A Response to Bill O’Reilly’s Book “Killing Jesus” – Part 1 – Program 2

By: Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2013
Why did the Romans crucify Jesus? Of what did Pilate judge him to be guilty? Why do historians believe the facts show Jesus really claimed to be the Son of God?

Did Jesus Claim to Be the Son of God?

Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’ve got a great one for you today. We’re talking about Bill O’Reilly’s new book, Killing Jesus. What do you think about it? We’ve got two of the leading New Testament scholars in the world here today that are going to talk about this topic. And Bill O’Reilly himself recommends that we should read their books. And so we’re going to listen to the folks that he thinks are his advisors.
And the question we’re going to look at is: Do scholars think that when Jesus lived, He Himself claimed to be the unique Son of God? Bill O’Reilly says straight out, yes. He says, “Jesus claimed to be the Son of God from the time He was 12; claimed to be the promised Messiah; also the Son of Man who’ll sit at the right hand of God and come riding in the clouds of glory, who will judge the whole world.” Alright, what do you make of these statements?
Dr. Darrell Bock: Well, the statements are important. They also are actually few and far between in the Gospels. They just appear here and there like little cameo appearances. Far more important in understanding who Jesus is are the types of things that Jesus does in the midst of some of the things that He says. So there are a wide variety of things. For example, He claims authority over the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the day that God is responsible for. He claims the right to forgive sins. We’re going to come back to this, because this is a very important claim. He claims the idea of being able to cleanse the temple. He works with holy space. He claims to be able and shows that He can calm the wind and the waves, so much so that the disciples at the end can say, “Who can command the winds and the waves and they obey Him?” It’s a good question.
Ankerberg: And I like that passage, because if we had been standing there in the boat when the waves are coming in—and I see Hawaii Five-O—I see those waves coming in. And the guys are saying, “Where’s Jesus?” He’s sacked out at the back here, and they say, “We’re going down. Tell Him to grab a bucket. Let’s get going!”
Bock: Yeah, “Don’t You care?”
Ankerberg: Yeah. But what He does is, after He says, you know, “Peace, be still,” you know, Peter said, “Hey, come on. Let’s forget that. Let’s get a bucket.” But when it happens and when the wind stops and when the waves start calming down and they lick up against the boat, if we had been standing there in the boat with those guys and had seen that, I think we would have said the same thing that’s recorded about those guys. You know, Peter, or whoever said it, says, “Who is this guy?”
Bock: Yeah, and I think that as it happened or afterwards, they probably would have said, “That was pretty impressive,” you know. So you’ve got this array of things that Jesus is doing. And His actions really show who He is. When John the Baptist asks, “Are You the One to come or should we expect another?” and I’d say John the Baptist didn’t watch enough television. If he had asked that question properly he would have said, “Are You the One to come or should we expect another? Yes or no. Will You help me out here by giving me a simple answer?” Instead Jesus used the open-ended answer and He says, “Go and tell John what you see and hear.” And so, you know, lepers are cleansed and the lame walk; the blind see, you know. We’re getting miracles that we don’t even get in the Old Testament. We’re using passages out of Isaiah that say when the time of salvation comes this is what I’m going to be doing. And so Jesus is the One who does them. And so what He shows tells you who He is.
Ankerberg: Let’s take another one, and that is this story in an early account, Mark, which all the scholars say is probably the first one that was written. So you have an early account. And in that early account, in chapter 2 we find one of these stories, one of these actions of Jesus. He comes to Capernaum, comes into a house. He starts to teach. The religious leaders are there. The place is jammed out. Four guys come, bringing a paralytic on a bed. They get there. All the tickets are sold out.
Bock: Yeah.
Ankerberg: And they can’t get in.
Bock: No way we’re getting in here.
Ankerberg: Yeah.
Bock: So just imagine it. I mean, this is one of the most visual events I think in the Scripture, and so we’ve got visualize what’s going on. You’re sitting in there listening to Jesus; the next thing you hear (wumpa, wumpa, wumpa). The next thing you see are snowflakes, only snowflakes of dirt, coming down on your head. The next thing that you see is the paralytic being lowered down (squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak). Plunk! Now, I know there weren’t hydraulic lifts in the first century, but ropes don’t make sound, so give me a break. I want you to visualize this.
And he’s sitting there in front of Jesus; he’s come to be healed, and Jesus says to him, “Your sins are forgiven.” Now, this is not in the text, but it’s important. If you’re the paralytic sitting there in front of Jesus, and Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven,” what are you thinking? Well, you’re sitting there saying, “That’s not why I crashed this party.” But then Jesus is trying to make a point; because you cannot see sins being forgiven. I don’t care how you think about it, I can’t show you that sins have been forgiven. I mean, just imagine that. “Oh, bye, sin. I hope you had a good time. Hope you stay away a very long time. Hope I never see you again.” You don’t see it. But you can see a paralytic walk, be healed.
And so Jesus says, “What’s easier: to say your sins are forgiven? Or to say take up your mat and walk?” And so He shows something that you cannot see by something that you can see. When He says take up that mat and walk, it’s show time. He’s got to deliver. And so when that paralytic gets up and walks, his walk talks. Because the text says, “In order that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, take up your mat and walk.” And as he walks, his walk talks and says, “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Meanwhile the theologians are thinking, “No one can forgive sins but God alone.” But then they’ve got the problem, then how did that guy walk? If God doesn’t help someone who’s a sinner and who false teaches, then how did that guy get healed, and how could the linking that Jesus made between sin and healing have taken place? And that’s the dilemma that Mark 2’s action shows you. And that’s why sometimes Jesus’ actions spoke far louder than His words.
Ankerberg: Alright, but let’s step back, Darrell, and let’s say the critic says to you, “That’s a neat story and, yeah, that’s what Jesus is saying, but I don’t believe that He actually healed this guy that was paralyzed.”
Bock: Now, the best we can do is to talk about the nature of Jesus’ miracles and the reputation that He developed. And for this we have a unique attestation outside the Bible. Josephus says that Jesus did works, unusual works. The Greek word is paradoxon. It means unusual works or wonderful works, depending on how positive you want to translate it. And so there’s a reputation that Jesus did miracles outside the biblical materials. Not only that, the Jewish materials also come along and say He was a magician or a sorcerer. Now, note what the concedes: Jesus did unusual things; we’re just going to debate the power that generated it. So in either case we’ve got outside testimony that Jesus did unusual things. And this is one of the unusual things that He did. And we know they were upset with the kinds of claims that He made. That’s why they eventually brought Him to trial. So all those things come together to make the case that something like the healing of the paralytic is the kind of event that Jesus would have done.
Ankerberg: What would you add to that, Gary, about this fact that we’ve got these miracle claims in here, something really happened? How do you persuade people that are skeptical about the miraculous that something really did happen?
Dr. Gary Habermas: Earlier we introduced the so-called criteria in the New Testament. Here’s some signs: multiple attestation, multiple form, dissimilarity, embarrassment, enemy attestation, and so on. By the way, this is enemy attestation, because it’s the critics standing right there who say, “Wow, this guy really is doing something; exorcising demons and healing.” And they say, “Ah, well, You’re just doing this by the power of Satan.” They’ve already conceded that He’s really doing it.
But when you apply those same rules to the miracle passages in major studies like John Meier’s Marginal Jew, Volume 2, and Graham Twelftree’s Jesus, the Miracle Worker, both spend almost 500 pages going through the approximately 30 miracle pericopies, accounts, there. And they both decide that in a fair number of cases—Graham Twelftree’s is the 70’s percentile—in a fair number of these cases there is good evidence, using these criteria, for each. Now, let me just give one example. Critics, when they look at the Gospels, they often see five sources—to be real simple: Mark, the special material in Luke, the special material in Matthew, “Q”, and John—miracles are attested in five out of five. By the way, we’ve already discussed Son of Man. Son of Man is attested of five out of five. When the Jesus Seminar is asking for two, two independent sources, you only have five—five out of five—for miracles; you only have five—five out of five—for the Son of Man; now it’s more apparent why people have a hard time hiding from this stuff. We have to let the text speak for itself.
Ankerberg: And I would say, Darrell, I mean, there’s a shift in critical scholarship that Jesus is considered to be a miracle worker in the sense of exorcisms, of healings. And probably the place where they hold up is on the nature miracles, right.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: How do you put that together?
Bock: Well, again, once we start walking down this road, the question is how far are you going to walk? So once you establish that Jesus did miracles and He does unusual things, He certainly had that reputation. Everyone who writes on historical Jesus—except for the people who think that Jesus never existed, which is really out here on a fringe—everyone else says He has a reputation as a miracle worker. And then everyone has explanations for how they think that works, depending on how they apply the criteria in some cases, or what their worldview will permit. And so that really is what impacts the judgments that are made in this area.
Ankerberg: And you’re saying, which we’re going to get to, your area, that is that the biggest nature miracle….
Habermas: Exactly. John Dominic Crossan, a very well-known skeptic, says that the biggest miracle of all is the resurrection. And so, if you can get to a nature miracle like Jesus’ return from the dead, why do we—if the resurrection happened—why do we have a problem with a storm stopping? Now, a storm is wonderful. Calming the storm at your word is great. Rising from the dead when you’re dead as dead can be,…? That’s why we spend a lot of time on resurrection. So, yes, that’s the top one of Jesus’ miracles if you want to judge in terms of, you know, how odd this is and how good the evidence is.
Ankerberg: Let me say something about these two guys that are here. Dr. Habermas is tracking 3,400 different scholars in what they say about the resurrection. When I heard this I said, “Gary, you’ve got to get a life;” 3,400 different guys, he’s tracking what they say. So when he’s giving these statistics, he’s reading them; he’s listening to them. And he can give you an accurate idea of what the critical world is saying about this. And Darrell is working with so many guys it’s unbelievable.
Now, when we come back, we’re going to talk further about, did Jesus actually say Himself that He was the unique Son of God? How can we tell from the sources that Jesus actually said those words, okay? Because there’s a lot of discussion about this; O’Reilly’s got it in his book. We’ll talk about it when we come right back.

Ankerberg: We’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Darrell Bock and with Dr. Gary Habermas. And our topic is, did Jesus actually say that He was the unique son of God? How can we know that He said the words, alright? And, Dr. Habermas, we’ve got three verses at least that scholars say, “Jesus had to have said these words,” and I want you to tell us why. I’m going to put them on the screen first of all. The first one is Matthew 11:27. Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.” Now, why does that verse stand out with the scholars?
Habermas: It stands out with the scholars because this is one of those texts that we identified earlier as a “Q” text. So “Q” stands along with Mark in scholarly, you know, research, as the two earliest sources for the Gospels. And Matthew’s mentioning a very high Christology here. There’s been a lot of comparison of Matthew and Luke to John at this point, and it’s called a Johannine thunderbolt. It’s like, you know, like the moment of inspiration that comes from, you know, from God, because Jesus claims to be the only bridge. You know, we say Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” And we go, well, that’s John. And scholars don’t really like John. But here’s something very similar in Matthew, where the “Q” passage is saying, “No one knows the Father but the Son and whomever I choose to reveal Him.” So you’re only going to know the Father from the Son. So there’s another one of those unique” only begotten,” you know, monogenes, kind of in the Greek kind of this sense of unique one of a kind. But because it’s “Q,” and because it’s not in John, it gets a lot of attention.
Ankerberg: The second one is Mark 14:36. Jesus said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; take this cup away from Me; but not what I will, but what You will.” What’s the significance of “Abba, Father” to the scholars?
Habermas: Well, it’s usually believed that Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but the Gospels are written in Greek. So one of the criteria that are often mentioned—Darrell said there’s other type of criteria—one of them is Aramaic substrata. So when the Aramaic breaks through, so to speak, that’s probably the closest we get to hearing the exact words of Jesus. And what’s interesting is, we hear the exact words of Jesus, or something, you know, very close, at very, at very important times: when He raises the little girl from the dead; when He says, “My God, My God, why have You forsake Me?” But here He’s calling God a very familiar term, a familiar term for somebody that you know intimately; which, by the way, goes along with the text we just mentioned, Matthew 11:27. Jesus is claiming intimate knowledge once again. And His title, it’s sort of like when everybody else is talking about the boss of the company, or the president of the university, about these lofty figures, and you call him Fred, and you call him that to his face. So everybody knows you’re really awesome, you know. That’s what Jesus is doing here. So it’s the Aramaic substrata here that gives it away.
Ankerberg: What does “Abba” actually mean?
Habermas: Well, there used to be a lot of argument about this, that the word means “daddy,” so much so that one recent New Testament scholar who objected wrote a journal article called, “Abba Does Not Mean Daddy.” So, I try not to say it’s “daddy,” but, I mean, what’s the difference? It’s a familial in-house personal term for somebody you know very well on intimate grounds. And you may call them that to their face and they’re not going to object.
Ankerberg: Would the Jews use that term about God?
Bock: Virtually never.
Ankerberg: Never. The third one, Mark 13:32, very interesting. Jesus says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
Habermas: This is another one of the criteria, so we’re going right down the line and we’re checking off the criteria in these programs. This is the criterion of embarrassment. If you’re going to say you’re the Son of God, then just say You’re the Son of God. Why say, “I’m the son” —or in the context He’s “Son of the Father”—but why say, “I’m the Son of God, oh, and by the way, I don’t know when something’s going to happen.” What?! How is that? I mean, You’re the Son of God or You’re not. How do You not…? But Jesus walked right in there and had no problem saying it. And so the thought is, as one British scholar says, “That is so embarrassing for Jesus to say, ‘I’m the Son of God if I don’t know something.’” He said, “The church can figure out ways to do a much better job of saying ‘I’m the Son of God’ than to say ‘I’m the Son of God and let Me mess up your world a little bit by telling you I don’t know something.’” So that kind of embarrassment, trying to figure that out, indicates that Jesus really did say that.
Ankerberg: Alright, is one of the thunderbolts you were talking about in John, that scholars reject because it’s a single source, is Jesus is talking with the religious leaders in John 8:58 and says, “Before Abraham was born I’m the I AM, boys.” And they reach for the rocks to kill Him; because He’s saying, “Hey, you know, the One who was speaking to Moses at the burning bush, and He said this is My name for all generations, My memorial name forever, you know, is the I AM.” And Jesus says, “That’s Me.” Is that one of the thunderbolts? How would you put John into these texts?
Bock: Well, the trouble with using John simply is that most of what is said in John is not corroborated, and this is the corroborative standard. Eighty-eight percent of John isn’t anywhere else. So you lose most of the Gospel of John in these conversations. And that’s one of the things that people don’t appreciate about the historical Jesus discussion, because the church loves to run to John. John does all our heavy lifting for us. It tells the story of Jesus from heaven down. Jesus is God from the very first verse: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” This is CNN, the Christian News Network. And so you’ve got this emphasis right at the start. The Synoptic Gospels tell the story of Jesus from birth up. They start with categories that we’re used to, and it dawns on people who Jesus is. And the church, generally speaking, struggles with that a little more. And so we have a harder time going there. And yet, if the church can get a handle on how to tell that story, they’d do a better job of communicating who Jesus is to people who are asking who Jesus is, because they don’t understand who He is.
Ankerberg: You did 10 years of study on this one passage, Caesarea Philippi. Talk about it.
Bock: Well, the main thing here is that if you look at the parallels in Matthew, Mark and Luke, what they all share is the confession that Jesus is the Messiah. And it’s in contrast to the idea that the populace thinks He’s a prophet. Prophets are a dime a dozen; but there’s only one Messiah. And so off the confession that Peter makes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God—Son of God can just mean Messiah—off that confession Jesus builds the kind of Messiah that He’s going to be: that He’s going to suffer, that He’s going to be exalted and taken to the right hand of God. So the core point of Caesarea Philippi really is the idea that if we look at Luke and at Mark and just read them, “You are the Christ, You are the Christ of God,” those are the answers in those two Gospels; in contrast to Matthew that says, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” And so what we do in the church is we run to Son of God and say, “Oh, see, Peter’s confessing everything.” But if you take Luke and Mark on their own, all that he confesses is that He’s the Christ. That’s the point. And off of that He builds the picture of who He is. Now, eventually He associates Messiah and Son of God as “Son of God,” but He builds His way there, because the Gospels tell the story of Jesus from the birth up.
Ankerberg: What this conversation is doing is telling you how critical scholars should build a case. Bill O’Reilly didn’t necessarily build the case with this kind of evidence. He just made the statement. He’s probably going to need your evidence coming up, okay. But you’re saying that the evidence, when he gets there, is going to support a lot of the stuff he said about Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and the Messiah.
Bock: Well, I think what you’re seeing is that when he appeals to sources at the end of his book he says, “I’m only giving you, you know, the core story line. Here’s the core story line of where this is going. This is what got Jesus into trouble. This is why they killed Jesus, etc. Here are the core things that happened.” But if you want to know what happens when you get into a discussion and people doubt some of what that story is, then there’s this whole other layer of conversation that needs to come into the equation. And that’s what we hope to supply.
Ankerberg: Alright, next week we’re going to continue this. We’re going to look at another one of the big concepts in Bill O’Reilly’s book; he says Jesus flat out claimed to be the Messiah. What does the word “Messiah” mean? And why was that a word that was so dangerous in Jesus’ day? I hope that you’ll join us next week.


Read Part 3

Leave a Comment