The Search for Jesus – Program 3

By: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Dr. Magen Broshi, Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Craig Evans, Dr. Hillel Geva, Dr. Gary Habermas, Mrs. Claire Pfann, Dr. Stephen Pfann, Dr. Ben Witherington, Dr. N.T. Wright; ©2001
What happened at Jesus’ baptism? What is “the kingdom of God”?

The Ministry of Jesus


Announcer: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Whom do people say the Son of Man is?” [Matt. 16:13]
Dr. Craig Evans: If I were a secular historian and looking at what Jesus is saying, I’d say this guy clearly thinks that he’s some kind of emissary from Heaven.
Announcer: They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [Matt. 16:14]
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi: There are also many implicit indications that Jesus was more than an ordinary human being.
Announcer: “What about you?” He asked, “Whom do you say that I am?” [Matt. 16:15]
Dr. Darrell Bock: I think that the voice addressed Jesus: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” [Luke 3:22]
Announcer: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:16]
Today, Jesus’ question continues to challenge historians and theologians, believers and unbelievers, alike. Some still acclaim him as the Messiah, the Son of God, as did his followers in the first century. Others declare that Jesus never said or did most of what is recorded about him in the Gospels. Still, the search for Jesus continues.

Dr. John Ankerberg: After spending most of his life in Nazareth, Jesus traveled to the Jordan River to meet John the Baptist. John was a fiery preacher, calling the nation to repentance, and warning them that if they would not repent, God’s wrath would soon fall on the nation. When Jesus was baptized by John, most scholars believe it marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when he was about 30 years of age.
This is the Jordan River where the Gospel accounts say that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. But some scholars claim that we have contradictory accounts because the Gospel writers highlighted different aspects of Jesus’ baptism.
Mark records that the voice from Heaven said, “You are my Son.” [Mark 1:11] Matthew tells us the voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son.” [Matt. 3:17] Do we really know what the voice from Heaven said?
Dr. Darrell Bock: I think that the voice addressed Jesus: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” When Matthew wrote it and said, “This,” he’s bringing out the force of the historical event – God pointed out “This One” as the one he was going to work through. Now, both statements are historically true and accurate. One gives the significance of what the wording was; the other gives the wording.
Dr. Craig Blomberg: People were very comfortable with a paraphrase, with a summary, with an abridgement, with giving what today we might call the gist of someone’s words or intentions, and believed that that was completely faithful and a very appropriate way of recording what they said. The vast majority of the differences among the Gospels amount to nothing more than this.
Dr. John Ankerberg: A short time after Jesus’ baptism, Herod Antipas arrested John and put him in jail. Mark records, “Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’” [Mark 1:14-15] What did Jesus mean when he said the kingdom of God was now at hand?
Dr. Darrell Bock: Everyone who used the term used it to say, “God will one day comprehensibly rule this earth and will vindicate his saints.” It always had that meaning. But around it, there were different conceptions of how that would work. Would that be Israel defeating her enemies? Would that be some great transcendent ruler coming almost, if you will, from above – a combination of those. And so when Jesus used the term, people understood basically what He meant.
Dr. Craig Evans: Well, I think Jesus gave his own spin to “kingdom of God” because he personalized it. It’s right here, it’s in your midst – and when he casts out a demon or heals someone, it’s evidence that the kingdom of God has come powerfully right within the human sphere. And that was new; people had not heard of that before.
Dr. N. T. Wright: He thought that he was a prophet announcing the kingdom of God. Not just announcing it in the sense that it might happen in a day or a week or a year, but saying “It’s happening now under your noses.” This was his prophetic message and he not only said it, he did it with the symbolic actions of healing and feasting and so on. And that’s why he got into trouble, because people didn’t like it.
Dr. John Ankerberg: According to Jesus, the kingdom of God was present, but not yet complete. In him, it had arrived in power, but would be fully consummated in the future.
Dr. Ben Witherington: When you say, “I, by the finger of God cast out demons, if I do that, you’ll know that the dominion of God has happened in your midst,” [Luke 11:20] he’s talking about a real physical healing, a real person who has now been set free, saved, by the saving, redemptive act of God. This is involving real people in real time. It’s not just what happens when you die and go to be with God. So, clearly enough, there’s an already dimension to the kingdom of God right here in space and time, and there’s also a not yet dimension to the kingdom of God in the future.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Jesus also said that immediate entrance into the kingdom of God was available to all who would turn from their sins and put their faith in him.
Dr. Claire Pfann: He is talking first and foremost about the rule of God in men’s hearts. And quite secondarily, and far off in human history in the future, there will be an earthly reign. But for the time being, what God wants to do is to conquer that most unruly of all items in the universe, the individual human heart.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Did Jesus give enough information that, if the political leaders had heard it, he would have been in trouble?
Dr. Darrell Bock: Yes, but I think that the reality was that Jesus wasn’t a powerful enough figure from the way secular power is perceived to be a worry to the Romans. He didn’t have an army; he wasn’t a threat from that standpoint. He was much more threatening to the Jewish leadership. And the reason he was threatening to the Jewish leadership is, he was redefining and reconstituting how Judaism should operate. And, that was a challenge to their direct control over the religious authority that they possessed.
Dr. Ben Witherington: I do think it’s right to say that there is a political edge to the phrase, “the dominion of God.” When you say “God is the ruler of the world,” you are implying the Emperor is not God, and he is not the ruler of the world. And whatever human rulers they are, they would be under the rule of God and they should not be making divine claims. So I think there is a political edge to this, but we must not miss the spiritual heart of the significance of this either.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Jesus taught he was the King of the kingdom of God, and only those who submitted themselves to him would be admitted. Moreover, he frequently referred to himself as the Son of Man, sometimes identifying himself with the prophet Daniel’s divine preexistent figure who was given authority and an everlasting kingdom on earth by God.
Dr. Craig Evans: If I were a secular historian and looking at what Jesus is saying, I’d say, “This guy clearly thinks he’s some kind of emissary from heaven. This guy thinks he is the person described in Daniel 7 who is given authority and kingdom, and now on earth he’s bringing it about.” The evidence would point in that direction.
Dr. John Ankerberg: But some scholars claim that Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God was not unique, that Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Essenes at Qumran were all preaching the same kingdom message. To investigate this question, we left the Jordan River and traveled to the northwest shore of the Dead Sea to the site known as Qumran. Behind the community’s ruins, you can still see the caves in the mountains where in 1947 a Bedouin shepherd discovered some ancient manuscripts. After that initial discovery, other caves were explored and the Dead Sea Scrolls have now revolutionized what scholars know about Jewish thinking and practice during the time Jesus lived.
Dr. Stephen Pfann: Here are caves 4A and 4B, in which the largest cache of scrolls were found. There were a group of Bedouins in September of 1952 that climbed down inside and found as many as 800 scrolls in fragmentary condition, lining the bottom of that cave there.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Scholars now realize that they have the very same kind of scrolls Jesus might have read from in the synagogue at Capernaum.
Dr. Stephen Pfann: There was one point where a Bedouin reached down into a jar like this and unrolled and found, for the first time that we could see, scrolls that are similar to the scrolls that they actually read and had in their hands, contemporary with the scrolls that they had in their hands back there in the first century that Jesus and the disciples could have read from.
Dr. Weston Fields: Well, the documents from this place give a context to the New Testament that we didn’t have before we found them and otherwise we don’t have anywhere else.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Why?
Dr. Weston Fields: Because from the Second Temple Period the years just before and after Jesus’ lifetime we don’t have any other Jewish documents, except the documents from Qumran, which can be dated and which are known to be contemporary with his life.
Dr. John Ankerberg: As a result of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it can no longer be successfully argued that the events and beliefs described in the four Gospels were a product of Christian theologians centuries later. The scrolls show us that many of the terms used only once in the New Testament were actually part of the Jewish vocabulary of that time.
Dr. Claire Pfann: The thing that modern scholars found very difficult to accept was that Jesus would have claimed that by raising the dead he was the Messiah, because no where else in Jewish writings were they aware of any time that the Messiah raised the dead, until they found another manuscript in Cave 4 at Qumran, number 521, which is called the Messianic Apocalypse. And in this text it says that the Messiah, when he comes, will raise the dead. And this is a Jewish text from the first century BC, written before Jesus was even born, that reflects a Jewish hope for a Messiah who will have the power to raise the dead, something which Jesus claims for himself as proof of his Messianic identity.
Dr. John Ankerberg: The Dead Sea Scrolls have also helped scholars understand the phrase, “the kingdom of God.”
Dr. Craig Evans: It’s a phrase that the Jewish people would have been familiar with. We know that now because we have constant references to God as king and his kingdom in some of the scrolls at Qumran. Also, in the Aramaic paraphrase of the Bible in Jesus’ day, there is reference to the kingdom of God. And, so this would have been known in Jesus’ day. So, Jesus is using a phrase that people understand, but he’s telling them it’s fulfilled now and he’s demonstrating it in his own ministry through miracles, exorcisms, and so forth.
Dr. John Ankerberg: We can now compare the information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls with Jesus’ statements recorded in the Gospels and see that Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God differed from that of the Essenes and John the Baptist.
Dr. Craig Evans: Well, he clearly sees himself as the proclaimer of the kingdom, and I think he understands himself as that unique and special human being – or in Aramaic, “Son of Man” – described in Daniel 7. He is this “Son of Man” who has been authorized by God to proclaim the kingdom and bring it about.
Dr. John Ankerberg: From the scrolls at Qumran, scholars have also learned that anyone who wanted to join the Qumran community had to wait one full year before they could join in the daily purification baths, and they were required to wait three years before they could become full-fledged members of the community.
Dr. Stephen Pfann: They were the first to proceed with what you would call the baptism of repentance, where every act of piety toward God had to be preceded by an act of repentance or a perspective on their heart, to make sure that it was free from sin. This continued on into the baptisms of John, of course.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Is this a baptismal tank right here?
Dr. Stephen Pfann: And you can see here the many pools that we have that are immersion pools, baptismal pools, in which the Essenes had to bring themselves to… their heart to check it out and then to immerse themselves to be purified before God so they could actively participate in the community affairs.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Now, compare what Jesus taught with the Essenes and John the Baptist. The Essenes required a long waiting period and daily purification baths before giving admittance into their community. John the Baptist required people to show acts of repentance before he would baptize them. But Jesus admitted people into the kingdom immediately, the moment they put their faith in him.
Dr. Claire Pfann: John the Baptist, Jesus and the Essenes were probably not part of the same group, but they were undoubtedly aware of each other and of what each other taught. There are clear associations and links between John the Baptist and Jesus. And those connections were so strong that all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles have to go to lengths to explain to us what their relationship really was.
Dr. N. T. Wright: John’s baptism was a “one off.” It wasn’t a regular washing like the Essenes regular washings. And John was pointing to a Messiah who was going to come, not back to a teacher of righteousness who would give you a tighter Torah. So there are differences between John and the Essenes. But I think any Essene might well have looked at John just up the road and said, “Maybe this is actually what we’ve been waiting for.” And then, I think it’s quite possible that many Essenes might then have gone to Jesus. They would have found a movement which, like finding a cousin you didn’t know you had, looks a little bit like family but also is doing some things radically differently.
Dr. Claire Pfann: The Essenes want to keep it controlled, inward, pure, holy and on time. John the Baptist takes it the next step and starts talking to people who are outside of the community to share with them the good news of the coming of the kingdom. But it is only in Jesus that the message of repentance and the coming of the kingdom are coupled with the outpouring of the miraculous power of God, which is the testimony, or the endorsement of the fact that it is through him that the kingdom is being manifested.
Dr. John Ankerberg: That brings up the question, “Do scholars really believe that Jesus performed miracles?”

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