The Battle to Dethrone Jesus/Program 4

By: Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace; ©2007
If you want to find out the truth about Jesus, where is the best place to start? Are the biblical Gospels trustworthy?



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. We’re talking about the historical Jesus and the alternative views that are being put out there via the media – novels, books, TV programs – that the traditional Jesus, the Jesus of Christianity, needs to be redefined or replaced. And we’ve got two of the world’s leading scholars with us today. Dr. Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Research at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas. He’s one of the world’s leading authorities on textual criticism and the Greek manuscript copies of the New Testament. He’s the director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. He’s also the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible. And he’s also written the standard, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, which is used just about in all the seminaries across the land. Guys, we’re really glad that you’re here.
Let me start with a quote to inform the audience of what the challenge is, that there are folks that are scholars in the Jesus Seminar that appear regularly on TV, that have written a lot of books that are in the bookstores right now. Marcus Borg is one of them. And he said this about Jesus: “The notion that God’s only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that God could not forgive us without that having happened, and that we are saved by believing this story, is simply incredible.” He goes on to say, “Taken literally, it is a profound obstacle to accepting the Christian message. To many people it simply makes no sense at all.”
Now, we want to talk about, in the documents, in the evidence, Dan, if you go to the University and you’re talking to students right now that are listening and saying “I’d like to learn about Jesus,” in the evidence that we have, the historical evidence, where would you advise them to start to get a glimpse of who Jesus claimed he was?
Wallace: I’d have them start with the Gospel of Mark. And certainly they have to start with a Gospel, but if they start with the Gospel of Mark then they’re dealing with a document that both sides of the theological aisle would agree is probably the most primitive Gospel. And even here, you strip all the layers of theological accretions that are assumed to take place in Matthew, Luke and John, you get down to Mark and you’re down to the closest core we can get. And even here you see important glimpses of Jesus being seen as God. One of my favorite texts that suggests this, in fact there’s three that I’d like to link if I could.
Ankerberg: Sure.
Wallace: Mark 2:5: Jesus is in Peter’s house and they’re ripping off the tiles, not tiles but the roof so that four men are bringing a paralytic inside because they can’t get through the door, the place is all filled up. And so they drop this man down – gently – and then Jesus says to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And they go, “What!” I mean, this guy didn’t come to have his sins forgiven, he came so that he could walk! And so you get these religious leaders who are sitting there. And they start muttering to themselves, “He’s blaspheming. Only God can forgive sins.” [Mark 2:6-7] Half of what they said was true – that is, only God can forgive sins. But the other half is not true. And so then Jesus responds to what they are murmuring to themselves. He says, “To show you that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,…” and then he commands the man to walk. [Mark 2:10-11]
Now, what you see here is, Jesus is appropriating the actions that only God can do, which is to forgive sins. And so when he says the Son of Man has authority to do this, he’s saying something about himself that could only be said of God. Now, these religious leaders understand it, but the disciples don’t. And the reason the religious leaders understand who Jesus is claiming to be is because they don’t have any loyalty to him at all. They have loyalty to the Jewish code, and consequently they read the shema every day. It says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” [Deut. 6:4] Well, when Jesus is forgiving sins he is claiming that he is functioning in the capacity of God.
Now, the disciples, on the other hand, who are not theologically trained, but they are loyal to Jesus and they’re loyal Jews, now they just have a big question mark over who Jesus really is. They know he’s a good guy, they know he’s a prophet, they know he can heal people – they’ve just seen this. They know that he can cast out demons. But they still don’t have a category for him.
Two chapters later we get to Mark 4, and here Jesus had just stilled the storm. And he does it with two words: “Quiet! Shut up!” [Mark 4:39] That’s it. He doesn’t say, “I command you in the name of God” or anything like this. He just quiets the storm down. And instantly it goes still. In verse 41 the disciples say, “who is this guy who can still the storm?” So still they’ve got no category for him yet. They’re loyal to him, but they don’t know to whom they’re loyal.
Then you go later into Mark 8 and you see the healing of the blind man, where Jesus has to spit in his face. [Mark 8:22ff] It’s a remarkably repulsive story that I hope we can get to in a later show. But after that and after the confession of Jesus as the Messiah by Peter [Mark 8:29], and the disciples don’t have a clue what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah and to die on the cross, to be raised from the dead. They don’t have a category for that yet. Then you get to Mark 9:9 where, after the Transfiguration, when Jesus is with three of his disciples and they come down from the mountain. And he says, “Now don’t tell anybody about this until after my resurrection.” And then the next verse says, Mark 9:10, “And they began to debate with one another what the resurrection might mean.”
What all this points to is, this is genuine historical material. For the disciples not to have a clue about Jesus being raised in human history, rather than being raised from the dead at the end of time, as what Judaism did teach. This is a remarkable thing. They didn’t have a category for that yet. And that shows us that they could not have invented that doctrine right after the crucifixion. They couldn’t have come up with this. This had to be something that Jesus taught them because they didn’t understand it. And only when he’s raised from the dead they said, “Oh, you really did mean a physical resurrection from the dead.”
Ankerberg: Where do you think the light bulb went on where they recognized something of what he was claiming?
Wallace: I think when the light bulb,… I think several light bulbs continued to go on. But I think ultimately it goes back to the resurrection. Once Jesus is raised from the dead into a new kind of life, not just raised from the dead as Lazarus was or other people were raised, where they would live longer and then die and still have the same decaying body. But after the resurrection, and because of the resurrection, the disciples began to realize that this person is completely different. He’s not like one of the prophets. It did not take any human agency to raise him from the dead. And ultimately, I think it was the apostle Paul who, because of his conversion on the road to Damascus, now he is set up with two different kinds of conflicts. One is, I know that God has cursed this man. How do I know that? Because Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “cursed is every man who hangs on a tree.” So Paul was unswervingly committed to what the Bible taught. And that’s why he was so passionately against Christians. Because if God has cursed this man by hanging him on a tree, how can you Christians say that God has blessed him by raising him from the dead?
The only thing that could possibly convince Paul is exactly what did convince Paul. Here he is on the road to Damascus and he has this revelation. He sees Christ in heaven, and he says, “Lord, who are you?” “I’m the one you’ve been persecuting.” [Acts 9:4-5] Now he has two truths that he has to figure out. One is that God must have cursed him, that’s what the Bible teaches. The other is, God must have blessed him, that’s what my indisputable experience tells me had happened. It takes him time to go to Arabia, three years to sort all this out. And ultimately where Paul goes with this is he recognizes therefore, that Jesus could not have died for his own sins, and therefore he had to be sinless. Consequently, if he was sinless, what category does that make him? Is he just a mere man? That’s not going to work. And at some time that, it takes a little bit of time, and I won’t get into that right now, but at some point he begins to recognized that because Jesus Christ died as a substitution for our sins, therefore, he must be in a category all by himself, which is going to be genuine deity.
Ankerberg: Darrell, you weren’t always a Christian. In fact, you came out of a Jewish background, and you were in college, and you didn’t believe anything. What gripped you about Jesus? What statements got to you?
Bock: Well, I think that what’s going on here is it first of all become clear to me in reading the New Testament. Someone gave me a New Testament and said, “You have a cultural perception of Jesus. And that perception is that Jesus is a great teacher. And he might even be a prophetic figure. Great; but read this material and ask yourself, is Jesus teaching the issue or is Jesus himself the issue? We think you’re smart enough to figure that out.” So they handed me a Bible, and I started reading. And I would be talking with them about it. It didn’t take me very long into the story to recognize that the way the story was being told in the Bible, Jesus was the issue.
But here’s the important point. It went in steps. It didn’t go all at once, at least in Matthew, Mark and Luke. What happened was that as you read along you saw, for example at Caesarea Philippi, that Jesus is not a prophet, he is the chosen one of God. He is at the center of God’s plan. [Mark 8:27ff] Now, the rest of the story has the disciples figuring out what exactly that means. Jesus would talk about himself as the son of man. That’s a very strange title. It’s the son of a human being, that’s what it mean, I’m a son of a human being. Well, we’re all in one sense son of man. But no, the son of man.
Okay, now, what does that mean? Well, once you get that connected to Daniel, which happens at the end of the synoptic stories, [Daniel 7:13; Mark 14:62] all of a sudden you realize this is someone who receives authority from the Ancient of Days, a picture of God the Father. So there’s a unique relationship that’s going on between Jesus and God.
So that’s a long way to say what happened to me is that as I read the Gospels it become clear that the issue wasn’t just Jesus’ teaching, it was his person. And in his person, then there was a claim being made. He was at least the Messiah. He was at least the Messiah. He was the son of man, this exalted figure who receives authority from the Ancient of Days. And then what did it for me, and I actually think this is a second answer to the question you asked Dan, I actually think that the early church got it when they recognized that Jesus was invited by God to share his presence and his authority. Because in Judaism no one shares the glory of God. And so you have to be a certain kind of person to be able to share that glory and that presence. And so that leads naturally to the deduction of, who could possibly sit next to God, at the right hand of the Father? It’s got to be someone who’s able to share his glory and his presence, which means he’s got to be deity.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’re going to take a break. When we come back, during The Passion of the Christ, Diane Sawyer had you on ABC to serve as one of the historical witnesses concerning the content in the movie. And you have written a big book on what Matthew, Mark and Luke all record in their accounts, namely the trial of Jesus. And you give an answer, the same one that Jesus gave when he was asked the question, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” okay? And we’re going to hear your answer and why you’re sticking with it when we come right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace. And we’re talking about the advice they would give to students if they were investigating the historical Jesus and wanted to come to grips with some of the things he said about himself, namely his claims. Where would they turn? And one of the things I think that everybody in our society is familiar with is The Passion of the Christ and some of the content that went on. The Jewish leaders met, and they had a trial on Jesus. And at that time they asked him certain questions that are repeated in Matthew, Mark, Luke. And the fact is, let’s go to that passage, because you’ve written a whole lot about that. You were one of the key witnesses, historical witnesses, on the Diane Sawyer special on ABC. Take us through that.
Bock: Well, I’m going to set a context for it by basically asking this question: Who did Jesus say that he is? And there are really three passages that get us there, the last one shows up in the last week.
The first is, Jesus walks into a synagogue, opens up the text to Isaiah 61, reads it, talks about the Spirit having anointed the figure in question and that the year of jubilee is being declared, the year of release is being declared. And Jesus sits down and says, “Today this has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:21] So that tells you that Jesus is the promised figure of deliverance, and he belongs to the time of what theologians call the eschaton. Just think of it as the time of salvation, the time of God’s promised salvation. That’s the first passage.
Second passage is a passage where John the Baptist is sitting in jail and asking himself, “What am I doing in jail? If I am the one who is the forerunner of the era to come. If I’m announcing that God’s salvation and deliverance and rescue is coming, then how is it that I’ve ended up here?” And so he sends messengers to Jesus and he says, “Are you the one to come or should we expect another?” [Luke 7:18] Now, looking at Jesus’ answer I’d say he didn’t ask that the right way. He should have asked it like you see in the movies, you know, “Are you the one to come or should we expect another, yes or no?” Because the answer that he gets is actually an answer that’s echoed somewhere else in Judaism. If you read 4Q521, which is one of the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls…
Ankerberg: Yeah. Fourth cave,…
Bock: Fourth cave at Qumran, 521. It says this, “For the heavens and the earth shall listen to his messiah, and shall not turn away from his commandments. And he will have an eternal kingdom. He will set prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, raise up those who are bowed down.” And it goes on, “He shall make alive the dead, he shall send good news to the afflicted.” Now, if you read Jesus’ answer in Luke 7 and in the parallel in Matthew, you get basically many of those same phrases. It is, “Go tell John what you see and hear.” [Luke 7:22-23] And he talks about the deaf hearing and the lame walking and the blind seeing and the poor having the Gospel preached to them, very much along the lines of what we see in 4Q521.
Ankerberg: It’s almost exact. It’s like a quote right out of there.
Bock: Yeah. And so what we’re saying here is that when Jesus announces who he is, there is some context for understanding some of what Jesus is saying.
The last scene is the one that you raised in the opening. And that is that when Jesus comes before the Sanhedrin, before the Jewish leadership, he gets asked, “Are you the Christ, the son of the living God?” [Mark 14:61] And I think what Caiaphas is asking is, “Are you claiming to be Messiah or are you claiming to be a king?” And the reason I think he’s asking that is that he needs a charge he can take to Pilate to get Jesus executed and crucified. Well, one of the quick ways to do that is to claim that you’re a king when you weren’t appointed by Caesar, Okay? The Romans, generally speaking, weren’t happy with that kind of an arrangement. And so that’s the backdrop.
So he asks this question, and Jesus answers this way. And the passage, it comes from Mark 14. It’s one of the most important passages in the Gospels, and it reads this way. The question is, “Are you the Christ, the son of the blessed one,” a roundabout way of referring to God. And the answer is this, “I am, said Jesus, and you will the son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, what do we still need… Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your verdict?” [Mark 14:62-64]
And the question is, well, why did he tear his clothes? Well, he tore his clothes because what Jesus was claiming was not merely the ability to walk into the Temple and go to the Holy of Holies, which is something only the High Priest could do once a year – it was sacred, restrictive space, because it represented the presence of God. He said, no, God is going to invite me to park at his side and to operate like a cosmic judge, seated on the clouds, having dominion. Now, in Judaism, put on your yarmulke or kipot for a second, in Judaism, every time you went into the synagogue, every time there was a service, you got up and said the shema – Behold, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. No one shares God’s glory. So when Jesus claims that he can share God’s glory and God’s presence, that is a claim of exaltation that is an offence to a Jewish mind that says there is only one God.
And you’ve got a train wreck. You’ve got a theological train wreck in which exaltation is running into blasphemy. Either Jesus is right or Jesus is wrong. And what his claim is, when he says you will see this, he’s saying “when my tomb is empty in a few days, then you can know not only where I’ve gone, but what it is that God has made of me.” And that is a powerful testimony about who Jesus says that he is.
And notice that he does it not by saying something direct. You know, “I am the son of God. I am pretty.” No, he does it very indirectly by what he does and what God does through him.
Ankerberg: And it would make sense because if you can’t even say the name of God, the fact is, you’re not going to make that kind of a statement in that society.
Bock: Yeah. You’re going to be very careful about how you get people to think about how you’re really crashing the ultimate glass ceiling.
Ankerberg: I mean, to say that, you know, the son of the blessed one so you don’t say son of God.
Bock: Right.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Bock: And then he replies by saying “and I will be seated at the right hand of power,” respecting Caiaphas’s question that shows respect towards God. He shows equal respect back on the one hand by saying “the right hand of the power,” or “the right hand of the almighty.” But at the same time he’s not holding back. He’s saying, this is something God’s going to do, and you’re going to see the effects of it.
Ankerberg: And the prophet Daniel, chapter 7 of Daniel, what does he say?
Bock: Well, the title son of man is one of these beautiful titles that’s able to hold a lot of content. What it does is, the son of man is a way of referring to a human being. But this is a particular human being. This is a human being who rides the clouds. Now, in the Old Testament, when you ride the clouds, okay, that’s something God, or the gods do in the Old Testament. It’s the way it’s described. In the Psalter it’s attributed to Baal. In other texts it attributed to something that God does. So this is something that deity does. So I’ve got a human being doing deity stuff, okay? A human being doing deity stuff. That’s Jesus.
Ankerberg: And Jesus applies that to himself.
Bock: Jesus applies that to himself. That’s Jesus doing that. And that’s what… the resurrection is God’s vote about Jesus’ claim about who he is.
Ankerberg: We’ve got two minutes left.
Wallace: Let me pick up on Mark 14. I think what Darrell had to say is absolutely right on target, and it’s a key thing that we have to wrestle with. I want to add a couple of other points here. Jesus is coming in before Caiaphas and he’s on trial. Caiaphas, the High Priest who gets to go into the Holy of Holies once a year and to actually be in God’s presence, at least in terms of the Temple configuration on earth. Jesus is claiming that he’s not only going to be able to go into God’s presence, but he’s going to be able to park there in the real Temple, where really God is, where this is an example of it, if you will, or a pattern of it. And consequently he’s turning the tables on Caiaphas and he’s saying, “You’re the one who’s on trial. I’m the one who’s judging you.” He could have just said, “I’m king.” And that would have been enough. But what he does is he says, “I’m in the same throne room as God. I still sit on his seat. I’m the judge of you.” This is incredible stuff.
Now, if you go a little bit later to another chapter 14, this time Acts 14, you see Paul and Barnabas preaching in Lystra. And these people who did not speak Greek are claiming that we’ve got a couple of Greek gods here. When Paul finds out about it, Acts 14:14, the first thing he does is he rips his clothes. And the reason he does that is it’s symbolic to say “You have blasphemed.” Now, Caiaphas does that when Jesus claims what he does. Paul does that when these Lystrans claim that Paul and Barnabas were gods. And consequently, for Jesus to make this statement is a thing that would be blasphemy if he truly were not God himself.
Bock: And even just as significant as the idea that the very title or concept that Paul refuses to receive is the very title or concept Jesus does welcome. And so it shows a difference between Jesus and his followers. And sometimes people who claim Jesusanity say that Jesus was trying to reveal that we all are children of God in the same sense. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not at all. Jesus is unique, and he’s unique in his claims. And he makes us children of God and sons of God, but not in the unique sense that Jesus is son of God.
Wallace: Not only that, but you have that in Revelation 19:10 where John gets so overwhelmed by the presence of an angel that he bows down before him. And the angel says, “Get up. Don’t do that. I’m just a servant like you are.” So it’s not just human beings, but even angels are not in the same category as Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: This is great stuff. I mean, it’s there in the historical record. You’ve got to deal with it. I remember looking at it as a student. I thought, “I’ve got to deal with this thing.”
Bock: It’s incredible, but it’s not incredible in the sense that Borg was talking about, that it’s unbelievable. It’s incredible because it is a message that comes from God that bears the unique authority and stamp of God, as opposed to being something that’s not believable.
Ankerberg: Talk about the fact is, yeah, it was incredible to some people back in that day. It was a stumbling block. In what sense was it a stumbling block?
Wallace: I mean, Borg says this is an obstacle for belief. Of course it’s an obstacle for belief! That’s why Paul got persecuted. That’s why he said to the Jews it’s a stumbling block, to Greeks it’s foolishness. [1 Cor. 1:23] One of the things that I think is fascinating is when you start looking at the earliest form of Christianity, what we have in the New Testament, it was a message that was not palatable either to Greeks or to Romans or to Jews. When you get into the second century and you look at Gnosticism, here’s something that’s fitting into a neo-Platonic world view. It’s very palatable to them. And yet, that’s not the view that won out, because it’s not the view that changed lives, because it’s not the view that went back to Jesus or back to the apostles or to their disciples.
Bock: Jesus’ message was politically incorrect, but it was cosmically correct.
Wallace: Exactly. That’s good.


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