Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jesus & Myth

Did the New Testament writers borrow from ancient myths in creating stories about Jesus?

It's a charge that comes and goes over the years. If you haven't heard it lately, you probably will soon. It goes something like this:

There have been stories about (semi-)divine men who came to earth, died, and were resurrected for thousands of years. The religions based on their worship even included baptism and a special meal. Early Christians simply borrowed elements from those religions to create stories about their own christ.
And a lot of that is almost true. Almost. The collected wisdom of Christendom on the topic seems be:

1) The similarities between these ancient stories and Christianity are exaggerated and the differences are minimized.

For example, "resurrection" in these stories didn't really involve dead people getting up and walking around or it wasn't permanent. For instance, Osiris' dismembered corpse was reassembled, but he remained in the underworld. And their resurrection stories were tied to cyclical fertility/harvest rituals; they weren't once for all time events.

Likewise, "baptism" meant being bathed in blood from a freshly killed animal. Calling that baptism is stretching the term beyond recognition, and it's something first century Jews wouldn't have found at all interesting.

2) The real similarities are datable only to after Christianity appeared.

These "mystery" religions were still around at and after the time of Christ. If the similarities (e.g., communion) only appear in the historical record in the second or third century, which way did the borrowing go? The other way, obviously, as our traditions can be dated from the first century.

3) Post-exile Jews were the last people we'd expect to absorb or syncretize with another religion.

They were really, really opposed to allowing their religion to be corrupted by outside influences after that whole Babylon thing (c.f., Maccabean rebellion). That's not to say it could never happen, but it does mean the evidence has to be really solid for it to be believed.

So did early Christians borrow myths from other religions to create a Christ they could worship? The evidence does not support that hypothesis.

Other resources:
The Case for Christ
Jesus and Other Myths (Video)

Related articles:
The Resurrection: A Story No One Would Make Up
Pagan Virgin Births

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deals on eBooks

Amazon is running a special on 900+ Kindle ebooks including a number of religious books* through July 27, 2011. Remember that Kindle books can be read not only on a Kindle but also on Amazon's free Kindle apps for pc, mac, and most smart phones.

Among the deals you can find the NIV Bible for $3.99, the NIV Archaeological Study Bible for $2.99, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth for $2.99, Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness for $2.99, Beth Moore's When Godly People Do Ungodly Things for $2.99, and Strobel's The Case for Christ for $2.99 plus lots more.

I always encourage believers to read good books, and if you can get them cheap, so much the better. Take a look and see if there's something you can benefit from.

* Please be aware that page lists "religious" books, not Christian. There is sadly no way to further narrow down that list.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Do I Know of Holy?

Contemporary Christian music has a lot of silly fluff, but there is some good, God-centered stuff.

And anything that gets us to focus, even briefly, on God's majesty, transcendence, and power is a good thing. This song does just that:
I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life its name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?
It's a great song, and the lead singer has a great voice. Listen to the whole thing below or on YouTube. I'm sure they'd appreciate your buying it if you enjoy it, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts

To get the most out of Bible study, you need more than just your Bible. To really understand a writer, you need to understand his world — his language, his era, and sometimes even his geography. And there are many good tools available to help you do just that.

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (of which I received a review copy) is one of those good tools. It effectively combines a Bible atlas with some of the features found in a Bible handbook — for example, book outlines, diagrams, and summaries of the biblical text.

The material is arranged according to the books of the (protestant) Bible and divided by the common groupings of the books (e.g., Pentateuch, historical, wisdom, etc.). There is a brief introduction to each group and then each book, and then the summaries, maps, and charts follow the order of the biblical text. Though this work is clearly conservative, it does acknowledge debates where they exist (e.g., the dating of the exodus).

This volume also includes access to a website where the charts and maps can be downloaded for use in a class. Which begs the question, given all the material that is available on the internet, why should anyone buy something like this?

Two reasons: First, the material on the internet is hit or miss. Sometimes it's outright wrong.

Second, even if the material's good, the distractions of the internet are legion. We've all gone to "check my email" or the weather or something and looked up and forty-five minutes have passed. A few well-chosen resources on the shelf help you avoid the distractions and make the most of your Bible study time.

This isn't the most comprehensive atlas in the world, nor is it the most thorough handbook, but it is a good combination tool that will serve you well.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Logos Tools

Logos Bible Software has (much like everyone else) been putting out apps for iPhone/iPad, android, and one even available over the internet. Not everything they sell is available via these apps (due to licensing issues), but a lot of their products are.

Since they're becoming more useful, I want to share a couple of good packages with you. (Note, I'm not making a dime off this.)

Rejoice Christian Software has the Essential IVP Ref. Collection 3.0 for $89.95 (for a limited time), the Norman Geisler Apologetics Library for $29.95, and the Essential Bible Study Library for $12.95 among others. There are a lot of good, useful books in these collections that you can now read on your pc, smartphone, or tablet. I think they're a good investment for your Bible study library.