Did Jesus have a wife?

The following timely article is from Peter Williams the Warden of a leading, Christian post-graduate study center in England called the TYNDALE HOUSE. It possesses one of the finest libraries for biblical research in the world, packed with specialist material on the language, culture, history, and meaning of the Bible. This article clarifies what the news media have only made unclear: this fragment does not support the modern, non-sensical notion that Jesus had a wife.

The Web is by now awash with stories of an ancient text in which Jesus says ‘my wife’. The story which broke yesterday in the New York Times and some other sources, is being carried today by outlets too numerous to list. Some of the reporting is responsible, but not all. Consider this extract from The Daily Mail: “If genuine, the document casts doubt on a centuries old official representation of Magdalene as a repentant whore and overturns the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.”

We are of course in a context where there is so much ignorance of basic facts about Christianity that even when the media properly relay facts they get completely distorted and misunderstood in popular perception. This can be seen in the way derivative media put spin on the story and in the online comments below the news items.

The papyrus at the centre of the publicity

Here we try to establish a few facts.

The scholarly article upon which almost all knowledge of the fragment is based is here [at Harvard].

What do we know from this? Continue reading

Beat people with your Bible?

“You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.”

Often heard phrase, but is it useful to say (or affirm)? Last week, in a Prayer Partner Letter from Bethlehem College & Seminary, President Tim Tomlinson wrote the following helpful reflections. Let me know what you think.
~ pdb

I don’t know if you have ever heard the following phrase, but I have on a number of occasions: “You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.” Whenever I’ve heard that said, it has always troubled me. I understand, I think, what those who say it are trying to accomplish. They don’t want to alienate people who might be alienated by some parts of the Bible. But therein lies what troubles me. There is implied in this statement the notion that the Bible, by itself, is not adequate for helping people overcome whatever it is they are struggling with (sin, depression, denial of God, etc.). It requires some sort of qualification or special relationship standing before it can be used to help inform, correct, exhort, or inspire people.

When I look at the Bible itself, however, I don’t see that attitude portrayed at all by those who speak of its value to all of life. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 makes over 170 references to the worth and value of the Word of God. The entire theme of this psalm is to extoll the surpassing worth of the Word to all of life.

“Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me
wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
(Psalm 119:97-103).

For the psalmist, the Word of God is his sustenance, his joy, his guide, his way of understanding, and his love. Such a view of the Bible is an example to all of us that the Word of God is sufficient for all situations and all people–even if it makes us uncomfortable sometimes with its clear and life-giving truth.

Yes, we should use the Bible with care, and with an appropriate, loving, and sensitive attitude in sharing it with others, but we should never shrink back from bringing the life-giving Word of God to bear on any life situation we may encounter.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Tim Tomlinson,
June 22, 2011

Chilean Miners’ “Jesus” T-Shirts…

Did you notice the T-shirts worn by the 33 Chilean miners as they emerged from the ground? I spotted the name JESUS on the sleeve, and wondered about them. This was a logo for “The Jesus Film Project” (of Campus Crusade for Christ). Apparently the Chile branch of CCC provided a copy of the film (with one of the Gospels dramatically portrayed) to the men in the mine — and later designed and provided these t-shirts when they were requested!

But did you know that on the shirt all the miners chose to wear over their rescue jumpsuits, the front said “thank you, Lord” and the back side quoted Psalm 95:4

In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.

CNN’s Religion Blog posted a great piece on the whole story of these shirts — you should read the whole thing. Praise God for this witness and His work of grace in that dark place!


Back to College? Beware…

One college student, with Christian convictions will not be allowed to continue her master’s program because of those convictions

“Eastern Michigan University expelled Julea Ward from itsmaster’s program in school counseling,” reports Dr Joseph Horton, “because Ms. Ward refused to undergo a reeducation program to silence her beliefs and to keep her convictions in check when counseling.”

“The flashpoint was Ms. Ward’s refusal to counsel homosexuals about relationships because such behaviors are not consistent with her religious beliefs. The dismissal of Ms. Ward’s lawsuit could have a chilling effect on religious freedom.”

READ his whole article here posted at The Center for Vision and Valuesat Grove City College.

Hosting a ne’er-do-well?

Author Jim Elliff recently shared an article entitled, Public Debate with Bart Ehrman in Seminaries: A Bad Decision. I agree. I also think his reasons can help us avoid unprofitable engagements with other ne’er-do-wells….

Here are Elliff’s main points. (Read the rest here)

First, because Ehrman is a false teacher and we are forbidden to give such men a forum to express their views.

Second, because the minority position almost always gains some followers regardless who wins the debate.

Third, because debates are not always won on the basis of truth alone.

Fourth, because many of the listeners will not have the opportunity to sort out confusing aspects of the debate with professors or knowledgeable persons.

Fifth, because doubt is insidious.

*Hey, if you Twitter, you should follow Jim there: jimelliff

Do you take the Bible literally?

“Do you take the Bible literally?” is a question frequently asked about biblical interpretation. How do you answer that?

Greg Koukl shares his helpful reply –

I answer that I try to take the Bible with the precision the particular biblical writer intended. I take the words at their plain meaning unless the writer has signaled me to do otherwise. When you think about it, this is the basic rule we apply to everything we read, whether novels, newspapers, periodicals, or poems.

Promoting truth

We need to uphold absolutes without absolutism, practice rationality without rationalism, make assertions without arrogance and offer a defense without defensiveness. In doing so, we need three priorities: right thinking, right practice, and right attitudes. Even when the first two are clearly maintained, the third is sometimes lacking. The defense of the gospel is most effective when combined with the demeanor of Christ.

— Art Lindsley, TRUE TRUTH, Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World, IVP, 2004; page 172

There’s a God-shaped void within you…

…which only God Himself can fill.

This famous phrase, reportedly coined by Blaise Pascal (philosopher, scientist & author), referring to “the God-shaped vacuum” in everyone, may actually be (according to Dr Douglas Groothuis), a paraphrase from one of Pascal’s Pensées

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
(Penguin ed., 148/428).


Know the Chalk Trick?

A friend over at Vitamin Z blog quotes from another book I will be adding to my reading list shortly…

The story is told of an atheist philosophy professor who performed a parlor trick each term to convince his students that there is no God. “Anyone who believes in God is a fool, ” he said. “If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” The professor then dropped the chalk and watched it shatter dramatically on the classroom floor.

If you meet anyone who tries this silly trick, take the roof off. Apply the professor’s logic in a test of your own existence. Tell the onlookers you will prove you don’t exist.

Have someone take a piece of chalk and hold it above your outstreatched palm. Explain that if you really exist, you would be able to accomplish the simple task of catching the chalk. When he drops the chalk, let it fall to the ground and shatter. Then announce, “I guess this proves I do not exist. If you believe in me, you’re a fool.”

Clearly, this chalk trick tells you nothing about God. The only thing it is capable of showing is that if God does exist, he is not a circus animal who can be teased into jumping through hoops to appease the whim of foolish people.

Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p.150, 151