The Battle to Dethrone Jesus/Program 2

By: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace; ©2007
The twelve men who lived and worked with Jesus during his earthly ministry are responsible for passing along his message to the world. What did they actually teach? Has that message been corrupted?



Today in America there is a raging debate about two fundamentally different stories being told about Jesus. One story is Christianity; the other is best described as Jesusanity. The central ideas of Christianity are that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and can personally purify and transform us and give us eternal life. The central idea of the other story, Jesusanity, is that Jesus is only a mere man and a special teacher, one who performs no miracles, makes no claims to be the Messiah or the Son of God, does not die for anyone sins, and does not accept faith in himself or worship. This radical new story of Jesusanity has been conveyed in today’s media though popular novels, a myriad of books, and network television specials such as The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Papers, The Jesus Dynasty, and the so called Family Tomb of Jesus. People want to know which story correctly describes Jesus. To answer this question, we must ask, does Christianity possess the solid historical roots it has always claimed, and is based on the testimony of those who knew Jesus personally and accurately conveyed his teachings and the events of his life; or is the biblical portrait of Jesus by and large a fabrication the embellished memory of early Christians, who created a mythical Jesus?

My guests today on The John Ankerberg Show are two well known scholars. First Dr. Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Research at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has appeared on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and the Discovery Channel as an authority on the historical Jesus. Second, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, one of the world’s leading scholars on textual criticism and the Greek manuscript copies of the New Testament. He is also Director of the Center for the Study of Greek New Testament manuscripts. He is the Senior New Testament editor for the NET Bible and Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Seminary. Listen as they lead us through the maze of new radical ideas that are attempting to redefine Jesus as nothing more than a mere man, information they have presented in their new book, Dethroning Jesus.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. Have you read the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins? He is an atheist, and he says, “Any evidence that Jesus claimed any kind of divine status is minimal.” Is that true? Well, we are going to find out today. Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar says, “The alleged Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John described a series of events that never happened a long time ago in the life of a person that never lived a long time ago.” What would you say to that? Or here’s another one from Marcus, “The biblical Jesus is by and large a fabrication.”
In order to answer those questions you need to actually look at the evidence. And that’s what we have got these guys here for. Dr. Darrell Bock is one of the scholars on the historical Jesus in the world. He shows up on all of the television specials the networks usually have. And Dr. Daniel B. Wallace is one the textual critics in the world and photographs digitally the copies of the Greek New Testament. We’re going to talk about that whole area as we go along in these programs. Guys, I am just so glad that you are here.
Let’s go back for the folks that missed last week, and that is, we’re saying you have to have an outline of what happened historically. And we started with the fact you have a real person called Jesus who lived 5 BC to about 30 AD, some go up to 33 AD but most of the scholars park it at 30 AD. And they also say, and we get this from non-Christian secular sources and non-Christian religious sources, that Jesus had not only followers but out of those followers he picked out 12 guys, 12 apostles. We even have their names in the Gnostic Bibles and so on, the Gnostic Gospels, we have their names mentioned.
So the fact is, there is an agreement, we have got the 12 guys, what their names are, who they were. And then they lived with Jesus for three years, watched him as he did things, the miracles, exorcism, raising people from the dead. But they heard his teaching. Jesus dies, rises from the dead. Some people, the scholars, don’t want to talk about that area, but they say something happened, because 50 days after the time that Jesus was put in the grave, those 12 apostles that were with him for three years are standing in Jerusalem and they are talking to the other people that had seen Jesus. And they preached a message and 3,000 Jews converted and became Christians. Out of that crowd of 3,000 that converted, they went out across the Roman Empire. And on the basis of what they had heard preached, they founded churches from Rome to Egypt to Turkey, alright? And the thing is that those churches were founded on whatever that original message was.
Now, then you get into this time period where you have… You tell me the story. You now have, after the churches are established the question becomes, what did folks do who are Christians, how do they know what was orthodox Christian belief and what was not, because they didn’t carry the New Testament to Church. It hadn’t been written yet. Okay, so how did they know what the scoop was?
Bock: Well, what they had is they had doctrinal summaries, the remains of which we see in some of our earliest first century Christian documents. They had the content of the hymns that they sang on a regular basis, which often exalted Jesus Christ and talked about his relationship to the Father. And they had the sacraments, which portrayed in religious ritual, if you will, the new birth, the washing from sin, and the death for sin. So, between all these pieces you have a core theology that we now call orthodoxy that is being passed on through the rites and observances that are taking place in the church to reaffirm the message that Jesus brought and that the apostles preached.
Ankerberg: Alright, some people say that there was a conflict inside the church and so we had differing views of Christianity right inside the church recorded in the New Testament. What do you say to that?
Bock: Well, we do see some evidence in the New Testament of some points of tension. When you bring together a Jewish community that has certain ways of living with a Gentile community that has different ways of living, there was tension as they tried to put these two groups together. And we see that. But generally what was being fought over were issues of what we call orthopraxy, how you practice orthodoxy, and not so much orthodoxy itself. Now, there were some Jews who were associating with Jesus who said, “Judaism doesn’t change at all. All you do is add Jesus on top of it. So you have got to live the same way otherwise,” etc. And the church made a decision after some conflict that that wasn’t the case. What we do have in the book of Galatians is evidence of this tension even between Peter and Paul. [Gal. 2:11ff] But at the same time, the declaration that the right hand of fellowship existed between the various key players, because their theology was the same. [Gal. 2:9] They were wrestling with how do we practice this?
Ankerberg: Daniel, one of our other friends was a dream team member picked by National Geographic to investigate The Gospel of Judas. His name is Craig Evans. He wrote a book Fabricating Jesus, and in there he said this idea that there was different kinds of orthodox belief, he said, the basics, okay, if you didn’t believe that Jesus was the messiah of Israel; if you didn’t believe that Jesus Christ actually died on the cross and paid for our sins; claimed to be the son of God; that He rose from the dead, you were not a Christian. Do you agree with that?
Wallace: I would say amen to that, absolutely.
Ankerberg: What else would you add to that?
Wallace: That was the core of what they believed.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Wallace: I think there were some other things where they were wrestling with: what is it that I have to do to come into faith? What do I have to do to get in, if you will. And others were looking at the Christian faith in terms of, what do I have to do to continue on as a Christian? And those were some of the struggles that I’d say were dealing with the fringes of orthodoxy.
Ankerberg: Okay….
Wallace: But Darrell is right that it is also dealing with orthopraxy.
Ankerberg: Yeah. So the thing is, now Jesus dies, let’s say 30 AD. And in this period in between, you’ve got the living apostles that can correct unorthodox belief. They are going around to the churches. And these fellows lived approximately how long, Darrell?
Bock: Well, most of them lived at least to the 60s, and then we have evidence of a few of them extending all the way up into the 90s.
Ankerberg: Okay. So the fact is, they start dying off before we get to 100 AD, alright? But you have those guys walking around and teaching and correcting. You have the doctrinal statements, the creedal statements, that can be dated very early by scholars, that goes right back to the mid 30s. And you have these hymns that are just loaded, Philippians 2 and Colossians and so on, that are just loaded with theology. And then you have the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What is the doctrine that comes out of the baptism and the Lord’s Supper that they were practicing all the time?
Bock: Well, the doctrine that comes out of the baptism is the picture of the new life, that your old man dies; and there is also the picture of washing, so there is a picture of cleansing alongside that; and then you are raised up to new life. It is the old Baptist expression of being born again, that’s “a-g-i-n” okay, you preach that from the pulpit, okay? So they were born again, and it is a picture of the new life, the new start, the spirit in the person that represents this reestablished relationship with the living God. And then when you come to the Lord’s Supper, of course, what’s being portrayed is this is the new covenant in my blood [1 Cor. 11:25], that Jesus Christ has started what God promised that he would start one day, and that is a new covenant relationship with his people in which he does a work from the inside out. And in fact, it is this work on the inside that is so necessary, because without it we are not the people God created us to be.
Ankerberg: Alright.
Wallace: I would like to add that on the baptism it focuses really on the beginning of the Christian life. You are making a commitment to Christ and he is making a commitment to you by giving the Holy Spirit, which is… baptism, water baptism and spirit baptism were so seen as synonymous, virtually, that it was difficult to separate them. And then the Lord’s Supper or communion was something of continued fellowship with him. And that was the thing that the church continued on every week. Baptism, a person got baptized once, but they would continue in communion every week as a reminder of who the Lord was and what he had done for them.
Ankerberg: And what did he do for them?
Wallace: He died on the cross for them; he paid for their sins; he rose again. But the key thing, I think, in the Lord’s Supper is the organic connection that people have with Christ. “You will eat my flesh, you will drink my blood.” [John 6:56] And that is part of the portrait that we have of early Christianity that sometimes is lost among Protestants. And the orthodox and the Catholics have followed this one well. But it’s an organic connection that I have with Christ who is now the living head of the body of Christ. And that is why they practice communion weekly and Protestants typically don’t. But I know your church does, doesn’t it?
Bock: Yeah. And, in fact, I think it is very, very important to appreciate that the Gospel is not merely forgiveness of sins. The Gospel is the reestablishment of this broken relationship with the living God. The forgiveness of sins is the means by which that is achieved. But if you simply have a message that the Gospel is having your sins forgiven you have sold short all that God is doing through that forgiveness.
Ankerberg: And the fact is now you have got, again, 30 AD Jesus dies, passes off the scene. In this time you have got the apostles living and talking and teaching. And you have got, the fact is, the hymns and you have got the creedal statements. And you know, one of those creedal statements I really love that is easy to remember is Peter saying, “You killed him, God raised him.” [Acts 3:14-15] I am just saying that’s pretty easy: “You killed him, God raised him.” But the thing is then, with the sacrament you have a consistency of message going down. And then, now the apostles start to put this stuff into writing. Let me ask you two questions here, what did they call what they said? And what did they call what they wrote?
Bock: That is two questions with one answer. And that is they called both of them the word of God. The preached word of the Gospel was the word of God. The written word of the apostles in these letters that they sent to the churches and the Gospels that were written by them or by their people who work with them was the word of God. It was all a message from God. In fact, that is part of what the word of God is. It is the idea that this is a message from God; this is a revelation or a disclosure that comes from him. And that is where it gets its authority from, that is where it gets its credibility from. And so this Gospel message was a message for humanity from the living God.
Ankerberg: It is a mind blower to believe that these guys, when they spoke, believed that they were giving the word of God; and that when they wrote, they were actually writing the word of God that we would have. Okay, so I am going to take a break here, and when we come back I am going to ask the question when Peter was having coffee, was his conversation the word of God? Let’s talk about that and what that means. And we will come back in just a moment.

Ankerberg: Alright, we are back. And we are talking with Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace about the historical Jesus. And we are talking about the outline that Christians need to understand in order to be able to talk and converse with some of the new opinions that are out today concerning Jesus, what Darrell and Dan have been talking about as Jesusanity vs. Christianity. And the outline that we are filling out, again is, the fact is Jesus lived, 12 apostles he picked out, Jesus dies, rises from the dead, the fact is then you have Pentecost 50 days after. We don’t think that the disciples forgot everything that Jesus taught them in three years in 50 days. What they preached then was taken, 3000 people converted. They went across the Roman Empire, started churches on that message. Then you have the living apostles walking around correcting folks. And you’ve got the teaching doctrinal core that is being taught in the churches, creedal statements, you have got hymns, and you have got the sacraments. And then as we go from 30 AD when Jesus passed off the scene down into the 40s, 50s and 60s, the fact is, now the apostles are going to start to die, but before they die the fact is that they start writing letters and books. What are the earliest books that start to come out?
Bock: Well, we think that the earliest books are in the 40s. Some people will put James there. Galatians is often put at the very end of the 40s. And then in the 50s the publishing house really gets rolling with various epistles; extends into the 60s. Traditionally, Peter and Paul are said to have been executed, martyred, for their faith, martyred for what they are preaching in the middle 60s. And then the latest books, many people place the book of Revelation in the 90s and later period.
Ankerberg: Yeah. But everybody think about this, okay, if Jesus dies at 30, and the books start coming out in the 40s, you’re 10-15 years from the time that Jesus is on the scene. And you have got the living apostles walking, around the church is established. The question is, could their letters have completely changed everything that they had founded in those churches and had taught from day one, and what the apostles were saying? Did somewhere they make a giant switch so that the Jesus of faith is completely different than the Jesus of history? Alright, now they start to write their letters, okay? But what is mind blowing is what we ended with in the last part of this program, and that was, they claimed that when they were teaching they were actually speaking the word of God and the fact is their writings are claimed to be the word of God. Give me proof of that.
Bock: Well, I think that the key thing here to remember here is that, you know, when we think of the word of God our mind immediately jumps to a book. And we think of a Bible with this nice leather and Holy Bible on the front of it. But actually, when you hear word of God in many passages of the New Testament, you are actually talking about the preached message of the Gospel and what the apostles are delivering. And there are several passages that do this. And Dan has such a wonderful voice…
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s start with Jesus himself.
Wallace: And a wonderful Bible!
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Alright, Dan the folks that are listening want to have proof that, first of all, Jesus thought that his words were the very word of God and then that the apostles claimed this. And the fact is, this also claimed for their writing. We have got to talk about in what sense. But let’s start…..give me a statement from Jesus himself.
Wallace: Well, you have got John 3:34 where Jesus spoke about himself and he said, “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God.”
Ankerberg: I mean, that is a mind-blowing statement all by itself. Alright, go to the apostles.
Wallace: Well you have got 1 Thessalonians 2:13 as a good illustration. Do you mind if I read this from the NET Bible?
Ankerberg: No. Please do.
Wallace: “And so we constantly thank God that when you received God’s message [which is typically translated ‘the word of God’] that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message but as it truly is, God’s message [or the word of God] which is at work among you who believe.” And so here is a place where Paul, by the translation we are giving it, is not saying you have heard scripture but the message of God, which is going to be the kerygma or the apostolic teaching about Christ.
Ankerberg: Alright, then go to the next spot, the fact is that we can understand that when Peter was having coffee, the fact is, not every word was scripture. But what we are talking about is that the overall message was what God wanted communicated, right?
Wallace: Uh huh.
Ankerberg: But along the line that tightens up a little bit when they start to write. Or you qualify it for me. When they wrote, how do we know that what they wrote is the very word of God, and in what sense is it the word of God?
Bock: Well, they viewed themselves as writing, again, still this message from God. They are still writing about the gospel in a broader sense of the term now, because now it touches on various issues that impact the church. But in places in those letters they say things like “if you don’t believe what I am writing you,” you know, “this is not me writing this is the Spirit writing.” Or he says “we teach you in such a way that we are combining, not words of human wisdom, but things that combine spiritual truth with spiritual words.” And so there is this emphasis that what is being delivered is wisdom from God, is word from God, etc. Now this is not surprising in Judaism. We had the prophets who are said to be doing the same thing.
Ankerberg: You had the canon before you had the canon.
Bock: Exactly.
Ankerberg: The intertestament period, or you had Jesus and up to the fact that when the disciples started to write, you had the Old Testament. That was scripture.
Bock: Exactly. And those prophets spoke the word of God as well. So there is precedence for this coming out of Judaism. And people were comfortable with that idea and that thought. And that is… What gave these utterances their authority was not that Paul said them, or that Peter said them, but that they were understood to be a message from the living God. That God spoke through these writers and ultimately the message was his.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s step back. If I am not a Christian, the way I want to look at that is that at least those Christians thought that was doggone important.
Bock: That is exactly right.
Ankerberg: Okay….
Wallace: They thought of it as authoritative text at least.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: That is what we are saying. The fact I,s we are not arguing that you start as a non-Christian with these books just dropping out of heaven, these are words from God, every jot and tittle and so on. We will argue that a little later on, but you don’t start there. You look at this like Herodotus or Catullus again, alright? So the fact is, this shows they thought this was authoritative stuff that they were writing. And the church accepted it, that these boys had the special touch. These were the folks that were connected to Jesus. Tell me about the apostolic connection here.
Bock: Well, in fact the whole reason you have an apostle is, an apostle basically means someone who is sent. And it is a commissioned messenger, in effect. And when Judas was replaced, the point was made that we need to find someone who was with us at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry and has seen the whole package. [Acts 1:20-22] That was part of the qualification of being an apostle in this most technical sense.
Wallace: So what you are saying is an apostle had to have been an authorized eyewitness from John the Baptist until the ascension, which is the key point there.
Bock: Absolutely. It is a completely exposed experience with the living Jesus. Now, the one exception to this, in this technical sense that we’re talking about, is Paul. But Paul had the experience of the risen Lord, which isn’t too bad an experience either. I mean it shows the other half of the equation, not his earthly ministry, but the raised Jesus. And so, and in fact, it is that experience that took Paul from being the persecutor to being persecuted for what he now had come to believe.
Wallace: He comes in as a hostile witness, too…
Bock: Exactly right.
Wallace: …in a sense. I mean he’s after the Christians, and for a very good reason.
Ankerberg: Alright. A couple points here. You have got 27 books that can go back to either the apostles themselves or the companions of the apostles that are giving information that is either eyewitness information, or they were with Jesus for this period of time, okay? When they died that was it in terms of that kind of information. Why?
Bock: Because they are dead.
Ankerberg: I just want to get that into people’s minds. And the fact is, they were all dead at least by 100 AD.
Bock: Yeah. Another way to say this is that the word of the living eyewitnesses died with the last of the apostles.
Wallace: Right.
Bock: And now everything that is said about Jesus is another class of comment.
Ankerberg: Right. And that can be proven by looking at Ignatius and some of the other students of the apostles that never classified their information like the apostolic information. Give me an example.
Wallace: Right. Ignatius says in Trallians 3:3 and to his letter to the Magnesians and other places he says, Look, I am not Peter or Paul. I am not an Apostle. I’m just a convict. I can’t give you orders like they can. He makes these kinds of comments to say, even though I have authority over you, my authority is a derived authority from their authority.
Bock: And so when they talk about the word of God it will always be either because they are citing something that has been written from the earlier period, or they are at the point of their message where it is overlapped and connecting to the actually Gospel message which the church treated as the word of God.
Ankerberg: Alright. Today there is a debate a raging debate between Jesusanity and Christianity. And one of the kind of tricky little things that they are using is how they use the word early and earliest, okay? Explain that. We only have got about a minute left.
Bock: Early basically means anywhere from the 1st to 4th century, usually the 2nd 3rd or 4th century. Earliest means the 1st century. So you get statements like “early Christianity was diverse, or there were alternative Christianities” which technically translated means, in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th century we have evidence of this variety, but in our earliest texts we don’t. What Jesusanity people are claiming is what we see in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century, we are going to also argue was going on in the first, even though we don’t have good hard evidence for that.
Ankerberg: Yeah, and so the fact is in terms of Christianity you have got hard evidence, hard documents, and for the other guys they are projecting it from the 2nd century back into the first…..
Bock: And what they are arguing is that material has been suppressed; that the earliest materials have been suppressed.
Wallace: But there is no evidence for it.
Bock: Yeah. Suppression covers a multitude of sins. You don’t have anything for it, you actually don’t know if it goes back that far. And more importantly you can show from the content of the theology that it is unlikely to go back that far.
Wallace: And the other side of it is, we do have,… the earliest documents are all these Christian documents. I mean, we have proof that these documents come from the 1st century.
Ankerberg: Alright. Sounds like a pretty solid case to me. You have got a historical thread going right straight down, consistency of message. And we are not done with that yet. And next week we are going to continue filling out this outline. And we are going to talk about what the students of the apostles actually wrote and said about the apostolic writings, okay? And when they were writing. And then we want to go down to some of the other church fathers. And then, we are still coming to the Lost Gospels, this Gnostic Christianity that is being touted today. Now, folks, I hope that you are sticking with us on these things because this is crucial information in terms of understanding what the debate is that is raging all around us, the questions that people all around us in our society are asking. Thanks for being with me. We’ll see you next week.

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