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  1. #61
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    Default Jesus And The Amazing Apollonius ...

    let's raise a more difficult issue: the seemingly stronger parallels between Jesus and a historical figure named Apollonius of Tyana, here's someone from the 1st century who was said to have healed people and to have exorcised demons; who may have raised a young girl from the dead; and who appeared to some of his followers after he died, people point to that and say, "aha! if you're going to admit that the Apollonius story is legendary, why not say the same thing about the Jesus story?" initially, this sounds impressive, but if you do the historical work calmly and objectively, you find the alleged parallels just don't stand up, first, his biographer, Philostratus, was writing a century and a half after Apollonius lived, whereas the gospels were written within a generation of Jesus, the closer proximity to the event, the less chance there is for legendary development, for error or for memories to get confused, another thing is that we have 4 gospels, corroborated with Paul, that can be cross-checked to some degree with nonbiblical authors, like Josehpus and others, with Apollonius, we're dealing with one source, plus the gospels pass the standard tests used to assess historical reliability, but we can't say that about the stories of Apollonius, on top of that, Philostratus was commissioned by an empress to write a biography in order to dedicate a temple to Apollonius, she was a follower of Apollonius, so Philostratus would have had a financial motive to embellish the story and give the empress what she wanted, on the other hand, the writers of the gospels had nothing to gain - and much to lose - by writing Jesus' story, and they didn't have ulterior motives such as financial gain, also, the way Philostratus writes is very different than the gospels, the gospels have a very confident eyewitness perspective, as if they had a camera there, but Philostratus includes alot of tentative statements, like "It is reported that ..." or "some say this young girl had died; others say she was just ill ...", to his credit, he backs off and treats stories like stories, and here's a biggie: Philostratus was writing in the early 3rd century in Cappadocia, where Christianity had already been present for quite a while, so any borrowing would have been done by him, not by Christians, you can imagine the followers of Apollonius seeing Christianity as competition and saying, "oh yeah? well, Apollonius did the same things Jesus did!" sort of like "my dad can beat up your dad!" one final point, Apollonius may have done some amazing things or at least tricked people into thinking he did, but that doesn't in any way compromise the evidence for Jesus, even if you grant the evidence for Apollonius, you're still left with having to deal with the evidence for Christ










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    Default Jesus And The "Mystery Religions" ...

    a lot of college students are taught that many of the themes seen in the life of Jesus are merely echoes of ancient "mystery religions", in which there are stories about gods dying and rising, and rituals of baptism and communion, what about those parallels? that was a very popular argument at the beginning of the century, but it generally died off because it was so discredited, for one thing, given the timing involved, if you're going to argue for borrowing, it should be from the direction of Christianity to the mysterious religions, not vice versa, also, the mystery religions were do-your-own-thing religions that freely borrowed ideas from various places, however, the Jews carefully guarded their beliefs from outside influences, they saw themselves as a separate people and strongly resisted pagan ideas and rituals, the most interesting potential parallels were the mythological tales of gods dying and rising, aren't those stories similar to Christian beliefs? while it's true that some mystery religions had stories of gods dying and rising, these stories always revolved around the natural life cycle of death and rebirth, crops die in the fall and come to life in the spring, people express the wonder of this ongoing phenomenon through mythological stories about gods dying and rising, these stories were always cast in a legendary form, they depicted events that happened "once upon a time", contrast that with the depiction of Jesus Christ in the gospels, they talk about someone who actually lived several decades earlier, and they name names - crucified under Pontius Pilate, when Caiaphas was the high priest, and the father of Alexander and Rufus carried his cross - for example, that's concrete historical stuff, it has nothing in common with stories about what supposedly happened "once upon a time", and Christianity has nothing to do with life cycles or the harvest, it has to do with a very Jewish belief - which is absent from the mystery religions - about the resurrection of the dead and about life eternal and reconciliation with God, as for the suggestion that the New Testament doctrines of baptism or communion come from mystery religions, that's just nonsense, for one thing, the evidence for these supposed parallels comes after the second century, so any borrowing would have come from Christianity, not the other way around, and when you look carefully, the similarities vanish, for instance, to get to a higher level in the Mithra cult, followers had to stand under a bull while it was slain, so they could be bathed in it's blood and guts, then they'd join the others in eating the bull, now, to suggest that Jews woud find anything attractive about this and want to model baptism and communion after this barbaric practice is extremely implausible, which is why most scholars don't go for it ...










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    Default Secret Gospels and Talking Crosses ...

    there has been alot written in the popular press about the Gospel of Thomas, Secret Mark, the Cross Gospel and Q, have there really been any new discoveries that change the way we should think about Jesus? no there are no new discoveries that tell us anything new about Jesus, the Gospel of Thomas was discovered long ago, but it's only now being used to create an alternative Jesus, some theories about the Gospel of Thomas may be new, but the gospel itself is not, as for Q, it's not a discovery but a theory that has been around for 1 and 1/2 centuries, which tries to account for the material that Matthew and Luke have in common, what's new is the highly questionable way that left-wing scholars are using their presuppositions to slice this hypothetical Q into various layers of legendary development to back up their preconceived theories, John Dominic Crossan, perhaps the most influential scholar in the Jesus Seminar, has made strong claims about a gospel called Secret Mark, in fact, he asserts that Secret Mark may actually be an uncensored version of the gospel of Mark, containing confidential matters for spiritual insiders, some have used it to claim that Jesus was actually a magician or that a number of early Christians practiced homosexuality, this conspiratorial scenario has captured the media's attention, what proof is there for this? none, you see, we don't have a Secret Mark, what we have is one scholar how found a quote from Clement of Alexandria, from late in the 2nd century, that supposedly comes from this gospel, and now, mysteriously, even that is gone, disappeared, we don't have it, we don't have a quote from it, and even if we did have a quote from it, w don't have any reason to think that it has given us any valid information about the historical Jesus or what early Christians thought about him, on top of that, we already know that Clement had a track record of being very gullible in accepting spurious writings, so Secret Mark is a nonexistant work cited now by a nonexistant text by a 2nd century writer who's known for being naive about these things, the vast majority of scholars don't give this any credibility, unfortunately, those who do, get alot of press, because they media love the sensational, Crossan also gives credence to what he calls the Cross Gospel, most scholars don't give it any credibility, because it includes such outlandishly legendary material, for instance, Jesus comes out of his tomb and he's huge - he goes up beyond the sky - and the cross comes out of the tomb and actually talks! obviously, the much more sober gospels are more reliable than anything found in this account, it fits better with later apocryphal writings, in fact, it's dependent on biblical material, so it should be dated later, unlike the overwhelming majority of biblical experts, the Jesus Seminar has accorded extremely high status to the Gospel of Thomas, elevating it to a place alongside the 4 traditional gospels, why shouldn't Thomas be given that kind of honor? everyone concedes that this gospel has been significantly influenced by Gnosticism, which was a religious movement in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries that supposedly had secret insights, knowledge or revelations that would allow people to know the key to the universe, salvation was by what you knew - gnosis is greek for "know", so most scholars date the gospel of Thomas to the mid-second century, in which it fits well into the cultural milieu, example: Jesus is quoted as saying, "every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven", that contradicts the attitude that we know Jesus had toward women, but it fits well with the Gnostic mind set, however, the Jesus Seminar has arbitrarily latched onto certain passages of the Gospel of Thomas and has argued that these passages represent an early strand of tradition about Jesus, even earlier than the canonical gospels, because none of these passages include Jesus making exalted claims for himself or doing supernatural feats, they argue that the earliest view of Jesus was that he was only a great teacher, but the whole line of reasoning is circular, the only reason for thinking these passages in Thomas are early in the first place is because they contain a view of Jesus that these scholars already believed was the original Jesus, in truth there is no good reason for preferring the 2nd century Gospel of Thomas over the 1st century gospels of the New Testament










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  4. #64
    Administrator squirt's Avatar
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    Default History Versus Faith ...

    the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith: the Jesus Seminar believes there's a big gulf between the two, in it's view the historical Jesus was a bright, witty, countercultural man who never claimed to be the Son of God, while the Jesus of faith is a cluster of feel-good ideas that help people live right but are ultimately based on wishful thinking, there's not just a gulf between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith, if you discredit everything that says Jesus is divine and reconciles people with God, there's an outright contradiction between the two, generally speaking, they define the Jesus of faith this way: there are religious symbols that are quite meaningful to people - the symbol of Jesus being divine, of the cross, of self-sacrificial love, of the Resurrection, even though people don't really believe that those things actually happened, they nevertheless can inspire people to live a good life, to overcome existential angst, to realize new potentialities, to resurrect hope in the midst of despair - so these liberals say historical research can't possibly discover the Jesus of faith, because the Jesus of faith is not rooted in history, he's merely a symbol, but listen: Jesus is not a symbol of anything unless he is rooted in history, the Nicene Creed doesn't say, "We wish these things were true", it says, "Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and the third day he rose again from the dead" and it goes on from there, the theological truth is based on historical truth, that's the way the New Testament talks, look at the sermon of Peter in the second chapter of Acts, he stands up and says, "you guys are a witness of these things; they weren't done in secret, David's tomb is still with us, but God has raised Jesus from the dead, therefore we proclaim him to be the Son of God." take away miracles and you take away the Resurrection, and then you've got nothing to proclaim, Paul said that if Jesus wasn't raised from the dead, then our faith is futile, it's useless, it's empty, we don't want to base our lives on a symbol, we want reality, and the Christian faith has always been rooted in reality, what's not rooted in reality is the faith of liberal scholars, they're the ones who are following a pipe dream, but Christianity is not a pipe dream










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    Jesus, the one Christians relate to, is both a Jesus of history and a Jesus of faith, it's like this; if you love a person, your love goes beyond the facts of that person, but it's rooted in the facts about that person, for example, you love your wife because she's gorgeous, she's nice, she's sweet, she's kind, all these things are facts about your wife, and therefore, you love her, but your love goes beyond that, you can know all these things about your wife and not be in love with her and put your trust in her, but you do, so the decision goes beyond the evidence, yet it is there also on the basis of evidence, so it is with falling in love with Jesus, to have a relationship with Jesus Christ goes beyond just knowing the historical facts about him, yet it's rooted in the historical facts about him, people believe in Jesus on the basis of the historical evidence, they have to put their trust in him and walk with him on a daily basis, do we ackowledge that Christianity makes some claims about Jesus that are just plain hard to believe? of course we do, that's why we're glad that we have such incredibly strong evidence to show us they're true, it comes down to this: there's no competition, the evidence for Jesus being who the disciples said he was - for having done the miracles that he did, for rising from the dead, for making the claims that he did - is just light years beyond our reasons for thinking that the left-wing scholarship of the Jesus Seminar is correct, what do these scholars have? well, there's a brief allusion to a lost 'secret' gospel in a late-second-century letter that has unfortunately only been seen by one person and has now itself been lost, there's a 3rd century account of the Crucifixion and Resurrection that stars a talking cross and that less than a handful of scholars think predates the gospels, there's a 2nd century Gnostic document, parts of which some scholars now want to date early to back up their own preconceptions, and there is a hypothetical document built on shaky assumptions that is being sliced thinner and thinner by using circular reasoning, it's far more reasonable to put our trust in the gospels - which pass the tests of historical scrutiny with flying colors - than to put our hope in what the Jesus Seminar is saying










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    Default The Identity Evidence ... Was Jesus really convinced that he was the Son of God?

    without dialoguing him, how can we possibly delve into Jesus' mind to determine what his motivations, intentions, and self understanding were? how do we know who he thought he was and what he understood his mission to be? if we want to figure out whether Jesus thought he was the Messiah or Son of God - or merely considered himself to be a rabbi or prophet - we need to look at what he did, what he said and how he related to others, the question of what Jesus thought of himself is a critical issue, some professors maintain taht they myth of Jesus' deity was superimposed on the Jesus tradition by overzealous supporters years after his death, the real Jesus, these professors believe, would roll over in his grave if he knew people were worshipping him, if you strip away the legends and go back to the earliest material about him, they say you'll find he never aspired to be anything more than an itinerant teacher and occasional rabble-rouser, but is the evidence on their side? the truth is that Jesus was a bit mysterious about his identity, wasn't he? he tended to shy away from forthrightly proclaiming himself to be the Messiah or Son of God, was that because he didn't think of himself in those terms or because he had other reasons? no, it's not because he didn't think of himself in those terms, if he had simply announced, "Hi folks, I'm the Son of God", it would have been counterproductive to Jesus in his efforts to get people to listen to his message, there were already a host of expectations about what the Messiah would look like, and Jesus didn't want to be pigeonholed into somebody else's categories, consequently, he was very careful about what he said publicly, in private with his disciples - that was a different story, but the gospels primarily tell us about what he did in public

    Ben Witherington III, PH.D.










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  7. #67
    Senior Member ABUELA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirt View Post
    Scripture: Matthew 21:42
    “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner” KJV

    He never wrote a book --- yet libraries can not hold all the books about him

    He never wrote a song --- yet more songs are written about him than anyone

    He never founded a college --- yet he has more students than all the schools

    He never practiced psychiatry --- yet healed more broken hearts than doctors

    He never boasted for notoriety --- yet abounds more than all philosophers

    He never asked to die --- yet the grave could not hold him

    He never joined the religious leaders of the time --- yet angels acknowledge him

    He never joined the religious leaders of the time --- yet demons fear his name

    He never went to medical school --- yet he healed multitudes

    He never traveled far --- yet is known throughout the entire universe


    VERY NICE!!!







    THANKS SS




  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by ABUELA View Post
    VERY NICE!!!












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    Only you and God have all the facts about yourself ♥

  9. #69
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    Default Exploring The Earliest Traditions ...

    it was a 1977 book by British theologian John Hick and a half dozen like-minded colleagues that prompted a firestorm of controversy by charging that Jesus never thought of himself as God incarnate or the Messiah, these concepts, they wrote, developed later and were written into the gospels so it appeared that Jesus was making these claims about himself, to explore that allegation, Witherington has gone back to the very earliest traditions about Jesus - the most primitive material, unquestionably safe from legendary development - and discovered persuasive clues concerning how Jesus really regarded himself, he wanted to delve into that research, starting with this question: "What clues can we find out about Jesus' self-understanding from the way he related to others?" look at his relationship with his disciples, Jesus had 12 disciples, yet notice that he is not one of the 12, while that may sound like a detail without difference, Witherington said it's quite significant, if the 12 represent a renewed Israel, where does Jesus fit in? he's not just part of Israel, not merely part of the redeemed group, he's forming the group - just as God in the Old Testament formed his people and set up the 12 tribes of Israel, that's a clue about what Jesus thought about himself, Witherington went on to describe a clue that can be found in Jesus' relationship with John the Baptist, Jesus says, "of all people born of woman, John is the greatest man on earth." having said that, he then goes on even further in his ministry than the Baptist did - by doing miracles for example, what does that say about what he thinks of himself? and his relationship with the religious leaders is perhaps the most revealing, Jesus makes the truly radical statement that it's not what enters a person that defiles him but what comes out of his heart, frankly, this sets aside huge portions of the Old Testament book Leviticus, with it's meticulous rules concerning purity, now, the Pharisees didn't like this message, they wanted to keep things as they were, but Jesus said, "No, God has further plans. He's doing a new thing." we have to ask, what kind of person thinks he has the authority to set aside the divinely inspired Jewish Scriptures and supplant them with his own teaching? and what about his relationship - if we can call it that - with the Roman authorities? we have to ask why they crucified him, if he had merely been an innocuous sage telling nice little parables, how did he end up on a cross, especially at a Passover season, when no Jew wants any Jew to be executed? there had to be a reason why the sign above his head said, "This is the King of the Jews", either Jesus had made that verbal claim or someone clearly thought he did

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    Default By The Finger of God ...

    while Jesus' relationships provide one window into his self-understanding, Witherington said that Jesus' deeds - especially his miracles - offer additional insights, however, certainly you can't say that Jesus' miracles establish that he thought he was the Son of God, since later his own disciples went out and did the same things - and certainly they weren't making claims of deity, no, it's not the fact that Jesus did miracles that illuminates his self-understanding, what's important is how he interprets his miracles, Jesus says, "If I, by the finger of God, cast out demons, then you will know that the kingdom of God has come upon you." He's not like other miracle workers who do amazing things and then life proceeds as it always has, no - to Jesus, his miracles are a sign indicating the coming of the kingdom of God, they are a foretaste of what the kingdom is going to be like, and that sets Jesus apart, how does it set him apart? Jesus sees his miracles as bringing about something unprecedented - the coming of God's dominion, he doesn't merely see himself as a worker of miracles, he sees himself as the one in whom and through whom the promises of God come to pass, and that's a not-too-thinly-veiled claim of transcendence, he was called Rabbouni or "Rabbi" by his followers, does this imply that he merely taught like the other rabbis of his day? actually, Jesus taught in a radical new way, he begins his teachings with the phrase "Amen I say to you", which is to say, "I swear in advance to the truthfulness of what I'm about to say." this was absolutely revolutionary, how so? in Judaism, you needed the testimony of 2 witnesses, so witness A could witness the truth of witness B and vice versa, but Jesus witnesses to the truth of his own sayings, instead of basing his teaching on the authority of others, he speaks on his own authority, so here is someone who considered himself to have authority above and beyond what the Old Testament prophets had, he believed he possessed not only divine inspiration, as King David did, but also divine authority and the power of direct divine utterance, in addition to employing the "Amen" phrase in his teaching, Jesus used the term "Abba" when he was relating to God, what does that tell us about what he thought about himself? "Abba" connotes intimacy in a relationship between a child and his father, interestingly, it's also the term disciples used for a beloved teacher in early Judaism, but Jesus used it of God - and as far as we can tell, he and his followers were the only ones praying to God that way, expanding on the importance of this, in the context in which Jesus operated, it was customary for Jews to work around having to say the name of God, His name was the most holy word you could speak, and they even feared mispronouncing it, if they were going to address God, they might say something like, "The Holy One, blessed He be" but they were not going to use his personal name, and "Abba" is a personal term, it's the term of endearment in which a child would say to his parent, "Father Dearest, what would you have me do?" praying "Abba" must not imply that Jesus thinks he's God, because he taught his disciples to use the same term in their own prayers, and they're not God, the significance of "Abba" is that Jesus is the initiator of an intimate relationship that was previously unavailable, the question is, what kind of person can change the terms of relating to God? what kind of person can initiate a new covenental relationship with God? how significant do we consider Jesus' use of "Abba" to be? quite significant, it implies that Jesus had a degree of intimacy with God that is unlike anything in the Judaism of his day, and here's the kicker: Jesus is saying that only through having a relationship with him does this kind of prayer language - this kind of "Abba" relationship with God - become possible, that says volumes about how he regarded himself, another important clue, Jesus' reference to himself as the "Son of Man" was a reference to Daniel 7, this term is extremely important in revealing Jesus' messianic or transcendent self-understanding, when we put together the clues from Jesus' relationships, miracles and words, his perception of his identity comes into sharp focus, there seems little question, based upon the earliest evidence, that Jesus considered himself to be more than a doer of great deeds, more than a teacher, more than another prophet in a line of many, there was ample evidence to conclude that he thought of himself in unique and supreme terms - but exactly how sweeping was this self-understanding?










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    Default John's Portrait of Jesus ...

    in it's opening scene, the gospel of John uses majestic and unambiguous language to boldly assert the diety of Jesus

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made ... the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    how would Jesus respond if he were to read John's words about him? would he recoil and say, "whoa, John has got me all wrong! He has embellished and mythologized me to the point where I don't even recognize myself"? or would he nod approvingly and say, "yes, I'm all that - and more"? in the words of scholar Raymond Brown, who had come to his own conclusion: "I have no difficulty with the thesis that if Jesus ... could have read John, he would have found that gospel a suitable expression of his identity." when you're dealing with the gospel of John, you're dealing with a somewhat interpreted picture of Jesus, but it is also believed that it's a logical drawing out of what was implicit in the historical Jesus, even if you eliminate the gospel of John, there's still no non-messianic Jesus to be conjured up out of the material in the other three gospels, it's just not there, there is a famous exchange recorded in Matthew, in which Jesus asked his disciples in a private meeting, "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied with clarity, "you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." instead of ducking the issue, Jesus affirmed Peter for his observation, "Blessed are you," he said, "for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matt 16:15-17), even so, some popular depictions of Jesus, such as in the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, show him as basically uncertain about his identity and mission, he's saddled with ambiguity and angst, is there any evidence that Jesus ever had such an identity crisis? not an identity crisis, although it is believed he had points of identity confirmation, at his baptism, at his temptation, at the Transfiguration, in the Garden of Gethsemane - these are crisis moments in which God confirmed to him who he was and what his mission was, for instance, it is not believed to be accidental that his ministry does not begin in earnest until after his baptism, when he hears the voice saying, "You are my Son, with whom I am well pleased." what did he think his mission was? he saw his job as coming to free the people of God, so his mission was directed to Israel, specifically to Israel, there's very little evidence that he sought out Gentiles during his ministry - that was a mission for a later church, you see, the promises of the prophets had come to Israel - and to Israel he must go










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    Default "I and The Father Are One"

    in his book Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig points to a substantial amount of evidence that within 20 years of the Crucifixion there was a full-blown Christology proclaiming Jesus as God incarnate, church historian Jaroslav Pelikan has pointed out that the oldest Christian sermon, the oldest account of a Christian martyr, the oldest pagan report of the church and the oldest liturgical prayer (1 Cor. 16:22) all refer to Jesus as Lord and God, Pelikan said, "Clearly, it was the message of what the church believed and taught that 'God' was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ." in light of this, is there any possible way this could have developed - especially so soon - if Jesus had never made transcendent and messianic claims about himself? not unless we're prepared to argue that the disciples completely forgot what the historical Jesus was like and that they had nothing to do with the traditions that start showing up twenty years after his death, to historians, this does not make any sense at all, in dealing with history all sorts of things are possible but not all possible things are equally probable, is it probable that all this stuff was conjured up out of thin air within 20 years after Jesus died, when there were still living witnesses to what Jesus the historical figure was really like? that is just about as unlikely a historical hypothesis as you could possibly come up with, the real issue is, what happened after the Crucifixion of Jesus that changed the minds of the disciples, who had denied, disobeyed and deserted Jesus? very simply, something happened to them that was similar to what Jesus experienced at his baptism - it was confirmed to them that what they had hoped Jesus was, he was, and what exactly was he? Jesus thought he was the person appointed by God to bring in the climactic saving act of God in human history, he believed he was the agent of God to carry that out - that he had been authorized by God, empowered by God, he spoke for God and he was directed by God to do this task, so what Jesus said, God said, what Jesus did was the work of God, under Jewish concept of agency, "a man's agent is as himself", remember how Jesus sent out his apostles and said, "Whatever they do to you, they've done to me" ? there was a strong connection between a man and his agent whom he sends on a mission, well, Jesus believed he was on a divine mission, and the mission was to redeem the people of God, the implication is that the people of God were lost and that God had to do something - as he had always done - to intervene and set them back on the right track, but there was a difference this time, this was the last time, this was the last chance, did Jesus believe he was the Son of God? the answer is yes, did he see himself as the Son of Man? the answer is yes, did he see himself as the final Messiah? yes, that's the way he viewed himself, did he believe that anybody less than God could save the world? no, it is not believed he did, and here's where the paradox gets as quizzical as it can possibly get: the way God was going to save the world was by his Son dying, the most human of all acts - to die, now, God, in his divine nature, doesn't die, so how was God going to get this done? How was God going to be the Savior of the human race? he had to come as a human being to accomplish that task, and Jesus believed he was the one to do it, Jesus said in Mark 10:45, "I did not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom in place of the many", this is either the highest form of megalomania or it's the example of somebody who really believes, as he said, "I and the Father are one", in other words, "I have the authority to speak for the Father; I have the power to act for the Father; if you reject me, you've rejected the Father." even if you eliminated the 4th gospel and just read the synoptics, this would still be the conclusion you would come to, and it is the conclusion that Jesus would have led us to if we had a bible study and asked him this question, we have to ask, why is there no other first-century Jew who has millions of followers today? why isn't there a John the Baptist movement? why, of all first-century figures, including the Roman emperors, is Jesus still worshipped today, while the others have crumbled into the dust of history? it's because this Jesus - the historical Jesus - is also the living Lord, that's why, it's because he's still around, while the others are long gone

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    Default In The Very Place of God ...

    like Witherington, many other scholars have painstakingly picked apart the earliest evidence for Jesus and reached the same conclusions, wrote Craig, "Here is a man who thought of himself as the Son of God in a unique sense, who claimed to act and speak with divine authority, who held himself to be a worker of miracles, and who believed that people's eternal destiny hinged on whether or not they believed in him." then he added a remark that's especially startling: "The clues sufficient for a high Christological self-understanding of Jesus are present even in the attenuated 20% of Jesus' sayings recognized by the members of the Jesus Seminar as authentic." the evidence for concluding that Jesus intended to stand in the very place of God is "absolutely convincing", concurred theologian Royce Gordon Gruenler, so extraordinary is Jesus's assertion, said Craig, that inevitably the issue of his sanity has to come up, he notes that after James Dunn completed his own epic study of this issue, Dunn was compelled to comment, "One last question cannot be ignored: Was Jesus mad?"

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    Default Was Jesus Crazy When He Claimed To Be The Son of God?

    if we were to go to a mental institution, we're sure to find people who claim they're God, we'd say they were insane, Jesus said he was the Son of God, was he crazy too? the short answer is a no, but this is a legitimate topic that's worthy of further analysis, experts say that people suffering from delusional psychosis may appear rational much of the time yet can have grandiose beliefs that they are supernatural individuals, some can even attract followers who believe they are geniuses, maybe that's what happened with Jesus, it's true that people with psychological difficulties will often claim to be somebody they're not, they'll sometimes claim to be Jesus himself or the president of the United States or someone else famous, however, psychologists don't just look at what a person says, they'll go much deeper than that, they'll look at a person's emotions, because disturbed individuals frequently show inappropriate depression, or they might be vehemently angry, or perhaps they're plagued with anxiety, but look at Jesus: he never demonstrated inappropriate emotions, for instance, he cried at the death of his friend Lazarus - that's natural for an emotionally healthy individual, he certainly got angry at times, but it was a healthy kind of anger at people taking advantage of the downtrodden by lining their pockets at the temple, he wasn't just irrationally ticked off because someone was annoying him; this was a righteous reaction against injustice and the blatant mistreatment of people, other deluded people will have misperceptions, they think people are watching them or are trying to get them when they're not, they're out of contact with reality, they misperceive the actions of other people and accuse them of doing things they have no intention of ever doing, again, we don't see this in Jesus, he was obviously in contact with reality, he wasn't paranoid, although he rightfully understood that there were some very real dangers around him, or people with psychological difficulties may have thinking disorders - they can't carry on a logical conversation, they'll jump to faulty conclusions, they're irrational, we don't see this in Jesus, he spoke clearly, powerfully and eloquently, he was brilliant and had absolutely amazing insights into human nature, another sign of mental disturbances is unsuitable behavior, such as dressing oddly or being unable to relate socially to others, Jesus' behavior was quite in line with what would be expected, and he had deep and abiding relationships with a wide variety of people from different walks of life, he was loving but didn't let his compassion immobilize him; he didn't have a bloated ego, even though he was surrounded by adoring crowds; he maintained balance despite an often demanding lifestyle; he always knew what he was doing and where he was going; he cared deeply about people, including women and children, who weren't seen as being important back then; he was able to accept people while not merely winking at their sin; he responded to individuals based on where they were at and what they uniquely needed, all in all, we just don't see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness

    Gary R Collins, PH.D.

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    Default "Raving Mad" ...

    granted, as we look back through history, we don't see obvious signs of delusion in Jesus, but what about people who were directly interacting with him? what did they see from their much closer vantage point? some people who were on the scene in the 1st century did conclude that Jesus was crazy, John 10:20 tells us that many Jews thought he was "demon possessed and raving mad", but that's hardly a diagnosis by a trained mental health professional, look at what prompted those words - Jesus' moving and profound teaching about being the Good Shepard, they were reacting because his assertions about himself were so far beyond their understanding of the norm, not because Jesus was truly mentally unbalanced, and notice that their comments were immediately challenged by others, who said in verse 21, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" why is that significant? because Jesus wasn't just making outrageous claims about himself, he was backing them up with miraculous acts of compassion, like healing the blind, you see, if I claimed to be the president of the United States, that would be crazy, you'd look at me and see none of the trappings of the office of president, I wouldn't look like the president, people wouldn't accept my authority as president, no Secret Service agents would be guarding me, but if the real president claimed to be president, that wouldn't be crazy, because he IS president and there would be plenty of confirming evidence of that, in an analogous way, Jesus didn't just claim to be the Son of God - he backed it up with amazing feats of healing, with astounding demonstrations of power over nature, with transcendent and unprecedented teaching, with divine insights into people and ultimately with his own resurrection from the dead, which absolutely nobody else has been able to duplicate, so when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, it wasn't crazy, it was the truth, however, some people have tried to shoot down these miracles that supposedly help authenticate Jesus' claim to being the Son of God, in the words of skeptic Charles Templeton:

    Many illnesses, then as now, were psychosomatic, and could be "cured" when the sufferer's perception changed. Just as today a placebo prescribed by a physician in whom the patient has faith can effect an apparent cure, so, in early time, faith in the healer could banish adverse symptoms. With each success the healer's reputation would grow and his powers would, as a consequence, become more efficacious.

    does this explain away the miracles that supposedly back up Jesus' claim to be the Son of God? might Jesus have sometimes healed by suggestion? sometimes people can have a psychologically produced illness, and if they get a new purpose for living, a new direction, they don't need the illness anymore, the placebo effect? if you think you're going to get better, you often do get better, that's a well established medical fact, and when people came to Jesus, they believed he could heal them, so he did, but the fact remains: regardless of how he did it, Jesus did heal them, of course that doesn't explain all of Jesus' healings, often a psychosomatic healing takes time; Jesus' healings were spontaneous, many times people who are healed psychologically have their symptoms return a few days later, but we don't see any evidence of this, and Jesus healed conditions like lifelong blindness and leprosy, for which a psychosomatic explanation isn't very likely, on top of that, he brought people back from the dead - and death is not a psychologically induced state! plus you have all of his nature miracles - the calming of the sea, turning water into wine, they defy naturalistic answers

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    Default Jesus The Hynotist ...

    have you ever seen a stage hypnotist give water to someone they've put in a trance and then suggest to them that they were drinking wine? they smack their lips, they get giddy, they start feeling intoxicated, just as if they were swigging a cheap Bordeaux, british author Ian Wilson has raised the question of whether this is how Jesus convinced the wedding guests at Cana that he had transformed jugs of water into the finest fermented libation, in fact, Wilson discusses the possiblity that Jesus may have been a master hypnotist, which could explain the supposedly supernatural aspects of his life, for instance, hypnosis could account for his exorcisms; his transifiguration, during which 3 of his followers saw his face glow and his garments shine as white as light; and even his healings, as evidence, Wilson cites the modern example of a 16 year old boy whose serious skin disorder was inexplicably healed through hypnotic suggestion, perhaps Lazarus wasn't really brought back from the dead, couldn't he have been in a deathlike trance that had been induced by hypnosis? as for the Resurrection, Jesus "could have effectively conditioned [the disciples] to hallucinate his appearances in response to certain pre-arranged cues (the breaking of bread?) for a pre-determined period after his death," Wilson speculated, this would even explain the enigmatic reference in the gospels to Jesus' inability to perform many miracles in his hometown of Nazareth, said Wilson ...

    Jesus failed precisely where as a hypnotist we would most expect him to fail, among those who knew him best, those who had seen him grow up as an ordinary child. Largely responsible for any hypnotist's success rate are the awe and mystery with which he surrounds himself, and these essential factors would have been entirely lacking in Jesus' home town

    you have to admit that this is a rather interesting way of trying to explain away Jesus' miracles, this guy has alot more faith in hypnosis than most people do! while it's a clever argument, it just doesn't stand up to analysis, it's full of holes, first, there's the problem of a whole bunch of people being hypnotized, not everybody is equally susceptible, stage hypnotists will talk in a certain soothing tone of voice to the audience and watch for people who seem to be responding, and then they'll pick these people as their volunteers, because they're readily susceptible to hypnosis, in a big group many people are resistant, when Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, there were 5000 witnesses, how could he have hypnotized them all? second, hypnosis doesn't generally work on people who are skeptics and doubters, so how did Jesus hypnotize his brother James who doubted him but later saw the resurrected Christ? how did he hypnotize Saul of Tarsus, the opponent of Christianity who never even met Jesus until he saw him after his resurrection? how did he hypnotize Thomas, who was so skeptical he wouldn't believe in the Resurrection until he put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus' hands? third, concerning the Resurrection, hynosis wouldn't explain the empty tomb, it could be supposed that someone could claim that the disciples had been hypnotized to imagine the tomb was empty, even if that were possible, Jesus certainly wouldn't have hypnotized the Pharisees and Roman authorities, and they would've gladly produced his body if it had remained in the tomb, the fact that they didn't tells us that the tomb was really empty, fourth, look at the miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus never addressed the wedding guests, he didn't even suggest to the servants that the water had been turned into wine - he merely told them to take some water to the master of the banquet, he's the one who tasted it and said it was wine, with no prior prompting, fifth, the skin healing that Wilson talks about wasn't spontaneous, was it? actually, the British Medical Journal says it took 5 days after the hypnosis for the reptilian skin, called ichthyosis, to fall off the teenager's left arm, and several more days for the skin to appear normal, the hypnotic success rate for dealing with other parts of his body over a period of several weeks was 50-90%, compare that with Jesus healing 10 lepers in Luke 17, they were instantaneously healed - and 100%, that's not explainable merely by hypnosis, and neither is his healing of a man with a shriveled hand in Mark 3, even if people were in a trance and merely thought his hand had been healed, eventually they would have found out the truth, hypnosis doesn't last a real long time, and finally, the gospels record all sorts of details about what Jesus said an did, but never once do they portray him as saying or doing anything that would suggest he was hypnotizing people, we could go on and on, it was an interesting explanation but not a convincing one, yet books are being written to advance these kinds of ideas, it's just amazing to me how people will grasp at anything to try to disprove Jesus' miracles

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    Default The Profile Evidence - Did Jesus Fulfill the Attributes of the Son of God?

    the concept of an artist's drawing can provide a rough analogy that can help us in our quest for the truth about Jesus, here's how: the Old Testament provides numerous details about God that sketch out in great specificity what he's like, for instance, God is described as omnipresent, or existing everywhere in the universe; as omniscient, or knowing everything that can be known throughout eternity; as omnipotent, or all powerful; as eternal, or being both beyond time and the source of all time; and as immutable, or unchanging in his attributes, he's loving, he's holy, he's righteous, he's wise, he's just, now Jesus claims to be the Son of God, but does he fulfill these characteristics of deity? in other words, if we examine Jesus carefully, does his likeness closely match the sketch of God we find elsewhere in the bible? if it doesn't, we can conclude that his claim to being the Son of God is false, this is an extremely complex and mind-stretching issue, for example, when Jesus was delivering his Sermon on the Mount on a hillside in Capernaum, he wasn't simultaneously standing on Main Street of Jericho, so in what sense could he be called omnipresent? how can he be called omniscient if he readily admits in Mark 13:32 that he doesn't know everything about the future? if he's eternal, why does Colossians 1:15 call him "the firstborn over all creation"? on the surface, these issues seem to suggest that Jesus doesn't resemble the sketch of God, nevertheless, first impressions can be deceiving ...

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    Default Living and Forgiving Like God ...

    what did Jesus say or do that convinces us that he's divine? one could point to such things as his miracles, but other people have done miracles, so while this may be indicative, it's not decisive, of course the Resurrection was the ultimate vindication of his identity but many of the things he did, one of the most striking is his forgiving of sin, how so? the point is, if you use something against me and somebody comes along and says, "I forgive you", what kind of cheek is that? the only person who can say that sort of thing meaningfully is God himself, because sin, even if it against other people, is first and foremost a defiance of God and his laws, when David sinned by committing adultery and arranging the death of the woman's husband, he ultimately says to God in Psalm 51, "Against you only have I sinned and done this evil in your sight." he recognized that although he had wronged people, in the end he has sinned against God who made him in his image, and God needed to forgive him, so along comes Jesus and says to sinners, "I forgive you", the Jews immediately recognize the blasphemy of this, they react by saying, "who can forgive sins but God alone?" that is one of the most striking things that Jesus did, not only did Jesus forgive sin, but he asserted that he himself was without sin, and certainly sinlessness is an attribute of deity, historically in the West, people considered most holy have also been the most concious of their own failures and sins, they are the people who are aware of their shortcomings and lusts and resentments, and they're fighting them honestly by the grace of God, in fact, they're fighting them so well that others take notice and say, "there is a holy man or woman", but along comes Jesus, who can say with a straight face, "which of you can convict me of sin?" if one of us said that, our wives, husbands, children and all who know us would be glad to stand up and testify, whereas no one could with respect to Christ, although moral perfection and the forgiveness of sin are undoubtedly characteristics of deity, there are several additional attributes that Jesus must fulfill if he is to match the sketch of the Son of God

    Donald A. Carson, PH.D.

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    Default Mystery of the Incarnation ...

    how in the world could Jesus be omnipresent if he couldn't be in two places at once? how could he be omniscient when he says, "Not even the Son of Man knows the hour of his return"? how could he be omnipotent when the gospels plainly tell us that he was unable to do many miracles in his hometown? let's admit it: the bible itself seems to argue against Jesus being the Son of God, these questions have no simple answers, after all, they strike at the very heart of the Incarnation - God becoming man, spirit taking flesh, the infinite becoming finite, the eternal becoming time-bound, it's a doctrine that has kept theologians busy for centuries, and that's where we go to start the answer: by going back to the way scholars have tried to respond to these matters through the years, historically, there have been 2 or 3 approaches to this, for example, at the end of the last century, the great theologian Benjamin Warfield worked through the gospels and ascribed various bits either to Christ's humanity or to his deity, when Jesus does something that's a reflection of him being the Son of God, that's ascribed to Christ's deity, when there's something reflecting his limitations or finiteness or his humanness - for example, his tears: does God cry? - that's ascribed to his humanity, if you do that, wouldn't you end up with a schizophrenic Jesus? it's easy to slip into that unwittingly, all the confessional statements have insisted that both Jesus' humanity and his deity remained distinct, yet they combined in one person, so you want to avoid a solution in which there are essentially 2 minds - sort of a Jesus human mind and a Christ heavenly mind, however, this is one kind of solution, and there may be something to it, the other kind of solution is some form of kenosis, which means "emptying", this spins out of Philippians 2, where Paul tells us that Jesus being "in the form of God, did not think equality with God was something to be exploited" - that's the way it should be translated - "but emptied himself", he became a nobody, can we be more explicit? what exactly did he empty himself of? that's the question, through the centuries, people have given various answers to that, for instance, did he empty himself of his deity? well, then he would no longer be the Son of God, did he empty himself of the attributes of his deity? there's a problem with that too, because it's difficult to separate attributes from reality, if you have an animal that looks like a horse, smells like a horse, walks like a horse and has all the attributes of a horse, you've got a horse, so we don't know what it means for the Son of God to empty himself of his attributes and still be the Son of God, some have said, "he didn't empty himself of his attributes, but he emptied himself of the use of his attributes" - a self-limiting type of thing, that's getting closer, although there are times when that was not what he was doing - he was forgiving sins the way only God can, which is an attribute of deity, others go further by saying, "he emptied himself of the independent use of his attributes", that is, he functioned like God when his heavenly Father gave him explicit sanction to do so, now that's much closer, the difficulty is that there is a sense in which the eternal Son has always acted in line with his Father's commandments, you don't want to lose that, even in eternity past, but it's getting closer, strictly speaking, Phillipians 2 does not tell us precisely what the eternal Son emptied himself of, he emptied himself; he became a nobody, some kind of emptying is at issue, but let's be frank - we're talking about the Incarnation, one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith, we're dealing with formless, bodiless, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Spirit and finite, touchable, physical, time-bound creatures, for one to become the other inevitably binds us up in mysteries, so part of the Christian theology has been concerned not with "explaining it all away" but with trying to take the biblical evidence and, retaining all of it fairly, find ways of synthesis that are rationally coherent, even if they're not exhaustively explanatory, that is a sophisticated way of saying that theologians can come up with explanations that seem to make sense, even though they might not be able to explain every nuance about the Incarnation, in a way, that seems logical, if the Incarnation is true, it's not surprising that finite minds couldn't totally comprehend it, some sort of voluntary "emptying" of Jesus' independent use of his attributes was reasonable in explaining why he generally didn't exhibit the "omnis" - omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence - in his earthly existence, even though the New Testament clearly states that all these qualities are ultimately true of him

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    Default Creator or Created?

    part of the sketch that Jesus must match is that God is an uncreated being who has existed from eternity past, Isaiah 57:15 describes God as "he who lives forever." but, there are some verses that seem to strongly suggest that Jesus was a created being, for instance, John 3:16 calls Jesus the "begotten Son of God" and Colossians 1:15 says he was the "firstborn over all creation", don't they clearly imply that Jesus was created, as opposed to being the Creator? one of Carson's areas of expertise is Greek grammar, which he called upon in responding to both of those verses, let's take John 3:16, it's the King James Version that translates the Greek with the words "his only begotten son", those who consider this the correct rendering usually bind that up with the Incarnation itself - that is, his begetting in the Virgin Mary, but in fact, that's not what the word in Greek means, it really means "unique one", the way it was usually used in the 1st century is "unique and beloved", so John 3:16 is simply saying that Jesus is the unique and beloved Son - or as the New International Version translates it, "the one and only Son" - rather than saying that he's ontologically begotten in time, that only explains one passage, let's look at the Colossions verse, which uses the term "firstborn", the vast majority of commentators, whether conservative or liberal, recognize that in the Old Testament the firstborn, because of the laws of succession, normally received the lion's share of the estate, or the firstborn would become king in the case of a royal family, the firstborn therefore was the one ultimately with all the rights of the father, by the 2nd century before Christ, there are places where the word no longer has any notion of actual begetting or of being born first but carries the idea of the authority that comes with the position of being the rightful heir, that's the way it applies to Jesus, as virtually all scholars admit, in light of that, the very expression "firstborn" is slightly misleading, what would be a better translation? "Supreme Heir" would be more appropriate, if you're going to quote Colossians 1:15, you have to keep it in context by going on to Colossians 2:9, where the very same author stresses, "for in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." the author wouldn't contradict himself, so the term "firstborn" cannot exclude Jesus' eternality, since that is part of what it means to possess the fullness of the divine, but there are other troubling passages as well, for example, in Mark 10 someone addresses Jesus as "good teacher", promoting him to reply, "Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone." wasn't he denying his divinity by saying this? Carson thinks he was trying to get the fellow to stop and think about what he was saying, the parallel passage in Matthew is a little more expansive and does not find Jesus downplaying his divinity at all, all he is saying is, "Wait a minute; why are you calling me good? is this just a polite thing, like you say good day? What do you mean by good? you call me good Master - is this because you're trying to honey up to me?" in a fundamental sense there's only one who is good, and that's God, but Jesus is not implicitly saying, "so don't call me that." he's saying, "do you really understand what you're saying when you say that? are you really ascribing to me what should only be ascribed to God?" that could be teased out to mean, "I really am what you say; you speak better than you know" or "don't you dare call me that; next time call me sinner Jesus like everybody else does." in terms of all that Jesus says and does elsewhere, which way does it make sense to take it? with so many verses that call Jesus sinless, holy, righteous, innocent, undefiled and separate from sinners, the answer is pretty obvious

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