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Apologetics, Kreeft chapter 10: The Bible, myth or history?


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Based on Pocket handbook of Christian apologetics (2003) by Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli. This is a course taught at LTCi, Siliguri.

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Apologetics, Kreeft chapter 10: The Bible, myth or history?

  1. 1. The Bible:Myth orMystery Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics Chapter 10 Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli
  2. 2. The Bible, miracles and all theresurrection stand closetogether - if one falls they all fall.For example people might saytheir reasons for not believing inthe resurrection:1. Miracles don’t happen2. The Bible is myth, not historyThe logic of arguing againstmiracles, resurrection and thebible must be in the right order -otherwise the reasoning isbackward
  3. 3. To argue against miraclesand the resurrectionbecause the Bible is mythis not the right way toreason.Instead the argumentshould go like this:If the resurrection reallydid happen then miraclesare possible and thereforethe miracle stories in theBible can be [are?] history,not myth.
  4. 4. To argue against miraclesand the resurrectionbecause the Bible is mythis not the right way toreason.Instead the argumentshould go like this:If the resurrection reallydid happen then miraclesare possible and thereforethe miracle stories in theBible can be [are?] history,not myth.
  5. 5. If an unbeliever suggeststhat the Bible is a mythbecause it containsunbelievable miracle storieslike the resurrection. This iscircular reasoning. It isarguing that theresurrection is a mythbecause the Bible is amyth, and the Bible is amyth because it containsmythical stories like theresurrection.
  6. 6. The role of Scripture in ApologeticsThere are 2 extremes - thefundamentalist extreme andthe modernist extreme.The fundamentalist extreme[ position]Most who are fundamentalist(and also many who are calledevangelicals) will only starttheir apologetics fromScripture - the authors argueagainst this on 3 grounds:
  7. 7. 1. They think it is necessary tostart by convincing you of theauthority of Scripture becausethey think that natural humanreason alone, apart fromScripture, is not strong enoughor good enough to directunbelievers to belief.2. Therefore, they think the onlyright order in apologetics is tofirst prove the authority ofScripture - then you can moveonto other apologetic issueswith this weapon in hand
  8. 8. 3. Special standards must beused to understand and interpretScripture, since, unlike all otherbooks it is not just man’s wordsabout God but God’s wordsabout man.Kreeft also notes the firstChristians for many centuriesdid their apologetics without theNT being defined (no canon wasformed until ??). Added to whichbelief in a Creator God (and thepossibility salvation) have comethrough rational arguments.
  9. 9. One might say it is hard tostart by proving the authorityof Scripture - it is easier tostart with the existence ofGod, the divinity of Christ etc.The arguments are often put ina different order. So it is not,1. Scripture is infallible2. Therefore Christ is infallible3. Therefore Christ is divine
  10. 10. A more convincing order is,1. Scripture is reliable ashistorical record, as data2. Christ’s claims to divinity arefound in Scripture3. Then comes the argumentfor the truth of these claims -as we studied previously.We can confront someone withthe claims of Christ beforetalking to them aboutScripture.
  11. 11. We might also ask if anonbeliever would feel theyshould automatically giveScripture special treatmentor assumptions - probablythey would want to beconvinced that it deservesspecial treatment as theWOG without this beingpresupposed.
  12. 12. The modernist extreme - iffundamentalists worshipScripture then moderniststrash it. However both sidesuse the same specialstandards in judging theBible, standards they do notapply to other books.
  13. 13. Fundamentalists interpreteverything they possibly canas literally as possible andinsist on a believing attitudefrom the start. Modernistsinterpret as much as possible(esp. Miracles and morallyunpopular ideas) non-literallyand start with an unbelievingskeptical attitude to the Bible.
  14. 14. Kreeft says that modernists tendtowards eisegesis - readingthings into the text - cfexegesis, reading things out ofit. This means it has a worldviewof naturalism, denying miraclesand the supernatural - all of thisis then read into the text - in thisthey impose something alienupon the text.Fundamentalists read into thetext their own version ofsupernaturalism, somethingwhich it already contains.
  15. 15. Kreeft says unbelieverssay:1. Christianity is what theNT teaches2. Christianity is falseChristians say,1. Christianity is what theNT teaches2. Christianity is true
  16. 16. Modernist theologians wantpeace with both sides of theargument - so they say,1. Christianity is not what theNT teaches at face value butwhat has been selected bymodernists - the love ethicwith out miracles2. This refined version ofChristianity is true
  17. 17. Kreeft reminds us of Gal 1:8But even if we or an angel fromheaven should preach a gospelother than the one we preached toyou, let them be under God’scurse!The Bible, WOG on paper - shouldlead us to Christ, WOG in flesh.If we look again at Christ we saidwe had a choice - Lord, liar, lunatic- this was based on what we saidthe Bible claimed Christ said - butwhat if Christ did not claim this, ifthe Bible (NT texts) is lying?
  18. 18. Kreeft suggests theologianswho have tried to make theBible out to e a myth, havecaused more people to losetheir faith than any atheisticarguments of the 20thcentury - this has takenplace by the historical-critical method and highercriticism. In effect they havechanged wine to water andfaith to myth. Kreeft says thedata makes such a changeimpossible:
  19. 19. 1. If a neutral, scientific approach is used on NT texts(as with other historical documents) then the textsprove remarkably reliable. Repeatedly the Bible hasbeen attacked, debunked, demythologised anddemeaned - yet it remains living and powerful!
  20. 20. 2. The state of the manuscripts is good- we have 500 copies earlier than500AD, for the Iliad we have only 50copies produced within 500 years ofits origin. For Tacitus writing the annalsf Rome there is only 1 copy writtenwithin 500 years of the original.One could question if it is therecording of miracles which makespeople question the NT documents,not their historical validity - not sciencebut prejudice.
  21. 21. “The manuscripts that wehave, in addition to being old,are also mutually reinforcingand consistent. There are veryfew discrepancies and no reallyimportant ones. And all laterdiscoveries of manuscripts,such as the Dead Sea Scrolls,have confirmed rather thanrefuted previously existingmanuscripts in every importantcase. There is simply no otherancient text in nearly as good ashape.”
  22. 22. 3. If Jesus divinity is a myth invented by latergenerations("the early Christian community," = "theinventors of the myth"), then there must have been atleast 2-3 generations between the originaleyewitnesses of the historical Jesus and the universalbelief in the new, mythic, divinized Jesus; otherwise,the myth could never have been believed as factbecause it would have been refuted by eyewitnessesof the real Jesus. Both disciples and enemies wouldhave had reasons to oppose this new myth.
  23. 23. There is no evidence of anyoneopposing the so-called myth of thedivine Jesus in the name of an earliermerely human Jesus. The early"demythologizers" explicitly claimedthat the New Testament texts had tohave been written after A.D. 150 for themyth to have taken hold. But nocompetent scholar today denies thefirst-century dating of virtually all of theNT-certainly Pauls letters, which clearlyaffirm and presuppose Jesus divinityand the fact that this doctrine wasalready universal Christian orthodoxy.
  24. 24. 4. If a mythic "layer" had beenadded later onto an originallymerely human Jesus, we shouldfind some evidence, at leastindirectly and second-hand, ofthis earlier layer. We find insteadan absolute and total absence ofany such evidence anywhere,either internal (in the NT textsthemselves) or external,anywhere else, in Christian, anti-Christian, or non-Christiansources.
  25. 25. 5. The Gospel style is not the styleof myth, but of real, thoughunscientific, eyewitness description.Anyone sensitive to literary stylescan compare the Gospels to any ofthe mythic religious literature of thetime, and the differences will appearremarkable and unmistakable- e.g.,intertestamental apocalypticliterature of Jews and Gentiles,pagan mythic fantasies like OvidsMetamorphoses or FlaviusPhilostratuss story of the wonder-worker Apollonius of Tyana (AD220).
  26. 26. If the events in the Gospels did notreally happen, then the authors inventedmodern realistic fantasy 19 centuriesago. The Gospels are full of little details,both of external observation and internalfeelings, that are found only ineyewitness descriptions or modernrealistic fiction. They also include manylittle details of life in first-century Israelthat could not have been known bysomeone not living in that time andplace (e.g. Jn 12:3). And there are nosecond-century anachronisms, either inlanguage or content.
  27. 27. 6. The claim of Jesus to be Godmakes sense of his trial andcrucifixion. The Jewish sensitivityto blasphemy was unique; no oneelse would so fanatically insist ondeath as punishment for claimingdivinity. In the Roman world, theattitude toward the gods was "themore, the merrier."Jesus had no political ambitions. -politics cannot explain hiscrucifixion. He disappointed thepolitical expectations of friendsand enemies.
  28. 28. The main reason why most Jewsrejected his claim to be the Messiahwas that he did not liberate themfrom Roman political oppression.Why then was he crucified? Thepolitical excuse that he wasCaesars rival was a lie trumped upto justify his execution, sinceRoman law did not recognizeblasphemy as grounds forexecution and the Jews had nolegal power to enforce their ownreligious laws of capital punishmentunder Roman rule.
  29. 29. Why then was hecrucified? The politicalexcuse that he wasCaesars rival was a lietrumped up to justify hisexecution, since Romanlaw did not recognizeblasphemy as groundsfor execution and theJews had no legal powerto enforce their ownreligious laws of capitalpunishment underRoman rule.
  30. 30. 7. There are 4 Gospels, not just one -written by 4 different writers, at 4different times, probably for 4 differentaudiences and for 4 somewhatdifferent purposes and emphases. Soa lot of cross-checking is possible. Bya textual triangulation, we can fix thefacts with far greater assurance herethan with any other ancientpersonage or series of events. Theonly inconsistencies are in chronology(only Lukes Gospel claims to be inorder) and accidentals like numbers(e.g. did the women see one angel ortwo at the empty tomb?).
  31. 31. 8. If the divine Jesus of theGospels is a myth, who inventedit? Whether it was his firstdisciples or some latergeneration, no possible motivecan account for this invention.For until the Edict of Milan inA.D. 313, Christians weresubject to persecution, oftentortured and martyred, andhated and oppressed for theirbeliefs. No one invents anelaborate practical joke in orderto be crucified, stoned orbeheaded.
  32. 32. 9. First-century Jews and Christianswere not prone to believe in myths.They were already more"demythologized" than any otherpeople. The orthodox were adamantly,even cantankerously and intolerantly,opposed to the polytheistic myths ofpaganism and to any ecumenicalsyncretism. Nor would anyone be lesslikely to confuse myth and fact than aJew. Peter declares that the Gospelstory is historical fact, not "cleverlydevised myths" 2 Pet 1:16
  33. 33. 10. Finally, if you read theGospels with an open mind andheart, you may well conclude,along with Dostoevsky andKierkegaard, that no mere mancould possibly have inventedthis story.