholics and Protestants agree on many central doctrines of the Christian faith, including the Trinity, deity of Christ, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. But one important issue which separates Roman Catholics and Protestants is the extent of canonized Scripture. While both groups have the same 27 books in the New Testament, Roman Catholics have an additional seven books in their Old Testament (along with four additions to other OT books). These extra books and writings are referred to as the “Apocrypha” or “deuterocanonical” (second canon) books. They are as follows:

  • The Wisdom of Solomon (Book of Wisdom)
  • Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah)
  • Additions to Esther (10:4-16:24)
  • Prayer of Azariah (Daniel 3:24-90)
  • Susanna (Daniel 13)
  • Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14)

The status of the Apocrypha became a watershed issue between Roman Catholics and Protestants during the Counter-Reformation. It was at this time that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) officially and infallibly canonized these books and pronounced an anathema (under God’s condemnation) on anyone who rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture, which would include all Protestants.[1] After listing the books which the RCC considers canonical, including the Apocrypha, the Council of Trent declared,

If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical, entire with all their parts…and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid traditions let him be anathema.[2]

With this in mind, the extent of canonized Scripture and whether or not the Apocrypha is God-breathed is an important issue dividing Roman Catholics and Protestants. If Rome is correct in her assessment of the Apocrypha, Protestants are in serious error and under God’s condemnation. On the other hand, if Rome is wrong about the Apocrypha, the church’s claim of infallibility is shown to be false and her authority is critically undermined. William Webster explains:

The subject [of the Old Testament canon] is one of the highest significance and relevance because it is directly related to the issue of authority. The Roman Catholic Church claims ultimate authority for herself because she believes she is responsible for establishing the limits of the canon at the North African Councils of Hippo and Carthage in the late fourth century…It is also significant to note that Trent attached an anathema on all who knowingly reject its decree on the Old Testament canon. In so doing, Trent made the issue of the canon a matter of saving faith.[3]

With the importance of this debate in mind, the following seven reasons build a persuasive case for the acceptance of the Protestant Old Testament as authoritative and the rejection of the Apocrypha as Scripture.


Reason #1: The Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture or considered it on par with other Old Testament canonical books.

This first point cannot be overstated. The Jews themselves did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture. This is very significant, especially considering that Paul tells us the Jews were “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). It was through the Jews that God produced the Old Testament canon and to the Jews that God entrusted it. So the question is, “Did the Jews know their own Scripture?” If so, the Apocrypha should not be considered part of it. On the other hand, if the Apocrypha is canonical, how is it that the Jews did not know that which was entrusted to them, especially in light of Paul’s statement?

All of this to say, the 39 books in the Protestant Old Testament correspond to the same 22 (or 24, depending on how they are arranged)[4] books in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, the Protestant Old Testament canon contains the same books which the Jews accepted as Scripture. This is testified to by several sources. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote,

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which are justly believed to be divine; and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his law, and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death…the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life.[5]

These twenty-two books accepted by the Jews as canonical correspond exactly to the Protestant Old Testament canon, which excludes the Apocrypha. Along with Josephus, the Jewish teacher Philo also did not recognize the Apocrypha as Scripture. Regarding Philo, F.F. Bruce states,

Philo of Alexandria (c 20 BC-AD 50) evidently knew the scriptures in the Greek version only. He was an illustrious representative of Alexandrian Judaism, and if Alexandrian Judaism did indeed recognize a more comprehensive canon than Palestinian Judaism, one might have expected to find some trace of this in Philo’s voluminous writings. But in fact, while Philo has not given us a formal statement on the limits of the canon such as we have in Josephus, the books which he acknowledged as holy scripture were quite certainly books included in the traditional Hebrew Bible…He shows no sign of accepting the authority of any of the books which we know as the Apocrypha.[6]

The rejection of the Apocrypha by Josephus and Philo is not only significant because they both were Jews who knew their own canon but also because they were both familiar with the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament). Philo himself was from Alexandria where the Septuagint originated. Roman Catholic apologists often claim that the Jewish Septuagint contained the Apocrypha, and since the Septuagint was the Bible used by Jesus and the apostles, the Apocrypha should therefore be considered Scripture. But William Webster explains why this reasoning is false:

Josephus not only gave the precise number of the canonical books but stated that the Jewish nation recognized these twenty-two alone as canonical. What is important about his testimony is that he used the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Thus, even though he used the Greek version, he cited the limited canon of the Hebrews. And as mentioned earlier, Philo also used the Septuagint and did not include the Apocrypha as authoritative canonical Scripture. These cases demonstrate that it does not follow that those who used the Septuagint accepted an expanded canon, in particular, Jesus and the apostles.[7]

The listing of the Hebrew Bible at only 22 or 24 books not only tells us that the Jews knew which books belonged in the canon but also that it necessarily excluded the Apocrypha. One reason the Jews did not accept the Apocrypha is because they recognized that an exact succession of their own prophetic line ended around the fourth century B.C. The Apocrypha was written after this point, therefore making it non-canonical. Josephus comments on this as well:

From Artaxerxes until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased.[8]

Not only does Josephus give us the exact number of books and their divisions, but here he gives us a timeline stating that those books written after the time of Artaxerxes[9] did not carry the same authority as the canonical books because the exact succession of prophets had ceased. In other words, the apocryphal books were not inspired and therefore not canonical.

Roger Beckwith in his book The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church cites numerous rabbinical statements which testify to the cessation of prophecy in Israel in an era before the Apocrypha was written:[10]

With the death of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi the latter prophets, the Holy Spirit ceased out of Israel (Tos. Sotah 13.2).


Until then [the coming of Alexander the Great and the end of the empire of the Persians] the prophets prophesied through the Holy Spirit. From then on, “incline thine ear and hear the words of the wise (Seder Olam Rabbah 30).


Since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children (Bab. Baba Bathra 12b).

The Jewish rejection of the Apocrypha as Scripture can also be seen at a meeting of Jewish scholars in Jamnia (90 AD). Here there was no discussion whatsoever as to the apocryphal books or their acceptance into the canon. Furthermore, the Jewish Talmud, comprised of rabbinical writings from between 200 AD to 500 AD, also excluded the Apocrypha from canonical Scripture. Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia affirms the consistency between the Protestant Old Testament and Hebrew Bible:

For the Old Testament Protestants follow the Jewish canon; they have only the books that are in the Hebrew Bible. Catholics have, in addition, seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.[11]

In short, if we had no other reason to reject the Apocrypha as canonical, the fact that the Jews themselves never accepted it into their Hebrew Bible would be sufficient. Scripture is God-breathed and therefore it is God who determines which books are canonical by inspiring certain books and not others. The people of God (in this case the Jews) were entrusted with these divine writings long before the Roman Catholic Church was in existence. Therefore, it is not the prerogative of Rome to determine the canonical boundaries of a group of writings which she neither produced nor which she was entrusted with.


Reason #2: A compelling argument can be made that neither Jesus, nor the apostles, nor the New Testament writers accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture.

First, continuing from the first point above, since the Jews never accepted the Apocrypha as Scripture, and since Jesus, the apostles, and most authors of the New Testament were themselves Jewish, it follows that neither did they accept the Apocrypha as Scripture. The argument would look like this:

  1. The Jews did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture.
  2. Jesus, the apostles, and most authors of the New Testament were Jewish.
  3. Therefore, Jesus, the apostles, and most authors of the New Testament did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Jesus and the authors of the New Testament frequently refer to “the Scriptures,” for example, when Jesus is teaching His apostles or debating the Jewish religious leaders of His day.[12] But any mention of “the Scriptures” must have an objective referent identifiable by everyone involved in the discussion. In other words, referring to “the Scriptures” could not be made unless: (1) there was a specific set of books in mind, (2) those in dialogue agreed on this set of books (leading us to reasonably conclude that), (3) Jesus, the apostles, and even the Jewish religious leaders all accepted the canon authoritatively established by the Jews. F.F. Bruce states it this way:

Our Lord and his apostles might differ from the religious leaders of Israel about the meaning of the scriptures; there is no suggestion that they differed about the limits of the scriptures. ‘The scriptures’ on whose meaning they differed were not an amorphous collection: when they spoke of ‘the scriptures’ they knew which writings they had in mind and could distinguish them from other writings which were not included in ‘the scriptures’.[13]

Furthermore, Jesus frequently refers to “the Law and the Prophets,” “the Law,” and even “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.”[14] But again, it is hard to imagine Jesus making these references unless there was already a closed Jewish canon with certain identifiable books contained within it. In other words, here in the words of Jesus we see an argument for a closed Hebrew canon. Beckwith sums up this important point:

It is difficult to conceive of the canon being organized according to a rational principle, or of its books being arranged in a definite order, unless the identity of those books was already settled and the canon closed, still more is it difficult to conceive of those books being counted, and the number being generally accepted and well known, if the canon remained open and the identify of its books uncertain…And such agreement, as we have now seen, had probably been reached by the second century BC…The fact that the Old Testament canon to which the New Testament in various ways refers did have a settled number of books by the New Testament times is a further indication that Jesus and his earliest followers were acquainted with a closed canon, and commended a closed canon to the Christian Church.[15]

A second important consideration is this: neither Jesus nor the New Testament writers ever quote the Apocrypha as Scripture. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament quote the Old Testament quite frequently. When they do, they commonly begin with “the Scriptures say,” “as it is written,” or “Thus says the Lord.” But never once is any apocryphal book directly quoted in this way. Although the New Testament contains hundreds of quotes and references to almost every canonical book in the Old Testament, never once is the Apocrypha quoted. Never once is any apocryphal book ascribed canonical status or Scriptural authority.

Finally, Jesus makes an explicit statement which seems to limit the extent of the Old Testament to the traditional Hebrew canon, thus excluding the Apocrypha as Scripture. This argument is developed at length by Roger Beckwith and is based on two parallel passages found in Matthew 23:34-36 and Luke 11:49-51.[16] The passage from Luke reads,

For this reason also the wisdom of God said, “I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”

The significance of this passage in relation to the canon is understood when we take into account two things. First, in the traditional ordering of the Hebrew Bible, Jews placed the book of 2 Chronicles last. Second, most commentators agree that the Zechariah spoken of in the above passage is the Zechariah killed in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, making him the last recorded martyr in the Hebrew canon. Putting this all together, when Jesus is condemning the Pharisees in the Matthew 23 and Luke 11 passages, He is laying the guilt of all the martyred prophets from the very first (Abel) in the book of Genesis to the very last (Zechariah) in the book of 2 Chronicles, and in so doing is implicitly giving us the extent of canonized Scripture: from Genesis to 2 Chronicles, thus excluding the Apocrypha. Beckwith articulates this very well:

Abel’s martyrdom is the first, and comes near the beginning of the first book of the canon; Zechariah’s martyrdom is the last, and comes near the end of the last book. All the martyrdoms from Abel to Zechariah are therefore equivalent to all the martyrdoms from one end of the Jewish Bible to the other. If it is asked why Jesus does not extend his catalogue of martyrdoms beyond the bounds of the canon, Luke gives a clear answer. Jesus is not speaking of all righteous blood without distinction, but of all the righteous blood of prophets; and prophecy, as the Jews knew well, had virtually ended with the composition of the latest book of Holy Scripture…He is thus confirming that the traditional order of books, which began with Genesis and ended with Chronicles, goes back in all essentials to the first century. Nor is he the inventor of this order. His allusive way of indicating the whole canon would be intelligible only if the order were already widely received.[17]

F.F. Bruce also picks up on this argument and summarizes it this way:

There is evidence that Chronicles was the last book in the Hebrew Bible as Jesus knew it. When he said that the generation he addressed would be answerable for “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world”, he added, “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary” (Luke 11:50f.). Abel is the first martyr in the Bible (Gen. 4:8); Zechariah is most probably the son of Jehoiada, who was stoned to death “in the court of Yahweh’s house” because, speaking by the Spirit of God, he rebuked the king and people of Judah for transgressing the divine commandments (2 Chron. 24:20-22). Zechariah (c 800 BC) was not chronologically the last faithful prophet to die as a martyr…But Zechariah is canonically the last faithful prophet to die as a martyr, because his death is recorded in Chronicles, the last book in the Hebrew Bible.[18]

Why is it important if Jesus, the apostles, and the writers of the New Testament did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture? The answer should be obvious:

To Christians, however, the teaching of Jesus, his apostles and the other New Testament writers has also a theological significance; for if they teach us what their Old Testament canon was, do they not also teach us what, for Christians, the Old Testament canon ought to be?[19]


Reason #3: Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, also rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture.

A number of church fathers and theologians throughout the centuries separated the Apocrypha from canonical Scripture. Many recognized the Hebrew canon as consisting of only twenty-two books, including Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and Rufinus.[20] But Jerome is of special significance due to the fact that he translated the Latin Vulgate which became the standard Bible translation used by the Western Church for centuries. Jerome was a biblical scholar of first rank, knowing both Hebrew and Greek, and he clearly teaches that the Apocrypha should be excluded from the canon. Regarding the number of books in the Hebrew canon, he stated,

And thus altogether there come to be 22 books of the old Law, that is, five of Moses, eight of the Prophets, and nine of the Hagiographa…so that we may know that whatever is not included in these is to be placed among the apocrypha[21]

In addition, Jerome not only gives us the traditional three-fold division of the Hebrew Bible but also the books which compromised each:

  • The Law of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  • The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets.
  • The Hagiographa: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Daniel, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther.[22]

Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate, rejected the Roman Catholic Apocrypha as Scripture.

Notice here that the Apocrypha is excluded. Jerome also explicitly rejected the apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel (Bel and the Dragon, Susanna):

The stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are non contained in the Hebrew…For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew…After all, both Origen, Eusebius, and Appolinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that, as I have said, these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture.[23]

Jerome even states that the Church of his day did not grant canonical status to the Apocrypha and that these books should not be used in determining doctrine:

As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabes, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it also read these two Volumes (Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus) for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church (emphasis mine).[24]

This statement of Jerome is important for at least two reasons. First, notice Jerome distinguishes between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The canonical books are those in the Hebrew Bible and may be used in establishing doctrine, while the ecclesiastical books (which include the Apocrypha) are not canonical but rather are preserved for their usefulness in edification, not in deciding doctrinal issues and therefore inferior in status.

Second, Jerome states that this position, a rejection of the Apocrypha as canonical, was the view of the Church during his time. This is contrary to the claims of many Roman Catholic apologists. In other words, not only was there no “unanimous consent” in favor of accepting the Apocrypha as inspired Scripture, but quite the opposite, the “unanimous consent” of the Church seems to be in favor of its rejection! Jerome, one of the greatest scholars in Church history, who translated the Bible used by the Western Church for centuries, clearly recognized the inferior status of the Apocrypha, and it is unfortunate the Roman Catholic Church eventually abandoned this position at the Council of Trent in 1546 (more on this below).


Reason #4: The overall practice of the Western Church, up until the time of the Reformation, was to follow the judgment of Jerome in rejecting the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Roman Catholic apologists will often argue that the Apocrypha was accepted and established as canonical for the Church universal at the councils of Hippo and Carthage, in 393 and 397 respectively, at that it was actually Protestants who removed these books from the canon during the Reformation. For example, Roman Catholic apologist Karl Keating states,

The fact is that the Council of Trent did not add to the Bible what Protestants call the apocryphal books. Instead, the Reformers dropped from the Bible books that had been in common use for centuries…After all, it was the Catholic Church, in the fourth century, that officially decided which books composed the canon of the Bible and which did not. The Council of Trent came on the scene about twelve centuries later and merely restated the ancient position.[25]

However, the historical facts simply do not support this. Besides the reasons already mentioned above, the vast majority of theologians, bishops and cardinals during the Middle-Ages and until the time of the Reformation followed Jerome in his assessment of the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was viewed as useful in edification and valued for its history but was not deemed to be divinely inspired Scripture as was the Old Testament. William Webster gives three major historical examples which support this: (1) the express statements of the Glossa ordinaria—the official Biblical commentary used during the Middle Ages, (2) the teaching of major theologians who cited Jerome as the authority for determining the authoritative canon of the Old Testament, and (3) Bible translations and commentaries produced just prior to the Reformation.[26]

 The Glossa Ordinaria

 Webster gives a brief description and explanation of the importance of the Glossa ordinaria:

The Ordinary Gloss, known as the Glossa ordinaria, is an important witness to the view of the Western Church on the status of the Apocrypha because it was the standard authoritative biblical commentary for the whole Western Church. It carried immense authority and was used in all the schools for the training of theologians.[27]

The importance of the Glossa ordinaria relative to the issue of the Apocrypha is seen from the statements in the Preface to the overall work. It repeats the judgment of Jerome that the Church permits the reading of the Apocryphal books only for devotion and instruction in manners, but that they have no authority for concluding controversies in matters of faith. It states that there are twenty-two books of the Old Testament, citing the testimonies of Origen, Jerome and Rufinus as support. When commenting on the Apocryphal books, it prefixes an introduction to them saying:

‘Here begins the book of Tobit which is not in the canon; here begins the book of Judith which is not in the canon’

and so forth for Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Maccabees etc. These prologues to the Old Testament and Apocryphal books repeated the words of Jerome.[28]

 Here is an excerpt from the Prologue to the Glossa ordinaria written in 1498 AD, explaining the distinction between canonical and non-canonical (or Apocryphal) books:

Many people, who do not give much attention to the holy scriptures, think that all the books contained in the Bible should be honored and adored with equal veneration, not knowing how to distinguish among the canonical and non-canonical books, the latter of which the Jews number among the apocrypha. Therefore they often appear ridiculous before the learned; and they are disturbed and scandalized when they hear that someone does not honor something read in the Bible with equal veneration as all the rest. Here, then, we distinguish and number distinctly first the canonical books and then the non-canonical, among which we further distinguish between the certain and the doubtful.

The canonical books have been brought about through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. It is not known, however, at which time or by which authors the non-canonical or apocryphal books were produced. Since, nevertheless, they are very good and useful, and nothing is found in them which contradicts the canonical books, the church reads them and permits them to be read by the faithful for devotion and edification. Their authority, however, is not considered adequate for proving those things which come into doubt or contention, or for confirming the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas, as blessed Jerome states in his prologue to Judith and to the books of Solomon. But the canonical books are of such authority that whatever is contained therein is held to be true firmly and indisputably, and likewise that which is clearly demonstrated from them.[29]

After distinguishing between the canonical and apocryphal books, the Prologue of the Ordinary Gloss then goes on to catalogue

…the precise books which make up the Old Testament canon, and those of the non-canonical Apocrypha, all in accordance with the teaching of Jerome. Again, the significance of this is that the Glossa ordinaria was the official Biblical commentary used during the Middle Ages in all the theological centers for the training of theologians. Therefore, it represents the overall view of the Church as a whole, demonstrating the emptiness of the claims of Roman apologists that the decrees of Hippo and Carthage officially settled the canon for the universal Church.[30]

The Teaching of Theologians

The teachings of major theologians up until the time of the Reformation show that they follow the example of Jerome and the Ordinary Gloss in rejecting the Apocrypha as Scripture. They cite the Hebrew canon and Jerome as authorities on this matter. Space does not permit full length citations of all the theologians included in this category. William Webster has provided extensive documentation in his work.[31] However, three major theologians we will look at briefly are Cardinal Cajetan, Gregory the Great, and Hugh of St. Victor.

First, Cardinal Cajetan is an important figure because he was Martin Luther’s theological opponent during the Protestant Reformation. He wrote a commentary on every canonical book of the Old Testament and dedicated it to the pope. Yet Cajetan followed the example of Jerome, even citing him as an authority on the canon. Cajetan maintains the same distinction as Jerome between canonical books (useful in determining doctrine) and ecclesiastical books (useful in edification). Notice what he says:

Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorized in the canon of the bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.[32]

Here Cajetan clearly relegates the Apocrypha outside the canon. But what about those councils such as Carthage, presided over by Augustine, which canonized the Apocrypha? Cajetan gives us several important interpretive keys. First, these councils are to be subject to the correction of Jerome. Second, the Apocrypha may be called “canonical” only in the ecclesiastical sense, i.e., they are useful for edification, and are only included in the Bible for that purpose. Third, Cajetan confirms that the council of Carthage was only a local council.

A second important figure was Gregory the Great. Gregory was a doctor in the Church and was bishop of Rome from 590-604 AD. Gregory rejected the book of 1 Maccabees as canonical in his commentary on the book of Job:

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forward testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed (1 Macc. 6:46).[33]

Webster explains the significance of this statement by Gregory the Great:

This is significant, coming as it does from a bishop of Rome, who denied canonical status to 1 Maccabees long after the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. But he taught that the book was useful for the purpose of edification, the same sentiment expressed by Jerome. This is in direct contradiction to what the earlier Roman Church decreed under Innocent I, who confirmed the books sanctioned as canonical by Augustine and the Councils of Hippo and Carthage…Clearly, when the Church received the Apocryphal books as canonical it defined the term in the sense expressed by Cardinal Cajetan above. The term had both a broad and narrow meaning. Broadly, it included all the books that were acceptable for reading in Churches, which included the Apocrypha. But, in its narrower meaning, only the books of the Hebrew Canon were sanctioned as truly canonical for the purposes of establishing doctrine…Thus, we have the official and authoritative perspective of a bishop of Rome in the late sixth and early seventh centuries regarding the canonical status of the Apocrypha.[34]

Third, Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141) also followed Jerome in listing the number of Old Testament canonical books at twenty-two, thus rejecting the Apocrypha. Concerning Hugh of St. Victor, F.F. Bruce states,

Hugh of St. Victor, who was prior of the abbey and director of its school from 1133 until his death in 1141, enumerates the books of the Hebrew Bible in a chapter ‘On the number of books in holy writ’ and goes on to say: ‘There are also in the Old Testament certain other books which are indeed read [in church] but are not inscribed in the body of the text or in the canon of authority: such are the books of Tobit, Judith and the Maccabees, the so-called Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus.’ Here, of course, the influence of Jerome can be discerned: for mediaeval students of the Bible in the Latin church there was no master to be compared with him.[35]

If it is true, as Roman Catholic apologists claim, that the issue of the canon had been settled long ago at the councils of Hippo and Carthage, how is it that so many theologians, bishops, and cardinals rejected the canonicity of the Apocrypha up until the time of the Reformation? Were they unaware of Rome’s official position on the matter? Or were they simply exercising their intellectual freedom in following the historic position of the Church in a matter Rome had not officially and infallibly addressed yet?

Bible Translations

A final piece of evidence put forward by Webster is a Bible translation known as the Biblia Complutensia. The translators of this work followed Jerome, the Glossa ordinaria, as well as the teaching of major theologians in rejecting the Apocrypha as Scripture:

In the early sixteenth century, just prior to the Reformation, Cardinal Ximenes, the Archbishop of Toledo, in collaboration with the leading theologians of his day, produced an edition of the Bible called the Biblia Complutensia. There is an admonition in the Preface regarding the Apocrypha, that the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the Maccabees, the additions to Esther and Daniel, are not canonical Scripture and were therefore not used by the Church for confirming the authority of any fundamental points of doctrine, though the Church allowed them to be read for purposes of edification…This Bible, as well as its Preface, was published by the authority and consent of Pope Leo X, to whom the whole work was dedicated.[36]

Here we have, in the sixteenth century, a Bible being produced by the sanction of Pope Leo X which clearly separated the Apocrypha from the rest of the Old Testament canon. Once again, the claim that Rome determined the canon for the Church universal centuries prior simply does not fit with the historical facts. Bruce Metzger provides additional historical information regarding Bible translations produced during the sixteenth century in the Western Church:

Subsequent to Jerome’s time and down to the period of the reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon. Such a judgment, for example, was reiterated on the very eve of the Reformation by Cardinal Ximenes in the preface of the magnificent Complutensian Polygot edition of the Bible which he edited (1514-17). Moreover, the earliest Latin version of the Bible in modern times, made from the original languages by the scholarly Dominican, Sanctes Pagnini, and published at Lyons in 1528, with commendatory letters from Pope Adrian VI and Pope Clement VII, sharply separates the text of the canonical books from the text of the Apocryphal books. Still another Latin Bible, this one an addition of Jerome’s Vulgate published at Nuermberg by Johannes Petreius in 1527, presents the order of the books as in the Vulgate but specifies at the beginning of each Apocryphal book that it is not canonical…Even Cardinal Cajetan, Luther’s opponent at Augsburg in 1518, gave an unhesitating approval to the Hebrew canon in his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, which he dedicated in 1532 to Pope Clement VII. He expressly called attention to Jerome’s separation of the canonical from the uncanonical books, and maintained that the latter must not be relied upon to establish points of faith, but used only for the edification of the faithful.[37]

Notice that the Bible translations and commentaries above were produced just prior to the Council of Trent in 1546, and they each rejected the Apocrypha as canonical Scripture. Taking into account the historical evidence, William Webster concludes,

The weight of historical evidence supports the exclusion of the Apocrypha from the category of canonical Scripture. Thus, we must conclude that the decrees of the Council of Trent, relative to the true canon of Scripture, were made with brazen disregard for Jewish and patristic historical evidence, as well for the overall historical consensus of the Church prior to that Council.[38]

When was the Apocrypha officially and infallibly canonized by the Roman Catholic Church? This question leads to the next reason the Apocrypha should be rejected as Scripture.


 Reason #5: The Roman Catholic Church did not officially and infallibly canonize the Apocrypha until 1546 at the Council of Trent.

As stated above, Roman Catholic apologists will often argue that the Apocrypha was accepted and established as canonical for the Church universal at the councils of Hippo and Carthage in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. In addition to all of the evidence presented above that demonstrates this is not the case, and was not the majority view of the Western Church, there are further problems with this claim.

First, the councils of Hippo and Carthage were not ecumenical but rather local synods, as even admitted by Roman Catholic scholars such as Cardinal Cajetan above. Therefore they did not have the authority to speak for the Church as a whole and could not establish the canon officially and infallibly.

Second, the North African Councils were heavily influenced by Augustine who unfortunately held to the erroneous view that the Septuagint was a divinely inspired translation. This becomes problematic because these councils, following the Septuagint translation, canonized the book of 1 Esdras[39] from the Septuagint (which later became 3 Esdras in the Vulgate) which the Council of Trent later determined to be non-canonical. In other words, the Councils of Hippo and Carthage canonized an “inspired” book which the Council of Trent later rejected.[40] What this means is, contrary to the claim of Roman Catholic apologists, Hippo and Carthage could not have authoritatively established the canon for the Church.

Finally, even Roman Catholic sources admit that the Apocrypha was not officially and infallibly canonized until the Council of Trent in 1546. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that the canon was not officially settled for the Western Church as a whole until the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century:

St. Jerome distinguished between canonical books and ecclesiastical books. The latter he judged were circulated by the Church as good spiritual reading but were not recognized as authoritative Scripture. The situation remained unclear in the ensuing centuries…for example, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great, Walafrid, Nicolas of Lyra and Tostado continued to doubt the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books…According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church at the Council of Trent…The Council of Trent definitively settled the matter of the Old Testament Canon. That this had not been done previously is apparent from the uncertainty that persisted up to the time of Trent.[41]

Roman Catholic scholar Yves Congar agrees:

…an official, definitive list of inspired writings did not exist in the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent…[42]

H.J. Schroeder, the English translator of the Council of Trent, wrote:

The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures.[43]

Contrary then to what Roman Catholic apologist Karl Keating stated above, it was not Protestants who removed the Apocrypha from Scripture but rather the Roman Catholic Church which erroneously elevated this group of writings to the level of sacred Scripture, disregarding the historical evidence and historic position of the Church.


 Reason #6: The Apocrypha cannot pass the test of propheticity and therefore should not be considered Scripture.

At least one of the books included in the Roman Catholic canon disqualifies itself from being prophetic in origin. In 1 Maccabees chapter 4, after the temple was cleansed and the defiled altar torn down, we are told that the stones of the altar were stored “until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them” (v. 46). 1 Maccabees 9:27 explicitly states that at the time of the books writing, prophets of God had already ceased to appear:

So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.

This is seen again in 14:41 where the Jews decide that Simon should be their leader and high priest “until a trustworthy prophet should arise.” The author of 1 Maccabees recognized that Israel’s prophets and the spirit of prophecy were gone and therefore 1 Maccabees itself could not be divinely inspired.

Geisler and MacKenzie summarize the failure of the Apocrypha as a whole to pass the test of propheticity:

First, no apocryphal books claim to be written by a prophet. Indeed, as already noted, one apocryphal book even disclaims being prophetic (1 Macc. 9:27). Second, there is no divine confirmation of any of the writers of the apocryphal books, as there is for prophets who wrote canonical books (e.g., Exod. 4:1-2). Third, there is no predictive prophecy in the Apocrypha, such as we have in the canonical books (e.g., Isa. 53; Dan. 9; Mic. 5:2) and which is a clear indication of their propheticity. Fourth, there is no new messianic truth in the Apocrypha. Thus, it adds nothing to the messianic truths of the Old Testament. Fifth, even the Jewish community, whose books they were, acknowledged that the prophetic gifts had ceased in Israel before the Apocrypha was written (see quotes above). Sixth, the apocryphal books were never listed in the Jewish Bible along with the “Prophets,” or any other section for that matter. Seventh, never once is any apocryphal book cited authoritatively by a prophetic book written after it.[44]


Reason #7: The Apocrypha contains doctrinal and historical errors.

The Apocrypha has been used by Roman Catholics to support certain doctrinal errors, including atonement, purgatory, and prayers for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:45:

“Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin”) and salvation by works (Tobit 12:9: “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin”).

This should at least be seen as suspect, especially considering the polemical nature of the Council of Trent and the canonization of the Apocrypha in reaction to the Protestant Reformation.

Furthermore, books such as Judith contain so many historical errors that many scholars conclude it must be a work of historical fiction rather than actual history. If indeed it was intended to be a work of historical fiction, I suppose it cannot be faulted for containing so many historical errors. Bruce Metzger says the following concerning Judith:

One of the first questions that naturally arises regarding this book is whether it is historical. The consensus, at least among Protestant and Jewish scholars, is that the story is, sheer fiction…the book teems with chronological, historical, and geographical improbabilities and downright errors. For example, Holofernes moves an immense army about three hundred miles in three days (2:21). The opening words of the book, when taken with 2:1ff. and 4:2f., involve the most astonishing historical nonsense, for the author places Nebuchadnezzar’s reign over the Assyrians (in reality he was king of Babylon) at Nineveh (which fell seven years before his accession!) at a time when the Jews had only recently returned from the captivity (actually at this time they were suffering further deportations)! Nebuchadnezzar did not make war on Media (1:7), nor capture Ecbatana (1:14)…The rebuilding of the Temple (4:13) is dated, by a glaring anachronism, about a century too early. Moreover, the Jewish state is represented as being under the government of a high priest and a kind of Sanhedrin (6:6-14; 15:8), which is compatible only with a post-exilic date several hundred years after the book’s presumed historical setting.[45]

Conclusion

The above seven reasons build a compelling case that the Apocrypha should not be regarded as Scripture. All of this becomes very problematic for the Roman Catholic Church which has made a supposedly infallible declaration regarding the canonicity of the Apocrypha, a declaration which cannot be retracted. But what happens when the facts of history undermine the dogmatic position taken by Rome? And what is left of her infallibility if one of her “infallible” declarations is shown to be false?

To summarize: the Jews who were entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2) did not accept the Apocrypha. Neither did Jesus or the writers of the New Testament. Neither did Jerome, major theologians, and even Roman Catholic scholars up until the time of the Reformation. It wasn’t until 1546 at the Council of Trent that the Apocrypha was officially and infallibly declared to be Scripture, as even admitted to by Roman Catholic sources. The Apocrypha cannot pass the test of propheticity and certain books even contain doctrinal and historical errors. This, of course, is not to say the Apocrypha is not useful. It certainly is. But it is not Scripture. And Protestants are in good standing with the historical evidence and historic position of the Church when they refuse to acknowledge the books of the Apocrypha as canonical.


[1] Since Vatican II the RCC has become much more ecumenical and inclusive toward Protestants and other groups, even referring to Protestants as “separated brethren.” However, the historic and traditional position of the RCC has been that (1) the RCC is the one true church, (2) no salvation is found outside the RCC, and therefore (3) Protestants and anyone else who knowingly reject any proclaimed infallible teachings of the RCC are anathema, separated from fellowship with Rome, and therefore not saved.

[2] Council of Trent, Session IV (April 8, 1546), as quoted in Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto, 1954), 245.

[3] William Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources, 2002), 7.

[4] 22 books if Ruth was appended to Joshua and Lamentations to Jeremiah, otherwise 24.

[5] Josephus, Antiquities, Against Apion, 1.8, my italics.

[6] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), 46.

[7] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 16.

[8] Josephus, Antiquities, Against Apion, 1.8 (my italics).

[9] Artaxerxes Longimanus reigned for forty years from 465 BC to 425 BC.

[10] See Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1985), 369-370.

[11] New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III, Canon, Biblical, 29, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 24-25.

[12] See Matt. 21:42, 22:29, 26:54, 56; Mark 12:24, 14:49; Luke 24:27, 32, 45; John 5:39. See also Acts 17:2, 11, 18:24, 28; Rom. 15:4, 16:26; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:16.

[13] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 28-29.

[14] See, for example, Matt. 5:17-18, 7:12, 11:13, 12:5, 22:40; Luke 16:16-17, 24:44; John 10:34, 15:25.

[15] Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 262-263.

[16] See Ibid., 211-222.

[17] Ibid., 215, 220.

[18] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 31, his italics.

[19] Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 10.

[20] See Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 16-17, along with footnotes.

[21] Jerome, Helmed Prologue to the Vulgate version of Samuel and Kings, as quoted in Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, 120, my italics.

[22] See Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 21, along with footnote.

[23] Jerome, Preface to Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, trans. by Gleason Archer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 17, as quoted in Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 170, my italics.

[24] NPNF2, Vol. 6, St. Jerome, Prefaces to Jerome’s Works, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs; Daniel, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 45.

[25] Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 46-47.

[26] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 58.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid., 60.

[29] Biblia cum glosa ordinaria et exposition Lyre litterali et morali (Basil: Petri & Froben, 1498), British Museum IB.37895, Vol. 1, On the canonical and non-canonical books of the Bible. Translation by Dr. Michael Woodward, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 60-61.

[30] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 61.

[31] See Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 62-80, along with footnotes.

[32] Cardinal Cajetan (Jacob Thomas de Vio), Commentary on all the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, In ult. Cap., Esther, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 63, my italics.

[33] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 64.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 99-100. See Hugh of St. Victor, On the Sacraments, I, Prologue, 7 (PL 176, cols. 185-186D).

[36] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 80.

[37] Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University, 1957), 180.

[38] Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 82.

[39] The book of 1 Esdras contains apocryphal additions to Ezra and was not accepted by the Jews as canonical.

[40] For more details concerning this argument, see William Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 47-51.

[41] New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. II, Bible, III (Canon), p. 390; Canon, Biblical, p. 29; Bible, III (Canon), p. 390, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 50-51.

[42] Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions (New York: Macmillan, 1966), p. 38, as quoted in Webster, The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha, 51.

[43] H.J. Schroeder, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Charlotte: TAN Books, 1978), 17n4.

[44] Geisler and MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, 167.

[45] Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, 50-51.

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).