What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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September 2018 Archives

September 1, 2018

Answering the Messianic Secret argument against John

One remaining argument against John's historicity that I haven't yet dealt with in this series on John is the idea of the "Messianic secret."

In the Synoptic Gospels we often find Jesus telling the disciples or the recipient of a miracle not to tell others that he is the Messiah or not to tell about a miracle. For example, Matthew 16:20 shows him charging the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah after Peter's famous confession to that effect. In Mark 5:43 Jesus tries to hush up the news of his having healed Jairus's daughter. In Mark 7:37 Jesus tries (ineffectively) to stop the wide publication of his healing of a deaf man.

These prohibitions by Jesus are seen by those making the Messianic secret argument as a general attempt to conceal his identity. Usually the idea is that he concealed his identity until the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem in the last week of his life, when he was killed swiftly thereafter.

On this theory, there is a tension between John and the Synoptic Gospels, since Jesus repeatedly and (relatively) explicitly emphasizes his unity with God the Father in John, as in the famous declarations in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I am" and John 10:30, "I and the Father are one." After both of these, Jesus is nearly stoned by outraged crowds for his perceived blasphemy. Also in John 4:26, Jesus expressly identifies himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman at the well.

If Jesus was so "cagey" about his identity as shown in the Synoptic Gospels, then (goes the argument) he would not have been so forthright as is shown in the Gospel of John. So in some sense John must be only semi-historical (at most) at these points.

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September 7, 2018



September 8, 2018

Growing Deeper Roots

Those who follow me on Facebook have already been seeing advertisements for this conference repeatedly, but just in case I have some readers who would be interested who don't do Facebook...

In a little less than two weeks, September 21-22, there will be a conference right in gorgeous Kalamazoo, MI, called Growing Deeper Roots. Directed by my friend Mia Langford, taking place at The Lighthouse Church on 11th St., Growing Deeper Roots promises both apologetic fun and growth.

Featured plenary speakers include Tim McGrew, Frank Turek, Richard Howe, and yours truly. My plenary address will be called "A High-Resolution Jesus," and my breakout session will be called "Only One Jesus."

The conference begins on a Friday evening and goes through Saturday. Of course, if you can make it for only one of those, that's okay too. Registration includes a dessert reception Friday evening and breakfast, lunch, and snacks on Saturday. Come and bring your copy of Hidden in Plain View to get it signed. See the conference video trailer and all information here.

September 11, 2018

September 11th


What happened on this day seventeen years ago may be stated simply: The Jihad delivered against America a most grievous and staggering blow. Conceived in blind bitter hatred, plotted in treachery and skulking malice, it remains a spiritually impotent blow. To achieve a great symbol of resistance to the power of the infidels, these heroic operatives made their emasculated war on the defenseless and unwitting. Honorable battle was not for them.

September 11 was not a blow delivered against the American fighting man. Against him the Jihad has generally withered or taken flight.

We demean the word by calling what happened on September 11th a battle. It was treachery against men and women the great majority of whom never had even a moment to contemplate self-defense. That some Americans — who we venerate today where their mortal remains lie, in the wide fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania — gave battle to these brigands, in the end conquered them by thwarting their conspiracy, shows indeed common American valor, but does not grant the murderers the honor of the title Soldier.

The crown of honor on that day was won above all by the police and firemen of New York City, whose losses were terrible; these men who more than self their country loved. O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife!

The Towers fell; the Pentagon burned; Lower Manhattan became a crematorium. It was the Jihad in brutal summary. The guilt of its victims, according to ancient doctrine, was fixed by their unbelief. America stood as the citadel and champion of Infidelity. There could be no innocents here.

And so honor, innocence, charity, kindness, courage, nobility, valor — all must kneel at the feet of the obligation of the Jihad to make war on the powers of Infidelity. America is the greatest of those powers. Whatever our foreign policy, whatever the interventions of our military, whatever the skill of our diplomats, whatever the character of our statesmen - still we shall attract, at least for the time being, the boldest stratagems, the cleverest sedition, the cruelest bloodlust of the Jihad. Even now its agents and operatives are maneuvering against us. Even now they plot terror and mayhem and torture.

Our countrymen perished in the flames of this wicked system, this terrible institution of Jihad. Today we remember them, we honor them, we lift up those who mourn them in prayer; and we steel ourselves for the day when the Jihad will try again.


September 13, 2018

Did the Gospel authors make composite discourses? It's complicated

About a month ago I mentioned briefly in a post that I'm open to the idea that the Sermon on the Mount might be, at least in part, a composite discourse, but that I lean slightly in the direction of thinking the material in it was all uttered on that occasion. No, this doesn't even mean I lean slightly in the direction of thinking it was "recorded verbatim." That straw man is getting very old and tattered. Jesus may have been speaking in Aramaic in any event, and moderate, normal, recognizable paraphrase is quite likely when writing down what someone said, either from notes, human or written sources, or one's own memory.

Speaking of that straw man, I posted recently on Facebook (public post) about the fact that Craig A. Evans was dragging out old Mr. Straw again in a recent interview. He even said this:

My critics, and there aren’t too many, but there are a few out there, they say, "If it’s not tape-recorded, word-for-word, what Jesus said, then John is being false. You’re saying John isn’t true. John is misrepresenting Jesus." And that’s the kind of, I don’t know if you want to call it fundamentalism, or rigidity, that’s the part that I find problematic.

My name came up a few minutes later, and I was the only "critic" discussed in the entire interview. I told Dr. Evans four times in my debate with him in April (see transcript here) that I was not asking him about nor advocating a "verbatim tape recording" version of Jesus' words in the Gospels. Nor are there any other "critics" that I know of who "say" such a thing. This was pure straw manning. But I guess it's a useful trope to portray anyone as a rigid fundamentalist who criticizes you in a way that might be deemed "from the right."

Anyway, I mention that to clarify that even when I said that I "am more inclined" toward the view that the Sermon on the Mount is not a composite discourse, that didn't mean that I was inclined toward the view that it has been recorded verbatim. Indeed, the nearest parallel for much of its material in Luke (the "Sermon on a Level Place" in Luke 6:17-49) does not have the material that it does include right next to each other as it appears in Matthew, and does not have all of the Beatitudes.

My overall approach, which one might say is the idea that the gospels are "reportage," also does not mean that a reliable, reporting author could not have combined material topically in a reported sermon, some of which Jesus in fact uttered at a different time. Dr. Evans also tried to imply in the debate that I must have a problem with this (a point he brought up out of the blue), even though I had already in that debate repeatedly said that I did not. I had to remind him of this.

What I would say is that, if an author consciously compiled, and if he was a reliable reporter, he was not consciously attempting to give the impression (even in the "story world" of his document) that Jesus uttered that material at that time. He would have had to expect readers to know to expect some degree of "composite-ness" or "gathered-ness" in sermons. What I shall call below a "knowingly composite" discourse is not necessarily a "fictionalized composite discourse," though every fictionalized composite discourse is, of course, knowingly composed. Moreover, if a reliable, reporting author gives some sort of recognizable setting for the discourse, there should have been some discourse given at that time containing some of the material related; otherwise the entire incident is ahistorical. Further constraints would depend upon other indicators or time stamps that might occur in the particular text. If there were questions recorded from the crowd, these should be historical. If a saying of Jesus is said to be in response to some particular incident that happened at that time, that should be historical, if the author is not fictionalizing.

Nor would a reliably reporting author have been inventing the material based merely upon general theological extrapolation from Jesus' other teaching--an idea sometimes misleadingly characterized as "paraphrase," which it emphatically is not. The author would have had to have good reason to believe that Jesus taught these very teachings in an historically recognizable fashion at some time.

So there are historical constraints created by the notion that the Gospels are historical reportage, but they are not the constraints envisaged by literary device theorists and placed upon their opponents. These nuances and distinctions are frequently elided, even aggressively pushed aside, by the "literary device" school of thought.

All that being said, the question does arise: Why, in a given case, should we think that a given discourse is a composite? What is the evidence? And if so, how much of a composite is it? The evidence shouldn't just be, "The vast majority of scholars believe that the discourses in Matthew's Gospel are composite." This should go without saying: Scholars are supposed to be using evidence, and they sometimes don't evaluate it correctly or with sufficient nuance. Other people can look at that evidence for themselves. Even the term "composite" admits of a whole range of possibilities, as I'll discuss below.

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