"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Seven OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To understand the Jewish Christian's relationship to the Law of Moses 2) To comprehend the dilemma one faces without Jesus Christ SUMMARY Paul has just completed discussing how being baptized into Christ makes us dead to sin and free to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness unto holiness. For the benefit of his Jewish readers (those who know the Law), he now carries the concept of death and freedom one step further: the Jewish believers become dead to the Law that they might be joined to Christ. He illustrates his point by referring to the marital relationship. The result of being freed from the Law is that they might "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." (1-6) Lest his Jewish readers think he is implying that the Law was sinful, Paul is quick to dispel that notion. The Law, he says, is "holy and just and good." The problem is that the Law only makes known that which is sinful, but sin took opportunity by the commandment to produce evil desire and deceived him, resulting in death (7-12). To further illustrate his point, Paul pictures himself as man under the Law who finds himself in a terrible dilemma. With his mind he knows that which good and wants to do it. He also knows that which is evil and wants to avoid that. But he finds a "law" (or principle) in his flesh which wins over the desire of the mind (13-23). As a prisoner he cries out for freedom. Is there no hope? Yes! God provides the solution through His Son Jesus Christ, upon which Paul will elaborate in chapter eight (24-25). OUTLINE I. JEWISH BELIEVERS AND THE LAW (1-6) A. A PARALLEL TO BEING RELEASED FROM MARRIAGE (1-3) 1. Law has dominion over those who live under it (1) 2. As illustrated by a woman who is married to a man (2-3) B. THEY HAVE DIED TO THE LAW (4-6) 1. So they can be married to Christ (4) 2. So they can serve in newness of the Spirit, far superior to serving in the oldness of the letter (5-6) II. LIMITATIONS OF THE LAW (7-25) A. THE LAW IS HOLY AND JUST AND GOOD (7-12) 1. The Law is not sin, but rather makes known sin (7) 2. But sin takes occasion by the commandment to lead one to death (8-12) B. THE LAW CANNOT SAVE ONE FROM SIN (13-25) 1. The problem is not law, but sin (13) 2. The Law is spiritual, but man is carnal and sold under sin (14) 3. Though one may desire good and hate evil, one is still enslaved by sin (15-23) 4. Deliverance comes only from God, through Jesus Christ (24-25) WORDS TO PONDER in the flesh - "to be in the flesh is to be under the flesh; and to be under it is to be controlled by its propensities, evil inclinations, and desires" (Moses Lard) The Law - the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments (cf. v.7) law of my mind - that inner desire, which in the context of this chapter, is the desire of one to do that which is good and right law of sin in my members - "The law which I see 'in my members' is the constant tendency which I notice in them to sin, whenever excited by sinful objects" (Moses Lard) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Jewish Believers And The Law (1-6) - Limitations Of The Law (7-25) 2) Who is Paul speaking to in this chapter? (1) - Those who know the law (Jewish Christians) 3) What example is given to show their relationship to the Law? (2-3) - How a woman whose husband dies is free to be married to another without being guilty of adultery 4) What is their relationship to the Law when joined to the body of Christ? (4-6) - Dead to the law, delivered from the law 5) How do we know the Law referred to is the Ten Commandments? (7) - To illustrate his point, Paul mentions "You shall not covet", one of the Ten Commandments 6) Was the Law responsible for death? If not, what was? (13) - No! It was "sin" that produced death 7) What dilemma does one face in trying to keep the Law? (15-21) - The DESIRE to do good and avoid evil may be there, but the ABILITY is found lacking 8) What is the end result of this dilemma? (23) - CAPTIVITY to the law (or principle) of sin in one's members 9) Where can one find freedom from this dilemma? (24-25) - From God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Six OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To understand what takes place in baptism 2) To appreciate the freedom from sin which we may now enjoy in Christ SUMMARY In chapter five, Paul made the statement "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (5:20). Aware that some readers might misconstrue what he said, Paul quickly points out that grace is no excuse to sin since through grace they have died to sin (1-2). To emphasize this, he reminds them of their baptism into Christ, in which they experienced a burial into the death of Christ and rose to walk in newness of life, having died to sin (3-7). Dead to sin, they are now free to live as instruments of righteousness for God (8-14). Another reason not to continue in sin is explained in terms of servitude. We become slaves to that which we obey, either sin or God (15-16). But Paul is grateful that the Romans had begun to obey God and were free to become His servants (17-18). How important it is that they continue to do so is to be seen in the outcome of serving sin contrasted to serving God. Serving sin earns death, but in serving God one receives the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus (19-23)! OUTLINE I. WE ARE DEAD TO SIN! (1-14) A. THROUGH BAPTISM WE DIED TO SIN (1-7) 1. Shall we sin, that grace may abound? No, we died to sin! (1-2) 2. In baptism we were buried into Christ's death (3-4a) 3. We should walk in newness of life, having been united together in the likeness of His death, crucified with Him, no longer slaves of sin, but freed from sin (4b-7) B. DEAD TO SIN, ALIVE TO GOD (8-14) 1. Having died with Christ, we may live with Him over Whom death has no dominion (8-10) 2. Alive to God, we should not let sin reign in our bodies (11-12) 3. But rather present our bodies as instruments of righteousness, for we are under grace (13-14) II. WE SHOULD BE SLAVES TO GOD! (15-23) A. WE BECOME SLAVES TO WHOM WE OBEY (15-18) 1. Either of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness (15-16) 2. Through obedience to God's Word, those who were slaves of sin become slaves of righteousness (17-18) B. THE MOTIVATION FOR SERVING GOD (19-23) 1. Serving righteousness produces holiness (19) 2. Serving sin produces death (20-21) 3. Serving God produces the fruit of holiness, and in the end, eternal life (22) 4. The wages of sin is death, but God gives the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (23) WORDS TO PONDER baptism - from the Greek word "baptizo" meaning to "immerse", it most commonly in the New Testament refers to the burial in water in the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins sanctification - the process of "sanctifying" or "setting apart for a devoted purpose"; in the New Testament it begins with baptism and continues on as we grow in Christ REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - We Are Dead To Sin! (1-14) - We Should Be Slaves To God! (15-23) 2) Why are Christians not to continue in sin? (2) - Because we died to sin 3) What happens when one is baptized into Christ? (3-7) - They are baptized into His death, being buried with Him and united with Him in the likeness of His death, where the old man is crucified with Him and the body of sin is done away, making it possible to be freed from sin and to rise to walk in newness of life 4) How should we present the members of our bodies? (13) - As instruments of righteousness to God 5) Why does sin no longer have dominion over the Christian? (14) - Because the Christian is not "under law", but "under grace" 6) What was necessary to become free from sin? (17-18) - To obey the doctrine of God from the heart 7) What is the result of presenting your members as slaves to right- eousness? (19) - Holiness, or sanctification 8) What three steps are described that eventually lead to eternal life? (22) - 1) Being set free from sin 2) Becoming slaves to God 3) Bearing the fruit of holiness 9) What is the just payment for sin? But what does God give us in Christ? (23) - Death. Eternal life.
The Quran and Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One very significant clash between the Quran and the Bible, intimately aligned with the person and deity of Jesus, is His redemptive role. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are showcased in the New Testament as the central platform of Christianity (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:2,10,25-28; 5:30-31; 17:31; et al.). The primary reason Jesus came into the world was to carry out the absolutely essential plan of salvation—the means of atonement that makes it possible for God to forgive sin (Isaiah 53:10-11; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). It is only through Christ that forgiveness of sin can occur (Acts 4:12; 13:38; Ephesians 2:18). And it is only through Christ’s shed blood that this remission could be achieved (Hebrews 9:11-10:4,19; 2:14; Colossians 1:14,20; 1 Peter 1:18-21; Revelation 1:5). Christ’s crucifixion (necessarily followed by His resurrection) is unequivocally the supreme feature of the Christian religion. Without that unique and singular event, propitiation would be impossible (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2). Atonement for sin is a mandatory, indispensable necessity—intimately linked with the very nature of deity. God cannot remain just, while simply overlooking or dismissing human sin (Romans 3:25).
But the Quran, in conspicuous contradistinction, shows abject ignorance of the notion of atonement. It, in fact, denies the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ. In a passage that recounts the frequent disobedience of the Jews, the point is made:
And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger—They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain, but Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise (Surah 4:157-158, emp. added).
Since Jesus (allegedly) was not actually crucified, it follows that He likewise was not resurrected from the dead:
(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ (Surah3:55, emp. added).
In sharp contrast, the New Testament places the resurrection as the platform on which the rest of the Christian system rests. If Jesus was not crucified and subsequently resurrected from the dead, then Christianity is a sham and completely indefensible. As Paul declared:
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, emp. added).
The author of the Quran appears oblivious to this deficiency. He endorses Christianity (as long as Christians will acknowledge God as singular), but denies the resurrection. Yet the Christian religion itself admits that if the resurrection did not take place, it is a false religion. In fact, the very name “Christian” would be a blasphemous term if Christ is not to be worshipped as God and Savior. To identify oneself, or others, as “Christians” in an approving manner should be as unacceptable and repugnant to Islam as the identification of Muslims as “Mohammedans.” Yet the Quran frequently lends dignity to the term “Christian” in an approving manner (Surah 2:62,111,113,120; 5:51,69,82; 22:17)—all the while denying its most central tenet.
Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Jesus Christ emphatically declared that the Old Testament Scriptures contained prophecies He would fulfill (Luke 24:27,44). Biblical scholars have catalogued more than 300 amazing prophecies that find precise fulfillment in the life and labor of the Son of God. One of these predictive declarations is found in Daniel 9:24-27, commonly referred to as the prophecy of “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.” In this article, I would like to consider this important Old Testament oracle.
A proper analysis of Daniel 9:24ff. involves several factors. First, one should reflect upon the historical background out of which the prophetic utterance arose. Second, consideration should be given to the theological aspects of the Messiah’s work that are set forth in this passage. Third, the chronology of the prophecy must be noted carefully; it represents a prime example of the precision of divine prediction. Finally, one should contemplate the sobering judgment that was to be visited upon the Jewish nation in the wake of its rejection of the Christ. Let us give some attention to each of these issues.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Because of Israel’s apostasy, the prophet Jeremiah had foretold that the Jews would be delivered as captives to Babylon. In that foreign land they would be confined for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10). Sure enough, the prophet’s warnings proved accurate. The general period of the Babylonian confinement was seventy years (Daniel 9:2; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Zechariah 1:12; 7:5). But why was aseventy-year captivity decreed? Why not sixty, or eighty? There was a reason for this exact time frame.
The law of Moses had commanded the Israelites to acknowledge every seventh year as a sabbatical year. The ground was to lie at rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Apparently, across the centuries Israel had ignored that divinely imposed regulation. In their pre-captivity history, there seems to be no example of their ever having honored the sabbath-year law. Thus, according to the testimony of one biblical writer, the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity was assigned “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
If each of the seventy captivity-years represented a violation of the sabbatical-year requirement (every seventh year), as 2 Chronicles 36:21 appears to suggest, this would indicate that Israel had neglected the divine injunction for approximately 490 years. The captivity era therefore looked backward upon five centuries of sinful neglect. At the same time, Daniel’s prophecy telescoped forward to a time—some 490 years into the future—when the “Anointed One” would “make an end of sins” (9:24). Daniel’s prophecy seems to mark a sort of “mid-way” point in the historical scheme of things.
In the first year of Darius, who had been appointed king over the realm of the Chaldeans (c. 538 B.C.), Daniel, reflecting upon the time span suggested by Jeremiah’s prophecies, calculated that the captivity period almost was over (9:1-2). He thus approached Jehovah in prayer. The prophet confessed his sins, and those of the nation as well. He petitioned Jehovah to turn away His wrath from Jerusalem, and permit the temple to be rebuilt (9:16-17). The Lord responded to Daniel’s prayer in a message delivered by the angel Gabriel (9:24-27). The house of God would be rebuilt. A more significant blessing would come, however, in the Person of the Anointed One (Christ), Who is greater than the temple (cf. Matthew 12:6). This prophecy was a delightful message of consolation to the despondent Hebrews in captivity.
THE MESSIAH’S MISSION
This exciting context sets forth the primary purpose of Christ’s mission to Earth. First, the Messiah would come to deal with the problem of human sin. He would “finish transgression,” make an “end of sins,” and effect “reconciliation for iniquity.” That theme is developed gloriously throughout the New Testament (see Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5—passages that are but a fractional sampling of the New Testament references to this exalted topic).
The advent of Christ did not put an “end” to sin in the sense that wickedness was eradicated from the Earth. Rather, the work of the Savior was to introduce a system that could provide effectually and permanently a solution to the human sin predicament. This is one of the themes of the book of Hebrews. Jesus’ death was a “once-for-all” event (see Hebrews 9:26). The Lord never will have to return to the Earth to repeat the Calvary experience.
It is interesting to note that Daniel emphasized that the Anointed One would address the problems of “transgression,” “sin,” and “iniquity”—as if to suggest that the Lord is capable of dealing with evil in all of its hideous forms. Similarly, the prophet Isaiah, in the 53rd chapter of his narrative, revealed that the Messiah would sacrifice Himself for “transgression” (5,8,12), “sin” (10,12), and “iniquity” (5,6,11).
It is worthy of mention at this point that Isaiah 53 frequently is quoted in the New Testament in conjunction with the Lord’s atoning work at the time of His first coming. Since Daniel 9:24ff. quite obviously has an identical thrust, it, too, must focus upon the Savior’s work at the cross, and not upon Jesus’ second coming—as is alleged by premillennialists.
Second, in addition to His redemptive work in connection with sin, Daniel showed that the Messiah would usher in an era of “everlasting righteousness.” This obviously is a reference to the Gospel dispensation. In the pages of the New Testament, Paul forcefully argued that Heaven’s plan for accounting man as “righteous” was made known “at this present season” (Roman 3:21-26) through the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
Third, the angel’s message suggested that as a result of the Messiah’s work, “vision and prophecy” would be sealed up. The Hebrew term denotes that which is brought to a “conclusion” or is finished (Gesenius, 1979, p. 315). It should be emphasized that the major burden of the Old Testament was to proclaim the coming of God’s Son. Peter declared that the prophets of ancient times heralded the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them.” He affirmed that this message now is announced in the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12). Here is a crucial point. With the coming of the Savior to effect human redemption, and with the completion of the New Testament record which sets forth that message, the need for “vision and prophecy” became obsolete. As a result, “prophecy” (and other revelatory gifts) have “ceased” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-16). There are no supernatural “visions” and “prophecies” being given by God in this age. [For further study, see Judisch (1978, Chapter 5), and Jackson (1990, pp. 114-124).]
Fourth, Daniel stated that the “most holy” would be anointed. What is the meaning of this expression? Dispensational premillennialists interpret this as a reference to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple during the so-called “millennium.” But the premillennial concept is not supported by the facts.
Any view that one adopts regarding this phraseology must be consistent with other biblical data. The expression “most holy” probably is an allusion to Christ Himself, and the “anointing” a reference to the Lord’s endowment with the Holy Spirit at the commencement of His ministry (Matthew 3:16; Acts 10:38). Consider the following factors. (1) While it is possible that the grammar can reflect a “most holy” thing or place (i.e., in a neuter form), it also can yield a masculine sense—“Most Holy One.” The immediate context tips the scales toward the masculine since the “anointed one, the prince” is mentioned in verse 25. (2) The “anointing” obviously belongs to the same time frame as the events previously mentioned, hence is associated with the Lord’s first coming, not the second one. (3) Thompson has observed that the act of anointing never was associated with the temple’s “most holy” place in the Old Testament (1950, p. 268). (4) Anointing was practiced in the Old Testament period as a rite of inauguration and consecration to the offices of prophet (1 Kings 19:16), priest (Exodus 28:41), and king (1 Samuel 10:1). Significantly, Christ functions in each of these roles (see Acts 3:20-23; Hebrews 3:1; Matthew 21:5). (5) The anointing of Jesus was foretold elsewhere in the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1), and, in fact, the very title, “Christ,” means anointed.
Fifth, the Anointed One was to “make a firm covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27a, ASV). A better rendition would be: “Make a covenant firm....” The meaning seems to be: the Messiah’s covenant surely will remain firm, i.e., prevail, even though He is killed. The “covenant,” as E.J. Young observed, “is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people” (1954, p. 679).
Sixth, as a result of Christ’s death, “the sacrifice and the oblation” would cease (9:27a). This is an allusion to the cessation of the Jewish sacrifices as a consequence of Jesus’ ultimate sacrificial offering at Golgotha. When the Lord died, the Mosaic law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). That “middle wall of partition” was abolished (Ephesians 2:13-17), and the “first covenant” was replaced by the “second” one (Hebrews 10:9-10). This was the “new covenant” of Jeremiah’s famous prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and was ratified by the blood of Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:28). This context is a rich depository of truth concerning the accomplishments of Christ by means of His redemptive work.
THE PROPHETIC CHRONOLOGY
The time element of this famous prophecy enabled the studious Hebrew to know when the promised Messiah would die for the sins of humanity. The chronology of this prophetic context involves three things: (a) a commencement point; (b) a duration period; and (c) a concluding event.
The beginning point was to coincide with a command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The time span between the starting point and the concluding event was specified as “seventy weeks.” This would be seventy weeks of seven days each—a total of 490 days. Each day was to represent a year in prophetic history. Most conservative scholars hold that the symbolism denotes a period of approximately 490 years (Payne, 1973, p. 383; Archer, 1964, p. 387; cf. RSV). Finally, the terminalevent would be the “cutting off,” (i.e., the death) of the Anointed One (9:26). [NOTE: Actually, the chronology is divided into three segments, the total of which represents 486½ years. This would be the span between the command to restore Jerusalem, and the Messiah’s death.]
If one is able to determine the date of the commencement point of this prophecy, it then becomes a relatively simple matter to add to that the time-duration specified in the text, thus concluding the precise time when the Lord was to be slain. Let us therefore narrow our focus regarding this matter.
There are but three possible dates for the commencement of the seventy-week calendar. First, Zerubbabel led a group of Hebrews out of captivity in 536 B.C. This seems to be an unlikely beginning point, however, because 486 years from 536 B.C. would end at 50 B.C., which was eighty years prior to Jesus’ death. Second, Nehemiah led a band back to Canaan in 444 B.C. Is this the commencement point for computing the prophecy? Probably not, for 486 years after 444 B.C.ends at A.D. 42—a dozen years after the death of Christ. However, in 457 B.C., Ezra took a company from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Does this date work mathematically? Indeed. If one starts at 457 B.C., and goes forward for 486½ years, the resulting date is A.D. 30—the very year of Christ’s crucifixion! This is the common view (Scott, 1975, 5:364).
The strongest objection to this argument is the claim that Ezra issued no charge to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and so the starting point of the prophecy could not date from the time of his return. Noted scholar Gleason Archer has responded to this allegation by affirming that Ezra’s commission:
...apparently included authority to restore and build the city of Jerusalem (as we may deduce from Ezra 7:6,7, and also 9:9, which states, “God...hath extended lovingkindness unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of God, and to repair the ruins thereof, and to give us a wall in Judea and in Jerusalem,” ASV). Even though Ezra did not actually succeed in accomplishing the rebuilding of the walls till Nehemiah arrived thirteen years later, it is logical to understand 457 B.C. as the terminus a quo for the decree predicted in Daniel 9:25 (1964, p. 387, emp. in orig.).
In “the midst” of the seventieth week, i.e., after the fulfillment of the 486½ years, the Anointed One was to be “cut off.” This is a reference to the death of Jesus. Isaiah similarly foretold that Christ would be “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).
But why are the “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy divided into three segments—seven weeks, 62 weeks, and the “midst” of one week? There was purpose in this breakdown. (1) The first division of “seven weeks” (literally, forty-nine years) covers that period of time during which the actual rebuilding of Jerusalem would be underway, following the Hebrews’ return to Palestine (9:25b). This was the answer to Daniel’s prayer (9:16). That reconstruction era was to be one of “troublous times.” The Jews’ enemies had harassed them in earlier days (see Ezra 4:1-6), and they continued to do so in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. [For further discussion of this circumstance, see Whitcomb (1962, p. 435).] (2) The second segment of sixty-two weeks (434 years), when added to the previous forty-nine, yields a total of 483 years. When this figure is computed from 457 B.C., it terminates at A.D. 26. This was the year of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. (3) Finally, the “midst of the week” (3½ years) reflects the time of the Lord’s preaching ministry. This segment of the prophecy concludes in A.D. 30—the year of the Savior’s death.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING CHRIST
No historical revisionism can alter the fact that the Lord Jesus was put to death by His own people, the Jews (John 1:11). This does not sanction any modern-day mistreatment of the Jewish people; it does, however, acknowledge that Israel, as a nation, suffered a serious consequence as a result of its role in the death of the Messiah.
Daniel’s prophecy depicted the Roman invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple. The prophet spoke of a certain “prince that shall come,” who would “destroy the city and the sanctuary” like an overwhelming flood (9:26b). All of this was “determined” (see 9:26b, 9:27b) by God because of the Jews’ rejection of His Son [Matthew 21:37-41; 22:1-7; see Young (1954, p. 679)].
The interpretation of this portion of the prophecy is beyond dispute. Jesus, in His Olivet discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-34), talked about “the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (24:15). The Lord was alluding to Daniel 9:27. The “abomination that makes desolate” was the Roman army, under its commander, Titus (“the prince”—9:26b), who vanquished Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [NOTE: The “prince” of verse 26a is not the same as the anointed “prince” of verse 25a. The “prince” of verse 26 comes after the anointed Prince has been cut off.]
The historical facts are these. In A.D. 66, the Jews, who were subject to Rome, revolted against the empire. This plunged the Hebrews into several years of bloody conflict with the Romans. Titus, son and successor of the famous Vespasian, overthrew the city of Jerusalem (after a five-month siege) in the summer of A.D. 70. The holy city was burned (cf. Matthew 22:7), and the “sanctuary” (temple) was demolished. Christ had informed His disciples that the day was coming when the Jews’ “house” would be left desolate (Matthew 23:38); indeed, not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 24:2). Significantly, only one stone from that temple, and parts of another, have been identified positively by archaeologists (Frank, 1972, p. 249). J.N. Geldenhuys summarized this situation by noting that Titus
...overran the city with his army, destroyed and plundered the temple, and slew the Jews—men, women and children—by tens of thousands. When their lust for blood had been sated, the Romans carried off into captivity all the able-bodied remnant of the Jews (for they had done away with all the weaklings and the aged), so that not a single Jew was left alive in the city or its vicinity. Only on one day in the year—the day of remembrance of the destruction of the temple—were they allowed to mourn over the city from the neighboring hill-tops (1960, 3:141).
This event was referred to by Daniel as the “abomination of desolation” because the city of David wasdesolated by the Roman army—an abominable force because of its idolatrous fabric. It is not without considerable interest that apparently even the Jews recognized that the destruction of the Hebrew nation was a fulfillment of Daniel’s remarkable prophecy. Josephus, the Jewish historian, stated that “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them” (Antiquities, X.XI.7).
Daniel’s inspired record regarding the “seventy weeks” is a profound demonstration of the validity of scriptural prophecy. It foretells the coming of the Messiah, and details His benevolent work. The prophecy pinpoints the very time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Finally, it reveals the disastrous consequences of rejecting the Son of God. How thankful we should be to Jehovah for providing this rich testimony.
[NOTE: For a more thorough analysis and refutation of the premillennial-dispensational view of Daniel 9:24ff., see my extended essay on this subject, available in the Apologetics Press Research Article Series.]
Archer, Gleason L. (1964), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody).
Frank, Harry Thomas (1972), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Geldenhuys, J. Norval (1960), “Luke,” The Biblical Expositor, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Philadelphia, PA: Holman).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Miracles,” Giving a Reason for Our Hope, ed. Winford Claiborne (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Judisch, Douglas (1978), An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Payne, J. Barton (1973), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (New York: Harper & Row).
Scott, J.B. (1975), “Seventy Weeks,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thompson, J.E.H. (1950 reprint), “Daniel,” The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. (1962), “Nehemiah,” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody).
Young, Edward J. (1954), “Daniel,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Autonomous Control of Creation
|by||Jeff Miller, Ph.D.|
AUTONOMOUS CONTROL AND "MOTHER NATURE"
Engineers regularly work with control systems. Autonomous control is a step beyond remote control. Remote control applications allow manual issuing of commands through some sort of transmission device (i.e., a remote controller) that controls something else (e.g., a robot or television) located some distance away from the controller. Autonomous control, on the other hand, uses a computer program to issue the commands. The computer becomes the controller, instead of a human being. It is common knowledge in the engineering community that autonomous control is a subject that is of particular interest today. From autonomous control of ground vehicles (Naranjo, et al., 2006), to autonomous missile guidance systems (Lin, et al., 2004) and aerial vehicles (Oosterom and Babuska, 2006), to autonomous aquatic vehicles (Loebis, et al., 2004) and satellites (Cheng, et al., 2009), and even to autonomous farming equipment (Omid, et al., 2010), notable success is being made in this area of technology.
The amazing thing from a Christian perspective, however, is that many engineers—the designers of the scientific community—are becoming aware of the fact that the world around us is already replete with fully functional, superior designs in comparison to what the engineering community has been able to develop to date. Biomimicry (i.e., engineering design using something from nature as the blueprint) is becoming a prevalent engineering pursuit. However, some engineers are not interested in copying creation in their designs since they simply cannot replicate many of the features that the natural world has to offer. They are realizing that the created order oftentimes comes equipped with natural “sensor suites” whose designs surpass the capability of engineering knowledge to date. Animals possess amazing detection, tracking, and maneuvering capabilities which are far beyond the knowledge of today’s engineering minds, and likely will be for many decades, if not forever. An insect neurobiologist, John Hildebrand, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, admitted, “There’s a long history of trying to develop microrobots that could be sent out as autonomous devices, but I think many engineers have realised [sic] that they can’t improve on Mother Nature” (Marshall, 2008, p. 41). Of course, “Mother Nature” is not capable of designing anything, since “she” is mindless. The Chief Engineer, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, can be counted on to have the best possible engineering designs. Who, after all, could out-design the Grand Designer? In spite of the deterioration of the world and the entrance of disease and mutations into the created order, after some six millennia, His designs still stand out as the best—unsurpassed by human wisdom.
CONTROLLING THE LIVING
Recognizing the superiority of the natural world, the scientific community has become interested in learning how to remotely control living creatures instead of developing robotic versions. This line of thinking certainly adds new meaning to God’s command to mankind to “subdue” and “have dominion” over the created order (Genesis 1:28). One of the ways in which animal remote control is being done is by implanting electronics in animal bodies that are subsequently used to manipulate the movements and behaviors of the creature. Hybrid creatures such as these are known as bio-robots or cyborgs. Cyborg research has been conducted since the 1950s, when Jose Delgado of Yale University implanted electrodes into the brains of bulls to stimulate the hypothalamus for control purposes (Marshall, 2008). Since then, the list of remotely controlled animals using electrode implantation has grown to include:
- sharks (i.e., spiny dogfish; Gomes, et al., 2006; Brown, 2006)
- rats (Talwar, et al., 2002; Li and Panwar, 2006; Song, et al., 2006)
- monkeys (Brown, 2006; Horgon, 2005)
- mice (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
- chimpanzees (Horgon, 2005)
- frogs (Song, et al., 2006)
- pigeons (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
- cats (Horgon, 2005)
- gibbons (Horgon, 2005)
- cockroaches (Holzer, et al., 1997; “Researchers Develop ‘Robo-roach,’” 2001)
Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Arizona State University at Tempe are working on developing flying insect cyborgs, including hawkmoths and green June beetles (Ray, 2010; Sato, et al., 2008; Sato, et al., 2009; Bozkurt, et al., 2008). The University of Florida in Gainesville used electrodes to remotely control rats specifically for detection of humans (for search and rescue scenarios) and explosives (Marshall, 2008). Non-invasive remote creature control projects are underway as well. M.I.T. used virtual fencing coupled with Global Positioning System (GPS) for tracking and autonomously herding cows by implementing auditory cues and shock reinforcement to keep cows within a desirable area (Correll, et al., 2008; Schwager, et al., 2008).
There is beginning to be more interest in the prospect of remotely controlling canines as well (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Engineers realize that dogs can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans or robots and are effective at guarding territories, carrying out search and rescue missions, as well as providing guidance for the visually impaired. They also have an amazing sense of smell that makes them capable of detecting explosives, narcotics, tobacco, pipeline leaks, retail contraband, and even cell phones and bed bugs (“Detection Services,” 2010). Since engineers have not developed a device that can compare with a canine’s ability to detect odors, the use of canines for these applications is attractive. Although other creatures, such as rats (Marshall, 2008), have a keen sense of smell, canines are more appealing, especially due to their innate ability to interact with humans. Thus, using canines for these purposes is attractive to engineers, and the ability to remotely control a canine for many of these purposes is an even more attractive goal. Many scenarios could be envisioned to illustrate cases where the presence of a dog handler alongside a canine could be an impossibility (e.g., tight areas in search and rescue operations) or undesirable (e.g., scenarios where the handler should not be visible or in harm’s way). In a recent event in Afghanistan, a bomb detection canine detected an explosive a moment too late. The canine handler lost his left leg and received other serious injuries (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Remote control capability or autonomous guidance likely would have significantly altered the outcome of this unfortunate event, as well as many others.
Since engineers cannot yet develop an adequate robotic solution to this problem, the Office of Naval Research funded a research project to develop such a solution—a research project I was heavily involved in at Auburn University while engaged in doctoral studies. The Canine Detection and Research Institute (CDRI) at Auburn University demonstrated that detection canines can be remotely controlled using a canine vest we developed that was equipped with a tone and vibration generator (Britt, et al., 2010). However, many cases could easily be envisioned where the canine would be out of sight from the handler (e.g., moving behind a distant building), at which time remote control capability becomes useless. Therefore, the next natural step was to automate that remote control capacity (i.e., autonomous control of the canine).
Since canines can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans, and possess a natural array of “sensors” used to detect and locate items of interest that robots are not readily equipped with, many aspects that pose problems to unmanned ground vehicles are inherently removed with the canine. Canines can execute the low-level decision making that is necessary for rerouting their local path to avoid obstacles or unfavorable terrain. We proved with notable success that canines can be tracked using GPS, inertial sensors, and magnetometers (Miller and Bevly, 2007; Miller and Bevly, 2009a; Miller and Bevly, 2009b), as well as be autonomously guided along desired paths to distant end points (Miller, 2010; Britt, 2009). More important, this system was designed without having to develop the technology that would be required for a complete robotic solution. Instead, a pre-designed creature, already developed by the Chief Engineer, was utilized. In the interest of not plagiarizing Him, I happily reference His incomprehensible work, although, unfortunately I cannot speak for all of my doctoral colleagues.
How ironic that those who are designed, design based on the Designer’s designs, while simultaneously claiming that those designs are not designed. How could mindless rocks, dirt, gas, or slime bring about the amazingly complex designs we see in the World? Personifying inanimate materials such as these with names like “Mother Nature” does nothing but tacitly admit that some Being is in control of the natural order. The frontlines of the engineering community today—bringing about unparalleled technology, more advanced than any society in the history of mankind—cannot come close to replicating the designs around us. Engineers are forced to borrow from God’s design portfolio (oftentimes plagiarizing Him—not giving Him due credit for His designs). What a testament to the greatness of the Chief Engineer’s created order! We may be able to try to fix some of the damage that has been done to the created order due to sin and entropy, but in the words of John Hildebrand, quoted earlier, we certainly “can’t improve on” God’s design. Rather than plagiarizing Him, let all engineers know, “He who built all thingsis God” (Hebrews 3:4, emp. added).
Bozkurt, A., R. Gilmour, D. Stern, and A. Lal (2008), “MEMS Based Bioelectronic Neuromuscular Interfaces for Insect Cyborg Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 160-163.
Britt, W. (2009), “A Software and Hardware System for the Autonomous Control and Navigation of a Trained Canine,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Summer.
Britt, W.R., J. Miller, P. Waggoner, D.M. Bevly, and J.A. Hamilton (2010), “An Embedded System for Real-time Navigation and Remote Command of a Trained Canine,” DOI 10.1007/s00779-010-0298-4.
Brown, S. (2006), “Stealth Sharks to Patrol the High Seas,” New Scientist, 2541:30-31, March 4.
Cheng, C., S. Shu, and P. Cheng (2009), “Attitude Control of a Satellite Using Fuzzy Controllers,”Expert Systems with Applications, 36:6613-6620.
Correll, N., M. Schwager, and D. Rus (2008), “Social Control of Herd Animals by Integration of Artificially Controlled Congeners,” Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, pp. 437-447.
“Detection Services” (2010), Amdetech: Protection Through Detection, http://www.amdetech.com.
Gomes, W.J., D. Perez, and J.A. Catipovic (2006), “Autonomous Shark Tag with Neural Reading and Stimulation Capability for Open-ocean Experiments,” Eos Trans. AGU, 87(36), Ocean Sci. Meet. Suppl., Abstract OS45Q-05.
“Grand Challenge: Smart Vest for Detector Dogs” (2010), National Aerospace & Electronics Conference, http://www.naecon.org/challenge.htm.
Holzer, R., I. Shimoyama, and H. Miura (1997), “Locomotion Control of a Bio-Robotic System via Electric Stimulation,” International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Grenoble, France.
Horgon, John (2005), “The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips,” Scientific American, 293:66-73.
Li, Y. and S. Panwar (2006), “A Wireless Biosensor Network Using Autonomously Controlled Animals,” IEEENetwork, 20:6-11.
Lin, C., H. Hung, Y. Chen, and B. Chen (2004), “Development of an Integrated Fuzzy-Logic-Based Missile Guidance Law Against High Speed Target,” IEEETransactions on Fuzzy Systems, 12:157-169.
Loebis, D., R. Sutton, J. Chudley, and W. Naeem (2004), “Adaptive Tuning of a Kalman Filter via Fuzzy Logic for an Intelligent AUV Navigation System,” Control Engineering Practice, 12:1531-1539.
Marshall, J. (2008), “The Cyborg Animal Spies Hatching in the Lab,” New Scientist, 2646:40-43, March 6.
Miller, J. (2010), “A Maximum Effort Control System for the Tracking and Control of a Guided Canine,”Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Winter.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2007), “Position and Orientation Determination for a Guided K-9,”Proceedings of the IONGNSS, Ft. Worth, TX.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009a), “Determination of Pitch Effects in Guided K-9 Tracking,”Proceedings of the JSDE/IONJNC, Orlando, FL.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009b), “Guided K-9 Tracking Improvements Using GPS, INS, and Magnetometers,” Proceedings of the IONITM, Anaheim, CA.
Naranjo, J.E., C. Gonzalez, R. Garcia, and T. Pedro (2006), “ACC+Stop&Go Maneuvers With Throttle and Brake Fuzzy Control,” IEEETransactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 7:213-225.
Omid, M., M. Lashgari, H. Mobli, R. Alimardani, S. Mohtasebi, and R. Hesamifard (2010), “Design of Fuzzy Logic Control System Incorporating Human Expert Knowledge for Combine Harvester,” Expert Systems with Applications, 37:7080-7085.
Oosterom, M. and R. Babuska (2006), “Design of a Gain-Scheduling Mechanism for Flight Control Laws by Fuzzy Clustering,” Control Engineering Practice, 14:769-781.
Ray, Neil (2010), “The Cyborg Beetle: Progress or Ethical Deterioration?” The Triple Heliz, Issue 10.
“Researchers Develop ‘Robo-Roach’” (2001), VNUnet UK: UNU-MERIT—I&T Weekly, Issue 7, United Nations University, http://www.merit.unu.edu/i&tweekly/i&tweekly_previous.php?issue=0107&issue_show=7&year=2001.
Sato, H., C.W. Berry, B.E. Casey, G. Lavella, Y. Yao, J.M. Vandenbrooks, and M.M. Maharbiz (2008), “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem,”IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 164-167.
Sato, H., Y. Peeri, E. Baghoomian, C.W. Berry, and M.M. Maharbiz (2009), “Radio-Controlled Cyborg Beetles: A Radio-frequency System for Insect Neural Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2009 Conference, pp. 216-219.
Schwager, M., C. Detweiler, I. Vasilescu, D.M. Anderson, and D. Rus (2008), “Data-Driven Identification of Group Dynamics for Motion Prediction and Control,” Journal of Field Service Robotics, 25[6-7]:305-324.
“SDUST Created Remote-Controlled Pigeon” (2007), Shandong University of Science and Technology, http://www.sdkd.net.cn/en/news_show.php?id=65.
Song, W., J. Chai, T. Han, and K. Yuan (2006), “A Remote Controlled Multimode Microstimulator for Freely Moving Animals,” Acta Physiologica Sinica, 58:183-188.
Talwar, S., S. Xu, E. Hawley, S. Weiss, K. Moxon, and J. Chapin (2002), “Rat Navigation Guided by Remote Control,” Nature, 417:37-38.
Biblical Miracles: Fact or Fiction?
|by||Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.|
One cannot read the Bible for long without confronting events that defy strictly naturalistic explanations. A nation of slaves escaping bondage by walking on dry ground through a parted sea, an ax head floating and persons walking on water, and men rising from the dead are but a sampling of the miracles recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. Certainly, these are extraordinary phenomena not experienced in present reality. Thus, the factuality of such events depends on the general reliability of the Bible as a historical document. Unfortunately, the Bible’s credibility is under a thick cloud of suspicion in some theological circles today.
Liberal theologians generally have dismissed the historicity of miraculous events, considering them to be the mythological interpretations of natural incidents by two ancient communities: Israel and the early church. Such an approach suggests that the Bible expresses how its authors perceived events, but does not necessarily reflect how they actually happened (Borg, 1993a, 9:9). Accordingly, we should not conclude from Genesis that God actually created the Universe in six, literal days, or that Adam and Eve, as the first human couple, lived in a real Edenic paradise. These are powerfully symbolic tales whose “...primary purpose and place in the Hebrew Bible is theological, not historical” (Dever, 1990, 16:52). Thus, the Genesis account of creation presents the theological truth that “everything comes from God,” but it does not reflect actual occurrences in remote antiquity.
Biblical religion, however, is rooted in God’s acts in human history, not in lofty, abstract ideas or ideals. The crucial issues are: (a) is the Bible historically reliable or not?; (b) should we read the Bible with confidence or skepticism?; and (c) why do many theologians cast suspicion on the historicity of the Bible?
THE HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD
Prior to the seventeenth century, the Bible was considered the universal authority in all fields of knowledge. However, by the end of that century, science, history, and philosophy became autonomous disciplines, freed from biblical authority and the traditionally recognized experts in these fields (Krentz, 1975, p. 10). The Enlightenment, in which revelation became subservient to reason, had begun (see Marty, 1994).
This new, rationalistic approach to the world eventually spawned a radically different attitude toward the Bible. In the second half of the eighteenth century, in connection with the intellectual movement of the Enlightenment, the Bible began to lose its status as the unique and authoritative “Word of God.” Scholars approached the Bible as a mere human production that, “...like any product of the human mind, can properly be made understandable only from the times in which it appeared and therefore only with the methods of historical science” (Kümmel, 1973, p. 14).
The controls of historical science to which Kümmel referred began to guide biblical interpretation during this period, and continue to exert tremendous influence on theology in mainstream scholarship. When applied to the Bible, the generally accepted “historical-critical” method that grew out of the Enlightenment subverts the biblical concept of verbal inspiration (see Anderson, 1993, 9:9). Therefore, we need to analyze carefully the procedures and presuppositions of current historical criticism.
Though different scholars use the method with different sets of assumptions, thus obtaining different results, one can speak justifiably of a specific historical-critical method that is guided by a specific set of shared presuppositions (Gredainus, 1988, p. 25). Ernst Troeltsch, in his 1898 seminal essay onHistorical and Dogmatic Method in Theology, articulated the three fundamental principles of this method: (1) criticism/probability; (2) analogy; and (3) correlation.
Troeltsch explained this first principle as follows: “...in the realm of history there are only judgments of probability, varying from the highest to the lowest degree, and that consequently an estimate must be made of the degree of probability attaching to any tradition” (1898, p. 13). This basic principle implies that one should read a historical document with a certain skepticism. The historian’s job is to determine its degree of credibility, but never entertain the possibility of complete accuracy. Accordingly, the precision of historical testimony, at best, can be only highly probable, but never absolute. Troeltsch further insisted that this principle be applied impartially to all historical traditions, including the Bible. Obviously, this approach precludes the possibility of complete, historical accuracy of the biblical text.
The second basic principle—that of analogy—is the key to historical criticism (Troeltsch, 1898, p. 13). This idea suggests that all legitimate, historical phenomena must have a present-day analogy. Underlying this principle is the uniformitarian assumption that all events in history are similar. In other words, like those in Peter’s day, it assumes that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Thus, the factuality of any alleged past event is judged by occurrences in present reality. Only those events that have a corresponding contemporary event are considered historical. Consistent with this assumption, a historian dismisses as unhistorical any recorded event that transcends the experience of contemporary humanity. This principle rejects a priori the factuality of unique, miraculous events such as Jesus’ resurrection, since no analogous event occurs today.
The third basic concept of history, according to Troeltsch, is the “...interaction of all phenomena in the history of civilization” (1898, p. 14). This concept implies that all historical events are “...knit together in a permanent relationship of correlation...in which everything is interconnected and each single event is related to all others” (Troeltsch, 1898, p. 14). In other words, all historical events form a unified web of immanent causes and effects. Every event must be interpreted “...within the context of the whole of history in terms of its causes and effects, its antecedents and its consequences” (Gredainus, 1988, p. 27). This principle views history as a closed continuum of natural causes and effects, which eliminates the possibility of a transcendent God’s entering into human history. Yet, that is what the Bible is all about!
Some aspects of this approach to the Bible were consistent with sound methods of exegesis. For example, it placed proper literary and historical constraints on biblical interpretation. It appropriately emphasized the fact that the Bible was written in certain historical and cultural contexts by different men with varying literary styles. And, it is correct exegetical procedure to interpret texts in light of the historical circumstances under which they were written and in keeping with contemporary cultural norms. Further, we recognize that the Bible contains different kinds of literature (e.g., narrative, poetry, etc.) and that the literary style of Paul differs significantly from that of Peter. These are legitimate factors to consider when approaching any text and, when used judiciously, they do not militate against the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration (see Hamann, 1977, pp. 74-75).
In general, however, the historical-critical method—with its underlying presuppositions—has resulted in an extreme skepticism regarding the historicity of biblical events. Since research is conducted “...as if there were no God” (Linnemann, 1990, p. 84), this method repudiated the divine nature of the biblical text. This fundamental presupposition produced at least two destructive results. First, it excluded the possibility of God’s acting in history, demanding that all supernatural events in the Bible be given natural explanations. Second, scholars considered the Bible to be the end product of a long, evolutionary process of mere human literary genius. For instance, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and alleged that it was an amalgamation of different sources (both oral and written) compiled by a redactor (editor), and thus had no real historical underpinning. Modern critics continue to hold to such a fragmentary view of the Pentateuch (Davis, 1993, 19:54). Therefore, many scholars do not consider the Old Testament to be a unique, divine revelation; it is just one body of ancient, sacred literature among a myriad of others.
This has compelled many scholars to draw a sharp distinction between “actual” and “theological” history in the Bible. Such a distinction has led many biblical students to dismiss historical investigations of the Old and New Testaments, and to seek instead theological or canonical meanings (cf. Anderson, 1994 and Childs, 1985, p. 6). For example, Gerhard von Rad, an influential Old Testament scholar, contrasted “history” and “story” in the Hebrew Bible. He argued that critical historical scholarship eliminates the possibility that all Israel was at Sinai, or crossed the Red Sea as the Bible indicates. Though something actually happened in Israel’s past, these stories were the constructions of Israel’s faith (1962, 1:106-107). Thus, one must peel off the layers of elaborate embellishments from biblical narratives to arrive at actual history. For example, one should not accept naively that God actually parted the Red Sea. This was a mythological explanation of some natural event in Israel’s past. Accordingly, biblical scholars must recognize the minimum historical core of Old Testament stories while they pursue their maximum theological meanings.
Similarly, New Testament scholars draw a line of distinction between the historical Jesus and the Jesus presented in the Gospels. Such critics argue that many of the words and events attributed to Jesus actually were put into His mouth by the early church to deal with a specific problem it faced (Bultmann, 1958, p. 63; cf. Koester, 1993 and Borg, 1993b, 9:10,62). For example, this idea suggests that the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding Roman taxation (Mark 12:13-17) was not an actual occurrence in Jesus’ life. It was a story invented by the early church to address a crucial contemporary issue: “Is it consistent with Christian principles to pay Roman taxes?” This contrived episode provided authority for paying such taxes.
Additionally, Jesus’ miracles recorded in the Gospels are considered to be the result of the early church’s theological reflection on, and proclamation of, Jesus’ ministry (see Fossum, 1994). For example, Marcus Borg (who denies the historical factuality of the virgin birth, the star of Bethlehem, the journey of the wisemen, and the shepherds’ visit to the manger; see 1992, 8:4), offered this interpretation of the resurrection narratives:
I would argue that the truth of Easter does not depend on whether there really was an empty tomb, or whether anything happened to the body of Jesus. The truth of Easter is that Jesus continued to be experienced as a living reality after his death, though in a radically new way, and not just in the time of his first followers but to this day. It is because Jesus is known as a living reality that we take Easter stories seriously, not the other way around. And taking them seriously need not mean taking them literally (1993a, 9:9).
To Borg, and other scholars of kindred spirit, the truth of Christianity depends merely on the internal consistency of its doctrines, not on the historicity of its miraculous claims (e.g., Jesus’ resurrection). Thus, to be a Christian, one simply should “...live within [the Bible’s] images and stories and vision of life,” which are not necessarily historically authentic (see Borg, 1993a, 9:54). Paul, however, perceived and cautioned against the destructive implications of such an approach: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection was more than a symbolic expression of his subjective, continued experience of Jesus as a living reality (see Borg, 1994, 10:15); it was an actual event in history that authenticated Christianity.
APPRAISAL OF THE METHOD
Obviously, the principles and presuppositions of the historical-critical method have forced its scholastic adherents into an unenviable position: arguing for the truthfulness of Christianity while denying its historical foundations. However, rather than retreating into such untenable positions, it seems that a more respectable route would be to analyze the method that caused the problem.
This does not mean that the Bible should be exempt from legitimate historical investigation. God revealed His Word to humankind in human form. As such, it can be subjected to the same critical questions as other ancient documents. However, one should not apply more harsh criteria to the Bible, as is often the case, than those applied to other historical traditions. Additionally, any method used to assess the historicity of the Bible must allow for the possibility of all events—natural and supernatural—or it is insufficient.
Is the generally accepted historical-critical method a proper tool with which to evaluate the history of Israel and the real, historical Jesus? A close analysis of this method exposes its insufficiencies for biblical investigation. Consider some of them.
One problem with this method is its radical skepticism regarding the reliability of historical documents. Certainly, since some documents are spurious, one should not gullibly accept as true all historical statements. Thus, a measure of doubt is in order when one investigates a historical document. But the historical-critical method presses this to the extreme. It has shifted the burden on the Bible to prove its own historical accuracy. Yet, despite the Bible’s many marks of historicity (see Moreland, 1987, pp. 133-157), these do not satisfy the critic’s persistent skepticism. The underlying principles of this critical method disallow the historical accuracy of the Bible. Accordingly, this method condemns the Bible as historically specious regardless of the proof it offers for its own credibility, which is not a fair treatment of the evidence.
The historical-critical method purports to be a scientific, rigidly objective investigation of historical documents. However, as Gerhard Hasel correctly observed, “...it turns out to be in the grip of its own dogmatic presuppositions and philosophical premises about the nature of history” (1991, p. 198). For example, the idea that all past events must be explained by prior historical causes (correlation), and understood in terms of analogy to other historical experiences, is subjective. This places the authenticity of any reported event ultimately at the mercy of the historian’s experience. So, the fate of an alleged event rests upon the broadness or narrowness of the critic’s experience (Gredainus, 1988, p. 31).
Proves too much
Additionally, even if critics approach the idea of analogy with a broader scope than one’s personal experience (i.e., from the experience of contemporary humanity), this does not solve its difficulties. When pressed to its logical end, this method screens out all unique historical events, whether miraculous or nonmiraculous. Accordingly, when something happens for the first time in history, and there is no previous analogy, it must be dismissed as unhistorical despite eyewitness testimony. Such a method cannot confirm the historicity of the first human landing on the Moon, or any other historical first, though we know such occurred. In short, a strict application of analogy “...will tend to declare as unhistorical what we know as a matter of fact to be historical” (Gredainus, 1988, p. 31; cf. Geisler, 1976, pp. 302-304). Anything that proves too much proves nothing at all.
Finally, the presuppositions of this method do not give the Bible a fair hearing because the method’s guiding principles are inherently biased against miraculous events. Taking their cue from the philosophical skepticism of David Hume and René Descartes, the architects of this method eliminate a priori the miraculous from the realm of historical possibility. Clearly, this disallows the prospect of God’s acting in history before considering the evidence. In essence, it says, the crossing of the Red Sea could not happen like the Bible says because we know it could not happen that way. This reasoning actually begs the question in favor of a naturalistic interpretation of all historical events, which is far from an impartial investigation of biblical data (Geisler, 1976, p. 302). A method that excludes the possibility of divine intervention in the affairs of humankind is woefully inadequate to evaluate the testimony of scripture (Hasel, 1991, p. 198).
The Bible makes miraculous claims about historical events. While it is true that the Universe operates according to natural law, that does not preclude the possibility of the miraculous. Scientific laws testify to general regularities in nature, but they cannot be used as a testimony against unusual events inparticular. Biblical writers recognized natural regularities such as the changing of seasons (Genesis 8:22), and often appropriately attributed them to God as the author of such natural laws. For instance, Amos attributed natural hydrological processes to God: “[He] calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the Earth: Jehovah is His name” (Amos 5:8). However, there are certain recorded events that cannot be explained by natural processes. There simply is no sufficient natural explanation for the resuscitation of a decomposing body (John 11:39-45). And, it is methodologically improper to deny that such an event could take place before examining the evidence. Further, it is not logically naive to acknowledge a supernatural cause of a supernatural effect.
Additionally, one should not attempt to place theology over against history, as many historical critics frequently do. It is true that the Gospel writers, for instance, had a theological purpose behind their inspired presentations of Jesus’ life. Also, some of Jesus’ miracles, no doubt, had theological meanings attached to them. For instance, conservative scholars have long recognized that the cursing of the barren fig tree represented the vacuous piety of the Jewish nation, for which it was destroyed (Mark 11:12-14). However, such theological purpose and meaning do not negate the fact that miracles actually occurred.
Finally, the historicity of the Bible’s miraculous claims is contingent on the general reliability of the Bible. Any method employed to investigate its historicity must include the possibility of the miraculous. Gerhard Hasel has summarized this point well:
If the reality of the Biblical text testifies to a supra-historical dimension which transcends the self-imposed limitations of the historical-critical method, then one must employ a method that can account for this dimension and can probe into all the layers of depth of historical experience and deal adequately and properly with the Scripture’s claim to truth (1991, p. 199).
We should consider legitimate questions of the biblical text (linguistic, literary, cultural, historical) as we investigate the meaning of God’s Word. Yet, we must recognize that humanly contrived methods are subject to both error and abuse. Recognizing this, we should listen with cautious skepticism when such methods repudiate the truth of Bible.
Anderson, Bernhard (1993), “Historical Criticism and Beyond,” Bible Review, 9:9,17, October.
Anderson, Bernhard (1994), “The Changing Scene in Biblical Theology,” Bible Review, 10:17,63, February.
Borg, Marcus (1992), “The First Christmas,” Bible Review, 8:4,10, December.
Borg, Marcus (1993a), “Faith and Scholarship,” Bible Review, 9:9,54, August.
Borg, Marcus (1993b), “Jesus in Four Colors,” Bible Review, 9:10,62, December.
Borg, Marcus (1994), “Thinking About Easter,” Bible Review, 10:15, April.
Bultmann, Rudolph (1958), Jesus and the Word (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Childs, Brevard (1985), Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress).
Davis, Thomas (1993), “Faith and Archaeology: A Brief History to the Present,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 19:54-59, March/April.
Dever, William (1990), “Archaeology and the Bible,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:52-58,62, May/June.
Fossum, Jarl (1994), “Understanding Jesus’ Miracles,” Bible Review, 10:16-23,50, April.
Geisler, Norman (1976), Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Greidanus, Sidney (1988), The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Hamann, Henry P. (1977), A Popular Guide to New Testament Criticism (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Hasel, Gerhard (1991), Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Koester, Helmut (1993), “Recovering the Original Meaning of Matthew’s Parables,” Bible Review, 9:11,52, June.
Krentz, Edgar (1975), The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress).
Kümmel, Georg Werner (1973), The Theology of the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Linnemann, Eta (1990), Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Marty, Martin E. (1994), “Literalism vs. Everything Else,” Bible Review, 10:38-43,50, April.
Moreland, J.P. (1987), Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Rad, Gerhard von (1962), Old Testament Theology, (New York: Harper and Brothers).
Troeltsch, Ernst (1898), Religion in History (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991 reprint).