Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bishop NT Wright - Surprised by Hope

John 20 verses 30-31 says 'Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.'

According to Bishop NT Wright , in chapter 4 of his new book, Surprised by Hope, 'The fourth strange feature of the resurrection accounts is the entire absence of mention of the future Christian hope.' (I paraphrase - the exact quote comes from a recent Wright speech)

Christian apologists will say anything at all if it suits them. The Gospels link the resurrection to eternal life for believers time after time, yet people like NT Wright will say that such links are entirely absent, whenever it suits him to say that.

And Wright appears to be claiming that nobody can find anything in the resurrection accounts which support his claim of Christian hope.

I'm sure Wright would be the first to claim that the resurrection accounts are evidence of a future Christian hope - after all, he has just written a book claiming that the resurrection of Jesus is support for the future Christian hope - a claim that he now says is not supported by anything in the texts of the resurrection accounts.

Is Christian scholarship worth the paper it is written on?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Could you be the saviour of the world?

You are the creator of the universe, come to Earth to spread a message for all mankind.

What would you do?

This simple test will check to see if you are qualified to be the saviour of the world.

What actions would you take to demonstrate your love for humanity?
A) Cure cancer
B) Cure malaria
C) Symbolically reconstitute the 12 tribes of Israel by appointing 12 disciples

The world often suffers from famine, and many people have nothing to eat. What would you do?
A) Arrange for harvests not to fail
B) Tell people to eat cake
C) Tell people to eat your body

Many people have to drink water teeming with parasites. What would you do?
A) Arrange for clean drinking water.
B) Cure people of parasitical infections
C) Demand water to wash your feet with.

Your teachings will inspire many people. What would you tell people?
A) Tell people not to buy and sell other people for money
B) Tell people not to conscript children into armies
C) Tell people that they will be salted with fire

If your answers were mostly C, you too could be a saviour of the world like Jesus.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

NT Wright on Jewish prophecy

There is a famous prophecy in Daniel 9:26 about the death of the Messiah.

'After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.'

NT Wright says Here that 'There were, to be sure, several variations on Jewish messianic belief in this period. None of them envisaged a Messiah who would die at the hands of the pagans.'

How can we be sure that there were no Jews who believed that Daniel 9:26 prophesied that the Messiah would be killed? Has Wright surveyed every Jew from that period and established that not one of them took Daniel 9:26 as a prophecy about the death of a Messiah at the hands of the pagans?

If Wright has not done such a survey, how can he claim to know what every single Jew in the first century would or would not have believed?

History can only tell us what the majority of people in a period believed.

But some minorities are always too small to have their beliefs recorded.

But that basic fact about history never stops Christian apologists like NT Wright declaring that it is a fact that there could not have been a tiny minority of people in any era who did not believe what the majority of people believed.

Christian apologists, like NT Wright and William Lane Craig, tend to ride roughshod over historical method.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

William Lane Craig on legends

Matthew 28 - There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

William Lane Craig explains how to spot whether something is a legend Here

For example, in the gospel of Peter a voice rings out from heaven during the night, the stone rolls back of itself from the door of the tomb, and two men descend from Heaven and enter the tomb. Then three men are seen coming out of the tomb, the two supporting the third. The heads of the two men stretch up to the clouds, but the head of the third man overpasses the clouds. Then a cross comes out of the tomb, and a voice asks, "Hast thou preached to them that sleep?" And the cross answers, "Yea".

What exactly makes the Gospel of Peter's story of angels an obvious legend, yet Craig believes every single words of Matthew's story of an angel descending from heaven, with an appearance like lightning?

The answer is simple.

William Lane Craig uses two measures.

One for the Gospels - where every word is true.

And another measure for all other writings, where he laughs at stories which are very similar to Gospel stories.

For example, Craig scoffs at the Gospel of Peter's claim of a talking cross, yet Craig believes in a talking donkey.

William Lane Craig thinks the story of the stone rolling back of itself from the tomb is an obvious legend, yet Craig is certain that the following really did happen, exactly as Acts 12 says it did, 'They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.'

But surely claims that iron gates opened of themselves is just an obvious a legend as the story in the Gospel of Peter that William Lane Craig curtly dismisses as 'legends'

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NT Wright on expectations of resurrection

Matthew 27 - The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

Why did first-century Jews believe that the early Christian movement would be able to deceive people by proclaiming that their Messiah had died a violent death, and had been resurrected?

NT Wright explains why it was perfectly reasonable for people who did not believe in resurrection to think that a Jewish messianic movement would proclaim that their Messiah had died, but was still the leader of their movement.

'We note at this point, as an important aside, how impossible is it to account for the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah without the resurrection. We know of several other Jewish movements, messianic movements, prophetic movements, during the one or two centuries either side of Jesus’ public career. Routinely they ended with the violent death of the central figure. Members of the movement (always supposing they got away with their own skins) then faced a choice: either give up the struggle, or find a new Messiah. Had the early Christians wanted to go the latter route, they had an obvious candidate: James, the Lord’s brother, a great and devout teacher, the central figure in the early Jerusalem church.'

I don't think Wright gives a very good explanation here of why people could perfectly reasonably expect a Messianic movement to try to continue after the death of its founder, even without any resurrection of the dead Messiah.

Wright seems to be saying that the enemies of Christianity would have thought that the Christians would have gone for their 'obvious' candidate, James.

So why did the Pharisees believe that Christians would not have chosen their 'obvious candidate', but would instead would have been successful in deceiving people in a false claim about the resurrection of a crucified Messiah?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

NT Wright on the resurrection and the Bible

Wright on the resurrection

'The way in which Luke has told central story of this chapter (Luke 24) invites us to compare and contrast it with Genesis 3....Following Jesus’ astonishing exposition of scripture, they come into the house; Jesus takes the bread blesses it, and breaks it, “and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (the Greek is very close to the Septuagint of Genesis 3:7).'

'In framing his gospel narrative m this way, Luke has given us a historical version of Psalms 42 and 43.'

Wright on the resurrection

'First, we note the strange silence of the Bible in the stories. Up to this point, all four evangelists have drawn heavily upon biblical quotation, allusion and echo. But the resurrection narratives are almost entirely innocent of them. '

Well, there you are.

If it suits Wright, he has no problem finding Biblical quotations, allusions and echoes in the resurrection narratives.

But if he wants to say the opposite, for apologetic purposes, those narratives then become almost entirely innocent of Biblical quotations, allusions and echoes.

It all depends what he thinks will persuade his audience, a thought process that leads Wright to evntually writing things like this 'When Mark says that the women ‘said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,’ he does not mean they never said anything to anyone.'

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

3 Questions to Bishop NT Wright

On 20/11/2007, I emailed the Bishop of Durham, NT Wright with 3 questions about the resurrection of Jesus.

When I get a reply, I will post his answers here.

NT Wright has sent me his reply. I think the delay in replying was due to a mix-up in emails, rather than anything else.

His replies are in Bold , but are not to be taken as his final word on the subject. He was only giving quick replies.

I have made some comments to his replies.


I have 3 questions about the Resurrection, if that is OK.

Paul writes 'The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'.

Does the typology mean Paul expected Christians to share in the nature of the two Adams, firstly as what they are now, and secondly as life-giving spirits?

depends what you mean by 'nature'. But no, Paul believes that the spirit given by Christ, himself the life-giving spirit, will animate the new bodies Christians will be given at the resurrection (see e.g. Romans 8.10f.).

CARR (02/01/2008)
The typology does seem very clear to me. Paul believes all Christians will have the same resurrection as Jesus and become 'lfe-giving spirits'.

After all, Paul says 'And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.'

But I believe Wright is correct to say we will get new bodies.

To replace the old bodies, which were in the image of Adam.

Just as the old body of Jesus was replaced by a new body, leaving the old, dead body in the ground.

Romans 8.10f is about the present, rather than the resurrection.


Many converts to Jesus-worship in Corinth scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse. What evangelistic methods had been used to convert them to Jesus-worship?

The announcement of the crucified and risen Jesus as Lord and Saviour (see the summaries of the gospel in e.g. Romans 1.3-4 and 1 Corinthians 15.3-4).

CARR (02/01/2008)
The Jesus-worshippers obviously still believed what had converted them, or else Paul would have had nothing to do with them.

But clearly they had not been converted by stories of corpses rising.


Were these Jesus-worshipping resurrection-scoffers familiar with Old Testament stories of God breathing life into dead matter to create Adam, or with stories of Moses returning from the grave to speak to Jesus?


very unlikely. They were from a pagan background, mostly, and much of Paul's work in 1 Corinthians is to get them to think within a Jewish framework, with the living God as the creator and judge (i.e. the one who made the world in the first place and will in the end remake it and put it to rights) rather than fitting Jesus into their pagan thought-forms. (See Richard Hays' book The Conversion of the Imagination).

CARR (02/01/2008)

Paul can just use the story of Adam from Genesis 2:9 and assume his readers were familiar with it.

Of course, it was impossible for Christians of that time period to be familiar with the stories of Moses returning from the grave to speak to Jesus.

The Gospels had not yet been written.

If Moses really had returned from the grave, all Christians would have been told of it. What else could they have discussed that would have been so amazing? Moses returning from the dead? That would have astonished all Jews, and they would have told stories about it.

But if NT Wright thinks it 'unlikely' that Christian converts had not heard oral tradition stories of Moses (of all people!) returning from the grave, then clearly Paul could hardly have assumed that his readers were familiar with any stories about Jesus.

So why didn't he ever tell them first-hand , personal testimony of what a resurrected body was like?

The answer is easy. Nobody knew what a resurrected body was like.