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The book by Paula Fredrickson, of the same title, is an astounding short read. It is an attempt to understand the crucifixion of Jesus historically. Why did the Jewish rabbi named Jesus die the death of a violent revolutionary? Of course the simple answer would be that he was a violent revolutionary – yet absolutely no direct evidence remotely hints that he was. All indications are that Jesus led a peaceful, arguably pacifist, movement. Fredrickson notes that if Jesus did lead a violent revolutionary movement, his followers along with him would have been crucified. James, the new leader of this movement lived in Jerusalem after the crucifixion. He moved freely there with no worry for his life. This is the fundamental paradox Fredrickson seeks to answer.

In the beginning of the book she briefly moves through the various methodological blunders that have taken the reins of the historical quests. I’m not entirely sure how to take certain portions of her writing. It is almost as if she willfully attempts various methodologies, liberal and fundamentalist to solves the problems but only gets frustrated. I cannot sort out what could be sarcasm from what could be a severe disdain for certain conclusions (regardless of method). By the end of the book she is fully engaged in, what I acknowledge to be based on other works of historical inquiry, the right kind of historical method.

The traditional explanation to the crucifixion is to follow the synoptic accounts. Jesus’ actions in the Temple are the direct reason for Jesus’ death by Pilate. Jerusalem during the feast of Passover was an intense time because of both the increased Roman military presence, and the heightened eschatalogical hope for salvation of the Jewish people. So, the slightest Jewish aggression would have incurred a Roman military response. The theory goes that Jesus’ actions in the Temple would have given the ruling Jewish aristocrasy a reason to get the Romans involved.

Fredrickson goes on to show why this fails for two reasons. First, another notable Jerusalem Jew Jesus ben Hanan, spoke of the Temple’s coming destruction – for seven years during all of the feasts. He was not put to death. He received punishment by both the Jewish ruling class and the Romans and was left to continue. Second, Jesus’ actions in the Temple would barely have been noticed by the throngs of people there. The temple mount is three football fields wide. The market is on one side under the porticos. Roman soldiers would have been stationed on the elevated porticos. Only the immediate masses around Jesus would have seen his actions, and only the Roman soldiers some sixty-plus yards away would have seen him. Combining these two facts, it would be historically unlikely that Jesus was crucified for this one action. So where do we go from here?

Fredrickson does a good job setting the scene of Jewish apocalyptic hope. I’m not sure if she retains the idea that the Jewish, and subsequently Christians, believed in the coming “end of the world”, or (what is gaining traction with me) the other understanding of apocalyptic literature, investing current events with theological significance through the use of cosmic and symbolic imagery. She also does a good job showing that there are various traditions behind the concepts of Kingdom, the Gentile participation, and Messiah. They all float on continums and gradients with various teachers and sects putting in their stakes at certain points along the way. Fredrickson does a fantastic job highlighting the relationship between Galilee, Jerusalem, and their respective rulers leading up to the time of Jesus, some of which brilliantly runs against current thinking on the subject. And in another brilliant turn she goes to the gospel of John, long thought to be the least historical, to find an answer to her perplexing question of Jesus’ crucifixion.

John’s basic structure depicts a wandering itinerant preacher Jesus, active for three years, with followers all over Israel, in Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethany, and more cities. The fair presumption here is that Herod of Galilee and Pilate of Jerusalem would have known who this Jesus is. He made regular appearances in synogagues and the Temple in Jerusalem. He did not hide from public life. In another interesting twist Fredrickson chooses not to see things from Jesus’ perspective here, but rather from Pilate’s! Because Pilate knows who Jesus is, there is no threat. Jesus has not actively sought to build an army. He has not actively made a messianic claim (no doubt some of his followers could have, and did, come to this conclusion. Again, she does not go towards Jesus’ self-understanding, Pilate couldn’t have cared less.) She writes “A straight line connects the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.” Pilate witnessing this would not immediately be afraid of Jesus. He doesn’t see Jesus having any power. He knows that Jesus preaches a Kingdom which God will usher in, not the might of men. Surely other messianic claimants like Theudas the Egyptian made the same claim. Yet he also gathered thousands in the desert on marches re-enacting Joshua’s military entry into the promised land over the Jordan. Gathering crowds like this got Rome’s attention and they got rid of Theudas. However, Jesus never gathered crowds out in the desert like that. Yes, he baptized and fed. But nothing that wasn’t near a city where the people were from, or outside an already present congregation like the Temple or synogague. Fredrickson argues that precisely because of the crowds reaction to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, laden with messianic tones, Pilate found it necessary to crucify Jesus. Again, it is passover and this is the time that sedition is most likely to break out. The people don’t even need a messianic figure to get started – and now they think they’ve found one. This satisfies how Jesus was crucified as an insurrectionist and his disciples were not. Because Pilate was not directly challenged, militarily, by the Jesus movement. Only indirectly by the claims of the masses on Passover. It was the crowd Pilate needed to control, and he did it by crucifying their newest messiah.

I find this line of argumentation, historically, to be very very persuading. It is no means a conclusive statement on Jesus’ identity, I don’t think it was intended to be. But it is very persuasive, and would require strong argumentation to dislodge, concerning the historical means of crucifixion.

On other accounts of theology, and Jesus’ self-identity, I don’t see any conflicts that this line brings up. It creatively uses the perspective of Pilate to understand Pilate’s own actions. And it has to do this in the first century Jewish context. It succeeds on both points. Having said that, I find myself very persuaded by NT Wright’s line of argumentation concerning Jesus’ self-identity. His work is equally historically focused, but from the perspective of Jesus himself. The only interesting point of integration required is the always sticky synoptic problem of where to put the Temple scene: with John in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, or with the synoptics, at the end. Bauckham’s work is giving John’s gospel a more vaulted place as history than is traditionally given to it. Certainly, the gospel of John isn’t any worse off (from a literary point of view) “getting Jesus crucified” without the Temple incident. And all of the synoptics include the Triumphal Entry. The argument of where it appropriately belongs may very well be less valuable than thought, if it is not a requirement for his crucifixion, where, again, in John it is not a requirement.

33 Responses to “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”

  1. on 15 Dec 2008 at 4:58 pmSean

    Is there any reason why the Pharisees and Sadducees are totally absent from Fredrickson’s assessment? The Gospels, in particular John, clearly assert that the chief priests were the ones who wanted Jesus dead and forced Pilate’s hand to accomplish this by committing high treason in saying, “we have no king but Caesar.”

  2. on 15 Dec 2008 at 8:17 pmJohnE

    The traditional explanation to the crucifixion is to follow the synoptic accounts. […] Fredrickson argues that precisely because of the crowds reaction to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, laden with messianic tones, Pilate found it necessary to crucify Jesus.

    I can hardly understand why you would find “very persuasive” an explanation that contradicts what an eyewitness wrote – and not just an eyewitness, but one inspired by God to write what he wrote.

    I just love how all these “experts” parade their fancy theories on the “scholarly” scene, in the hope of attaining the vain glory of making a name for themselves by coming up with these exotic personal insights into what went on in 20 centuries ago. Not only that, but in the process, they start from the fact that what the gospels write is false/naive/myth/fairy tales/lies – you pick your choice. That is always a given, they don’t even discuss it, it’s a certainty!

    I wonder if we can ever fall victims to what Paul said once, that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

  3. on 16 Dec 2008 at 2:10 amMark C.

    The Gospels, in particular John, clearly assert that the chief priests were the ones who wanted Jesus dead and forced Pilate’s hand to accomplish this by committing high treason in saying, “we have no king but Caesar.”

    That’s how I’ve understood it too.

    The only interesting point of integration required is the always sticky synoptic problem of where to put the Temple scene: with John in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, or with the synoptics, at the end.

    Aren’t there some theologians who allow for the possibility that there were two similar scenes at the Temple – one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and one at the end?

  4. on 16 Dec 2008 at 8:36 amJohnO

    Mark C,

    Aren’t there some theologians who allow for the possibility that there were two similar scenes at the Temple – one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and one at the end?

    Yes, some, but very few, do that. Most take the synoptics at their word and place it at the end. Few take John’s placement at the beginning as historical, but rather theological.

    Sean,
    She definitely offers place for it, but ultimately the decision is Pilate’s. She terms her question pointedly, why did Jesus die the death of an insurrectionist? Pilate would not crucify Jesus for being a rabbi with a different idea or adgenda – he couldn’t care less about that. But, once Jewish prophet figures started amassing crowds and threatening the general peace and order, time to get involved. I think based on the history, we can see that chief priests, and the ruling powers often worked hand in hand. So while she primarily discusses Pilate, I don’t think it would be very far to say he wouldn’t have been thinking alone, you could add “and Caiphas” in most places you see “Pilate” above.

    John E,
    I’m not a fundamentalist. I don’t use those methods to understand Scripture anymore. Sorry that doesn’t jive with your approach. The scholars that have the presumptions that you list compromise mostly the lower echelon, and are generally here in America. The scholars that are actually doing fantastic work, with a true historical method and respect for faith and the Scriptures are all over. I don’t want to get into the failings of the fundamentalist worldview and approach to Scripture, this is not the forum.

  5. on 16 Dec 2008 at 9:47 amSean

    JohnO,

    Pilate would not crucify Jesus for being a rabbi with a different idea or adgenda – he couldn’t care less about that.

    But, isn’t this exactly why the chief priests had to force Pilate’s hand? Pilate didn’t care about killing Jesus. He knew Jesus’ movement was non-violent and didn’t interfere with the taxes. He didn’t want to kill Jesus not because he was noble but because he didn’t see any reason to. The Sadducees however were the ones with motive to knock Jesus off because Jesus actively engaged with them in verbal combat and defeated them repeatedly in open view of the people in the temple complex. If Jesus’ movement gained any more traction the cozy position they enjoyed with regard to temple revenue might be compromised.

  6. on 16 Dec 2008 at 12:14 pmJohnO

    Both Pilate and Caiphas had a motive to get rid of Jesus because of the crowds at Passover. They would have known his message was not violent. Caiphas and the others certainly wouldn’t have liked Jesus for other reasons, but none worthy of death – none of the other sects were crucified for their stances. But the crowds, in nationalistic fervor over another messianic figure were to be feared. And to wake up with their messiah on a crucifix outside of Jerusalem would have quelled the threat of the crowds. The two men on the road to Ammaues is perfectly historical, and exactly what the crowds would have done.

  7. on 16 Dec 2008 at 4:31 pmMark C.

    JohnO,

    When you say you “…don’t use those methods to understand Scripture anymore,” and, “The scholars that have the presumptions that you list compromise mostly the lower echelon…” are you referring to believing that the New Testament was written by inspiration from God, and includes the testimony of eyewitnesses? Surely you aren’t suggesting that such ideas are only the viewpoint of fundamentalists. Historical method is fine in its place, but we can’t forget the source of the New Testament, otherwise there’s no point in studying it.

  8. on 16 Dec 2008 at 6:16 pmJohnO

    Mark,

    Thanks for making me clarify my statements. “The scholars that have the presumptions that you list compromise mostly the lower echelon…” refers to JohnE’s list of scholarly presumptions that the gospels are fake/madeup/myth/etc. Most scholars do not in fact believe a priori that the NT is any of those things.

    In reference to “those methods”, I mean the general worldview and attempt to understand Scripture undertaken by most fundamentalists. The only reason I have a category for that type of thinking is because I was able to step outside of my fundamentalist worldview, with help, to see it and examine it.

  9. on 16 Dec 2008 at 8:19 pmJohnE

    JohnO, thank you for effectively labeling me as a fundamentalist; very nice of you but that is not what we’re discussing here. The question is simple:

    do you believe that what John writes about this is true? That Pilate had no interest in executing Jesus but in fact wanted to avoid executing him, and only executed him at the insistence of the conspiring Jews?

    Or do you rather believe Paula the all-knowing when she says Pilate wanted in fact to kill Jesus for his own reasons?

    Do you believe that John, the one relating what happened, was an eyewitness and should know better than Paula? Or is that too fundamentalist for your taste?

  10. on 16 Dec 2008 at 8:27 pmSean

    Essentially there are two camps of scholars: liberal and conservative. (This is oversimplifying a bit,…there are anomalies). Conservative scholars are the ones who believe in miracles and in particular that 2 millenia ago God actually raised Jesus from the dead leaving an empty tomb behind him. In addition many in the conservative camp have an a priori commitment to Scripture as infallible and inerrant (cf. Chicago statement on inerrancy). These scholars tend to work at evangelical colleges that require a statement of faith to be signed in order to be a teacher there.

    Liberal scholars typically study the Bible as if it were just another collection of literature. They use historical procedures (one of which is to exclude supernatural claims). Liberal scholars try to make sense of the Jesus movement in historical context of 2nd temple Judaism as well as 1st century Christianity. Since they do not believe that the Bible is inspired by God, they spend much of their time parsing the Gospels for the historical as opposed to the mythological. This is done through an elaborate process involving certain criteria (on which there is no consensus). Because these criteria are subjective (each scholar uses their own) the Jesus that emerges can range from an apocalypticist to a proto-feminist to a cynic sage to a misunderstood Rabbi.

    Obviously, there are some scholars who ride the line between these two mountains like NT Wright and Daniel Wallace.

  11. on 16 Dec 2008 at 8:38 pmSean

    the “f” word is so slippery. If JohnE is being called a fundamentalist, please define.

    We all hold to various fundamentals…on both sides of the fence

  12. on 16 Dec 2008 at 9:59 pmJohnO

    Fundamentalist – a rigid, often dogmatic, approach to religions and its texts. Generally holds that there are zero incongruities or “errors” within the text. Generally holds that the truths of the text are timeless. Generally holds that the text should be read ‘literally’, which ends up reading certain ‘literal’ parts metaphorically, and certain metaphors ‘literally’. That outlines the process. The worldview is a bit fuzzier to pin down. Generally, there are few mysteries, or unknowns, in practice (theory is different, but practice clears up the mystery). All the dividing lines are black and white.

    Fundamentalism is a worldview and process, not so easily labeled a “belief system” as many belief systems can fit within it.

    JohnE, from both this thread, and other threads that I’ve seen your comments on, I don’t expect you to understand why this is persuasive to me. We are coming from two totally different places, walking on two different paths. If I described the forest on my path, no wonder you’re balking at my descriptions. I’ve been on your path before, and looking at its own surroundings, and the scenery forced me to change paths.

    So yes, it is absolutely about the worldview and the process, because that is how results are found.

  13. on 16 Dec 2008 at 10:18 pmSean

    so if someone is open to discussion on their beliefs they are not dogmatic and thus cannot be labeled a fundamentalist (which has major pejorative connotations these days).

    also if someone does not “literalize” metaphors and allegorize history then he is not a fundi?

    the liberals tend to allegorize a good deal it seems to me.

    maybe this label is just too floppy to be of any use other than in name calling contests

    if you want to accuse JohnE of being closed minded vis a vis liberal scholars like Fredrickson then that is one thing, but the “f” word is accusing him of too much, I think.

  14. on 16 Dec 2008 at 10:34 pmJohnE

    This is funny 🙂 Guys, my person doesn’t really matter, I’d just like some answers to my questions. Is that too much to ask? I’m still waiting…

  15. on 17 Dec 2008 at 12:19 amMark C.

    Liberal scholars typically study the Bible as if it were just another collection of literature. They use historical procedures (one of which is to exclude supernatural claims). Liberal scholars try to make sense of the Jesus movement in historical context of 2nd temple Judaism as well as 1st century Christianity. Since they do believe that the Bible is inspired by God, they spend much of their time parsing the Gospels for the historical as opposed to the mythological.

    The two highlighted phrases seem to contradict each other. If they believe the Bible is inspired by God, why do they study it as if it were just another book? Am I missing something, or was this a typo?

  16. on 17 Dec 2008 at 11:12 amSean

    So sorry. The second bolded phrase should read:

    Since they do not believe that the Bible is inspired by God,

    I have corrected it in the original comment

  17. on 17 Dec 2008 at 5:09 pmMark C.

    Ah, that makes more sense.

  18. on 18 Dec 2008 at 9:29 pmJohnE

    So I guess I won’t be getting answers any time soon. Probably these answers were too embarrassing to be explicitly given, or you considered that I’m not worthy of a response; after all, I’m just a narrow minded fundamentalist, whereas you already evolved from this uneducated state to a superior understanding.

    In fact your article reveals your ideas in a pretty obvious way, it’s just that I could not reconcile your position as an official voice of a Unitarian church, with your views. And just what view is that? That the writer of this gospel is not an eyewitness as he claims to be, that he was not inspired by God to write what he did. So why would others be inspired by God to write anything? None of these writers are recording what God wants to be recorded, the message is not God’s, it’s theirs, so it is not reliable. When John says Pilate repeatedly, even to the last moment, avoided to execute Jesus, he’s lying or relating myths – that is, lies. In fact, Paula the 21st century scholar, is to be trusted more than this allegedly-inspired-by-God 1st century eyewitness – Pilate wanted to execute Jesus as soon as he made his triumphal entry in Jerusalem.

    According to this view then, the writers of the Scripture are unreliable sources, not inspired by God. If John is wrong about what he write in ch. 18, he is also wrong everywhere else; Jesus probably never said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. When John indicates how Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies he is of course wrong, in fact, what prophecies? Those are just the invention of men, the Bible is not inspired by God. So in this way, Jesus is not really God’s only-begotten son, like John claims. No resurrections, no healings, no miracles, Jesus did none of that – because what John writes is just human chatter, inexact and unreliable.

    This way, whenever anyone in the Bible makes an argument quoting verses from Scripture – be it Jesus, Paul, whoever – it’s all in vain. The Scriptures have no real authority, the real authority can be found in other books, like those written by all-knowing scholars, who know better than poor ancient writers. It is pointless to argue anything from the Bible, to cite it in support for an alleged truth, after all, it’s just ancient literature, the word of men, just the opinion of others, as good as any opinion, as in the case of what Pilate did or didn’t. In fact, Christianity is fake, a fairy tale based credulity, with absolute ridiculous claims of God’s guidance and approval.

    This is a 180 degrees turn from 1st century Christianity. Paul never new how wrong, fundamentalist and narrow minded he was when he wrote:

    1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for WHAT IT REALLY IS, THE WORD OF GOD, which also performs its work in you who believe.

    If that is fundamentalist, I enjoy, I even revel in being labeled as such. Furthermore, we know (but you might not believe it) that God wants “all men to come to the knowledge of truth” (1Ti 2:4) Thanks to your ideas, God is revealed as a helpless god, one who is not able to preserve his intended message to humanity; he cannot be an Almighty God, in fact, he cannot claim to be a God at all, if he’s not capable to do even that.

    The problem is that thanks to your ideas, people who otherwise would be eventually able to accept that Unitarianism could be right in its denial of Trinity, immortal soul, etc, would reject it the moment they will hear you deny the inspired character of the Scriptures. Opponents of Unitarianism would have a real easy job in dismissing it as a fairy tale, since the same Unitarian that advocates it does not really believe the Scriptures are inspired by God, which is one of the cornerstones of faith.

    So I have a final question on this subject, for the staff of this official Unitarian website: is JohnO really one of you? Are you in agreement with him on this fundamentally vital issue, or is he alone in his thinking? Because it seems to me it was not an accident that I encountered two other people on this website, who in not so many words almost denied the authority of the NT. Just want to know to who exactly am I talking to.

    Thank you.

  19. on 18 Dec 2008 at 10:19 pmJohnO

    JohnE,

    Seeing as I haven’t denied anything, no one should be worried. If you wish to put down your rhetoric and polemic talk, then we might be able to understand one another. I do not need to fit into your boxes or categories. I don’t need to fit into your orthodoxy, nor a generous orthodoxy, nor a minimalist perspective, nor any ‘heresy’ portrait. You’re only going to find out who you are talking to by being quiet and listening. Judging from your lengthy paragraph you know more about me than I do, so speak on. Unless of course you want to stop attempting to cause divisions by getting my brothers to abandon me, which the Scriptures speak uniformly against. They wouldn’t be very brotherly if they did such a thing would they? I pray that we can all grow up a little bit in our spine, and our maturity to realize that when we all think alike, no one is thinking, and that we don’t have to agree on everything to be brothers.

  20. on 18 Dec 2008 at 10:57 pmSean

    JohnO,

    Could you please give us your thoughts on biblical inspiration. Perhaps that would be a helpful starting point for dialog between you and JohnE.

    JohnE,

    Denying inerrancy does not require one to throw out the entire Bible. That is just over exaggerating the liberal position. They believe that the Gospels have a good amount of historical data and much of their scholarship is focused on separating the wheat from the chaff (an exorcise that I think is a waste of time). Oh, and most biblical unitarians do believe in the inspiration of Scripture, so does this website and its supporting ministry (see the statement of beliefs here).

  21. on 18 Dec 2008 at 11:08 pmJohnE

    JohnO, if I’m mistaken in any of my reasonings, please indicate. As to wanting to cause divisions among you, I don’t. I’m trying to get a sense of what you people really believe. I’ve seen what you believe but it’s not yet clear to me if others here are in agreement with your denial of inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.

    I consider this matter to be very serious, and my thinking was formed by what I’ve read in the NT. Paul says about two guys that were saying the resurrection is already happening, that their talk “will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17). They were “upsetting (overturning) the faith of some” because of what they were saying. This was not a “disagreement”, this was downright dangerous.

    IMHO, saying that the Scriptures do not have the authority in establishing the truth amounts to the same thing, if not more. But that’s just my opinion.

    We don’t have to agree in every minute detail, but we have to agree when it comes to fundamentals as the authority of the Bible. It is the basis of virtually everything we (or I, to be more exact) believe. Take away this foundation and you’re left with nothing.

  22. on 18 Dec 2008 at 11:10 pmJohnO

    JohnE,

    I’m not sure why I should continue talking, seeing as you’ve already made up your mind that I deny inerrancy because of the way I read things. What is to be gained by it?

  23. on 18 Dec 2008 at 11:12 pmJohnE

    Thanks Sean for your response.

    Denying inerrancy does not require one to throw out the entire Bible. That is just over exaggerating the liberal position. They believe that the Gospels have a good amount of historical data and much of their scholarship is focused on separating the wheat from the chaff

    Well, if an entire chapter from John is just plain wrong, than why wouldn’t all other chapters wrong?

    As to the fact that they believe that the Gospels have a good amount of historical data, I believe that too, but that is not the problem. The problem is that the Scripture is stripped of its authority when we say whole events did not happen, despite the Scripture saying it did!

  24. on 18 Dec 2008 at 11:17 pmJohnE

    I’m not sure why I should continue talking, seeing as you’ve already made up your mind that I deny inerrancy because of the way I read things.

    John, I’ve waited two days for you to respond to my otherwise simple questions. You didn’t, and you still don’t, so what do you expect me to think? I suspect what your answers are, but please prove me wrong.

    I have no problem with the way one reads things, in the sense that he interprets them as he sees fit. There can be correct and incorrect interpretations, but yours is not exactly an interpretation, is a denial of what is written by John. Is it not?

  25. on 19 Dec 2008 at 7:43 amSean

    JohnE,

    I agree with your assessment of authority. If the Scriptures are not inspired by God then they do not have authority. good point.

    Also, we need to keep in mind that though inspiration is an important subject, the 12 did not traipse around the Mediterranean world saying, believing the NT is inspired! no, they went around declaring that Jesus was risen from the dead.

  26. on 19 Dec 2008 at 8:43 amTim

    I have not been following this in great detail, but I agree with Sean’s last point. We need to recall what the early missionary message was: Jesus is alive and we all should make him our Lord and follow his commands. Very little abstract metaphysics there and a lot of practical application.

    With respect to inspiration in general, I don’t think that inspiration is context-free, so we need to ask ourselves what the Scriptures are inspired for? I would answer that they are not inspired to make metaphysical, or physical, or scientific statements, but rather they are inspired to make us followers of Jesus.

  27. on 19 Dec 2008 at 8:24 pmJohnE

    Sean and Tim,
    thank you for taking time to answer my questions.

    Sean said:

    though inspiration is an important subject, the 12 did not traipse around the Mediterranean world saying, believing the NT is inspired!

    Not in so many words, no, but the writer of the revelation certainly did – Rev. 1:1.

    Paul occasionally also stated just that, as I already quoted him above (1 Thessalonians 2:13), that what they preached to the Thessalonians was God’s word, not theirs – so he effectively says “yes, believe it cause it’s inspired”. He has similar statements, like:

    1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;

    Paul claims once again that what he has delivered to the Corinthians was God’s word, not his. He received it from the Lord.

    Then the writer of 2 Peter refers to Paul’s letters as “Scripture”, and added that he spoke according to the divine wisdom (so his letters are inspired) that was given to him:

    2 Peter 3:15-16 just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

    No wonder then that Paul states he received authority from the Lord to build up the faith of his brothers:

    2 Corinthians 13:10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

    Yes, Paul’s writings do have authority – to build up, to clarify, to teach, etc.

    John has the same authority as Paul to accurately show how things happened. Yes, they did not “traipse around the Mediterranean world saying, believing the NT is inspired”, no need for that, but they did traipse around the Mediterranean world saying “we are telling the truth“.

    Tim said:

    I would answer that they are not inspired to make metaphysical, or physical, or scientific statements, but rather they are inspired to make us followers of Jesus.

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. The Bible contains such statements; can you provide an example of such statement about which you can say it was not inspired by God?

  28. on 19 Dec 2008 at 10:43 pmSean

    JohnE, I already believe the NT is inspired. My point was they did not preach inspiration as gospel. What makes a Christian is not his position on inspiration but his position on the gospel.

  29. on 20 Dec 2008 at 5:19 amMark C.

    JohnE, I already believe the NT is inspired. My point was they did not preach inspiration as gospel. What makes a Christian is not his position on inspiration but his position on the gospel.

    They didn’t preach inspiration of Scripture as gospel because it was still being written. But they did claim that what they preached and what they were writing was God’s Word, and not their own idea. But how do we, who have not heard them preach first hand, know what the Gospel is? It’s because of what those apostles and eyewitnesses wrote. The integrity and believability of the New Testament is vital because it is how we know that the OT prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.

    That being said, the original question was whether Pilate was himself inclined to crucify Jesus, or was just moved by the crowd and trying to avoid trouble, in view of his responsibility to Rome. As I understand it, the Gospels seem to present the latter, while Paula Fredrickson’s book seems to present the former.

    I liked Sean’s concise definition of the two camps of Biblical scholarship, and the fact that there are some who ride the line between the two. I believe most of us who post here would be considered somewhere in the middle as well. So let’s discuss the issues without resorting to labels and name-calling.

    I’m not familiar with Ms. Fredrickson. Which camp is she in, or does she ride the line as well? Specifically, does she believe the New Testament was inspired by God? If not, how much does that color her conclusions? If she does, then why does she suggest an idea that appears to contradict what the NT says?

  30. on 20 Dec 2008 at 10:48 amSean

    Paula Fredrickson is a professor at Boston University. I’m pretty sure she agrees with other liberal scholars that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet whose message was that Israel should repent because the kingdom (judgment and vindication) was just around the corner. She is similar in this respect to B. Ehrman and E.P. Sanders. She also has done work on the New Perspective of Paul. I’m sure she has a profile web page at BU.

  31. on 20 Dec 2008 at 11:22 amJohnE

    Sean,

    JohnE, I already believe the NT is inspired.

    I know you do. What I wrote was to show how these writers of the NT were presenting their message – as the word of God.

    What makes a Christian is not his position on inspiration but his position on the gospel.

    I agree. I think you are using the “gospel” here not in the sense of “one of the 4 gospels, of Mark, Luke,…” but in the sense of the “Good News”. As Mark said above, we’ve heard the gospel from the NT, not from the apostles. We believe the gospel that the Bible presents. So what happens when you start thinking that some parts of the Bible are wrong? Why is a certain part wrong and the “gospel part” true? Why aren’t both parts wrong? What makes the “gospel part” true? Aren’t both part of the same document? This way, I just can’t see a basis on which you would think or believe the “gospel part” is true, since you believed it BECAUSE it’s in the Bible. And now you (not you personally Sean) somehow realized that the Bible is not entirely true. There’s no basis anymore to believe the gospel part is true.

  32. on 20 Dec 2008 at 11:55 amJohnO

    There is plenty of reason to believe the “gospel part” is true absent the Scriptures. The first apostles did not believe in the gospel because of the Scriptures they read about their ancestors. Paul did not believe in the gospel because of the actions of the first Christians either (written or speaking). They believed the Gospel because it was evident to them that Jesus was raised from the dead and active in the world. There is just as much reason (the same reason really) to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead (both historically and devotionally) and active in the world.

    And don’t worry, your answer is coming, I post Mondays.

  33. on 20 Dec 2008 at 12:38 pmJohnE

    JohnO,

    There is plenty of reason to believe the “gospel part” is true absent the Scriptures. The first apostles did not believe in the gospel because of the Scriptures they read about their ancestors.

    No, they believed it because they were eyewitnesses. Are you one? Those who became Christians then, believed it because these eyewitnesses were preaching something they saw and for which they were willing to give their lives. They were alive and available for questioning and inquiry. Are you a contemporary of these eyewitnesses?

    It is clear why the NT was needed: the generation of the eyewitnesses was dying off. So eyewitness testimony was recorded in written form.

    Paul did not believe in the gospel because of the actions of the first Christians either (written or speaking).

    Paul’s conversion to Christianity had supernatural causes, Jesus himself appeared to him in a blinding light and talked to him. Did you have a similar experience?

    They believed the Gospel because it was evident to them that Jesus was raised from the dead

    Exactly. We are back to eyewitnesses.

    There is just as much reason (the same reason really) to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead (both historically and devotionally) and active in the world.

    What reason does history give to believe in his resurrection? Is this the primary reason you believe he was resurrected?

    If we go by devotional reasons and “active in the world” type of reasons, Allah and his prophet Mohamed are the real deal as well.

    And don’t worry, your answer is coming

    I don’t.

  

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