Yesterday was Pentecost, the day we commemorate the Holy Spirit’s coming upon Jesus’s disciples. According to the Book of Acts, after that momentous event, Peter addressed the crowd with a stirring speech proclaiming Jesus as Messiah; he attracted some 3,000 converts who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2.41–42, emphasis added.) This is a familiar phrase to Episcopalians; we hear its echoes at every baptism, when the priest asks the congregants: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? We answer: I will, with God’s help.
A couple of years ago I started wondering: What exactly was the teaching of the apostles at that time? What said these men —
who had listened to Jesus’s preaching, day in and day out, for three years;
who regarded themselves as as Jesus’s lieutenants and chief confidants;
who, after Jesus’s crucifixion, felt called to lifelong ministries — which, for many of them, ended in violent death.
Before the break from Judaism — before the spread of competing doctrines such as gnosticism — before the great christological controversies that came to rack the church: What said these men about Jesus?
With these questions in mind, I re-read much of the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. I was a bit surprised by what I found; or more accurately, by what I didn’t find.
The apostles clearly seem to have taught that Jesus was a man. A special man, to be sure: an anointed one (messiah or christos), designated by God for an earthshaking mission. A man whose most impressive credential was God’s having raised him from the dead in anticipation of that mission.
What the apostles didn’t seem to have taught was that Jesus was God himself.
Examining the Documents
I’ll state at the outset that I’m not a trained biblical scholar. (Although, to paraphrase a previous post, it seems to me that biblical scholarship is too important to be left entirely to the trained biblical scholars.)
I do claim a certain professional competence in analyzing written accounts of past events. I also claim that those skills can be useful in studying the New Testament documents.
As explained in this post and this one, I have professional reservations about the reliability of the New Testament documents. Those reservations encompass the Book of Acts no less than the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation.
But on this particular issue, my reservations don’t affect the analysis. That’s because the church claims that its doctrines derive from the apostles’ teachings. If the church can’t find support for that claim in the Book of Acts, it’s not likely to find better support anywhere else. So we can profitably look into what Acts has to say about the apostles’ teaching.
The Apostles Argued That Jesus Was the Messiah, Not God
According to Acts, the apostles spoke of Jesus as the “Messiah” practically from Day One. We’re so accustomed to the doctrine that Jesus was God, that it’s easy to think of the word messiah as simply another name for God. But that doesn’t seem to be the way the apostles used the term.
The Changing Jewish Views of the Expected “Anointed One”
In Hebrew, the word transliterated as messiah means “anointed one” (in Greek, christos). The Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly refer to various Israelite kings, and others appointed by the LORD for particular tasks, as having been “anointed” or “the LORD’s anointed,”  but these were simply men.
By the time of Jesus, the nation of Israel had suffered centuries of oppression. It had been conquered in turn by Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and most recently, Romans. By then, the word messiah had come to signify a kingly figure to come — a hero who, some thought, would deliver the nation from oppression and usher in the reign of the God of Israel. As summarized in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:
The earlier prophecies to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 18:17-19; 26:4-5) speak merely of the salvation that shall come through their seed.
Later the royal dignity of the promised deliverer becomes the prominent feature. He is described as a king of the line of Jacob (Numbers 24:19), of Juda (Genesis 49:10: "The sceptre shall not pass from Juda until he comes to whom it belongs"), and of David (II Kings 7:11-16).
It is sufficiently established that this last passage refers at least typically to the Messiah. His kingdom shall be eternal (II Kings 7:13), His sway boundless (Psalm 71:8); all nations shall serve Him (Psalm 71:11).
In the type of prophecy we are considering, the emphasis is on His position as a national hero. It is to Israel and Juda that He will bring salvation (Jeremiah 23:6), triumphing over their enemies by force of arms (cf. the warrior-king of Psalm 45).
Even in the latter part of Isaias there are passages (e.g. 61:5-8) in which other nations are regarded as sharing in the kingdom rather as servants than as heirs, while the function of the Messiah is to lift up Jerusalem to its glory and lay the foundations of an Israelitic theocracy.
(Extra paragraphing added.)
Apparently, the precise nature of the coming hero-king was the subject of a range of opinions among first-century Jews. This survey of Jewish sources, which seems to be reasonably careful to avoid overstatement, says that:
[N]ot only was there a messianic expectation, but [it] varied from group to group. That is, that some considered the Messiah to be a purely natural in-history political leader (albeit more powerful than the Romans), some considered the Messiah to be super-natural/super-angelic, some considered him to be an after-history universal King/Son of God, etc.--and some did not expect one at all.
The Apostles Claimed that the “Anointed One” Had Already Arrived
According to Acts, the apostles sought to convince their fellow Jews that the expected messiah was none other than their late leader, Jesus. Peter argued that God had appointed the man Jesus to this role, and had confirmed his appointment by empowering him to do wondrous deeds, but more importantly, by raising him from the dead and taking him to heaven, where he awaited the time when he would return to earth to restore all the world to God’s reign. For example (all emphasis mine):
Peter proclaimed: "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (2.22).
Peter continued that “God has made him both Lord [kyrios] and Messiah [christos], this Jesus whom you crucified” (2.36).
He exhorted the crowds to “[r]epent therefore, and turn to God … [so] that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago” (3.19–21).
In addressing Cornelius’s household, Peter taught “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (10.38) and how Jesus “is the one ordained by God as the judge of the living and the dead” (10.42).
(Incidentally, Peter seems to have anticipated a sin not uncommon to lawyers, that of mischaracterizing an authority in the hope of furthering his argument and convincing his audience. According to Acts, Peter argued that in Psalm 16.8–11, David supposedly foretold God’s rescue of the Messiah from the grave — and since God had just raised Jesus from the dead, it stood to reason that Jesus must have been the one about whom David spoke (2.25–28). Unfortunately, Peter’s argument appears to be a complete fabrication. The psalm clearly is not a prediction of a future event, but an expression of confidence that God will protect the psalmist himself.)
The apostle Phillip, says Acts, “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah [christos] to them” (8.5); the crowds listened and believed him, “who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.”
And Paul the self-proclaimed apostle, in the days after his conversion, “confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah” (9.22, emphasis added). Later, Paul proclaimed Jesus as Messiah in Thesselonica (17.3) and in Corinth, where he “testif[ied] to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus” (18.5, emphasis added).
(Unless we think Paul spoke in Yoda-like syntax, the latter phrasing seems to suggest that in his mind, the eventual coming of the Messiah was a given, and that what he sought to prove to the crowds was that Jesus was he.)
In Athens, Paul echoed Peter’s earlier credentialing of Jesus, whom he referred to as “a man whom [God] has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (17.31, emphasis added).
Likewise, Apollos crossed over to Achaia, where “he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus” (18.28, emphasis added).
The Apostles Didn’t Teach That Jesus Was God Incarnate
Nowhere does the Book of Acts suggests that the apostles taught of Jesus as God incarnate. It seems pretty clear that they didn’t believe this to be true, as shown by several different facets of the stories told in Acts.
The Apostles Continued to Worship God, Not Jesus
The Book of Acts repeatedly refers to the apostles and their followers as worshipping God, not Jesus. For example (all emphasis mine):
- The first converts “spent much time together in the temple, … praising God and having the goodwill of all the people” (2.46–47);
- When Peter was imprisoned by King Herod, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” (12.1–5);
- The Holy Spirit directed the church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul while the church was “worshipping the Lord” (13.1–3); while this reference to “the Lord” is ambiguous standing alone, it seems to refer to the LORD God, inasmuch as the same chapter quotes a passage from Isaiah as the commandment of “the Lord” (13.47);
- Paul and Silas, imprisoned in Philippi after their encounter with the owners of the slave girl, “were praying and singing hymns to God” (16.25);
- In Corinth, “the Jews made a united attack on Paul …. [and] said, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law’” (18.12–13);
- In Ephesus, Paul “testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus” (20.21), and stated his desire to finish “the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the good news of God’s grace” (20.24);
- When Paul visited the church in Jerusalem, he followed the advice of the Christians there, submitting himself to a purification rite in the temple to prove that he was not teaching Jews to foresake the Law (21.17–26).
Many Jewish Priests Became Converts
It’s worth noting that, according to Acts, “a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (6.7). It’s hard to imagine this happening if the apostles had preached that Jesus was God in human form.
When the Apostles Were Persecuted,
It Wasn't for Preaching Jesus’s Divinity
According to Acts, “the Jews” persecuted the apostles, sometimes violently and even fatally. Why? Acts suggests that the persecutions happened, not because the apostles taught that Jesus was God incarnate, but for other offenses against politically-correct belief and the established order. If they had in fact proclaimed that Jesus was God, it's hard to see how they would have lived to tell the tale.
Persecutions for Proclaiming the Resurrection of the Dead
The earliest persecutions arose in response to the apostles’ teaching of the resurrection of the dead. That teaching apparently angered the priestly Sadducee hierarchy, which did not believe in resurrection (23.8). The priests and captains of the temple took offense at Peter and John’s proclamation “that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them ….” (4.1–3) The priests eventually released the two apostles (4.23), but they were soon to see Peter again.
The high priest and his jealous Sadducee retinue later rearrested Peter and the other apostles because they had healed the sick and cast out unclean spirits (5.12–17). Peter, brought before the council, risked death by defiantly pressing his resurrection claim. He insisted to the council that “the God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree [and] exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (5.30–31). His listeners “were enraged and wanted to kill them,” but council member Gamaliel — who as a Pharisee presumably did believe in resurrection (23.8) — talked them out of it, convincing them instead to wait and see how things played out (5.33–39).
Persecutions for Challenging the Established Order
The apostles suffered other acts of violence because of their challenges to the existing political and economic order. For example:
Stephen was killed for being too “in your face” with the council. The chain of events started when false witnesses told the council that “[t]his man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us” (6.13–14). Stephen himself enraged the council when he excoriated them for opposing the Holy Spirit and killing Jesus, just as their ancestors had persecuted the LORD’s prophets (7.51–53).
Paul and Silas upset an unsavory business arrangement in Philippi when they cast out a spirit of divination from a slave girl. The girls’s owners had been making good money from her fortune-telling, but no longer. Angry that their meal ticket was gone, they dragged the apostles before the magistrates and accused them of “disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe” (16.16–21).
The same two apostles later provoked a political uproar in Thessalonica, where “the Jews” accused them of “acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus” (17.7).
And economics raised its head again in Ephesus, where Paul’s teachings caused the silversmiths who made shrines to Artemis to lose business; those worthies rioted (19.23–28).
Persecutions for Welcoming Gentiles
Some apostles were persecuted by “the Jews” because of their willingness to consort with Gentiles. The first time that Paul and Barnabas preached in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, they were well-received and encouraged to return the following week (13.42). But when the following sabbath arrived, “almost the whole town gathered” — presumably including Gentiles. That quickly led to trouble: “[W]hen the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul” (13.45). So Paul and Barnabas then turned their attention to the Gentiles, apparently enjoying notable success (13.46–49). This prompted even more incitement by “the Jews,” which in turn caused Paul and Barnabas to leave town; “they shook the dust off their feet in protest” (13.50–51).
During Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, “the Jews from Asia” stirred up the crowd against him, “[t]his is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place[,]” and claiming that “more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place” (21.27–28).
Preaching that Jesus Was God Would Have Been Fatal
The foregoing passages suggest that the apostles were not men to shrink fearfully from proclaiming their message. They risked violence and even death to do so.
Those passages also suggest that the apostles’ opponents were quick to take violent offense when they didn’t like what they heard.
So if the apostles had preached that Jesus was God himself — which first-century Jews probably would have deemed the ultimate blasphemy — in all likelihood they would have been immediately killed.
This strongly suggests that the apostles didn’t preach the divinity of Jesus, at least not in the days recorded by Acts.
And given their willingness to preach what they believed to be the truth, it stands to reason that the apostles didn’t believe Jesus to be God.
Conclusion: Christology as Adiaphora?
I'm not sure exactly where or when the early church developed the idea that Jesus was God incarnate. I’ve read speculation that the idea arose as a hybrid of Jewish- and Hellenistic Christian beliefs.
But it seems pretty clear: The first apostles — the men who presumably knew Jesus best during his lifetime, the men who reportedly were commissioned by him to carry on his work — did not teach that he was God.
This is especially noteworthy given that Peter, along with James and John the sons of Zebedee, are reported to have witnessed the Transfiguration. If anyone was likely to have believed that Jesus was God himself in the flesh, it would have been they.
True, the author of the Gospel of John wrote a prologue that seemingly equated Jesus with God. But scholars aren't uniformly convinced that John the son of Zebedee was that author. Moreover, scholars believe the Fourth Gospel was written decades after the events we are considering here, whereas I'm interested in what the apostles are reported to have said then.
So when we renew our baptismal vows, and promise to continue in the apostles' teaching, we're not promising to profess or believe in the divinity of Jesus. That doctrine can legitimately said to be adiaphora, an inessential of the faith.
(FOOTNOTE: As regular readers know, my choice for what's "essential" in the faith is simply the Great Commandment and Summary of the Law, of which Jesus himself is reported to have said, "do this and you will live [eternally].")
Jesus was what he was — or if you prefer, he is what he is. If he was indeed God incarnate, we can hope that eventually we will be shown persuasive proof of it.
If Jesus wasn’t God, it doesn’t matter; we can still discern God’s hand at work in Jesus’s life, in the movement he started, and in the church he catalyzed.
God might not have been working in precisely the way that Nicene Christians have long thought. But that’s OK; our task is not to tell God how he must have done what he did — that would be a bit presumptuous, to say the least — but instead:
- to try to discern, humbly, what God in fact has done, using the senses and reason that he gave us and the real-world evidence graciously revealed to us;
- to try to figure out how and why God did what he did, as best we can, so that we can work to align our own actions with his will — mindful that we don't know everything, and that what we think we know could be wrong;
- to recognize that God seems to have a plan, and to trust that everything is going to work out unimaginably well in his good time; and
- to thank him with grateful hearts for all of his blessings.
# # #
 Examples of the use of “anointed one” in the Hebrew Scriptures include (all emphasis is mine):
- King Saul — see, e.g., 1 Sam. 10.1, 12.1–5, 15.17, 24.6, 26.9, 11, 16; 2 Sam. 1.14–16
- King David — see 1 Sam. 16.12–13; 2 Sam. 2.4–7, 3.39, 12.7, 19.21, 22.51, 23.1; Ps. 89.20 and passim
- King Solomon — see 1 Kings 1.39, 2 Chron. 6.42
- Jehu son of Nimshi, “whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab” — 2 Chron. 22.7
- Cyrus, king of Persia, "whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut" — Is. 45.1
- the author of Isaiah 61.1, announcing that “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” — Is. 61.1
Interesting. You seem to be echoing some of the thoughts that .N.T Wright has been toying with. As someone who was raised a Fundamentalist/Evangelical, I was shocked when I learned – through the teachings of Bishop Wright – that it was, in fact, God who supposedly raised Jesus from the dead, and not Jesus raising himself as I was led to believe.
How does Wright's thinking influence your thinking in this area? What do you think Wright would say in response to your ideas?
Posted by: Karl | May 17, 2005 at 04:14 AM
Great blog, btw.
Posted by: Karl | May 17, 2005 at 04:16 AM
It would be wholly wrong to assume that this is the direction in which Tom Wright's thought is tending. One quick piece of evidence for this is his assertion (I have been recently listening to a set of lectures he gave in January at a pastors' conference in Louisiana) that, with God's saving acts in Jesus, Paul redefines what is meant by God, and that Paul's use in various places of kyrios to refer to Jesus is directly taken from the LXX use of the word to refer to Yahweh/Adonai.
More to follow. And remember, if we're going to be concerned with the earliest writings (hence D.C.'s rejection of the prologue to the Gospel according to John) - a presumption with which I would strongly disagree - then Paul gives us the earliest writings, earlier than any of the Gospel or Acts texts that D.C. adduces, above.
Posted by: Todd Granger | May 17, 2005 at 08:11 AM
One more quick note.
That the apostles would have referred to Jesus as "a man" is not in the least surprising or any sort of evidence that they didn't believe that in Jesus, the God of Israel had become a human being. It would be heterodox or outright heretical to insist that Jesus wasn't a man. Orthodox christology insists that Jesus was God incarnate as a man, hence the early rejection of docetism and the later rejection of monophysitism in the Chalcedonian Definition of the God and human natures of Jesus.
And Karl, as for God (the Father) raising Jesus from the dead (rather than Jesus raising himself), this has been the teaching of the catholic Church from the very beginning.
Posted by: Todd Granger | May 17, 2005 at 08:15 AM
I think that the most radical thing that was taught by the Apostles was the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, after reading the very different stories about Jesus' resurrection, I'd go further and say that this event is the central MYSTERY of the Chrisitian faith.
Some modern theologicians scoff at the resurrection and try to downplay its importance. In my opinion, this is fairly difficult to do if you read all of the New Testament works. I'd go as far as to say that without the Apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, there would have been no such thing as Christianity.
I think that the resurrection of Jesus coupled with some Aristotlean logic leads to the Christology that is later codified in the third and fourth centuries. The reasoning was along the lines of this: if Jesus is merely a man, how was the resurrection possible? This leads to the idea of Jesus being God. But if he's God, why would he have died on the cross? To the Greek mind, Jesus is a bundle of logical contradictions. The conclusion that was reached was that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine in the same person. This was a necessary conclusion based on the worldviews of the fourth century leaders of the church.
Posted by: Barry Fernelius | May 17, 2005 at 08:23 AM
Any person who would write this article does not have any faith because Jesus testifies that He is God. A person without faith will kneel down before Jesus as we all will, But he will be there for judgement not for rewards. I am sorry for you.
Posted by: Frank | May 17, 2005 at 10:03 AM
I used to adore being of an intellectual bent- and would subsequenlty have enjoyed the probe of this post. No dumber or less intellectual than before- perhaps a bit more humble- I find this post offensive. Do you really think God's going to make some kind of mistake? Didn't God say in His Word to rely on His wisdom and not the wisdom of men? By all means, do your homework and analysis, but don't post DOUBTFUL DISPUTATIONS on an internet site so you can trouble/confuse other infants in Christ... and get your heads out of those 'other' books and stick with the scriptures like you're supposed to. Be an intellectual, voice your opinion- but don't give the devil a foothold. Praying for you!
Love and Peace in Jesus' Name!
Posted by: Mike | May 17, 2005 at 03:48 PM
Thanks for the comment, Mike. It's pretty apparent that you and I take very different approaches to religion (and to life, for that matter). Browse through some of my postings in the categories of Authority or Scripture and you’ll see what I mean. I don't think I could ever follow your advice to "get your head out of those 'other' books and stick with the scriptures like you're supposed to."
I'm not particularly worried about troubling or confusing other "infants in Christ." I'm more concerned with reaching out to those who can't reconcile faith in God with a modern, critical-realist mindset. I think they can be persuaded (i) that the religion about Jesus is not the only form of Christianity, and (ii) that the religion of Jesus is immensely attractive as well as intellectually defensible.
I'm sorry you found my post offensive. Please keep in mind that many of my readers might have a similar reaction about your comment.
I hope you don't take this as a brush-off. If you have specific arguments or corrections to make about the merits of my essay, I’d love to see them.
Thanks again for taking the time to post your comment; please come back.
Posted by: D. C. | May 17, 2005 at 05:41 PM
Karl, thanks for the kind words. I've read all three volumes of N.T. Wright's magnum opus. He's a very impressive thinker and writer, especially in his adoption of a critical-realist mindset.
There's at least one crucial place where Wright goes wrong. He cites the work of Kenneth Bailey in support of some of his (Wright's) epistemological claims. WRight says that (i) we can rely on what he calls "controlled oral tradition," and (ii) the New Testament is an example of controlled oral tradition.
We know that oral tradition is not without its problems. That's why we have a hearsay rule, for example. We know stories mutate. Sometimes that happens in the first retelling. I don't see that we have any reason to think things were different in the first century.
Wright cites Bailey's work to argue that the problems with oral tradition are overcome by "informal controlled oral tradition." But Bailey's work apparently is open to challenge. I found a long essay by one Ted Weedens, which raises some interesting challenges to Bailey's scholarship. A Google search revealed that Weedens is an emeritus professor of theology at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School.
In his essay, Weedens looks at Paul's letters to the Galatians and Corinthians, which complained that those churches were deviating from the "true" gospel. Weedens points out that those deviations show the uncontrolled mutation of oral tradition. Paul, he says, was forced to try to undo the mutations through written corrections.
Weedens also thinks Bailey misrepresented his sources when he gave examples of controlled oral tradition. Bailey cited a book by Rena Hogg, the daughter of a Christian missionary in the Middle East. He said the Hogg book confirmed various stories about Hogg's father that were still being told in the villages where her father had served. But Weedens says that Rena Hogg's book not only didn't confirm some of the stories, as Bailey claimed, but flatly contradicted them.
Weedens is a member of the Jesus Seminar. Some traditionalists will seize on that as a reason to dismiss his analysis.
But Weeden's challenges to Bailey's scholarship will stand or fall on their merits. To me they have the ring of truth. If they are valid, they undermine some of Wright's most crucial arguments.
Posted by: D. C. | May 17, 2005 at 05:42 PM
Todd Granger, your two comments beg the question: From what evidence, and by what reasoning, did the Fathers conclude that Jesus had to have been more than just a specially-favored man -- that instead he must have been God incarnate?
I maintain that we're entitled to critically scrutinize both the Fathers' evidence and their logic, and that we're not required to slavishly accept their conclusions.
The same applies to your remark that Paul redefined what is meant by God. I'm skeptical of Paul's christological speculations, not least because he never knew Jesus during his lifetime. (Had it been otherwise, Paul almost certainly would have said something about it in Galatians, among other places.) I also think we're not required to uncritically accept Paul's reports that he encountered the risen Jesus.
Barry Fernilius may be onto something in his comment about Aristotelian logic. As humanity knows all too well, logic applied to incomplete facts can get you in trouble.
Logic can be especially dangerous when, lacking all the facts, we jump to the conclusion that the reality simply must be either A or B -- and then, because B seems absurd, we conclude that A has to be the way things are. I don't know how many times we've seen that kind of reasoning among traditionalists in the current disputes; some modernists are probably guilty of it as well.
Thanks for commenting, both of you.
Posted by: D. C. | May 17, 2005 at 05:43 PM
D.C., I have posted a rather long response in my weblog.
Posted by: Todd Granger | May 18, 2005 at 02:43 AM
Weedens is a member of the Jesus Seminar. Some traditionalists will seize on that as a reason to dismiss his analysis.
Which, of course, would be an example of fallacies like Guilt By Association, with elements of a Circumstantial Ad Hominem attack as well. These sorts of comments come up all the time with the people involved in the Jesus Seminar, and I'm getting heartily sick of it...
I don't know how many times we've seen that kind of reasoning among traditionalists in the current disputes...
Ahh yes, the fallacy of the False Dilemma is rampant in these discussions, isn't it ? And while I agree that I've seen examples of poor reasoning from both sides, the traditionalists' "arguments" seem absolutely rife with this sort of thing. Makes their writing very hard to read and even harder to take seriously.
Of course, the point is probably that arguments should be won by emotional appeal anyway...so I'm most likely off on a tangent ;)
Posted by: David Huff | May 18, 2005 at 09:09 AM
D.C.! Firstly, all greetings and blessings in Jesus' Name! Thank you for your e-mail, I was quite surprised to receive it! I agree: We do have differing views (duh!)- but is Christianity religion? I say NAY! That little opinion by itself may be the deciding factor in any following talks we may have...
I find myself happy and amused at this, how shall we say, "challenge" (of sorts)? I followed one of your links, I believe the Authority link, and boy oh boy!! You've got yourself quite a noodle!!! Deep thinker. Mazel Mazel!
The last item I perused was the Grandma's Rocking Chair post, and it served to further convince me that there's a bit of the Old World Greek philosopher in you, my friend, perhaps more so than one should desire. That's not a cynical barb; rather it's a thought arrived at after reading a little more than a handful of your postings.
Or is it 'blogs'? That's still a new word to me, still kinda funny on the tongue.
Were I more in favor of our (humanity's) ability to reason and apply logic to situations, you'd have a banner flyer in me- but I don't. In one of your previous (blogs?)-Deposits of Faith and...Dec. 9,2004, you quoted scriptures pertaining to the 'practical use' of scriptures, as voiced by Paul. The fact that they're God-breathed should, in fact and spirit, silence any speculation whatsoever... Are you among the crowd that looks askance at the fact that God created everything? I admit, I assume so, only because you question a lot of things pertaining to scripture; this leads me to believe you doubt the sincere truth of scripture as God's Word.
Having questions is no sin. As 'traditionalist' as I may seem (that's a new term to me too), to deny the faculties with which we were born, given by God Himself would be ridiculous. We have brains, and some of us- as evidenced by yourself- have quite powerful, deep reaching ones that aren't exactly comfortable with 'simple' explanations. Question away! But doubt scripture? Dangerous. Doubt the people of yore who wrote them, basing your arguments on human fallibility? If Jesus, God, and Creation were a man made thing, then I'd be in your boat. I can't agree with you, simply because we- Christians- accept the Bible as Divinely Inspired writings, not rehashings of the messages of some really staunch, dynamic people.
Didn't Jesus promise the gift of the Holy Spirit in His (Jesus') absence, who would teach and guide us? Do you give any credence to the Person, reality and power of the Holy Spirit?
Didn't Jesus tell the disciples precisely who He was? What He was? Why He was, and the few other W's left? I'm no Bible scholar- I haven't even read scripture in about 2 weeks (bad boy!), but answer me this, D.-
What's the point of claiming belief in 'religion' if it seems your mission is disproving it? Pointing out perceived errors, poking jests at 'traditionalists' who do in fact rely on the Holy Spirit for revelation, along with scripture... doesn't seem fitting of a person of your vast mental appetite.
A counter thought to your Grandma's Rocking Chair post/blog: Go ahead and paint it, refurbish it, shoot- motorize it!
It's just a rocking chair. They never saved anyone. Besides- they're man made... and all man made things eventually perish with nothing but a memory to mark the passing- but we're fashioned by God's very own mind and heart, hands, animated by His very own breath- this vessel may perish, but our spirits endure!!!!! Praise God, in Jesus' Name, brother!!! Love and Peace!
Posted by: Mike again! | May 18, 2005 at 03:41 PM
I would say that if Jesus Christ is God then verses stating that God raised Jesus from the dead make full sense since Jesus is God. In the same way the Father and the Holy Spirit are both mentioned as two distinct persons (John 14:26, John 15:26, Acts 2:33, Eph 1:17, etc) and yet are one. Sometimes the bible refers to God the Father as raising Jesus (e.g. Gal 1:1); other times the bible refers to the Holy Spirit as raising Jesus (e.g. Rom 8:11); and yet other times just as God (e.g. Acts 5:30, 1 Pet 1:21). Jesus, Himself, however said that He would raise Himself (John 2:19). If we accept that Jesus was not lying and that all scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) then it would seem logical that Jesus is God. Furthermore, there are a number of passages which link Jesus to God as an equal, such as Titus 3:4-6.
Posted by: Dave | February 09, 2009 at 01:49 PM
Dave, I'm not prepared to accept the assertions you reference in various scriptural documents. If I were to have the opportunity to speak with the authors of those documents, I would ask them my favorite theological question: Please tell me exactly how you know this, and explain why you think I should accept that you're correct.
Thanks for commenting.
Posted by: D. C. Toedt III | February 09, 2009 at 02:31 PM
@David, you cite John and Revelation. Those documents purport to describe what Jesus supposedly said and did, but they were written decades after the fact, by people with an obvious theological agenda to advance.
(In the Markan passage you cite, it's noteworthy that Jesus doesn't say, I forgive your sins; instead, he merely reports that his listener's sins have been forgiven.)
My original post focuses on what the apostles said and did in the days after Jesus' putative resurrection (as opposed to what subsequent followers said many years later). The only extant account on that point is that of Acts — and that account is markedly different than those of the Fourth Gospel and Revelation.
Posted by: D. C. Toedt III | November 23, 2009 at 02:59 PM