April 2011


I was directed by Justin Taylor to a post by Trevin Wax discussing common urban legends propagated by preachers.  I went to the list expecting to have a good laugh.  And I was not disappointed.  Wax spoke of the “the eye of the needle was a gate in Jerusalem” legend, the “rope-around-the-high-priest’s-ankle” legend, and the “scribes took baths before writing the divine name” legend.  Oh how I chuckled!

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For a long time I have been wanting to read Harold Hoehner’s standard work on the chronology of Christ, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.  I finally got around to purchasing and reading the book.  Here is my summary of his arguments for dating the birth (5 BC), ministry (AD 29-33), and death of Christ (AD 33).  Text in “[]” reflects my own thoughts/research.

Date of Christ’s Birth

Jesus was born while Herod was still alive (Mk 2:1; Lk 1:5).  Herod was declared king in 40 BC byRome, and took physical control of Palenstine in 37 BC.  He reigned 34 years.

Josephus tells us there was an eclipse shortly before Herod died.  The eclipse occurred on March 12/13, 4 BC.  He also tells us the Passover was celebrated shortly after (April 11, 4 BC).  So Herod died sometime between mid-March and early April, 4 BC.  Jesus must have been born before this.  (more…)

Some have made the claim that an acrostic of the accusation Pilate wrote above Jesus’ cross spells “YHWH.” (example).  There is at least one reason to seriously question the claim, and a second reason that proves it false.  Let me deal with each in turn.

One reason to question this claim is the fact that we cannot be certain what was actually written on the titulus (the placard on which the victim’s crime was recorded) above the cross.  The evangelists do not present us with a single version of what was written:

  • Matthew: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (27:37)
  • Mark: “The king of the Jews” (15:26)
  • Luke: “This is the king of the Jews” (23:38)
  • John: “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews” (19:19)

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I was once told my theology professor to stop including so many “thats” in my papers.  I complied, and remain critically aware of using unnecessary “thats” to this day.  But there is a place for using “that.”  Indeed, sometimes it is right to write multiple, consecutive “thats” in a single sentence.

For example, “I know that that professor does not like me using the word ‘that.’”  But if it’s right to write “that” twice, could it be right to write “that” that much more?  Yes.  That “that that” is perfectly acceptable English should be obvious to all.  But that’s not all the “thats” that that professor should allow.  That that “that that” that I spoke of earlier is proper, no one can deny.  But could someone deny that it’s possible to use six “that thats” in a single sentence?  They could, but that would be a mistake because now that that “that that” that that professor did not like proved to be an acceptable use of English, there’s no telling how many more “thats” can be used in a sentence.  Perhaps we could use as many as seven.  But I would understand why, upon hearing that, that that “that that” that that professor initially objected to would no longer seem all that objectionable.  And that is all I have to say about that.

Back in September 2010 I addressed a clever rhetorical gem that has become quite popular among atheists.  It’s what I’ve come to call the “one less God zinger.”  It appears in several different forms, but could be summed up by the following representation: “We’re all atheists.  Christians are atheists with respect to all gods but their own, while I am an atheist with respect to all gods, including your own.  When you understand why you reject all other gods, you’ll understand why I reject all gods.”

I invited your criticisms of this zinger, and offered a couple of my own.  Since then I have stumbled on other apologists’ response to it, allowing me to further develop my own.  What follows is an updated evaluation and counter-responses.

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Over at Uncommon Descent a good point has been raised about materialists (such as evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne) who deny the existence of free will and yet get angry at others for believing and doing things they (the materialists) do not agree with:

Another inconsistency of atheists who share Professor Coyne’s views on freedom is that they are nearly always angry at someone – be it the Pope or former President George W. Bush or global warming deniers. I have to say that makes absolutely no sense to me…. But please, spare me your moral outrage, your sermonizing, your finger-wagging lectures and your righteous indignation. That I cannot abide. You don’t lecture the PC on your desk when it doesn’t do what you want. If I’m just a glorified version of a desktop PC, then why lecture me?

Perhaps materialists would respond that they don’t have a choice but to get angry!  Well, perhaps we don’t have a choice but not to care that they are.

I was reading Ben Witherington’s Easter Sunday sermon and he raised a couple of good points about John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection to Mary Magdalene:

“Jesus calls her by name— Miryam!  And it is only when he calls her by name that she realizes it is Jesus!   Now this matches up nicely with what John 10 says— Jesus says he is the good shepherd and he knows his sheep, and they know the sound of his voice, and most importantly,  he calls each one by name.

“Jesus’ response is interesting.  He tells her— ‘don’t cling onto me’. … Jesus is telling her that there is no clinging to the Jesus of the past.  He is no longer just Miryam’s teacher, and there is no going back.  He is now the risen Lord.   There was something strikingly different about the risen Jesus. …. He tells her to tell them he will soon be ascending to God the Father.   Jesus did not rise from the dead to continue earthly existence, so things could go on business as usual.  Jesus rose from the dead to begin the endtimes, then and there, the eschatological age, the age in which all manner of things would change, and when Jesus comes back, we too will experience resurrection from the dead as 1 Cor. 15 promises.”

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