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Apologetics of Christ

This category contains 22 posts

Jesus’ Birth: How undesigned coincidences give evidence for the truth of the Gospel accounts

There are many charges raised against the historicity of the birth narratives of Jesus Christ. These run the gamut from objections based upon alleged contradictions to inconsistencies in the genealogies to incredulity over the possibility of a virgin birth. Rather than make a case to rebut each of these objections in turn, here I will focus upon using undesigned coincidences to note how these birth narratives of Christ have the ring of truth. How exactly do undesigned coincidences work? Simply put, they are incidental details that confirm historical details of stories across reports. I have written more extensively on how these can be used as an argument for the historicity of the Gospels: Undesigned Coincidences- The Argument Stated. It should be noted that the birth narrative occurs only in Matthew and Luke. John begins with a direct link of Christ to God, while Mark characteristically skips ahead to the action. Thus, there are only a few places to compare these stories across different reports. However, both Mark and John have incidental details which hint at the birth account. These incidental details lend power to the notion that the birth narratives of Jesus are historical events.

Joseph

First, there is one undesigned coincidence that is such a gaping hole and such a part of these narratives most people will probably miss it. Namely, what in the world was Joseph thinking in Luke!? Do not take my word for this–look up Luke chapters 1-2. Read them. See anything missing? That’s right! Joseph, who is pledged to a virgin named Mary (1:27) doesn’t say anything at all about the fact that his bride-to-be is suddenly pregnant. There is no mention of him worrying at all about it.

So far as we can tell from Luke, Joseph, who we only know as a descendant of David here, is going to be wed to a virgin and then finds out that she’s pregnant. He’s not the father? What’s his reaction? We don’t find out until Luke 2, where Joseph simply takes Mary with him to be counted in the census, dutifully takes Jesus to the Temple, and that’s about it. Isn’t he wondering anything about this child? It’s not his! What happened?

Only by turning to Matthew 1:18ff do we find out that Joseph did have his second thoughts, but that God sent an angel explaining that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that the baby was a gift of the Holy Spirit. So we have an explanation for why Joseph acted as he did in Luke. Now these are independent accounts, and it would be hard to say that Luke just decided to leave out the portion about Joseph just because he wanted to have Matthew explain his account.

The genealogies of Jesus that Matthew and Luke include are different, but they reflect the meta-narratives going on within each Gospel. Luke’s narrative generally points out the women throughout in a positive light, and it is often argued that his genealogy traces the line of Mary. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traces through Jesus’ legal father, Joseph. Now it could be argued that these are simply reflections of the authors’ imaginations within their fictional accounts, but surely including names with descendants tracing all the way back to Abraham and beyond is not a good way to construct a fictional account. No, Matthew and Luke include the genealogies because their accounts are grounded in history.

Incidental Details

Interestingly, the birth narratives of Jesus also help explain the events reported in Mark and John, which do not report His birth. What of the apparent familiarity John had with Jesus in Mark 1:3ff and John 1:19ff? It seems a bit odd for John to go around talking about someone else “out there” who will be better in every way than he himself is without knowing who this other person is. Well, looking back at Matthew and Luke, we find that Mary and Elizabeth (John’s mother) knew each other and had visited each other during their pregnancy. It seems a foregone conclusion that they continued to interact with each other after the births of their sons, which would explain John’s apparent familiarity with Jesus in Mark and John.

Strangely, Mark never mentions Joseph as Jesus’ father. If all we had was Mark’s Gospel, we would be very confused about who Jesus’ father is. The oddness is compounded by the fact that Mary is mentioned a number of times. Well okay, that still seems pretty incidental. But what about the fact that Mark explicitly has a verse where he lists Mary as well as Jesus’ siblings?

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3, ESV)

This verse seems extremely weird. After all, Joseph was a carpenter (well, a more accurate translation is probably “craftsman”) and yet despite Mark explicitly using that word for Jesus, as well as listing Mary and Jesus’ siblings, we still see nothing but silence regarding Jesus’ father. Well, of course! After all, when we turn to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, we find that Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus had no human father. Thus, Mark, ever the concise master of words, simply omits Joseph from details about Jesus’ life. But to not mention Jesus’ father in a largely patriarchal society alongside his mother and siblings seems extremely strange. It is only explained by the fact of the virgin birth, with which Mark would have been familiar. However, Mark didn’t see the birth narrative as important in his “action Gospel.” Only by turning to Matthew and Luke do we find an explanation for the strange omission of Joseph from Mark’s Gospel.

Conclusion

I have listed just a few undesigned coincidences to be gleaned from the birth narratives of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that these can be multiplied almost indefinitely if one looks at the whole of the Gospels, and even moreso if one investigates the whole Bible. These incidental details fit together in such a way as to give the Gospels the ring of truth. The way that Matthew fills in details of Luke, Mark demonstrates his familiarity with the birth narratives, and the intimate connections of Jesus and John are all cross-confirmed is both incidental and amazing. The claim is not that based upon these incidences alone the Gospel accounts are true. No, the claim is that those who challenge the truth of these accounts must account for these incidences in a way that is more plausible than that they simply occur when people relate history. It seems that the only way to do that would be to resort to outlandish narratives that involve the four authors sitting together and discussing which portions of stories to leave out so the others can fill them in. No, instead it seems much more likely that these four authors were writing what they had witnessed–or received from eyewitness testimony, and just as we do when recounting events (think of 9/11, for example, and the different things people remember) they wrote specific details they felt were important or part of the narrative, while the others found other things more important or had other incidental knowledge related to the events they recorded.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Jesus’ wife? A survey of responses.

SEE UPDATE: It has become revealed that this fragment is almost certainly a fraud. But, if you’re still bothered by it, check out the links below.

UPDATE 2 (4/17/2014): The case has been reopened as some alleged new evidence has shown that the document might not be a forgery after all, which now makes the links below relevant again! I’ve also added a comedic video I found via Tim McGrew.

There has been a bit of an uproar about a 4th Century Coptic Manuscript which purportedly provides evidence that Jesus had a wife. Apart from the fact that it is 4th century and therefore a few hundred years after the events and during primetime for Gnostics making up facts about Jesus to undergird their own theological leanings, many seem to think this is somehow evidence against Christianity. Well, here are some great responses to the discovery.

Reality Check: The “Jesus’ Wife” Coptic Fragment– Daniel Wallace, an influential NT scholar, comments on the discovery. He really gets into some great textual-critical details here. I would say this is one of the more important responses. I highly recommend this response.

Durham University professor calls the “Jesus had a wife” manuscript fragment a forgery– Yep, folks, we might be cutting this one off pretty quickly. Some analyses are suggesting fragment is actually a hoax, and the arguments seem pretty decisive. See the next post:

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment Was Composed– This is a very interesting post which you can find Francis Watson, a professor of religion and theology at Durham University making a concise argument in a PDF which argues that the fragment is a fake. It’s a fascinating article, and perhaps destroys the whole controversy at the start. (To be fair, the late purported date of the fragment does little for me, anyway.)

New Coptic Fragment Says Jesus Was Married– A summary of skeptics’ attitudes towards historicity. 

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?– Glenn Andrew Peoples has a simply fantastic discussion of the implications of this discovery. One of my favorite lines: “Prepare yourself. Suddenly, people are going to read a sensational article about a tiny scrap of parchment and become experts on early church history.”

Did Jesus Have a Wife?– A post which focuses on the authenticity of the document and the implications if it is indeed authentic. Another great response.

SHOCKING New Evidence Reveals 4th-Century Coptic Christians WONDERED If Jesus Was MARRIED!– What is the historical significance of the discovery, assuming it is genuine? A few very good, concise points.

So What if Jesus did Have a Wife?– Definitely an alternative approach. John Byron notes that Christians could grant that Jesus was married without somehow undermining  the core doctrines of Christianity. This one is really interesting and I’m sure will be controversial. While not a response to this article, Aggie Catholics has a very different view of the implications of the discovery, while denying that it has historical import other than as showing the beliefs of Gnosticism: Proof That Jesus Was Married?

The Wife of Christ and the Bride of Christ– This post looks at the discovery from a more presuppositional type approach. We know the Bible is reliable, so what should we make of this discovery?

Stop the presses! Jesus was married! Oh no!– Carl Olson at the Catholic World Report comments on a number of issues with jumping to conclusions about the text. I found this one particularly insightful about how the discovery is being portrayed in the media.

Quick Thoughts on the New Jesus Wife Text– Darrell Bock, a prominent NT scholar, shares his thoughts on the implications of the text. It’s highly informative and concise.

Was Jesus Married?– A reflection on the way the media portrays stories like this along with an examination of the importance of the document and apologetics.

Get Ready for A Wave of Gnostic Looniness Again– James White notes that the discovery was made by a woman who loves to sensationalize gnosticism.

Shock! Horror! Jesus’ Wife! (Video)– a satirical video about the discovery and its alleged implications for Christian faith.

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity

There is something missing from our arsenal as Christian apologists. I came upon this truth about a year and a half ago, but have only begun to realize how much we have been missing. Let me begin with an illustration:

It was a short, scenic drive down Interstate-94 to meet with Dr. Timothy McGrew, a professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University. At the time I was living in Ann Arbor, and I had only conversed with Tim on Facebook. He told me, with ill-concealed glee, about a folder on his computer that was filled with PDF scans of copyright-free (public domain) books by forgotten Christian apologists and theologians. The arguments in them, he told me, were not often used by modern apologists and could but increase my knowledge.

We met at a restaurant along the highway and talked for about an hour and a half while Tim uploaded files on my computer. Tim described to me a number of the items in this collection, but what struck me was how many arguments he referenced which are simply forgotten in current apologetics discussions. For example, he described the argument from “undesigned coincidences,” which basically goes through the Bible and shows how interrelated texts confirm each other’s historical veracity. I was shocked that I had not run into such a profound argument for the Christian faith. I was tremendously excited to find out that there were many such treasures waiting to be discovered.

Despite our continued interactions, I only very slowly began to read through this fantastic set of resources with which Tim had provided me. Once I got my Kindle, however, I began to tear through them. I have discovered so many delightful discussions, wonderful arguments, thought-provoking works that I could hardly begin to list them here. But I will try at least provide a few avenues for study.

I want you, and yes, especially you–the spirited apologist who has your Kalam argument memorized, your Leibnizian argument polished, and the like–to consider this fact: there are scores more arguments for the veracity of Christianity just waiting to be accessed. These arguments have little-to-no discussion in the apologetic blogosphere, they very rarely appear in modern books (if ever), and many of them are quite strong. What is your reaction to that knowledge?

I suspect it is a salivating, whetting of the appetite; it is a yearning desire to learn more. Fear not! These books, and the arguments within them, are, as I said, at your fingertips. The following is my brief, annotated list of fantastic free resources to help you, my fellow Christian apologists, broaden your knowledge.

Repositories of Resources

Library of Historical Apologetics (Currently DOWN)- Here is where I got started, with Tim McGrew’s phenomenal collection of works. In particular, the “annotated bibliography” will set you up with some fine works. The site features a “spotlight” on the main page for various fantastic reads. Browse and download at will. Also check out their Facebook page.

Open Library– Open Library has a number of the books listed at the Library of Historical Apologetics available in a more Kindle-friendly format, if that’s your reading method of choice. I highly recommend using it to send books to your Kindle for free (when you select wi-fi delivery). See below for some specifics.

Getting Started

Yes, it can be daunting once you realize the voluminous nature of the study ahead of you. So I’ve made it easy by providing links to a few books–again, for free–to get you started, along with some comments. Oh, and I’ll be running a series shortly which outlines and examines several of these arguments.

Forgotten Arguments for Christianity: Undesigned Coincidences- The argument stated– I outline one of the many forgotten arguments for the truth of Christianity.

The Four Gospels from a Lawyer’s Standpoint– Edmund Bennett. Short and sweet, this book presents an argument I find extremely compelling: undesigned coincidences. Essentially, what Bennett argues is that the authors of the Gospels, writing individual histories, incidentally confirmed each other’s histories. I can’t recommend this highly enough. [To download, click the [G] or [A]; or if you want it for kindle, click here and on the right select “send to Kindle.”

A View of the Evidences of Christianity– by William Paley. It would be hard to describe the impact this book will have on your apologetic. Paley is simply masterful. In his first section alone he tears apart Humean arguments against miracles. This book is of extreme import for anyone interested in apologetics. Again, Kindle users.

Undesigned Coincidences– by J.J. Blunt. Once you’ve read Bennett, this book takes you through the entire Bible pointing out more historical arguments of great import throughout. I find this argument stunningly powerful, and I think as apologists we must incorporate it. Kindle [warning-lots of typos in this one due to the transition from PDF to Kindle. If you find a better version for Kindle, let me know].

Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte– I’ll let Tim McGrew describe it: ” In this delightful spoof, published while Napoleon was still alive, Whately turns Hume’s skeptical doubts regarding miracles against reports of the career of Napoleon—with devastating results.” One can’t help but think of those who deny the historical Jesus today and how one might apply this to Abraham Lincoln, JFK, or (as I have), the Titanic. Kindle users.

The Bridge of History over the Gulf of Time– Thomas Cooper’s exhortation to apologetics and a general introduction to a number of arguments against Christianity. Check out this essay on Cooper.

A Dissertation on Miracles– by George Campbell. A devastating critique of Hume’s argument against miracles.

The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul– by James Smith [click the link in the article]. This work is an argument for the historical accuracy of Luke in Acts constructed by a sailor who also knew numerous languages and was intimately familiar with the documents with which he worked for this account.

There is now a fire within me that seeks after these forgotten or little-known arguments–a burning that is only quenched by finding more early writings–and I can’t help but hope that you, too, will be delighted to delve into these lost treasures. We can’t let the past escape us. One thing I always tell the apologetics class I teach is this: “If you have a doubt or a question about the Christian faith, I can guarantee you that someone smarter than me has already thought about it and written on it. Don’t go at it alone.” Christian brothers and sisters, don’t let this knowledge escape you. We must spread it to this generation and beyond.

Final Thoughts

My thanks to Tim McGrew for his guidance in this study. May we all strive for Christ as he has.

I leave you with something he told me about these historical apologetics books:

I know …

… a music theory professor who read Thomas Cooper’s _Bridge of History_ and phoned me up screaming violently for more …

… a seminary graduate who confessed that he had never been taught the evidences of Christianity that he was discovering in the old, forgotten works …

… a marathon runner and stay-at-home mom who fell in love with George Campbell’s _Dissertation on Miracles_ …

… a construction worker who was captivated by the argument from undesigned coincidences …

… a daycare worker who has educated himself by reading dozens of old works of apologetics …

… a civil service worker in Chicago who set out to refute the arguments in Thomas Chalmers’s _Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation_ and ended up becoming a Christian …

… the list goes on and on …

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Method or Madness? A reflection on Jesus, the Titanic, and Parallelomania

“[I]n the case of Jesus Christ, where virtually every detail of the story fits the mythic hero archetype, with nothing left over, no ‘secular,’ biographical data, so to speak, it becomes arbitrary to assert that there must have been a historical figure lying back of the myth.”[1]

One needs only to ask the question, “Did Jesus exist?” in order to spark intense debate amongst skeptics and Christians. A simple search for the question online turns up any number of non-professionals who boldly assert that there was no historical Jesus, or even that the evidence that Jesus was a myth outweighs the evidence that he was a real man.[2] There are even a few scholars who allege that Jesus never existed.[3] Perhaps the most frequently-cited “evidence” that Jesus never existed is the purported evidence of parallels in pagan and mystery religions.[4] The notion that legendary or historical parallels can discredit a historical account is itself on shaky epistemological ground. If, however, one were to take seriously the notion that parallels discredit a historical account, vast swathes of history would also evaporate into skepticism. Simply put, if the hyper-skepticism related to parallels about Jesus were applied to all of history without bias, historical inquiry would be undermined.  In order to draw out the implications of parallelomania[5] for what are generally acknowledged as historical accounts, the rest of this study will start off with a tongue-in-cheek investigation of one historical event (the wreck of the Titanic), emphasizing the parallels between it and a fictional account; then an inquiry into historiographical investigation will be launched in relation to the methodology which utilizes alleged parallels and their connotations for historical study. Thus, the following study will show that the methodology of those who argue from alleged parallels to the non-existence or “legendary hypothesis” of Christ is mistaken, rather than arguing that individual parallels are wrong.[6]

There is a tradition within Christian apologetics of pointing out the absurdity of rival positions, sometimes even by satire.[7] Essentially, by showing that an opponent’s method or conclusions lead to absurd conclusions about things nearly everyone agrees upon, the apologist can discredit the method or conclusion that is under investigation. The following section will be an exercise in this strategy. Note that the author is satirically employing the methods found in several sources of supposed historical inquiry into the existence of Jesus.[8]

The Myth of the Titanic: An argument from a “Titanic myther”

It is clear that the wreck of the Titanic is a mythic tale which has been foisted upon history. Few people know that Morgan Robertson’s novel, Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan,[9] which was written in 1898, 14 years before the RMS Titanic sank, outlines a highly telling, fictional account that has any number of parallels to the purported wreck of the Titanic. First, note the number 14’s significance: the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912![10] The book itself discusses the wreck of the Titan, which a child could see is very similar to Titanic. Consider the first line of Robertson’s work: “She was the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men.”[11] The Titanic was supposedly the largest ship afloat at the time of her voyage.[12] The captains on both ships had the same name, Robert Porter. Not only that, but both the fictional and supposedly historical ships[13] had three propellers. Both were said to be unsinkable.[14] Both ships carried the minimum number of lifeboats required by law and therefore both ships lost an enormous number of passengers when sunk. [15] Finally, the clinching piece of evidence is that both the Titan and the Titanic were sunk by hitting an iceberg.[16]

From these evidences one would not be hard-pressed to conclude that the story of the Titanic is merely the plot of the Titan with historical embellishments. Consider the parallels once more. From the description (unsinkable) to the propulsion system (three propellers); from the lifeboats to the size of the ship; from the names of the ships to the very means of destruction, the Titan and Titanic are the same. Furthermore, numerology is inherent in the Titan/Titanic narratives. The 14 years between the two stories echoes in the alleged date of the wreck of the Titanic. Therefore, in the case of the Titanic, where virtually every detail of the story fits the “shipwreck” archetype, with nothing left over, it becomes arbitrary to assert that there must have been a historical event lying behind the myth.[17]

Parallels and Historiography

Setting aside the satire, it is clear that the example of the Titanic used here is only[18] the tip of the iceberg.[19] There are a number of other historical accounts and persons one could do a similar “study” upon.[20] But what does such an investigation prove? The notion that parallels can somehow discredit a historical account is on a very faulty ground. First, the notion of “parallel” is highly subjective and can mean different things to different readers. “One tends to read into accounts the commonalities one is looking for.”[21] If one assumes that a text is mythical—if one assumes the text is not trustworthy or at least had other sources or was derived—then one will find exactly that which one has assumed in the text. Samuel Sandmel writes, “I am not denying that literary parallels and literary influence, in the form of source and derivation, exist… I am speaking words of caution about exaggerations about the parallels and about source and derivation.”[22] He goes on to argue, regarding alleged parallels as derivations in Paul’s writings, “[T]o make Paul’s context conform to the content of the alleged parallels is to distort Paul… if we make him mean only what the parallels mean, we are using the parallels in a way that can lead us to misunderstand Paul.”[23] Similarly, if readers look at a historical account—even one that they believe only alleges to be historical—and make it mean only that which the parallels allow, then they distort the text’s meaning. Indeed, it can lead one to look only to the parallels for meaning rather than to the text itself.[24]

A second problem with the kind of parallelomania found in some skeptics’ looks at Jesus and alleged sources for the Jesus “legend” is that they have discounted many principles of historical inquiry. Historians begin by looking at the conventional meaning of a text.[25]  They also look at the historical context of the text in order to interpret the text.[26] However, in order to do this accurately, they must be aware of their own biases and be open to correction.[27] It is of the utmost importance for historians to consider the complexities of a historical picture as well as the links between causation, contingency, and counterfactual reasoning in historical research.[28] To put it more precisely, history is not a simple task in which one can conclude with certainty the causes of a past event.[29] Rather, historians must consider the interdependency of variables in a historical event[30] and avoid the temptation to oversimplify a historical account in an attempt to “clean it up.”[31] Those who seek to reduce the story of Jesus “without remainder” to legendary figures have fallen victim to a historiography of their own invention. They’ve followed their intellectual biases to their own conclusions and failed to take the texts into account.

Those who argue that the Gospels are discredited because of alleged parallels also utilize a poor, unjustified inference. Even were there a huge number of parallels between Jesus and the supposed mystery (and other pagan) religions, these would not, of themselves, discredit the account of Jesus as historical. Consider the “Titanic Myther”[32] in the satirical account above. The myther seeks to show that, due to all the parallels one can draw between the Titan and the Titanic, the latter is derived from the former. But by what principle of reasoning does it follow that similarities show derivation? Is there a way to determine when a document is derived from another? What is the cutoff point at which we know that a supposedly historical event can be said to be legend? None of these questions is intended to say that historians can never accurately say that a document—even one that claims to be historical—is legend. Rather, the question is whether the Gospels are shown to be legend by supposed parallels. If one holds that they are legends, then how is it that one comes to the conclusion? One can see by looking at most of the purported “studies” online that the conclusion is most often reached simply by citing a number of alleged parallels to Jesus across differing accounts, but of course that won’t do. One would have to show that these parallels are accurate in their claims (and many of them are not),[33] while also showing that the parallels are not mere coincidences, like those between the Titan and Titanic. Finally, the question remains: what rule of logic or historical inquiry yields the outcome that a prima facie historical account is in fact legend because there are legendary parallels?

Finally, there is the question of the burden of historical proof. The burden of proof is upon the one making the claim,[34] and in this case, people claim that Jesus was a legend. That is a positive claim in need of evidence. Unfortunately, the argument is most often made in a manner which simply dismisses counter-evidence while vastly overstating and sometimes even lying about the parallels which are found in other religious figures.[35] The dismissal without argument of counter-evidence, combined with a sometimes blatant disregard for historical accuracy[36] radically undermines the case of those who claim Jesus was a legend based on parallels.

Jesus and Legend

Hypotheses about historical events must take into account the entire body of evidence.[37] The theories which try to reduce Jesus to a legendary figure alone do not take into account the entire body of evidence, and therefore fail the test of historical credibility.[38] Suppose, for the moment, the numerous alleged historical parallels to Jesus were true. How, then, would historians account for the willingness of the disciples to go to their deaths for their beliefs in the truth of the Gospel accounts?[39] What of the Pauline epistles?[40] What of the archaeological evidence and extra-biblical documentation about the life of Jesus?[41] By reducing their historiography to a mere shadow of that which is used in standard historical studies, those who argue that the parallels of Jesus discredit the Gospel accounts have failed the test of explanatory scope for their theories. Like the “Titanic Myther” above, who didn’t take into account the photographs of the wreckage of the Titanic or the numerous firsthand accounts of her voyage, their theory cannot begin to account for the above questions—it does not cover the whole body of evidence. The “Jesus Legend” is a pure figment of their own imaginations–one which is not backed by historical inquiry.

Finally, those who argue from parallels make a number of other methodological blunders. First, they tend to lump all the mystery religions in with other pagan and ancient religions in order to form a kind of “composite parallel” to Jesus from which the Gospels are supposedly derived.[42] The problems with such a method, of course, are that it is extraordinarily anachronistic and that those proposing such theories “have been a bit too casual in fitting Christian elements into mystery religion data.”[43] Second, they borrow terminology from Christianity in order to retrospectively apply it to mystery religions, despite what are often entirely different contexts.[44] Third, the theories disregard the first century context of the Gospels in which, first, the “Homeric assumption” about resurrection (that is, that humans did not rise from the dead) persisted throughout the world;[45] second, the Jews would have been staunchly opposed to letting pagan religions undermine Judaism.[46] Fourth, the groundwork which must be laid down in order to establish dependence of one religion upon another is often ignored or misrepresented by those who alleged the ahistorical nature of Jesus.[47] Finally, at least some of the “sources skeptics typically cite as evidence that pagan religions influenced early Christian beliefs postdate the writings of the New Testament.”[48]

Concluding Remarks

Just like the “Titanic Myther” above, who drew upon disparate, unconnected, and self-invented (the reader may have noted one such example in the satirical section above)[49] connections and connotations to prove his point, those who hold that Jesus never existed, or that the Gospel narratives are reducible to legend have fallen into the trap of parallelomania. In their search for meaning, they have found exactly that which they set out to find. By rejecting the standard methods of historiography and embracing a hyper-skeptical approach to the Gospels, those who argue from parallels to the non-existence of Jesus become caught in their own arguments. Without any kind of historiographic base, their theories are trumpeted as unassailable facts.  The study that has been presented here reveals that rather than using sound historiographic methods, these hyper-skeptics have fallen into historical madness. Once one applies their method to widely acknowledged historical facts, history collapses in upon itself. In short, the way of parallelomania leads only to madness.

Links

Some people, reading this post, may immediately object because they find the parallels referenced in things like Zeitgeist very convincing. My stated topic in this paper was not to explore the individual parallels and refute them, but rather to point out the flawed methodology of these persons. However, for those who want more point-by-point rebuttals of these “parallels,” I have included a few links:

All About Horus– in-depth analysis of Horus as a potential parallel for Christ. Also, follow the links for discussions of other supposed parallels. See the next link.

Evidence for Jesus and Parallel Pagan “Crucified Saviors” Examined– More supposed parallels examined.

Zeitgeist Part I– a fairly thorough rebuttal of the movie.


[1] Robert Price, “Christ a Fiction.” Infidels.org. 1997, http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/fiction.html.

[2] Mark Thomas, “Did Jesus Really Exist?” Godless Geeks. 2011. http://www.godlessgeeks.com/JesusExist.htm.

[3] Robert Price, Alan Dundes, and others are cited in Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 136ff.

[4] Eddy and Boyd dedicate a chapter to rebutting such claims in The Jesus Legend, 133ff. Examples of those who use this evidence are in abundance, for example: Robert Price, “Christ a Fiction”; Mark Thomas, “Did Jesus Really Exist?”; Jim Walker, “Did a historical Jesus exist?” No Beliefs. 22 April, 2011. http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm.

[5] Following Samuel Sandmel’s study of Parallelomania, “We might for our purposes define parallelomania as that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.” (Sandmel, “Parallelomania” Journal of Biblical Literature 81, 1962: 1-13, 1.) I came upon this source independently of Eddy and Boyd, but am pleased that they cite this excellent paper as well.

[6] Again, for a study of these supposed parallels, see Eddy and Boyd, The Jesus Legend, esp. 133f; see also the excellent study in J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2006), 219-258.

[7] Perhaps the most interesting and humorous of these can be found in Richard Whately, Historical Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte (1819), where Whately applies Humean skepticism about the historical Jesus to Napoleon Bonaparte with great success.

[8] This study is not intended to be a comprehensive refutation of the sources which have already been cited. However, by showing the flaws in historical methodology, it seeks to show that those who ascribe to the non-existence of Jesus due to parallels are starting off from a flawed position.

[9] Morgan Robertson, Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, 1898.

[10] This Day in History, April 14th, The History Channel. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rms-titanic-hits-iceberg.

[11] Robertson, Futility, Kindle location 15.

[12] “Historic Images from the Titanic Sinking” Times Union, 2012, http://www.timesunion.com/news/slideshow/Historic-images-from-the-Titanic-sinking-41504.php#photo-2803535.

[13] “The Titanic: All About the Ship” Titanic Facts, 2012, http://www.titanicfacts.net/the-titanic.html.

[14] Robertson, Futility, Kindle Location 15; “Sinking the Unsinkable” 2005, http://www.snopes.com/history/titanic/unsinkable.asp.

[15] Robertson, Futility, Kindle Location 32; “Titanic Lifeboats” Titanic Facts, 2012, http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-lifeboats.html.

[16] “The Titanic Iceberg” Titanic Facts, 2012, http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-iceberg.html; Robertson, Futility, Kindle Location 329.

[17] The wording here intentionally parallels that of Robert Price at the beginning of this study.

[18] A search on Bing of “weird parallels between fiction and history” turns up millions of results. Many of these parallels are extremely thoughtful and creative, and demonstrate parallelomania (intentionally) in a perfect way.

[19] No pun intended in relation to the Titanic. Or was it the Titan? Sorry.

[20] One of the more popular historical examples is to compare Abaraham Lincoln to John F. Kennedy—in particular, the stories of their assassinations. A skeptical treatment investigating these parallels (while still acknowledging that many of them are parallels) can be found at “Linkin’ Kennedy”, 2007, http://www.snopes.com/history/american/lincoln-kennedy.asp.

[21] Boyd and Eddy, The Jesus Legend, 141.

[22] Sandmel, “Parallelomania,” 1.

[23] Ibid, 5.

[24] There are indeed writings on the internet which allege, for example, that Robertson was “inspired” to prophesy the wreck of the Titanic in his novel. This is an example of parallels dictating not only the history but also the interpretation of a text. See “Inspiration 1: Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan” http://www.light-eternal.com/Titan.htm/.

[25] C. Behan McCullagh, The Logic of History (New York: Routledge, 2004), 18.

[26] McCullagh, The Logic of History, 24-26.

[27] Ibid, 31-34.

[28] John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History (New York: Oxford, 2002), 71ff.

[29] Gaddis, The Landscape of History, 102-103.

[30] Ibid, 69-70.

[31] Ibid, 108-109.

[32] Using the terminology of those who denote themselves “Jesus Mythers” who deny the historical existence of Jesus.

[33] Eddy and Boyd evaluate many claims in The Jesus Legend, 142ff; another problem with assessing many of these claims is that they are often given without any citation. One infamous example of outright lies is the “Zeitgeist” video (Peter Joseph, “Zeitgeist, the Movie” 2007, accessible here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZgT1SRcrKE), which literally makes up a number of its parallels (a critique can be found here: Edward Winston “Zeitgeist Part I: The Greatest Story Ever Told” 2007, http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/articles/zeitgeist/part-one/). For example, it uses the English words’ “sun” and “son” to supposedly demonstrate that Jesus was the Sun God (despite the fact that English didn’t exist when the Gospels were written).

[34] For an argument to this effect see Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010), 94ff.

[35] A number of claims are analyzed and come up wanting, or as simply inaccurate or false in Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 219ff.

[36] Ibid; see also Eddy and Boyd, The Jesus Legend, esp. 139-146.

[37] McCullagh, The Logic of History, 49-52.

[38] On testing for historical credibility, see McCullagh, The Logic of History, 138ff.

[39] William Lane Craig, “Opening Statement” in Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? Edited by Paul Copan and Ronald Tacelli (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 34ff; William Lane Craig, The Son Rises (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1981), 127-134.

[40] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 400ff.

[41] Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MS: College Press, 1996), 187-242.

[42] Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 223-224.

[43] Ibid, 224.

[44] Ibid, 224-226.

[45] See N.T. Wright’s brief but devastating criticism of the “dying and rising gods” alleged motif in The  Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003), 80-81.

[46] Eddy and Boyd, The Jesus Legend, 136ff.

[47] Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, Reinventing Jesus, 226ff.

[48] Ibid, 233; for even more historiographical blunders made by those putting forward this theory, see Eddy and Boyd The Jesus Legend, 134ff.

[49] The reader may not have caught the lack of citation for the notion that the Captains’ names were the same in the book Titan and the “real life” Titanic. It is that easy to sneak a claim in between the lines. The actual names of the captains were Captain Bryce of the Titan and Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Is Christ Risen?

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

Now I want you to step back for a moment and think of your immediate response to that question.

Was it “Yes!” Well, why do you think so?

Was it “No!” Again, why?

I mean this very seriously. Read the question again, and now reflect on your answer. Does it come from a well-informed position or does it flow from your presuppositions or worldview? Why do you think Jesus rose or did not rise from the dead? Does your belief come from a careful study of the texts and the critical debate on the topic? Have you read sources from both sides of the debate, have you listened to top scholars in dialog about the topic?

Is it even important?

This one is for the atheists and skeptics out there: look at the picture I have posted on the top left. What feelings does it provoke within you? Disgust? Skepticism? Laughter? Joy?

Why do you think that is?

Christians, I ask you the same question.

What is the point of me taking this space to write all of this? I want everyone to be aware of the fact that when they consider the question I asked to start this post–“Did Jesus rise from the dead?”–they are influenced profoundly by their worldview and their starting point.

No, I want you to consider the evidence–both atheists and Christians. Christians, because it is your solemn duty to discern the truth of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14-19); atheists, because you owe it to yourself to follow the evidence where it leads.

I’m not going to make a sustained argument here. Rather, I encourage you to investigate the topic yourself. A good starting point is this podcast, which argues from the “minimal facts” approach. A summary of the usage of this method can be found here.

Is Christ risen? That’s a question we all must answer, but let us not answer it based on dogma, on presuppositions, or on a dismissal of the evidence. Let us engage with the facts and formulate a hypothesis. Let us investigate the historicity of the event and follow the evidence where it leads.

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

Really Recommended Posts 3/3/12

The really recommended posts this go-round feature Richard Dawkins, bioethics, philosopher’s opinions, women in the ministry, and more!

Arguments about Jesus’ resurrection are fascinating, and can be extremely useful in the question of theism. See this great article which features rigorous application of probability theory to the arguments from the resurrection.

Richard Dawkins’ book, The Greatest Show On Earth claims to show the undeniable evidence for evolution. Does it succeed? Jonathan Mclatchie does not think so and has written an excellent, lengthy review to show how Dawkins fails.

Philip Payne, the author of “Man and Woman, One in Christ” (which I reviewed here) has an excellent web site which responds to many criticisms of his positions. Those interested in the issue of women in the ministry should look into it.

No peer reviewed papers advocating intelligent design? False! Check out this list.

After birth abortions? Basically the logical conclusions of the general pro-choice position. Read more.

Prosblogion conducted a survey about philosopher’s opinions on theistic arguments. The results are mostly unsurprising, but interesting nevertheless. Check it out.

Really Recommended Posts 10/22

Why Do Atheists Talk So Much About Religion?– A short, interesting post with a self-explanatory title. Check it out.

Ah, Richard Dawkins, when will he learn that attacking people doesn’t make their views wrong? His buddy PZ Myers has actually attacked me personally as well, but that’s beside the point. Check out Max Andrews’ thoughts on Dawkins refusing to debate Craig. Dawkins, of course, enlists the help of his yes man Myers.

Undesigned Coincidences and the Historicity of the New Testament– This is a great apologetics video making the rounds. The “undesigned coincidences” argument is one which is slowly seeing a revival–in part due to Dr. Tim McGrew, a friend of mine and a phenomenal philosopher. Check it out.

A Review of “The Magic of Reality”– Dawkins has been adamant that we should not indoctrinate our children. Yet his new book is intended to do just that: indoctrinate children with atheism. Check out this timely review over at Deeper Waters.

Sharing the Gospel – 10 Surprisingly Simple Tips for Talking with Cult Members (part 1)– it is what it says… some great hints for witnessing when the cults come a-knockin’.

The Book of Mormon, 1/18– part one of a series in which an apologist reads through the Book of Mormon. Great stuff.

The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or less)

Recently, the need for defending Christianity in a short time period has come to light. I was in a discussion with some acquaintances and was asked to outline why I believe what I believe, but we were on a time crunch so I only had about 15 minutes. Thankfully, I have had access to some wonderful resources that allowed me to memorize some quick, but useful arguments.

This post is intended to provide other Christians with a case for their beliefs that they can memorize and share with others. Note that the study cannot stop here. Most people will not be convinced by the basics outlined here. The goal of this post is to provide a springboard for discussion and keep people engaged in  the idea that God exists and Jesus is Lord. Each section is intended to flow directly into the next. I encourage my fellow Christians to memorize a “case for faith” in a manner like this, so they may be prepared with a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).

The arguments are necessarily short and simple due to time constraints, but they offer a short defense that will, hopefully, spur further conversation (again, don’t forget to do more research!). Greg Koukl says we don’t need to convince someone right away–we just need to “put a rock in their shoe” so that we can keep the discussion going later. As always, the most effective apologetic is a prayerful, Christ-reflecting life. May the Holy Spirit guide you all.

1. God Exists (7 minutes)

There are many reasons to believe God exists, let me share a few:

Kalam Cosmological Argument

1) Everything that began to exist has a cause

2) The universe Began to exist

3) Therefore the universe has a cause.

It seems intuitively obvious that 1) is true. Things don’t just pop into and out of existence. 2) follows from modern scientific discoveries like the Big Bang, which implies a single cosmological beginning. 3) follows via modus ponens (the most basic form of argument) from 1 and 2. This argument shows a transcendent cause of the universe. The cause must also be personal because [it] brought the universe into existence at some point, which requires a choice. Choices can only be made by persons, so this entity is personal. (See William Lane Craig in “On Guard”, linked below, for more.)

[For more reading on the Kalam Cosmological Argument see my posts linked below.]

The Moral Argument

4) If there are objective moral values, then God exists

5) There are objective moral values

6) Therefore, God exists.

“Objective moral values” here means that moral values are true regardless of what anyone thinks. For example, “murder is wrong” would be wrong even if every single human being thought murder was the way to achieve greatest happiness and encouraged it as an extracurricular activity for teenagers. But the only way to hold that objective moral values exist is to grant God’s existence, because objective laws require an objective lawgiver.

Without God, however, morals reduce to “I don’t like that.” It seems ludicrous to believe that murder is wrong just because we don’t like it. It is something actually wrong about murder that makes it wrong. That which makes it wrong is, again, the commands of the Lawgiver: God. People have a sense of moral objectivity built into them, which also suggests both the existence of objective morals and a God who created in us this conscience. (See Craig “On Guard” and C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”.)

2. Christianity is Unique (3 minutes)

Religions are not all the same:

1) Many religions have contradictory truth claims. (Some forms of Buddhism say: There is no God; Christianity argues: There is a God; Hinduism states: there are many gods)

2) Even among theistic religions, there are contradictory claims (Christianity: Jesus is God; Judaism: Jesus is not God; Islam: Mohammed is prophet; Christianity: Mohammed is not a prophet; Judaism: Mohammed is not a prophet; Islam: Jesus is not God; etc.).

3) The Law of Noncontradiction (actual contradictions like “square circles” or “married bachelors” cannot exist and are not real) shows us that therefore, these religions cannot all be true.

4) Christianity is unique in that  its central religious claim is a historical one: that the person Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead. This is a historical event which can be investigated just like any other historical event. Yet exploration of this event leads to the conclusion that…

3. Jesus is God (5 minutes)

1) The Gospels are reliable. They demonstrate many criteria for historical truth: multiple attestation (four Gospels telling the same story, but with enough significant differences to demonstrate they didn’t copy off each other), principle of embarrassment (the authors of the Gospels included details which would be embarrassing either to themselves or culturally, such as the fact that women were the first witnesses to the risen Christ in a culture in which women were not trusted), the writers died for their belief in the historical events (while many religious believers die for their beliefs, it seems unfathomable that the Christian Gospel writers would willingly die gruesome deaths for things they made up–which is what alternative theories argue), etc. (See Strobel, “Case for Christ”)

2) Jesus made divine claims “I and the Father are one” John 10:30; “Before Abraham was, I am” John 8:58; etc.

3) The miracle of the resurrection is God’s confirmation of Jesus’ divine claims. If the Gospels are reliable (per 1), then Jesus is divine.

Conclusions

There is good evidence to think that God exists. There are even other arguments that could be presented, such as the teleological, ontological, transcendental, argument from religious experience, and more. We can also see that not all religions can be true. Furthermore, there are good reasons to think the Gospels are reliable and that Jesus claimed to be God and had His claims authenticated by God Himself in Jesus’ resurrection.

Remember, this is not even close to a full defense of Christianity. It is simply a condensed, easy to remember defense designed to be ready at a moment’s notice for when the Holy Spirit leads people into our paths. We need to do more research, offer more arguments, and continue to witness as the Holy Spirit works through our testimony. This defense is by no means a total apologetic; it is meant only as an introduction to spur further conversation. Always have a reason.

Later Edit:

Some have objected to this post on various grounds, most of which are reducible to my arguments not being developed enough. I emphasize once more, this is supposed to be used for a 15-minute defense of the faith, not an entire survey of the field. See my links for more reading, and continue to investigate for yourself.

Further Reading

If you are interested in further reading on these topics, I suggest:

1) On my site, check out the posts on the existence of God: here. Specifically, for the Kalam Cosmological argument:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument

“The Multiverse Created Itself” and “Who made God after all?”- The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (not developed in this post).

2) On Guard by William Lane Craig- a basic level introduction to many of the ideas discussed here.

3) The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel-a wonderful book which goes through many issues of historical Christianity. Presents evidence for the historicity of the Gospels and the divinity of Jesus.

4) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis-a Christian classic, this work is a fantastic defense of Christianity. C.S. Lewis is a masterful writer and I highly recommend this work.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The Virgin Birth?

Was Jesus born of a virgin?

The question has many facets and nuances. I’m going to focus briefly on two: the possibility of virgin birth, and the question of whether or not the prophecy of Christ was a prophecy about a virgin birth.

Is virgin birth possible? The question centers around one’s worldview. It is intuitively obvious that if God exists, then a virgin birth is possible; while if God does not, then the virgin birth seems highly implausible, at best. Therefore, the question of whether a virgin birth is possible centers around whether or not God exists. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a very important point. However, I believe that this kind of point is central to many questions about the validity of the Scriptural accounts and other things which anti-theists often bring up in debates with theists.

Very often, the question of whether God exists is what is paramount in such debates. For example, the question of whether the moral imperatives in Scripture are right or not betrays metaethical questions lurking in the background: does God exist, and is He the grounding of ethical theory? Similarly, whether or not a virgin birth is possible, whether or not the Flood happened, whether or not Moses parted the Red (Reed?) Sea, and other questions really reveal a metaphysical question: does God exist? If God does exist, then the accounts mentioned are much more likely epistemically than they would be if theism is false. Because I believe there are good reasons to believe in a theistic God (see here for some), I find the question of whether virgin birth is possible more likely epistemically than not.

The second question references a charge that the writers of the Gospels were relying on a mistranslated Hebrew word which did not mean virgin. The argument hinges around the Hebrew word, almah, which is used in the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, “…the virgin (almah) will conceive and give birth to a son…” This prophecy is used by the Gospel writers to refer to the virgin birth of Christ. The word means “young woman.” But, as is the case in English, in Hebrew, words can have more than one meaning. Almah in Hebrew is not the common word for virgin, but it is always used for an unmarried woman (McDowell, 391). The assumption of an unmarried woman was that she was also a virgin (393). Unfortunately, today it is hard for us to see this assumption, for too often young, unmarried women are giving birth.

Further evidence for the use of “virgin” for the word stems from its usage in Isaiah 7:14. The key here is that the prophecy was fulfilled immediately in the context. The King of Judah was told that the virgin birth would be the sign for him from God. The fact that it was to be a miracle signaling God’s unique work in the world as a sign for the King helps further support the idea that the passage is referring to a virgin birth rather than simply any birth, which, one can guess, was not terribly uncommon in Judah.

Even more evidence comes from the fact that the translators of the Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint took the word in Isaiah 7:14 and used the Greek word specifically used for virgins. This wasn’t due to a mistake, but because they were familiar with the prophecy itself. It would be a fantastical claim on the part of the objector here to argue that those who were translating the Old Testament into Greek were so unfamiliar with Hebrew that they wouldn’t have recognized the nuance. Such a claim would demand evidence; and no evidence exists.

Therefore, it seems that it was prophesied that Christ would be born of a virgin, and it also seems at least possible that such a birth could happen, on theism.

Merry Christmas.

SDG.

This is part of a series I’ve entitled “Jesus: the Living God,” which explores Jesus from Biblical, theological, and apologetic levels. View other posts in the series here.

McDowell, Josh, Evidence for Christianity: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006).

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Jesus, Dedication, and Wise Men

Are these Biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth irreconcilable:

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”- Luke 2:22

“When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt…” Matthew 2:13-14

One says he was dedicated in the temple, the other, that Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. The key to solving this potential problem is, as frequently is the case with Bible difficulties, context, context, and context.

The dedication of Jesus would have taken place very shortly after His birth. But reading the account of the visit of the Magi, we find that the wise men came at some point after the birth of Jesus. This is evident in Matthew 2:1-12, in which the Magi initially stop to visit King Herod to ask him where Jesus was born. Unless one is to assume the Magi were able to travel instantaneously to Bethlehem from Jerusalem with all of their escort, one should have no difficulty thinking that the Magi arrived at some point after Jesus had already traveled to Jerusalem and back for His dedication at the temple.

Not only that, but despite some traditions drawings of the Magi, it is unlikely that they came while Jesus was merely a babe. Again, these men came from “the east,” so it is unlikely that they made the trip in a few days. But there is also textual evidence for this idea, for when Herod seeks to kill Jesus, he kills all boys 2 years old and younger (2:16). Sure, he may have simply had no idea how old Jesus was and simply been shoring up his bets, but the text goes on to say that he kills boys 2 and younger “in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (2:16b).  So at some point he must have asked them how long they’d been traveling, and it was long enough to warrant killing the boys 2 and younger.

Thus, there is no contradiction in the text.

Merry Christmas.

SDG.

This is part of a series I’ve entitled “Jesus: the Living God,” which explores Jesus from Biblical, theological, and apologetic levels. View other posts in the series here.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.


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