Friday, December 11, 2020

Isaiah 9 And The Resurrection

I've argued that Jesus set his public ministry in the framework of Isaiah 9:1-2. It's unlikely to be a coincidence that the two places where he chose to live as an adult lined up with the references to Zebulun and Naphtali in Isaiah 9:1 (Nazareth in the region of Zebulun, then Capernaum in the region of Naphtali).

The notion that Jesus set out to align himself with Isaiah 9 is corroborated by how he framed his resurrection appearances. Though he appeared to people outside of Galilee, he singled out Galilee and went out of his way to travel there to appear to his disciples in that location (Matthew 26:32, 28:7, 28:10, 28:16, Mark 14:28, 16:7). Think of a couple of the questions raised by his choice to appear in Galilee and his choice to emphasize the appearance there so much. Why Galilee? And why emphasize it so much, going out of his way to do so, even when he appeared outside of Galilee as well and appeared elsewhere before appearing in Galilee? The best explanation is his interest in fulfilling Isaiah 9. Saying that he made those choices because the beginning of his public ministry was so tied up with Galilee just pushes the question back a step. Why was the beginning of his ministry so tied up with Galilee? And why did he want to emphasize the Galilean relationship so much? I don't know of any explanation that's comparable to or better than his concern for fulfilling Isaiah 9.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Christians Should Believe In Ghosts

Earlier this year, Billy Hallowell published a book on demons, ghosts, and other paranormal topics. He was recently interviewed by Sean McDowell. Here's something I just posted in the comments section below the video. It's several paragraphs long, so I doubt many people will read it. But, for those who are interested, I explain why Christians should believe in ghosts, how we're often overly dependent on the demonic hypothesis, what harm that does, and what other explanatory options are available to a Christian.

Factors Involved In Evaluating Star Of Bethlehem Theories

We get media stories on the star of Bethlehem at this time of year, especially about the claims of people who advocate astronomical views of the star. Here's a post I put up on Facebook last year that briefly outlines four of the factors we should take into account when evaluating theories about the star.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

California dreamin' no more

I'm a native Californian from the Los Angeles area. Quite arguably much of California has become a dystopia (e.g. many parts of LA and SF). Many parts of the state are more like a developing nation than a developed nation. A third world nation. Tremendous poverty, tent cities, drug addicts, mental issues, etc.

The dystopia that California has become is also known as the progressive dream. California is considered a role model for progressives. It's a foretaste of what the US could be if the US was like California according to progressives. As such, I think this post can serve as a warning about progressivism.

In any case, here are my pros and cons about my (once) beloved state. In no particular order:

The Significance Of Jesus' Being Raised In Nazareth

I've written elsewhere about the importance of Jesus' choice as an adult to live in Nazareth for a while, then live in Capernaum, which aligns with Isaiah 9:1. Critics could object that Jesus was trying to make himself look like the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, so that his alignment with the passage doesn't involve anything supernatural. That approach wouldn't resolve all of the problems Jesus' fulfillment of the passage poses for skeptics, though.

For example, they often object that the early accounts of Jesus' childhood are discontinuous with the early accounts of his adulthood. Supposedly, the accounts of his adulthood don't reflect the alleged events of his childhood the way we'd expect them to if those childhood events actually occurred. But even if Jesus set out to fulfill Isaiah 9 by normal means, without anything paranormal involved, his identifying himself as the figure of Isaiah 9 would be an example of substantial continuity between the accounts of his childhood and the accounts of his adulthood. So, objecting that Jesus lived in Nazareth and Capernaum as an adult to make himself look like the fulfillment of Isaiah 9 helps the critic avoid some conclusions that are favorable to Christianity, but still leaves him with other problems.

And notice the significance of the fact that Jesus didn't just choose to live in Nazareth for a while as an adult. He also grew up there, and he did so from an early age, from about the age of two. At that stage, he was far too young, by normal means, to have reasoned with his parents to persuade them to live in Nazareth in order to accommodate a claim of Messiahship he'd make later in life. So, Jesus was in the right place at the right time (in Nazareth, which is in the region of Zebulun, the first region mentioned in Isaiah 9:1) well before he was in a position to arrange being there by normal means. Jesus was in Nazareth, and was there both as an adult and as a child, even a child as young as about two years old, before moving to the region of Naphtali (Capernaum).

Isaiah and other Old Testament authors often refer to a Messianic branch or shoot who was to come. We could say that Jesus was planted in Nazareth by God's providence before he chose to live there for a while as an adult, followed by a move to Capernaum, in alignment with Isaiah 9.

But we should look even further back. Why are Zebulun and Naphtali mentioned in Isaiah 9 to begin with? The backdrop seems to be the Assyrian takeover of northern Israel in the eighth century B.C. However, Isaiah never refers to the northern kingdom as Zebulun and Naphtali anywhere else. He uses multiple other names (e.g., Ephraim in 7:5, Jacob and Israel in 9:8), but Zebulun and Naphtali aren't used elsewhere. Furthermore, there were other tribal territories in the north, not just Zebulun and Naphtali, that were affected by the Assyrian invasion. As H.G.M. Williamson explains:

"The detail is not important for the present verse, however, as these two tribes are probably mentioned only representatively of the northern part of the country; Asher and Dan, at least, must have been affected in a similar way to Zebulun and Naphtali. The same style of representative reporting affects the brief description of this self-same event in 2 Kgs 15.29, as there, alongside a list of towns, only Naphtali is mentioned of the tribal territories." (Isaiah 6-12 [New York, New York: Bloomsbury, 2018], 382)

As 2 Kings 15 illustrates, Zebulun and Naphtali wouldn't have to be singled out, much less mentioned in that order, if an author wanted to cite one or more tribal regions of northern Israel to represent the whole. So, the selection of Zebulun and Naphtali, in that order, in Isaiah 9 is significant accordingly.

There are many other aspects of Isaiah 9 that also line up well with Jesus' life. See here and here, for example.