Jesus Christ Is the Passover Lamb

In this 2.5 minute video clip, evangelist Bobby Conway of The One Minute Apologist rightly declares that the Passover Lamb described in the Old Testament foreshadowed Jesus of Nazareth.  At the end of the clip, he recommends a book by Walter Kaiser, which I have also recommended.

Because the Passover presaged Christ, John the Baptist could refer to his cousin Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29,36) and the apostle Paul could say “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Similarly, the entire Old Testament testifies about Christ (John 5:39, 46; Luke 24:25-27, 44-48; 2 Timothy 3:14-15).  We would do well to pay more attention to biblical themes like the Passover so that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Walter Kaiser Reveals Christ in the Bible

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (Wikipedia profile; his personal web page) is a Bible scholar who brings to light how much the Bible talks about Christ (though Kaiser more commonly uses the Hebraic term Messiah, Christ being the Hellenistic version).  His book, The Messiah in the Old Testament, is an example of this.

Kaiser talks about “the promise-plan” of God in which he sees Messiah (i.e. Christ) occupying the central personal role.  This kind of focus reveals how Jesus is the Bible’s common thread and constant preoccupation.

So many people read the Bible without an appreciation of the fact that it’s all about Jesus Christ – Old Testament included (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48; 2 Timothy 3:14-15).  Kaiser’s writings can help put such people on the right track.

I should add, however, that there is much more to see about Christ in the Bible than even what Kaiser puts forth.

Six Objections to the Trinity

  1. The Trinity concept contends for attention with the New Testament’s focus on Christ (that is, it obscures God’s mystery, Christ, and replaces it with man’s mystery, the Trinity).
  2. The apostles did not articulate it as it has been articulated by post-apostolic fathers and people today (i.e. it is not explicitly taught in Scripture, that is, not explicitly taught by prophets, apostles or the Lord; and it is an inadequate and unsatisfying explanation of what is taught by them).
  3. There was not a Binity recognized in the Old Testament even though the Father and Holy Spirit had been revealed.  If we should accept a Trinity from the New Testament, there should be a Binity in the Old Testament.
  4. The Trinity concept defies understanding and logic (How can 3=1?); it must simply be accepted without understanding (to say 3 persons in 1 being is dodging the Deuteronomy 6:4 issue with verbal gymnastics).  Scripture may instruct us to accept a stated truth that we cannot understand, but there is no reason for us to infer propositions from it that cannot be understood.
  5. There are no types, patterns, or analogies for it in Scripture (and perhaps elsewhere either) even though God commonly gives types, patterns, and analogies for those things He wants us to learn.
  6. The Trinity concept is an impractical way to relate to a God who wants us to trust, love, and obey Him (i.e. when you’re praying do you pray to your Father or your Lord; or do you just pray to the two of them knowing they will say the same thing, and if they’ll say the same thing, why do you need two of them – why doesn’t one of them do something else while you are praying?)

To learn more about Christ versus the Trinity, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

Why I Love the NASB

I love the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and believe it is the most useful of all English translations of the Bible.  Here are my reasons:

1. It is the most literal of all English translations.  For a native-English-speaker who is not fluent in Greek or Hebrew, the NASB is as close as I will ever get to what the prophets and apostles originally wrote.

2. Because of its faithfulness to the what the prophets and apostles originally wrote, the NASB makes an exhaustive concordance (e.g. Strong’s) most effective.  That is, it is much easier to do study specific words with the NASB, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

3. Most editions of the NASB include a cross-reference apparatus which correlates a given verse with other similar verses, many of which a concordance word study wouldn’t necessarily catch.

4. Those who created the NASB translation were convinced that the Scriptures are the word of God.  While many Bible translators have this conviction, the breadth and depth of this belief among the NASB translation committee is noteworthy.  I believe it drove them to literalness and discouraged undocumented emendations to an unparalleled degree.

The only improvement I could see to make to the NASB would be to have its Old Testament based on the Septuagint text (i.e. Greek) rather than on the Masoretic text (i.e. Hebrew).  This is because, of course, the New Testament when quoting the Old Testament seems to be referring much more often to Greek than to Hebrew renderings of the Old Testament text.

There are other literal English translations of the Bible (e.g. the King James Version, the English Standard Version, the New King James Version), and they are all useful.  There are also good translations of the Bible which are less literal (e.g. the New International Version, the Good News Bible, the Living Bible), and they, too, have their appropriate uses.  And there are certainly other worthwhile English translations which I have not mentioned specifically here.  My favorite of all English Bible translations, however, remains the NASB – for the reasons I have given.

The Septuagint Is Important

The Septuagint (often referred to as LXX) is a Greek translation of the Old Testament completed prior to the time of Christ.  While the Old Testament was originally written largely in Hebrew, the New Testament was written largely in Greek.  Furthermore, it appears that when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, it is often the Septuagint version that is being quoted.

Here’s a better, though still brief, rationale for why the Septuagint is important from Dr. William Varner and his DrIBEX ideas blog.  (Yesterday was International Septuagint Day.)

Word Cloud Bible

A four-minute early 21st Century meditation on a collection of treasured ancient documents.!

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ Is Improbable

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an improbable event.  Highly unlikely.  Even exceedingly unlikely.  I say this speaking as a human being.  I have been aware of many people dying in my lifetime but never have I similarly been aware of any of them rising from the dead.  I don’t have any problem saying that from a human perspective, resurrection is exceedingly improbable.

Just because the resurrection of Christ is improbable, however, does not mean that it is impossible.  I have to admit this because I am not omniscient.  I can’t make a categorical statement that Jesus was not raised from the dead because I can’t make categorical statements about things outside of my knowledge.  Nevertheless, I can say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is possible, but highly improbable…and therefore, for all practical purposes, impossible.  Saying something is practically impossible, however, is very different from saying categorically that it is impossible.

Some people radicalize their assumption about the great odds against the resurrection and, whether consciously or subconsciously, change their assumption to the categorical statement, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is impossible.”  They have no basis for doing so, but they do it nonetheless.  Therefore, when evidence of Christ’s resurrection is presented to them, they, without a moment’s extra thought, can rationalize it away because they “know” that Jesus Christ could not possibly have risen from the dead.

Because I am only willing to say that Christ’s resurrection is highly improbable and not willing to say that it is impossible, then I can objectively assess evidence of His resurrection that is presented to me.

The New Testament is a collection of 27 independent documents which individually and collectively testify that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical event.  The Old Testament is a collection of three times that much documentary support for the idea that Jesus would rise from the dead – all written before He was ever born!  Without going further into all the details of the New and Old Testaments and what they say in confirmation of Jesus Christ rising from the dead (which is considerable and which is foundational to my faith), I can say that, based on this extraordinary compilation of testimony, I have ample reason to adjust my assessment of the probability of Jesus’ resurrection from exceedingly unlikely to highly likely.  In fact, I have become as certain as I could possibly be without having actually put my fingers in His hands and in His side.

Thus, I have been moved by the evidence from seeing the resurrection of Christ as practically impossible…to probable…to, for all practical purposes, certain.

I do not object, therefore, to anyone saying that the resurrection Christ is improbable, because that is the conclusion to which experience and logic would lead any rational adult in the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary.  That’s what the Bible is: an over-sized file folder bulging with evidence.

Biblical Background

Today I am adding a category to this blog: Biblical Background.

The purpose will be to make it easier to find posts which deal with biblical research and biblical studies. By this I mean those things that help us to better understand what the Bible is saying – resources that help allow the light that is in the Bible to shine forth with less obstruction.  The “obstruction” is simply the disadvantage of living two to three millennia separted from the times in which the Bible documents were written.

There are two aspects to the ancient literature of the Bible: that which is timeless, and that which is timebound.  Biblical studies help us better understand the timebound issues so that what is timeless can shine through.

There are two potential problems with biblical studies.  First, we may end up studying about the Bible more than study the Bible itself.  Second, we might forget that studying the Bible is not primarily an academic exercise but rather it should be a spiritual exercise.  That is, we want to look to the Bible in order to find the ideas that come from God so that we might daily live according to those ideas.  As long as we avoid these pitfalls, then biblical research should bless us and not distract us.

Biblical studies and biblical research are generally synonymous terms.  However, the former implies the catalog of known information while the latter implies the continuing search for new information. 

We want to let the Bible speak for itself.  Biblical Background materials are those resources that help us in that regard.  They will not include, for example, books of theology which attempt to speak for the Bible.  These can be of value, but they are not our interest here.  Rather, what we seek here is information that gives context to the lives and works of the Bible writers so that we can better understand what they were saying.

I hope you will enjoy the resources that will be identified here.  They will be included because they enriched my life, and think I they can enrich your life, too.

Dialogue with Steve (re: the Bible)

This dialogue centers on the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular – how is it that we have the documents we now have and can we trust them?  I trust that these documents are what the original authors wrote, that the documents are what they claim to be, that the authors are telling the truth in what they write, and that all the truths bear witness to Jesus Christ as Messiah of Israel and the God of all creation.  (And, yes, there is a sequence and a progression in and through those phrases.)  Steve is challenging my beliefs at various points.

My interaction with Steve (we don’t otherwise know each other) began when he entered into my Dialogue with Rob.  Steve has since commented on other posts on this blog and other posts on my other blogs.  He wrote this particular set of challenges in a response to my post I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point.  I moved them here because they deserve to be answered in a separate setting and don’t really respond to the challenge I was inviting there.

(For a quick background on dialogues that appear on this site, see the post Dialogues.)

Steve:  The New Testament documents are culled from assorted stories and lore edited by men about three centuries after many of the alleged events took place by men you seem to understand may be of dubious motivation and intent.

Mike:  If you can explain how the New Testament documents were “edited by men about three centuries after many of the alleged events took place” please post it at I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point because that is just what I’m looking for there.  As for your statement here, it’s just an assertion I’ve heard people make but I’ve never heard anyone credibly explain how it could have happened. 

I do not claim that church leaders were so pure they could never have done anything like that.  I’m claiming that they would not deem it in their interest to do so, and even if they had, they would lack the ability to pull it off.  In other words, they lacked motive, means, and opportunity to pull off such a caper.  My goal in saying these things is not to exonerate them but rather to exonerate the New Testament

Steve:  Who actually were Mathew, Mark, John and Luke?

Mike:  Matthew was one of the original twelve apostles.  Mark was an associate of Peter, one of the original twelve apostles.  John was one of the original twelve apostles.  Luke was an associate of Paul, a later apostle.

Steve:  Where are their other works and where do other contemporaries identify them as authoritative authors that actually lived, had families, wrote additional narratives (and not mere additional characters crafted for the story to be chronicled)?

Mike:  If they did write other works, those works have not yet been recovered.  Those that wrote are all contemporaries and bear witness of each other.  For example, Matthew bears witness of John and Peter.  Peter bears witness of Paul and Mark.  Paul bears witness of Mark and Peter and John.  And so on.

Steve: Were these men actual eyewitnesses to events depicted in the stories attributed to them?

Mike: Matthew would have been.  Mark could have been for some and probably relied on Peter and others for the rest.  Luke compiled eyewitness accounts for all except the last third of the book of Acts for which he himself was an eyewitness.  John was an eyewitness.

Steve:  Why are there internal inconsistencies regarding certain events?

Mike:  The charge of inconsistencies is often made but examination usually reveals them to be only nonexistent, superficial, or immaterial. 

Steve:  Where are the depictions of Jesus’ childhood?

Mike:  His conception, birth, and infancy are described in Matthew and Luke.  Luke also writes of an event that occurred when Jesus was twelve years old.

Steve:  How many New Testament documents were accepted and canonized from unknown authors?

Mike: The only New Testament document that does not have an author’s name associated with it is Hebrews.  However, it has always been associated with Paul even if only to dispute his authorship.  The most common alternatives to Paul as author are associates of Paul.

Steve: What reason was given by the men on the Council of Nicea for not including some of the other contemporary stories of the day involving some of the same characters as books or letters within the New Testament?

Mike: The biblical canon was not an issue at the Council of Nicea.

Steve: Why isn’t there anything written by Jesus himself, why the short story narrative compilation that reads as an edited work?

Mike: While it’s possible Jesus wrote something (He certainly wrote in the sand once, and He certainly knew how to read), there’s nothing in the New Testament to make us think that He wrote something or that would encourage us to look for something He wrote.  He seemed content to let others bear witness of Him.  As for the second part of your question, I don’t understand it.

Steve:  Why do some Bibles include some books, but other versions leave them out?

Mike:  Bibles worldwide are noteworthy for their similarity.  The core – which constitutes the vast majority of the books – appear in all Bibles.  There are a few additional books which some Christian denomination include that others do not.

Steve:  How come the Christian Old Testament doesn’t count the number of books as the Jews in the Tanakh?

Mike:  The Jewish Tanakh and the Protestant Old Testament have the exact same books, though the order is slightly different (owing to the different keepers of the documents).  The Catholic Old Testament includes some additional books called the Apocrypha (I know you know a lot of this stuff, Steve; I’m just filling in some blanks for readers who might not be as knowledgeable as you.

Steve:  Why don’t the Jews, via the “Men of Great Assembly” originators of the Tanakh, believe in the evolution of claims made of their foundational lore as canonized by the Council of Nicea (yet more men of great assembly)?

Mike:  Steve, I don’t know what you mean by “the evolution of claims made of…”  Also, the Council of Nicea did not deal with canonical issues.

Steve: You would think that such an important event in such close proximity would have universally convinced all humankind immediately.

Mike:  I’m not sure in this context which “important event” you’re speaking of.  In any event, however, God’s looking for faith – not coercion.

Steve: By the way, [you say the New Testament is similar to the Old Testament, but]Islam channels the Old Testament lore and characters as well, so, given your subjective assertions [about your faith in the Bible], shouldn’t you also conclude that the Qur’an is also the word of God.

Mike:  No.  The New Testament appeals to the Old Testament as its authority.  With rare exception, whenever the New Testament is talking about Scripture, it’s talking exclusively about the Old Testament.  The New Testament gives the Old Testament new meaning.  And the Old Testament prophesies of that to which the New Testament testifies.  The Quran may appropriate certain information from the Old and New Testaments but it is not about to defer to them.  (The same can be said of the Book of Mormon.)  

Steve, if I’ve failed to answer any of your questions, or answered inappropriately because I misunderstood the question, please let me know.

I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point

(This challenge is for atheists, agnostics, and anyone else who believes that Jesus Christ is not who the Bible says He is.)

If you want to attack and defeat an enemy you look for the most efficient way to do so.  If it’s a country, you go after its capital because through victory over that one city you can control the entire nation.

The central focal point of my faith is Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel, raised from the dead.  I could not have this faith were it not for the historical reliability of the New Testament.  That is, I take the New Testament documents at face value.  If it says “Matthew’s gospel” I believe it was written by Matthew.  If a letter reads as if it was written by Paul, I believe it was written by Paul.  On this basis, I read the New Testament and either accept it or reject it as a whole.

I don’t pick and choose which parts of the New Testament to trust and which to doubt because in order to do that I’d have to trust Bible scholars and they never unanimously agree.  They exist across a spectrum from liberal to conservative, and if you want to be choosy about what you believe, there is always a Bible scholar to be found who will support your view.  Reading the New Testament collection of documents as they present themselves, I find them logical and persuasive.  Having accepted the New Testament, I fully accept the Old Testament because the New Testament bears abundant witness that the Old Testament is the word of God.

To summarize the key point: in the New Testament I find a collection of testimonies from people who claim to be eyewitnesses that I can either accept or reject as a whole.  To reject parts of their testimony, I’d have to trust myself or a Bible scholar to know more about those points than the person who claims to be an eyewitness.

Let me spell out the sequence and development of my faith: 1) the New Testament documents are what they present themselves to be until proven otherwise , 2) I find their message logical and compelling, 3) accepting their message (the centrality of which is Jesus as the Messiah, raised from the dead), I believe that the Old Testament is the word of God 4) due to its similarity to the Old Testament, I conclude that the New Testament is also the word of God.

Notice that regarding the New Testament as the word of God was not the way I began, but rather the way I ended.  I only began with “Here is a set of documents from antiquity which are presented to me as historically reliable; I will read them and see what they say.”  I found nothing in my reading of these 27 documents that was self-contradictory in any material way.  On the contrary, I found their cohesion and consistency – given the variety of authors as well as the variety of circumtances which gave rise to the various documents – to be stunning and awe-inspiring.

Nonetheless, if you were able to demonstrate to me that these documents were falsified in any material way – that is, written falsely or edited falsely – you could completely undermine my faith in Jesus, which is to say undermine my faith in God, the supernatural, life after death, and on and on.  Therefore, I invite you to challenge me at my most vulnerable point.  Herein is “the capital,” by which if you capture it, you will have won the whole country.

Apparently, there are a number of people who think that the New Testament documents were either completely fabricated or else are extensive embellishments of original documents which presented a different Jesus that we read about now.  If you are one of them, here’s your chance.  I’m inviting you to attack me at the most strategic point of my faith.

I will tell you at the outset that all I have heard so far along these lines have been preposterous propositions, so you had better present some reasonable explanation of how such a falsification was pulled off.  If you can do so, you would have solved the crime of the century…no, make that millennium…no, make that millennia since it’s been almost 2,000 years since this caper was supposedly pulled off.

Until then, we’ll call the theory that the New Testament documents aren’t the work of Jesus’ honest and faithful apostles, “The Great Hoax That Never Was.”

POSTSCRIPT:  Someone (Hendy) posted below that he didn’t completely understand the challenge and wanted me to clarify or elaborate.  I’ve done that below.

For an update on the project’s status as of January 11, 2011 see below.