Thursday, August 10, 2023

At Ease In Zion

"I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24:24)

At ease in Zion! Where is then the cross,
The Master's cross, all pain and shame defying?
Where is the true disciple's cross and cup,
The daily conflict and the daily dying,
The fearless front of faith, the noble self-denying?

At ease in Zion! Shall no sense of shame
Arouse us from our self-indulgent dreaming?
No pity for the world? No love to Him
Who braved life's sorrow and man's disesteeming,
Us to God's light and joy by His dark death redeeming?
(Horatius Bonar, "At Ease In Zion", Hymns Of The Nativity [London, England: James Nisbet & Co., 1879], 35-36)

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

The Credibility Of Jesus' Relatives As Witnesses

Their testimony is significant in a lot of contexts, such as the events surrounding Christmas and Easter. Here's a summary of the factors involved, taken from a post I wrote last year:

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Thousands Of Pigs

People often make much of the large number of witnesses to an event, such as the hundreds of resurrection witnesses mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 or the thousands Jesus fed in the feedings of the four thousand and the five thousand. That's appropriate. The large numbers involved give us some useful information about the plausibility of explaining the reports by appealing to hallucinations, dishonesty, and so forth.

But there are other numbers involved that often don't get as much attention as they should. Referring to an empty tomb belonging to a named member of the Jewish Sanhedrin in a known location doesn't involve a claim that a large number of people verified the emptiness of the tomb. But the nature of the circumstances is such that the empty tomb would have been verifiable by a large number of people and probably would have been verified by some.

The main example I want to focus on here, though, is one that I don't think has gotten much attention. The episode with the possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 didn't involve hundreds or thousands of people, as far as we can tell, but it did involve thousands of pigs (verse 13). That should have been memorable, if it happened. And expensive for the owners of the pigs. And would have stood out in other ways. When Jesus tells the man who was exorcized to tell others what happened, he does so (verses 19-20).

Critics sometimes make an issue of the private nature of Biblical miracle accounts (e.g., Gabriel's annunciation to Mary, the Mount of Transfiguration). But much of what the gospels (and other Biblical sources) report is of a highly public nature. The account in Mark 5 is strikingly public, publicized, and verifiable and falsifiable to a first-century audience.