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Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 1

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  • Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 1

    Is the end near?

    ----------------

    What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s newest book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    We’re going to take a break from KJV-onlyism to look at Ehrman’s newest book which came out yesterday. This is a book about end times, but it mainly focuses on the book of Revelation. A number of people will hear that and think “Obviously. Where else would you go?” There are a number of other places in Scripture to go and we will see if Ehrman deals with any of these.

    As it stands, I am only on chapter 3 of this book right now, but I want to cover it in sections seeing as it could be too much to cover in just one big review. However, as I say that, part of the problem is as I went through these chapters, there were a few minor problems, but overall not much I disagreed with.

    Let’s start at the beginning, a naturally good place to start. Ehrman talks about moving to North Carolina, the Bible belt, in 1988, and shortly after receiving a call from a reporter asking if it was true Jesus was going to return soon. This was based on a book by Edgar Whisenant offering 88 reasons why the rapture would take place in ’88. Of course, Ehrman isn’t a Christian so he said no, but at that time, many Christians would have said, “Yes.”

    Ehrman is then critiquing a rapture idea, though at the same time, he doesn’t really say much about eschatological systems. A word search of the book, and only for this word, shows that Dispensationalism isn’t mentioned until page 65. I have not yet searched for Preterism though like his last book related to eschatology.

    Unmentioned at the start is “If a Christian does not hold to this eschatology, what do they hold to?” Ehrman does talk about the rapture scares that took place in the time with young Christians being terrified of being left behind. Naturally, he talks also about the novels of the same name. The technique was effective. Many people did become Christians because of a fear of being left behind. (Which I have as much a problem with as people becoming Christians just because they want to go to Heaven.)

    I did disagree with the statement he made about how he converted the people of Thessalonica and was convinced Jesus was returning soon. I contend that he was hoping Jesus would, but he had no sure knowledge. Then why does he say “We?” It’s an editorial we. If Paul says “They” then he is making a statement that it will definitely be after his time, which again, he didn’t know. If he says we, it can be used to refer to any in the body of Christ. If someone thinks there is a better way to phrase the text Paul wrote, they are free to suggest it.

    However, I did agree that people in his generation were thinking they were the last one and reading the Bible this way since really, it’s all about us. Unfortunately, that continues even to this day. Many of us consider it unthinkable that we will face death someday. Forget that the first generations of Christians and many today face that constantly.

    The second chapter is more an overview of the book of Revelation. Ehrman says he will go into more detail on certain aspects of that, like the Beast and the Great Harlot in later chapters. I will save my comments for when we get to those then.

    Until then, at this point, the book appears rather tame. Will orthodox Preterism be mentioned and will Ehrman have anything to say about that? I’m not doing a word search for it yet as I don’t want spoilers, but we will see.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)
    What do I think of Bart Ehrman’s newest book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. We’re going to take a break from KJV-onlyism to look at Ehrman’s newest book which came out yesterday. This is a book about end times, but it mainly focuses on the book … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 1

  • #2
    The rise of premillennialism.

    --------------

    How many false predictions have there been? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    One can't say exactly how many false predictions there have been of the end, but one can say they have happened consistently. Just today I was on Facebook and saw the same thing going on based on the news of Trump possibly being indicted. Obviously, the Bible did predict such a thing, even though no one saw it at all. I'm sure since I shared my view of Revelation the charges of heresy are going to come forward, as if I care.

    At any rate, Ehrman goes to the history of interpretation and how the early church tended to NOT interpret the book literalistically. Papias was even treated as less intelligent for holding this kind of idea by later church fathers. Unfortunately for us, Papias's writings have been lost and all we have is quotations of various parts from other church fathers.

    Hippolytus was one who actually made a prediction for around 500 AD (Ehrman says CE, but I refuse to use that kind of practice). Like others, he was wrong as we all know now. Unfortunately, he was followed by many others.

    Augustine was one who scorned the materialistic view and no doubt, wasFiore extremely influential. He didn't want to think of anything carnal of any sort being in Heaven. As much as I am a Preterist, I do fear we could do a danger by picturing things of this Earth as if they were carnal. Now, this doesn't mean that there will be things like sexual intercourse which usually comes first to mind in Heaven, but it doesn't mean also that there won't be anything there that is more materialistic for us to enjoy. It is usually a good idea to avoid extremes.

    Ehrman also writes of Joachim of Fiore who believed he was given a vision of how everything would turn out and based his eschatology on Trinitarian stages. Perhaps, this could be a precursor of dispensationalism. He was convinced things would wrap up soon, and again, he was wrong.

    As we move through history, when times of tumult and chaos arise, people naturally think, "This is it!" It happened during the French Revolution. In the time of the Reformation, Luther and others held to views about the Pope matching the book of Revelation.

    From here, Ehrman moves on premillennialism.
    The term “ premillennialism ” requires some explaining . In the eighteenth century , many British and American Protestants had started to move beyond Augustine’s “ historicist ” approach to Revelation , which claimed that most of the events of the book had been fulfilled and that the millennium , Christ’s reign on earth , was happening now . They instead adopted a “ futuristic ” approach , arguing that the book was predicting what was yet to come , and that the millennium could be expected at the end of the age.

    Now I do question here what he has in mind by the historicist approach. A Preterist approach like mine would say that Revelation has largely been fulfilled in the first century. A historicist approach I have thought says that Revelation is going to be fulfilled throughout time as a sort of chronological map. To check, I did so some web searches and found that yes, this is the general understanding of historicism. I think I know what Ehrman is getting at, but I wish his language was clearer or perhaps maybe he's just not aware of the four main schools of interpretation of Revelation as is shown in a commentary like Steve Gregg's. (I am leaning this way also because of his failure to mention Preterism in his book on Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet.)

    After the Reformation, people noticed a lot of progress going on and thought that surely the millennium was upon us. One influential person was John Nelson Darby who is accredited as being the one who came up with the idea of the rapture, that Jesus would actually come twice again and the first time would be to remove the church before the Great Tribulation and let the rest of the world in a sense literally experience Hell on Earth. Darby was highly influential on Scofield who through his study Bible led this to practically becoming a tenet of faith for many Christians.

    Now some might be wondering about the failed prophecies. We have only seen a few in this chapter. There will be more next time, a chapter I am holding off on seeing as I have not finished it yet. Hopefully, I will have by next time.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)
    How many false predictions have there been? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. One can’t say exactly how many false predictions there have been of the end, but one can say they have happened consistently. Just today I was on Facebook and saw the same thing going on based on the news … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 2

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    • #3
      What are the consequences of apocalyptic thinking?

      ------------

      What are the effects of apocalyptic thinking? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

      Ehrman beings this chapter talking about the Great Disappointment. This was when William Miller formed the Millerites because he was convinced that Jesus was going to return and he gave a date. Again, he was wrong, and yet from his movement came about the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

      From here, he talks about Leon Festinger and cognitive dissonance based on the book When Prophecy Fails. (The majority of internet atheists who treat cognitive dissonance like a magic word have no clue about Festinger or the book.) There is a footnote about cognitive dissonance and Christianity, but to his credit, Ehrman doesn't make the argument himself. It's as if there seems to be some personal tone in Ehrman's most recent books.

      In more recent times, the off-shoots eventually led to Waco. I can still remember being in middle school in a class and the teacher next door coming in and telling us to turn on the TV and watch the news. That was when the compound was burning. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians was also someone who was caught up in apocalyptic thinking.

      Fortunately, most cases don't get that extreme, but they do happen and we need to take them into account. A far more recent case is that of Harold Camping and his predictions on a date. Real people sell all they have and stop going to college and don't get married based on these claims.

      Ehrman also talks about our policies on Israel. There are many people who are quick to defend Israel in any case because these are supposedly the people of God. There is an irony on how this is done. The following is from page 95:
      This has long been the irony of Christian Zionism . Many evangelicals love Israel but believe most of its inhabitants will be sent to the fires of hell . That certainly is the view of the minister chosen to conclude the embassy dedication ceremony in prayer : televangelist and vocal Christian Zionist John Hagee , who has written books with such titles as The Beginning of the End : The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist , in which he argues that the assassination “ fits into events prophesied centuries ago that are recorded in the Bible . ” That is Hagee’s real concern : prophecy . Hagee has claimed that even the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to restore the Jewish people to Israel . Apparently not alert to the implications of the idea , he later apologized should anyone have found his comment offensive.

      Hagee, of course, had his books about the blood moons and something is about to change. Nothing happened. Has Hagee got up and repented for what he did? Not at all. Churches rightly hold pastors to account for huge moral failures such as having an affair. When are they going to hold pastors to account for making public statements like this that shame Christianity and are proven as totally false?

      A lot of evangelicals seem eager to get the Jews in Israel and the temple built, when this will really in their system result in a bloodbath where these Jews will be mercilessly killed. Could it be sometimes we care more about the prophecy than the salvation of the Jewish people? That's just something to think about.

      This doesn't mean that one cannot support Israel, but when I do, it's not because of something to do with prophecy. It's because they're on our side politically and because I think they are a buffer against Islam in the area. I also do not have a side on the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

      I was somewhat surprised when it came to talking about the rebuilding of the temple and how the Dome of the Rock would have to go for that (Good luck), that Ehrman never mentioned Julian the Apostate. He was an emperor who wanted to invalidate prophecy actually by rebuilding the temple. Strangely enough, he died before this ever came about.

      Finally, we get to talk about environmentalism, mainly with Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt who said he wants to make sure we have enough resources to last until Jesus returns. This seemed like a shocking statement at the time to some. It was consistent for Watt as that was his faith tradition.

      This leads to Ehrman's talk about environmentalism and of course, climate change. I happen to be skeptical. I remember being in school and hearing the next great fear was the coming ice age. Every doomsday disaster about the environment has not come to pass. Unfortunately, Ehrman never references the evangelical Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

      That being said, while I am skeptical of this and don't care for the environmental movement, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of the Earth and our resources. We should. As Ehrman rightly indicates, while Genesis 1 has been used to say we can plunder the planet as we have dominion over it, it can just as easily mean the opposite. We should take care of the planet. I don't buy into doom and gloom ideas,

      Next time, we'll start looking at least at how Ehrman tells us to read Revelation.

      In Christ,
      Nick Peters
      (And I affirm the virgin birth)




      What are the effects of apocalyptic thinking? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. Ehrman beings this chapter talking about the Great Disappointment. This was when William Miller formed the Millerites because he was convinced that Jesus was going to return and he gave a date. Again, he was wrong, and yet from … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 3

      Comment


      • #4
        How do you read this book?

        ------------------

        How do you read Revelation? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

        At the start, this chapter looks promising. Ehrman does give an important consideration on context when reading. As he says:
        When you change the context , you change the meaning . That is true of written words as well as spoken . If you read in a science fiction novel that a highly toxic virus has accidentally leaked from a top secret governmental lab and infected the entire water supply of New York City , you’d pretty much know where the story’s going . But if you read it on the front page of the New York Times , you might well get going yourself . The literary context of words is therefore just as important as their historical context . A science fiction novel is not a newspaper article ; a short story is not a haiku ; a limerick is not an epic . Every genre of literature involves an unexpressed contract between the author and her readers . Both writer and reader know the rules of this particular game , understanding what is to be expected and how expectations can be met . If the rules are bent or even virtually twisted out of shape , the reader can at least see what the author is doing and grants her the freedom to do so . Even so , there are limits . You will not find serious biographies of FDR that discuss his peace negotiations with the Martians and you will not find nineteenth - century novels comprised of highly compressed metaphors adjusted according to the requirements of rhyme and meter to fit within fourteen lines.

        It's really difficult to see something to disagree with here. Ehrman rightly says we need the literary and historical context of Revelation. Too many interpreters of the book today read it like it was written for modern times. God left a book and the main audience for the book was apparently not the people it was sent to, but a distant generation thousands of years later.

        He does talk about Daniel and says there never was a Babylonian King named Belshazzar. However, he was a historical figure as we now know and could have more been described as a crown prince and perhaps a co-regent, but the best word Daniel could find was king. Now here's something to consider. Why did Belshazzar offer Daniel the third highest position in the land? Why not #2?

        Answer: It was not his to give, unless he wanted to abdicate his position. He was the son of Nabodinus, who was the king at the time and when he was away, Belshazzar would be in charge. Ironically, Belshazzar was such an unimportant figure that his name didn't show up in later historical writings. After all, he never was the main guy sitting on the throne, and yet he shows up in Daniel. Both of these facts actually argue AGAINST a later date.

        He also says it couldn't have been written at the time of the Babylonian Exile because Aramaic wasn't being used in Israel. However, Daniel is not writing from Israel. He is writing from Babylon and Aramaic certainly was used in Babylon at the time. Ehrman writes as if all scholarship agrees. By this, he could mean secular scholarship, and perhaps they do, but we should still look at the evidence. Furthermore, where did Daniel come from? Who was this figure that was so prominent that a later author chose to use that name instead of his own?

        Ehrman, however, does get something else right in what he says about Revelation and its message:
        In broad terms, the “transcendent truths” conveyed by Daniel and John are very similar. The world is a hostile place for the people of God, who are experiencing (at least in the author’s view) intense persecution. In light of their suffering, it may appear that God is not actually in control. But he is. There is evil on the earth now, but God has planned to destroy it and his plan will soon be carried out. In the near future he will obliterate those who are harming his people and exalt his chosen ones, giving them power and dominion over the other nations, forever and ever.

        This is the point where a Baptist preacher would say "That'll preach."

        He goes on to explain an example using the Whore of Babylon. He sees this as Rome, but I disagree. After all, the Beast in Revelation represents Rome in some sense, but the Beast hates the harlot. Why? The harlot has to be someone else that Rome would war against. However, she also has to represent a force that was opposed to Christianity. Now let's see. Is there anyone in the Old Testament described as a harlot and yet also warred against Christianity in the New Testament times that the readers would know about?

        Yep. Israel.

        This is the only interpretive point I disagree with him on. I do agree with him that the first beast in Revelation 13 is Nero Caesar. I also agree that the second beast represents cult imperial worship of the emperor.

        But as we go forward, there will be much more to disagree with.

        In Christ,
        Nick Peters
        (And I affirm the virgin birth)




        How do you read Revelation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. At the start, this chapter looks promising. Ehrman does give an important consideration on context when reading. As he says: When you change the context , you change the meaning . That is true of written words as well as spoken … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 4

        Comment


        • #5
          Looking at Revelation 17:9-11,
          "Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is [one] of the seven, and he goes to destruction."
          I would think of the seven kings, actually emperors, as Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero (the five who have already died), Galba (who is", narrowing down the date of Revelation), and Otho as the seventh (who is yet to come, but remain as emperor for only three months), Although Vitellius was recognized as emperor by the Senate and his own armies, it was not unanimous. The eastern armies recognized Vespasian, and it wasn't until after the civil war that Vespasian was unanimously recognized as emperor.

          I lean toward seeing Vespasian as the first of the two beasts of Revelation 13. As a result of the civil war and Vespasian occupying the throne in Rome, the second beast to continue the war would be his son, Titus, who exercised his father's authority in waging the war against the Jewish rebellion, thus giving breath to his father's rule, and continuing the war with the Jews for the full 42 months, from March, AD 67 until September, AD 70.
          When I Survey....

          Comment


          • #6
            Why is Revelation so violent?

            -----------------

            Why is the book of Revelation so violent? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

            We're continuing our look at Ehrman's latest book talking about the violence in the book. At the start, he does say a statement about the Old Testament that is worth repeating.
            Many Christians admit they are just not that interested in the Old Testament because its teachings have been surpassed and even superseded by the coming of Jesus and because, well, they find it boring. I wonder what its author would say about that.

            There is a lot of truth here. We need to remember the Old Testament is just as much Scripture as is the new. It was the Scripture of the original church and it's still our Scripture today.

            But to the Old Testament we go to talk about the violence. if you expect interaction with people like Flannagan and Copan, you will be disappointed. Walton is not mentioned either. If you want to see Ehrman interact with the other side, it's not here.

            Ehrman paints the picture as if the Israelites were going to these cities and they were just peacefully living out their lives and the Israelites show up and say "God wills it!" and destroy everyone involved. He uses the example of Jericho, which is fitting since this is the most graphic, but it is also not representative. It needs to be established what Jericho was.

            For one thing, it could not be that big since Israel could walk around it seven times in one day. Most of these cities were not cities but forts. These would be where the military would be and not the places of women and children. Also, from Rahab, we see that the people knew what had happened and this wasn't exactly a sneak attack. They encamped outside the city for a week. Anyone could leave if they wanted.

            He also brings up the account of the Moabites and the Midianites. In this, the Moabite women come and seduce Israel into sexual immorality. Moses responds by having the leaders of the people killed. Ehrman depicts this as human sacrifice, but this is not what it is. Even if it is done to stop the wrath of God, it is done out of justice in that the people who did the wrongs are put to death for what they did in accordance with the Law.

            We are told 24,000 Israelites die and just those who did the wrong but the innocent. The problem is the text doesn't say that. It just says 24,000 died. It doesn't say who they were. Even if they did not participate, this is a collectivist society and each person was responsible not just for himself, but for his neighbor as well. The sin of one could be seen as the sin of all.

            Ehrman also speaks with horror about the way that Phineas put a spear through Zimri and Kosbi. What is left out is that this is after judgment had started and the people were weeping. This wasn't done in private, but was done publicly as the man brought her with him publicly and the text is unclear at least in English, but it looks like they went into the Tent of Meeting, which is a holy place. This is an act of open defiance. Phineas is praised for killing both of them with one thrust of a spear while they were having sex. Violent? Yes, but sin is violent and destructive.

            Ehrman is one who complains about evil, but when God does something about evil, he complains about that as well.

            Of course, this gets to Numbers 31. I have already written about that here and here.

            He also talks about the wrath of God in Hosea and how infants will be dashed to pieces and pregnant women ripped open. Why is God doing this?

            Answer: He isn't. God has laid out the stipulations of the covenant with His people. If they do not obey His covenant, He removes His protection. What happens then? Their enemies have their way and this is what their enemies do. Is God supposed to overrule them somehow so they can do everything else but that? Should the children be made invincible and the pregnant women's stomachs be indestructible? Ehrman doesn't answer such questions. Outrage is enough.

            Ehrman tells us that when people read the Bible, they tend to see what they want to see. This is true, but it includes Ehrman as well. He wants to depict God as violent. Easy to do. Just cherry pick some passages and ignore everything to the contrary. It would be just as easy to do the opposite.

            He says this is true of laypeople, but it is also true of Christians scholars who see nothing wrong with God destroying people forever in a lake of fire.

            Well, it's Ehrman's responsibility to show this. Outrage is not enough. Now I don't think the lake of fire is literal, but is it wrong for God to judge and take life? Why? On what basis? What is the moral code that God is obligated to follow? I can also assure Ehrman Christian scholars have wrestled with these issues. Unfortunately, we can't say if Ehrman is aware of these claims since he never cites them. Has he considered Jerry Walls's dissertation on Hell, for instance?
            God is above our understanding of ethics and right and wrong. Whatever he does is right by definition. It would certainly not be right for my next-door neighbor to inject scorpion venom into someone’s veins and allow them to suffer in anguish for five months, refusing to put them out of their misery when they begged to die. And no one could justify a tyrant who chose to torture his people and then throw them into a vat of burning sulfur. But God is not my next-door neighbor or an earthly tyrant, and so he cannot be judged by human standards. If God does such things in the book of Revelation, who are we, mere mortals, to object? We simply cannot judge the Almighty.

            But this is an important distinction. We are moral agents put in a universe where we have rules of right and wrong to follow. God is not. There are things God can do that I cannot do. God owes no one life and has all right to take it if He wants to. I do not.

            Also, it's worth pointing out that Ehrman regularly says we shouldn't read Revelation in a literalistic fashion, but when he wants to depict God as violent, that's exactly what He does.
            It is somewhat ironic that so many readers of Revelation think, as I did, that the God portrayed there is above all human sense of right and wrong. Most of these same readers also believe that our own sense of right and wrong has been given to us by God. This , as you probably know, is a commonly invoked “proof” that God exists. According to this argument, if there were no superior moral being who created us, we could not explain why we have such an innate knowledge of what is good and bad behavior. Our morality, it is argued, must be rooted in the character of God, given to us as creatures made in his image, whether we choose to follow our God-given sense of morality or not.

            It is worth pointing out that first off, Ehrman speaks of this as a "proof" of God, but He never shows where it is wrong. He never shows where our ideas of good and evil come from. I also want to say that is not the way I make the argument. I do not say a superior moral being made us. I said a superior good being made us. God is good, but He is not moral. Morality is doing what you ought to do, but God has no ought. God just does what is good. If something is moral, it is good, but just because something is good, that does not mean you have an obligation to do it. It might be good to sell all you have and give it all to the poor (Or it might be foolish), but that doesn't mean you are morally obligated to do it. It might be good to leave a generous tip that is double what the waitress served you, but you are not morally obligated to do it. It might be good to pay the widow's electric bill, but you are not morally obligated to.
            But if our own sense of right and wrong reveals the character of God, what if God’s moral code requires him to torture and destroy those he disapproves of, those who refuse to become his slaves? (“Torture” is not too strong a word here: Remember those locusts.) 7 If God is like that, and we are told to be “godly” people — told to imitate God in our lives — then surely it follows that we should imitate him in how we treat others. If God hates those who refuse to be his slaves and hurts and then destroys them, shouldn’t we do so as well? Are we to act “godly” or not? And what does it mean to be Christlike if Christ’s wrath leads to the destruction of nearly the entire human race? Are we really to be “imitators of Christ”? Should we, too, force our enemies to suffer excruciating pain and death?

            It's amazing how wrong someone can be in an argument. For one thing, God does not have a moral code. Ehrman will never define what is meant by good and evil. Good then simply becomes that which Ehrman likes and evil, that which Ehrman doesn't like.

            However, I also want to know what is the context in which we are told to be godly and Christlike. I can be told to be godly, but surely I am not supposed to be able to create a universe. I can be told to be Christlike, but that doesn't mean that I can claim divine prerogatives for myself. I can say I have a mentor I want to be like, but I would not be justified in sleeping with his wife and raising his children.

            He also says Jesus is seeking vengeance on those who had nothing to do with his death, but this is embracing the futurist paradigm that Ehrman said is NOT the way to read Revelation. In my Preterist understanding, this took place as judgment on the Roman Empire and especially Jerusalem in 70 AD, which were involved in the death of Jesus and had not repented. Of course, Ehrman has no inkling shown that he is aware of such a view.

            In the end, I find this still confusing. Ehrman condemns a futuristic reading of the text and treating it literalistically, but when he wants to condemn the text, that is exactly what he goes to. Ehrman still gives us the sound of one hand clapping. He presents a strong case, but rather a largely emotional one, but shows no indication he has interacted with the best of his critics.

            We will continue next time.

            In Christ,
            Nick Peters
            (And I affirm the virgin birth)












            Why is the book of Revelation so violent? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. We’re continuing our look at Ehrman’s latest book talking about the violence in the book. At the start, he does say a statement about the Old Testament that is worth repeating. Many Christians admit they are just not … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 5

            Comment


            • #7
              Did Christians just want power and money?

              -----------------

              Is it all about who gets the money? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

              How much power do some people want if they have it? More. How much more money does someone want who has it? Rockefeller is alleged to have said "Just one dollar more." While that it said that could have been nonsense, we know some people who are like that.

              How about Revelation? Is this a hunger of the church for power and wealth? Is the church wanting judgment so they can take money from all of their foes? Does the church look forward to judgment so they can stand over their enemies with a whip?

              One passage Ehrman uses to try to show that the historical Jesus didn't care about the material was the question of taxes. As he says
              A passage that confirms this understanding that future heavenly wealth for the faithful is purely spiritual comes in the famous account of the Jewish leaders who ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to the Roman Empire (Mark 12:13–17). This may sound like a relatively innocent question, but in fact Jesus’s opponents are laying a trap for him. If Jesus says, “No, don’t pay taxes to those filthy Romans who have taken over our Promised Land,” then his enemies can turn him over to the authorities for opposing the state. But if he says, “Yes, do what the ruling authorities ask and faithfully pay what they demand,” they can accuse him of being a collaborator and an enemy of the Jewish people. As happens elsewhere, though, Jesus’s opponents do not know whom they are up against. Jesus never, ever gets caught in these traps. On this occasion he asks for a Roman denarius and when it is produced he asks whose image is on it. He already knows the answer, of course: imperial coins were issued with a likeness of the emperor to emphasize his control over all things, even daily purchases. Jesus’s opponents tell him the coin bears the image and inscription of Caesar, and that allows him to demolish their trap: “Then give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and give to God the things that belong to God” (Mark 10:17). For Jesus, the things of this world belong to the mighty and powerful who rule it. God has nothing to do with such trivialities. He does not care about material goods. He wants your soul.

              How does this follow? I have looked over this passage multiple times and I do not see it. Ehrman argues as if the body means nothing to Christians and being in the image of God has nothing to do with a body. This is the same God who says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and that all creation belongs to Him. Why would He make a material world if the matter didn't matter? Why would He make humans with bodies if bodies didn't matter?

              It could just as easily be said, "Yes, Caesar does have some dominion over these for now, but God ultimately has dominion over everything." Everything Caesar once ruled has passed into other hands now. Everything God rules still belongs to God even if people get to personally lease it to some degree.

              He also uses the verse of "If someone wants your coat, give your tunic as well." This would result though in someone being totally destitute and even nude which would have two results. First, it would be giving a surety of their promise to fulfill an oath to repay in a court. Second, it would shame their opponent for making them look like someone who would make someone go nude. Neither of these is saying material wealth doesn't matter.

              When Ehrman talks about dominion, he doesn't do any better.
              John’s enthusiasm for widespread destruction, in the end, got the better of him. Already in chapter 6 of Revelation, the entire cosmos falls apart. But in chapter 7, the world and the people in it live on. The obvious explanation is that John is not literally describing the end of the sun, moon, stars, and sky. But that creates a problem. If John constantly engages in rhetorical excess, how can we imagine what he actually envisages?

              But on page 121, Ehrman argues most people at the time would be able to understand including the Roman authorities, hence he says this was not written in some code. He also has repeatedly said this was not written for our time to us, but we have to understand the first-century setting. However, when he wants to argue against John and Revelation, he puts on his fundamentalist hat again and claims the text is too hard to understand and should be written for us.

              For me, I would argue that this book is written in a cyclical form and tells the same story repeatedly. It also naturally uses Jewish hyperbole. This is also describing the destruction of Jerusalem. It's not about global destruction.

              Ehrman has the same reading problem at the end of the book.
              So that is that. Except it’s not. As we have seen, after John describes the glorious new city of gold, we learn that “the nations will walk by its light” (21:24). But why are there nations? We also learn that “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into” the new Jerusalem (21:24). What kings? No one “who practices abomination or falsehood” will enter the city (21:27). Who is practicing abomination (idolatry) or falsehood (sin) if there is no one left? The answer seems obvious: for the saints to dominate, there need to be others left.

              Let's be clear on something. However we interpret this, John is not an idiot. He is not going to contradict himself in the span of a few verses. Our inability to understand does not equal a contradiction.

              But to get to the questions, these are good questions and worth discussing, but questions are not arguments. I do not have a definitive answer on this point as this is still something I consider, but I do have a view that Heaven and Hell are the same place but differ in that people who love God glory in His presence and people who hate God suffer intensely in it.

              However, none of this leads to "John writes this way so that the people of God can have someone to dominate over." This is the same Ehrman who said people who read the Bible see what they want to see. Ehrman wants to see God the way he wants to and that is what he does.

              Ehrman will go on to argue that those in the city do not share their wealth with those outside, but this is not only said, it is even contradicted. The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. Those nations would have to come into the city and can apparently enjoy the blessings of it and can be healed.

              So tomorrow, we shall wrap things up, but I contend again that Ehrman is still a fundamentalist in his reading. He has an all-or-nothing mindset. He has not changed it. His loyalty is just different.

              In Christ,
              Nick Peters
              (And I affirm the virgin birth)
              Is it all about who gets the money? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. How much power do some people want if they have it? More. How much more money does someone want who has it? Rockefeller is alleged to have said “Just one dollar more.” While that it said that could … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Part 6

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              • #8
                Wrapping it all up.

                ----------------

                How shall we wrap this up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

                The final chapter doesn’t really have much else to add. It’s more of Ehrman asking if the Jesus of history would agree with the Jesus of Revelation. I ultimately then want to conclude with some thoughts about the book and Ehrman’s books in general.

                For one, Ehrman doesn’t like the God in Revelation, but this does not show this God does not exist. If anything, if there is a God who is like this, it is a wonder why Ehrman would want to go against Him. If there is a God out there who is capable of judging us, does Ehrman want to risk it? Perhaps he could say “I give to charity and I’m a good person.” That could be so, but he is willing to bet that if there is a god, that is enough to please him.

                Better hope he’s right.

                However, what is important about Ehrman is not what he does say. It is what he doesn’t say. As I had predicted at the stop, Preterism doesn’t get mentioned one time. I would like to think that as a New Testament scholar, Ehrman knows about it, but considering he never mentions it, I have to wonder. The resurrection in the main body is mentioned only three times, although it does show up in endnotes.

                There is no in-depth focus on the destruction of Jerusalem. For people like myself, this is mainly what Revelation is about. Ehrman rejects a futurist reading of the text, at least one that’s dispensational, but he fills it up with nothing in its place. If this book isn’t about the future, then what does it refer to?

                Ehrman is really good at giving you the sound of one-hand clapping. Unfortunately, he doesn’t interact with the best critics of his position. There are evangelical scholars who do not have a dispensationalist or even futurist view of the book of Revelation. I do not recall Ehrman interacting with them and unfortunately, there is no bibliography that I saw in the book.

                If you read Ehrman, you will definitely get one side of an issue, but that’s sadly the only side of the issue you will get. Ehmran’s book will be quite good at taking down those who do not have any real study in the text, but give this book to someone who has actually familiarized themselves with the eschatological issues and they will not be persuaded by any arguments.

                Ehrman is a fundamentalist. He has an all-or-nothing mentality with the text. His mindset has not once changed from the time that he was a Christian. His loyalty is different, but he still has the same thinking going on.

                The answer to this is simply to better educate Christians on what they believe. I realize there are readers of mine who will disagree with my take on futurism and/or dispensationalism, but I hope they will agree on this point. Be educated. If you want to be a futurist and/or dispensationalist, fine, but at least be educated on what you disagree with in Preterism.

                Probably a year or so from now we will have another Ehrman book and it will still be a one-sided affair entirely from a fundamentalist perspective. We will see what happens.

                In Christ,
                Nick Peters
                (And I affirm the virgin birth)
                How shall we wrap this up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. The final chapter doesn’t really have much else to add. It’s more of Ehrman asking if the Jesus of history would agree with the Jesus of Revelation. I ultimately then want to conclude with some thoughts about the book and … Continue reading Book Plunge: Armageddon Conclusion

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