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Friday, March 30, 2007

Anything Worth Saying

I rarely turn on Christian music radio when I am on the road. Currently, my car's radio is not operational. So when I am driving in the 94 Accord I am listening to music or preaching on my iPod. However, if I am driving in my wife's Quest and I have the radio on, it usually is sportstalk station.

Last week I was on my way to get my wife's van serviced and I decided to try one of the local Christian music radio stations. I had one of those infrequent but spiritual highs upon hearing a special song for the first time. That song is titled My Savior My God, by Aaron Shust. I bought his album, Anything Worth Saying, today and I have not been disappointed with the rest of his work.

Aside from My Savior My God, I really like Stillness, More Wonderful, Give It All Away, Change the Way, and One Day. If you have not heard any of his music, check it out. He is currently on tour with Mercy Me and is about to release his sophmore album. You can find out more about Aaron Shust by visiting

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm still bloggin

I missed you in Charlotte at the Empowered Church conference this weekend. It was great. There was a lot of solid preaching, which both encouraged, convicted, and refreshed me, and there was also some great breakout sessions. I will post on some of these sessions soon, and let you know what you missed.
Stay encouraged on your blogging. I appreciate the time that you put into this and enjoy reading your insights. Peace Out.

Book Review: God's Lesser Glory

Ware, Bruce A. God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000. 240pp. $17.99.

Bruce Ware's sensitivity is apparent early on in this book. Foremost for Ware is his sensitivity for the glory of God. Ware views Open Theism as a direct assault against God as it denies his exhaustive knowledge of the future, and as Ware demonstrates, would if true, dramatically lesson our confidence in God.

At the same time, Ware is sensitive to the authors whom he critiques. Ware says, "It is the views of this movement and its advocates that I oppose, not the individuals who advocate them (9)." Ware successfully avoids attacking the open theists themselves, and more importantly undermines the weaknesses in the exegesis and theology of the open theists.

Open Theism proposes that God voluntarily created this present universe with human beings who are free to make decisions regardless of whether they please God or not. Because human beings are created free, God does not know perfectly what the future holds. Open Theists believe that if God knows the decisions of mankind before they actually were made then somehow they would not be free decisions but predetermined by God.

The importance of God's Lesser Glory is significant because many open theologians including Boyd, Sanders, and Pinnock claim to be evangelical Christians. Subsequently, this means that each of these theologians sincerely believe the theologies they espouse are biblical. This point makes Ware's treatment of the subject all the more weightier.
The classical Christian understanding of God's exhaustive knowledge of past, present, and future and open theism, which denies God's exhaustive knowledge of the future, cannot both be true.

In God's Lesser Glory, Ware chiefly interacts with open theologians Gregory Boyd, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, and David Basinger. In chapters 2 & 3, Ware lays out the open theist position chiefly described by the theologians named above. Ware not only describes the theology of open theism but he also expresses the so-called applications and benefits this view of God brings to his people.

The driving contention of open theists, according to Ware is genuine relationship. Open theists reject God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future because it simply eliminates, according to them, any potential for an authentic interaction between God and mankind. Therefore open theists reject the idea that God decreed points about our lives in eternity past before we were born. Open theists also reject doctrines like irresistible grace. Any doctrine which impedes human freedom is rejected.

In chapter 2 & 3, Ware highlights some of the more prominent biblical texts used by open theists as evidence that God does not know the future. God’s comment of “now I know that you fear me,” to Abraham as he is about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:10-12), God’s repenting of making Saul King of Israel (1 Samuel 15:11, 35), God’s changing of his mind about the descendants of Abraham with Moses (Exodus 32), and God’s word about how he thought Israel would turn back to him, but they did not (Jeremiah 3:6-7) are all discussed through the lens of open theology.

In the minds of the open theologians these texts demonstrate first, that God did not know if Abraham was willing to slay Isaac, therefore it was important for God to establish a test to see if Abraham was trustworthy. Second, open theists declare that God repents like man, therefore he has remorse about his own actions. Third, God can even be wrong about his understanding about what will take place in the future.

Ware even makes note how some open theologians believe that God knew it was a possibility that Adam and Eve could choose to sin, but considering all that God did for them, it was not probable. Furthermore Sanders, as quoted by Ware (46-47) suggests that Jesus’ death on the cross was not fully known by God until after the prayer in Gethsemane.

Ware goes on to show that in the minds and hearts of open theists, the implication of God not knowing the future helps with ministering to hurting people. Ware gives a lengthy example given by Boyd (56-58). But the question that arises in this reader’s mind is: how is it helpful to me to know that God does not know the future and that he is either unwilling or unable to sovereignly counter the choices of his sinful creatures?

From this point in the book, Ware scripturally demonstrates the teaching of God’s perfect knowledge of the future, the very thing open theists claim the Bible teaches otherwise. Ware primarily accomplishes this by diving into the teachings of Isaiah in chapters 40-48. Through many examples (42:9, 44:6-8, 44:24-28, 45:1-7), it becomes clear that God’s claim to being God is inextricably tied to his knowledge of the future. For example, God says in Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Ware does move on to other areas in Scripture which also teach God’s exhaustive knowledge of future events. He cites examples from other OT passages like Psalm 139:4, 16 where God is ascribed to have the knowledge to know the number of our days before there is even one. How can this be true under the Open Theism model where God cannot know the future actions of free human beings, decisions that might lead to one’s death?

Ware gives NT examples which ascribe to God the son, Jesus Christ a knowledge which open theists declare he cannot have. In John 16:4, Jesus clearly tells his disciples things that will befall them before they happen. Again, is this so because God is great with odds, or because he really does know the future? Most of us who are familiar with the Bible will quickly recall Jesus’ accurate prophecy concerning Peter’s threefold denial. Again, how can Jesus know how many times Peter will deny him, and in addition to this, know when he will deny him?

There are further texts which speak in favor of the classical position. Texts like Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 clearly teach a predetermined plan, known to God of Jesus’ death. Ware addresses both these as well, in addition to other texts, but Ware does not stop here. He moves on to describe how this theology assaults the wisdom of God. Instead of a God who knows all things, you have a God who can only predict. But in his predictions, as argued by open theists, he can be wrong. As Boyd illustrates in his story back in pages 56-58, God can lead people down a path which he thinks will benefit them in the future, but at any given time, his calculations may prove damaging, and somehow this is supposed to be comforting.

As Ware goes on to say in chapters 7-9, this theology does not drive us to exalt God. Nor does this theology help us to take comfort in God. Open theism diminishes our view of God. The picture of God we see in Open Theism is more like a really wise man rather than a God. The picture we get of God in Open Theism is not the God described in Romans 8:28

Here is the crux of the argument in my mind. It comes down to weighing all the relevant texts. Christians need to honestly weigh the difficult texts in Scripture. We need to seriously consider those difficult texts raised by open theists. But we also need to take the vast amount of texts which undeniably speak of God’s perfect knowledge of the future and consider them. Then we must try to reconcile them if we can. My sympathies are with Ware. I believe the overwhelming support favors the classical view of God. This also means that my explanations might be a little more complicated when dealing with texts like Genesis 22 and 1 Samuel 15. Nevertheless it seems clear to me that the Bible teaches God's perfect knowledge of the future, and if we surrender this truth, we end up with an altogether different God than the one revealed in Scripture. This also is the conclusion Ware comes to as well. He says in conclusion on page 230, “We have here, then, a fundamentally different god, not merely a different version of God. For the sake of the glory that is God’s alone we have no choice but to reject the openness model.”

I highly recommend this text for pastors. While it is not common to meet open theists in my neck of the woods as they say, it never hurts to be prepared. In addition to this, the book is helpful in its analysis of some of the difficult texts raised by open theists. Readers might also want to follow up God’s Lesser Glory by Ware with God’s Greater Glory also by Ware as he lays out a systematic presentation of the doctrine of God’s providence.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Lost Tomb of Jesus...Here are some problems

Here is my attempt to synthesize many of the criticisms that have been levied against the Documentary film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Much of the information presented here comes from Ben Witherington and Richard Bauckham, as noted in the end notes.

Claim #1--The tenth ossuary is lost.

Based on this claim, the filmmakers suggest that the recent ossuary purchased on the market (not unearthed from a tomb) which had the inscription James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus could be a likely candidate as the missing tenth Talpiot ossuary. James Tabor even goes on to say that the measurements of the missing ossuary and the measurements of the known James ossuary are a match.


1. Amos Kloner and Joe Zias who were both archaeologists who worked the original site of the 10 ossuaries in 1980. Both have categorically denied that the 10th ossuary is missing.[1]

2. Furthermore, both archaeologists have stated that the tenth ossuary was blank with no ornamental designs or any inscriptions of names.[2] This is important because the James ossuary has an inscription.

Claim #2—The James ossuary was purchased around the same time the Talpiot tomb was discovered (1980).

Relatively speaking, perhaps this is true, but preciseness is very important here. If it could be proven that the James ossuary was purchased before the 1980 Talpiot tomb discovery then the claim would surely be put to rest.


1. Oded Golan (who purchased the James ossuary) has consistently said that he purchased the James ossuary before 1978 when Israeli laws changed.[3]

2. Oded Golan, in fact said he purchased it in the mid-70’s.[4]

3. In addition to this, in his ongoing trial, evidence has been produced which shows Golan with the James ossuary in a picture dated to the seventies.[5]

This is important because the Talpiot Tomb was not discovered until 1980 making it impossible for the James ossuary to have come from it. In light of this evidence, the patina test comparing the molecules contained on both the James ossuary and ossuaries coming from the Talpiot Tomb becomes less meaningful. Ted Koppel even produced a quote from the lab clarifying that the patina test alone does not prove that the ossuaries came from the same tomb.

Furthermore, it has been noted by many that the spikes did not align precisely in the film (I noticed this as well).

Claim #3: The Jose ossuary is compelling because it is rare and there is biblical evidence which suggests that Jesus had a brother who was called Joses (Mark 6:3).

While it is true that Jesus had a brother who was called Joses in the Gospel according to Mark, it is also true that the Gospel according to Mark also records another Joses (Mark 15) who was not Jesus’ brother. So while it might be rare to find this name on an ossuary, apparently it is not so rare that two Joses were running around together within Jesus own followers.

Claim #4: Jesus, son of Joseph is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph

A further question needs to be asked. The assumption by the filmmakers is that Jose is Jesus’ brother. If so, why would Jesus be the only brother distinguished as Jesus son of Joseph? Jose is not distinguished this way. It is merely Jose. Jesus own followers did not identify Jesus as “Jesus, son of Joseph.” If any of the two brothers should have had son of Joseph scripted by it if this were Jesus of Nazareth’s family tomb then it would have been Jose, not Jesus.

Matt 1:16 (NASU) Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

Mark 5:7 (NASU) and shouting with a loud voice, he ^said, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"

Hebr 4:14 (NASU) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession

Luke 3:23 (NASU) When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

His critics call him the son of Joseph in (exception in John 1:45)

John 6:42 (NASU) They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, `I have come down out of heaven'?"

Mark 6:3 (NASU) "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.

The claim that this is Jesus of Nazareth comes from the combination of the names and its location coupled with statistics. But as we shall see it is one big chain of speculation that cannot withstand scrutiny.

Claim #5: Maria was the styled and common name of Jesus’ mother.

Problem 1. Yet in the earliest texts to the time of Jesus (Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) Mariam is used just as often as Maria with reference to Jesus’ mother. In fact, Mariam is used of Mary the mother of Jesus more than Maria.

Claims #6-7: The Mariamenou-Mara ossuary belongs to Mary Magdalene. Mariamne is rare, and there is a connection to Mary Magdalene.

This will be the most technical debate involving all the arguments made by the film.


1. Mary Magdalene IS NEVER referred to in the earliest gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) as Mariamene/Mariamne. She is always identified as Maria and Mariam Magdalene.

Why is this important? Because these particular gospels were written by individuals who lived in the same time period with Jesus and who knew Mary Magdalene.

Mariam—Hebrew name This name was most commonly translated in Greek as Maria and Mariame/Mariamme[6]

One of the major criticisms of the film is the way the producers talk about Mary Magdalene within Christian tradition. Many of the examples which are used in this film are not grounded within universally accepted Christian tradition but are found in Gnostic traditions. Gnostics are people who took some principles from the Bible and perverted its teachings to fit there own ideology. They would also use some of the characters from the Bible and tell apocryphal stories to further illustrate the perverted doctrines they believed.

In the film they allude to competing understandings of Christianity, and that the Catholic Church won out, thus they stamped out or tried to stamp other legitimate forms of Christianity. The church combating perverse theologies is nothing new. The Apostles themselves, as demonstrated in Scripture had to at nearly every turn combat some false teaching.

All of this is to say that these “Christian traditions” as used in the documentary are called apocryphal and Gnostic for reasons. They are unhistorical stories using biblical names. They are also false teachings. It is within Apocryphal and Gnostic traditions where Mary Magdalene’s name is eventually transformed from Maria/Mariam to Mariame/Mariamme.


1. Celsus—a strident critic of Christianity spells her name Mariamme (3rd century)

2. Gospel of Mary: Mariamme (3rd Century)

3. Sophia of Jesus Christ: Gnostic work spells it Mariamme[7]

Hippolytus appears to be the first writer to refer to Mary Magdalene with a spelling of Mariamne (with the ‘n’) in his work called Refutation of all Heresies (note the title).[8] Hippolytus is refuting false claims made about Mary Magdalene, similar myths propagated by the Lost Tomb of Jesus/Divinci Code theorists.

Dr. Tabor mentioned Hippolytus’ work on the critical segment of the show in defense of the name, Mariamne but he said Hippolytus’ work was 2nd century, however it was written between 228-233 making it 3rd century (even farther from the time of Jesus).[9]

In addition to this scholars are unsure whether Hippolytus himself wrote it that way because there are two manuscript chains flowing from the original and one has Mariamme and the other has Mariamne, so Mariamne may be even a later development in the 3rd century.[10]

Dr. Richard Bauckham believes the name Mariamne is a late deformation of the name Mariamme by users who were not familiar with the name (it was rarely used after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD). The filmmakers also put forth the Acts of Philip as another source where the rare Mariamne is used for Mary Magdalene. Again, here is the major problem. The Acts of Philip dates to the 4th-5th century (hundreds of years beyond the time of Jesus). And it is universally accepted as Apocryphal, that is an unhistorical account using Biblical characters including Mary Magdalene. So while the filmmakers are technically correct to link the name Mariamne to Mary Magdalene. It can only be established as a link to a time period hundreds of years beyond the time period the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And as Dr. Bauckham has demonstrated, the name was most likely a corruption of the name Mariamme by later Greek speakers who were unfamiliar with the name.

Therefore, there is ZERO EVIDENCE that Mary Magdalene was ever called Mariamne by her contemporaries. All the evidence points to Maria/Mariam Magdalene being the name she was addressed by when speaking with 1st century Jews and Gentiles.

2. Is there really a direct connection with Mariamne (Acts of Philip, Hippolytus) with the name written on the ossuary itself, that is mariamenou? The Discovery Channel Filmmakers are equating the two presumably by contraction (Mariamene contracts to Mariamne). I say presumably because they never say, and they were never asked. Why is this important? Because the inscription Mariamenou does not come from Mariamne, but Mariamenon/Mariamene.[11]

Therefore, if Mariamne is not contracted from Mariamene as Bauckham suggests, then there is not even a connection between this inscription and the Acts of Philip anyway (even though we have already demonstrated how weak that point was).

Claim #7: Mariamenou-mara should be translated as “belonging to Mary or the Master.”

The filmmakers suggest that Mara in Aramaic means Master (maranatha; see 1 Corinthians 16:22), and we affirm this point. But did not the filmmakers say that this box alone was inscribed in Greek unlike the rest of the boxes which were inscribed in Aramaic?

Rahmani suggests that the box could be translated instead of “belonging to Mary or the Master” as “belonging to Mary who {was also called} Mara (short for Martha). It was not uncommon for a person to have a Greek name (Mariamene) and an Aramaic one (Mara).[12]

Misc. Criticisms
As I have shown already, the statistical argument is shallow once you take Matthew and Mary Magdalene out of the equation. Furthermore, we have no evidence that the Maria ossuary in this Tomb is the mother of the man identified as Jesus, son of Joseph. We have no evidence that Jose was the brother of the man identified as Jesus, son of Joseph. Statistics are only as good as the formula, and the formula presented in this documentary is rampant with gross speculation.

The DNA evidence only proved that Mariamenou-Mara was not maternally related to Jesus, son of Joseph. She could have been a half-sister from their father’s side. She could have been an aunt from his father’s side. She could have been a cousin from his father’s side, etc….

There is the claim also that the beloved disciple was not John the Apostle, but a son of Jesus through Mary Magdalene. And this was linked to the ossuary inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus.” John makes abundantly clear the purpose of Jesus’ words was to incite John the Apostle (historic understanding for the identity of the beloved disciple) to take Jesus’ mother into his own household and care for her, which the texts says he did (John 19). Yet the filmmakers said this could have been Jesus speaking to his own blood son. But did you notice the Judah, son of Jesus ossuary? It was for an infant or child. It makes no sense for Jesus to say this to a child, why? Because a child cannot take care of himself let alone his mother.

Theological Note: Dr Tabor made the point that he believes the Bible does not endorse a physical resurrection. And he alludes to 1 Corinthians 15:35. The historic Catholic/Protestant understanding of Scripture affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is an attempt to understand Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 Spiritual does not equate to the opposite of physical. Paul is not saying the body will not be physical, but it will be wrought by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 2:13).[13]

The spiritual are those who have been born again, and are being changed by the Spirit into conformity to Christ through sanctification.

Reflect on Romans 8:11 Roma 8:11 (NASU) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Reflect on John 20:24-28 Thomas put his hands in the physically resurrected body. The earliest accounts make abundantly clear that Jesus body was gone (Matt 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:22-23; John 20:12).

[1] Ben Witherington,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ricahrd Bauckham,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anthony C. Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, NIGTC, 1276-1281. See also Denny Burk,

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Survey of Various Blog Posts

Like many in the Christian world, my attention has been captured by the claim of the supposed discovery of the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. The official web site for this show which will air Sunday Night on the Discovery Channel is found here.

Some of strongest criticisms I have found on the blogosphere are:

Problems Multiply for Jesus Tomb Theory by Ben Witherington
The Smoking Gun---Tenth Talpiot Ossuary Proved to be Blank by Ben Witherington
Did They Really Find Jesus' Bones? by Craig Blomberg
The Alleged 'Jesus family tomb' by Richard Bauckham
Also Darrell Bock has posted several posts on this subject found here. Dr. Bock will also be a part of the guest panel of scholars who will debate the merits of this film after the show on the Discovery Channel.

Denny Burk has amassed a catalogue of various sources of additional critiques of the 'Lost Tomb of Jesus.'

Thabiti Anyabwile has posted his thoughts from his recent trip to Southeast Asia where he debated Muslims and many opportunities to interact with both Muslims and Christians living in a Muslim dominated country.

Mark Overstreet has linked to an article written by John MacArthur who disagrees with the methodology of Mark Driscoll and believes he has soaked up too much of the culture in his attempt to be culturally relevant with the gospel.