Saturday, September 19, 2020

Non-Christian Fulfillment And Corroboration Of Christian Prophecies

I've been discussing different approaches we can take toward arguing for Christianity from prophecy. I want to expand on an approach that was mentioned in the post just linked. We can focus on prophecies fulfilled or corroborated by non-Christians. For example:

- Jesus' Bethlehem birthplace (Micah 5:2). (Also see the closing paragraphs here.)
- His close association with Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2).
- His close association with Nazareth in the region of Zebulun (Isaiah 9:1-2).
- The arrival during the time of the Roman empire of a kingdom of God that would gradually grow over time (Daniel 2:34-35).
- The initial Jewish rejection of Jesus (Isaiah 49:7, 53:1-8, Zechariah 12:10).
- The scourging by the Romans (Isaiah 50:6).
- The crucifixion by the Romans (Psalm 22, Daniel 9:26, Isaiah 53:4-9).
- The empty tomb (Isaiah 53:9-11).
- The resurrection appearance to James (Isaiah 53:10-11).
- The resurrection appearance to Saul of Tarsus (Isaiah 53:10-11).
- The Romans' destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Daniel 9:26).
- Jesus' popularity among the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1, 42:6, 49:6, Daniel 2:35).
- His popularity among Gentile rulers (Isaiah 49:7, 52:15).
- Ongoing Jewish rejection (Zechariah 12:10, Romans 11:25-32).
- The prominence of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-3).

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How To Argue For Prophecy Fulfillment

In a post last year, I outlined how I think we should address issues of prophecy fulfillment by starting with the common ground we have with skeptics. Begin with fulfillments that are accepted by both sides. You could also grant much of what critics say about a prophecy for the sake of argument, such as that the passage isn't Messianic in its original context, but argue that Jesus' alignment with the passage in a typological or secondary manner is evidentially significant. And much of Jesus' alignment with the relevant passages comes from facts widely accepted even among non-Christians. I cited Isaiah's Servant Songs as an example of a good place to start. What I want to do here is discuss another approach that can be taken within the same framework.

Instead of using passages, like the Servant Songs, organize your material around topics. That allows you to appeal to material from more than one passage or series of passages. It's also easier in some ways for people to understand and remember the material involved if you take a topical approach. Here are some examples of the topics that could be used:

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Errors Of People Finding Errors In Scripture

Often, some of the best material in a book is found in its notes. Martin Hengel has a great line in a note in a book he wrote about the gospel of Mark. He's addressing modern critics who are overly dismissive of the author of the gospel of Mark because of alleged errors he made on matters like geography and Jewish customs:

"As many and as few mistakes are made in the Gospels as in monographs on the New Testament." (Studies In The Gospel Of Mark [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003], n. 51 on p. 148)

In the same note, he gives an example of a fellow New Testament scholar, apparently, who made a geographical error similar to the ones that are supposed to be in Mark:

"When I visited my distinguished colleague A. Kuschke (to whom I had dedicated the above article on his seventieth birthday) in Kusterdingen, south-east of Tübingen, we were able to admire Pfrondorf to the north, beyond the Neckar. A colleague who had lived for many years in Tübingen asked me, 'Is that beyond Wankheim?' 'No,' I had to tell him, 'it's in the opposite direction.'"

The house my mother is currently living in is the one where I spent most of my childhood. I lived there for a double-digit number of years, and I frequently go back there to visit. I can't name some of the streets closest to the house. There are many aspects of the topography, names of certain neighbors, etc. that I wouldn't be able to provide if asked. But critics often expect Mark to have a much higher level of knowledge about regions of Israel, like Galilee, where we have no reason to think he ever lived. As Hengel comments elsewhere in his book, "His 'deficient knowledge' of the geography of Galilee, which contemporary exegetes like to criticize, in fact simply shows up the [latter's] historical incomprehension: without a map it would be difficult even for a man of antiquity like Mark to establish his bearings in a strange area a good seventy miles from his home city" (46).

Hengel wasn't a conservative, and he wasn't an inerrantist, but he often agreed with conservatives and inerrantists on significant issues. And what he says above about the gospels is also relevant to criticisms that are often brought against the church fathers and other ancient sources. The evidence supports the inerrancy of scripture, and the supposed errors in Mark are often not seen as errors even by people who aren't inerrantists. But the points Hengel makes above should be kept in mind. Since inerrantists often argue for inerrancy by appealing to the general trustworthiness of the relevant documents, without yet appealing to their inerrancy, Hengel's points are relevant accordingly even for those wanting to persuade people to accept the inerrancy of scripture.