"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 7, Number 8, August 2004

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

 

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The Septuagint--B.C. or A.D.?

Part II

(continued from AISI 7:7)

 

HEROES OF KJVO-ISM SPEAK

 

Edward F. Hills

 

Edward F. Hills, the “father” of the “providential restoration” view of the Greek text of the NT (namely, that though some of the original wording of the Greek NT was lost during the centuries of copying, God used Erasmus and the Latin Vulgate to restore the text to its original condition) speaks to the matter of the Septuagint’s date in both his Believing Bible Study (1967; pp. 15-16) and The King James Version Defended (1973; pp. 93-94) in words that are largely verbatim the same.  Hills plainly accepts a pre-Christian (and certainly pre-Origenic) date for the entire Greek OT translation (the quote below is taken from The King James Version Defended; clauses in brackets are inserted from the parallel text in Believing Bible Study)--

 

“Although the unbelief of the Jews and their consequent hostility deprived the Church for a time of the Hebrew Old Testament and of the benefits of Hebrew scholarship, still the providence of God did not permit that the Old Testament Scriptures should ever be taken away wholly from His believing people.  Even before the coming of Christ [[emphasis added--ed.]] God had brought into being the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament translation which was to serve the Church as a temporary substitute until such a time as the ancient Hebrew Bible could be restored to her.  According to tradition, this translation was made at Alexandria for the library of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, by a delegation of seventy Jewish elders, hence the name Septuagint (Seventy).  According to Irwin (1949), the Septuagint was not produced in any such official way but arose out of the needs of the Alexandrian Jews.  The Pentateuch, it is said, was translated first in the 3rd century B.C., the other Old Testament books following later.  [In the opinion of Swete (1902), ‘It is probable that before the Christian era Alexandria possessed the whole, or nearly the whole, of the Hebrew Scriptures in a Greek translation’].  From Alexandria the use of the Septuagint rapidly spread until in the days of the Apostles it was read everywhere in the synagogues of the Greek-speaking Jews outside of Palestine.  Then, at length, converts from these Greek-speaking synagogues brought their Septuagint with them into the Christian Church.” (pp. 93-4)

 

Hills goes on to explain how the Apostles made use of the Septuagint version, a de facto acceptance on Hills’ part of its existence and wide acceptance in Apostolic times--

 

“When one studies the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament, one is struck by the inspired wisdom which the Apostles exhibited in their attitude toward the Septuagint.  On the one hand, they did not invariably set this version aside and make new translations from the Hebrew.  Such an emphasis on the Hebrew would have been harmful to the gentile churches which had just been formed.  It would have brought these gentile Christians into a position of dependence upon the unbelieving Jewish rabbis on whose learning they would have been obligated to rely for an understanding of the Hebrew Old Testament.  But on the other hand, the Apostles did not quote from the Septuagint invariably and thus encourage the notion that this Greek translation was equal to the Hebrew Old Testament in authority.  Instead, they walked the middle way between these two extremes.  Sometimes they cited the Septuagint verbatim, even when it departed from the Hebrew in non-essential ways, and sometimes they made their own translation directly from the Hebrew or used their knowledge of Hebrew to improve the rendering of the Septuagint.  [Moreover, although the Apostles sometimes quoted the Septuagint in passages in which it departed from the Hebrew text, they never gave their approval to the errors of the Septuagint].”

 

All very sound and sensible this, and in concert with the facts.  And wholly ignored by extremist KJVO radicals for the pure moonshine fabrications of Ruckman.

 

Dean Burgon

 

Dean John William Burgon (1813-1888), darling of the KJVOites, also clearly accepted a pre-Christian date for the Septuagint, for he declares with regard to the Greek wording of Luke 1:37, “The Greek of that place has been fashioned on the Septuagintal rendering of Genesis 18:14.” (The Revision Revised.  London: John Murray, 1883; p. 183).  Burgon, then, recognized, that the Septuagint Greek version preceded the writing of the Gospel of Luke, and in fact, influenced its wording in this particular passage.

 

The Translators of the KJV

 

Not only did Burgon accept the pre-Christian date of the LXX, so expressly did the King James Version’s own translators.  On the unnumbered 7th and 8th pages of “The Translators to the Readers” of the original edition of the KJV we read:

 

“The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the Original in many places, neither doth it come near it, for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it?  Condemn it?  Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Jerome and most learned men do confess) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church,

if it had been unworthy of the appellation and name of the word of God.” 

 

The KJVOers who venerate and exalt the KJV translators as the most learned of men--ever--to undertake the translation of the Bible (a false claim, by the way), nevertheless de facto condemn them as abjectly ignorant on so basic a matter as the date, origin and value of the LXX translation, a version those translators often consulted and sometimes followed against the Masoretic Hebrew text in making the KJV.  These KJV translators accepted as fact that the LXX pre-dated the NT era, was often quoted and thereby de facto commended by the Apostles, and though less than perfect was nevertheless both useful and worthy of the appellation “the Word of God.”  The whole weight of the evidence and of Christian opinion for two millennia agrees with the KJV men here, against the KJVO radicals of today.

 

So, then, Edward F. Hills, whose doctrine of infallible restoration is part and parcel of KJVOism, Dean John W. Burgon, who has become the virtual patron saint of KJVOism and whose name is invoked as virtually the final authority, and the very translators of the KJV itself all assent readily to the standard view of the LXX--that it pre-dates the time of Christ, and was in fact used by Christ, the Apostles and the writers of the NT.  These respected and revered sources are cast aside so that the unsupported, unsubstantiated, indeed demonstrably false claims of Peter S. Ruckman, Sr. can be unquestioningly embraced.

 

Further ancient evidence from sources Jewish and Christian could be marshaled, but if the above is insufficient to persuade the reader, he cannot be persuaded by evidence of whatever sort.  Or, to quote Samuel Johnson, “I have gotten you an argument; I am not able to get you an understanding.”

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

As I have once again examined the evidence regarding the date and provenance of the LXX (for at least the third, perhaps the fourth, time over the past 30 years), I have been struck by the complete absence of ANY corroborating evidence to support the claim of a 3rd century A.D. date for this Greek translation of the OT, with the whole mass of evidence, without exception, supporting a B.C. date for a complete Greek translation of the OT.  The complete absence of supporting evidence on one side, and the presence of all evidence on the other compels the conclusion that all those who adhere to the 3rd century A.D. date for the LXX Greek OT translation must do so with complete reliance on the specious claims of Ruckman and with absolutely no independent investigation of the facts.  I am fully persuaded that no one who has taken the least trouble to make the barest investigation could possibly deny that a Greek translation of the whole OT existed well before the time of Christ.  I urge the gullible swallowers of Ruckman’s fabrications to openly and honestly re-examine this issue, to study some of the standard works below, and see if they have not been grossly deceived in this matter.

 

And the very existence of a Greek translation--any Greek translation, whether pre-Christian or post-Origen--compels KJVO advocates to do some explaining.  Assuming it is true that verbal preservation of the Bible in translation is a necessary corollary of verbal inspiration (for so they interpret--wrest, really,--certain Bible verses, including Psalm 12:6-7 and Matthew 24:35; we expressly deny the premise), we must ask: where is the perfectly preserved Greek version?  Surely God must have--assuming your premise--given Greek-speaking Christians the same kind of OT, a verbally preserved one, that you claim He has given you in the KJV.  First, second and third century Christians were overwhelmingly Greek-speaking.  Did they not need the oracles of God in their own tongue?  Did they not need it in just as pure a form as you claim for the KJV?  Must not God have provided them with a verbally preserved translation?  If so, which is it?  The LXX?  You’ve already jettisoned that, even though some Christian writers of the second and later centuries began to claim for it perfect inspiration and preservation of the sort you now claim for the KJV (see One Bible Only? edited by Roy E. Beacham and Kevin T. Bauder [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001] pp. 27-42, where I trace this phenomenon of claims of infallible translations through many centuries, languages and versions).  If not the LXX, then perhaps that of Aquila, or Theodotion, or Symmachus?  But these were all unbelieving adherents of Christ-rejecting Judaism, and are, besides, extant in only fragmentary--defectively preserved--form.  Where then is the ostensibly necessary preserved Greek version?  Anywhere?  If none such Greek version exists or ever existed, then the alleged promise of God is not kept (or, what is actually the truth, the interpretation which finds such a promise is exposed as defective).  Before you can begin to claim that your 17th century KJV is verbally preserved, you must tell us where the verbally preserved Greek OT is, since the need for it (if there is such a need) came a millennium and a half before the need for the KJV arose.  If God did not provide a verbally preserved perfect Greek version for the earliest Christians, why would you think that He would do it for you, simply because you speak English?

 

The motive behind the “no LXX before Origen” madness may be this: if the LXX existed in the days of Christ and the Apostles, and if Christ and the Apostles often quoted from it as authoritative (as the Bible quotations in the NT demonstrate was in fact the case--see our article on “Quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament,” in AISI 3:8), and if the LXX is demonstrably a less-than-perfect translation of the Hebrew text (as it admittedly is), then we have a clear case of Jesus and the Apostles making good use of and deriving spiritual profit from an uninspired, imperfectly preserved translation.  In short, the example of Christ and the Apostles in their use of the LXX version of the OT demonstrates that it was not necessary that they--or we--have an “infallible and inspired, perfectly preserved” translation before they could know or serve God.  It is therefore not a corollary of perfect verbal inspiration that there must be perfect verbal preservation in translation.  Rather, a translation that is generally good though imperfect in details can be entirely adequate.  It then follows that the very foundational premise of KJVOism--that we must have, and therefore do have such an inspired and infallible Bible translation in the KJV--is exposed as entirely bogus, a sham, a fraud.

---Doug Kutilek

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Sources

 

[Note: this is a much abbreviated, selective bibliography.  Additional authoritative sources of information--all of a similar nature--could be added, increasing the list fivefold at least.  The reader will find these typical of the literature on the subject, and most if not all include extensive bibliographies of their own.  The honest reader, interested in knowing the truth instead of merely adopting an unfounded dogma would do well to consult some of these sources and thereby emerge from the self-delusion and willing ignorance of the KJVOnly camp into the light of evidence, facts and truth]

 

The Letter of Aristeas in English translation can be found in:

 

Charlesworth, James H., ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol . 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1985), pp. 7-34, with an informative introduction.

 

Platt, Rutherford H., Jr., ed., The Forgotten Books of Eden (Alpha House, 1927; World Bible Publishers, Inc. reprint, bound with Lost Books of the Bible), pp. 140-176.

 

For those who wish to consult the Greek text of the letter, this is provided in Swete’s Introduction (see below), pp. 551-606.

 

The Text of the LXX

 

Breton, Lancelot, The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, reprint of Samuel Bagster & Sons, London, 1851 edition).  This gives the text of the LXX according to the state of knowledge in the early 19th century, accompanied by a good English translation.  It also includes the Apocryphal books.  The “Introduction,” pp. i-vi, gives an adequate treatment, consistent with the state of knowledge at the time, of the origin of the LXX, its content, subsequent history and importance.

 

Rahlfs, Alfred, Septuaginta. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1935).  This is the standard one-volume (originally 2-volume) edition met with today.  Pp. 56-65 contain “History of the Septuagint Text.”

 

The Origin and History of the LXX (sources listed chronologically)

 

Selwyn, William, “Septuagint,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint of 1870 edition), vol. IV, pp. 2912-2926.

 

Pick, Bernard, “Septuagint,” in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, edited by John McLintock and James Strong (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint of 1867-1887 edition), vol. IX, pp. 538-554.

 

Nestle, Eberhard, “Septuagint” in Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902), vol. IV, pp. 437-454.

 

Conybeare, F. C., and Stock, St. George, Grammar of Septuagint Greek (n. l.: Hendrickson, 1995 reprint with additions of Boston: Ginn and Co., 1905 edition).  The “Introduction,” pp. 1-24 examines in detail the origin and nature of the LXX.

 

Nestle, Eberhard, “Bible Versions: Septuagint,” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by Samuel A. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint), vol. II, pp. 115-121.

 

Swete, Henry B., An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, revised by Richard R. Ottley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914, 2nd ed.) was long the standard treatment of the Septuagint, and though out-of-date in some regards, it is still an indispensable detailed trove of information about all aspects of the Septuagint.  Pp. 1-28 discuss the origin and date of the LXX version.

 

Thackeray, Henry St. John, “Septuagint” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by James Orr (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Co., 1929), vol. IV, pp. 2722-2732

 

Jellicoe, Sidney, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: University Press, 1968).  Supplements and up-dates Swete, with a discussion of Aristeas as well as modern theories of the LXX’s origin, including Paul Kahle’s, on pp. 29-73.

 

Gooding, D. W., “Texts and Versions: The Septuagint,” in New Bible Dictionary, edited by J. D. Douglas (Leicester, England: Inter-varsity Press, 1982, second edition), pp. 1181-1184.

 

Peters, Melvin K. H., “Septuagint,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), vol. V, pp. 1093-1104.  A very thorough, up-to-date article with extensive bibliography.

 

Jobes, Karen H., and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000).  The most recent general treatment of the Septuagint.  Matters of its origin are treated on pp. 29ff. (reviewed in AISI, 6:10)

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More Wisdom from Wiersbe:

Additional Quotes from God Isn’t In a Hurry

 

“We are certain of the future; therefore, let’s be busy in the present.  The best way to prepare for meeting Christ at any time is to do his will right now.”

 

God Isn’t In a Hurry

Baker Book House, 1994

p. 28

 

“Those of us who minister the Word often meet undecided Christians who run from preacher to preacher in search of the will of God.  We have learned a long time ago that these ‘gospel gadflies’ are not looking for the will of God--they are looking for a second opinion, hoping to meet a pastor or a Bible teacher who will tell them what they want to hear.”

            p. 31

 

“I think we have confused novelty and change and have hidden confusion under the guise of being contemporary.  Change for the sake of change is simply novelty, and it does not last.  Change for the sake of improvement is progress, and progress is what we need.  The sad thing about the contemporary emphasis is that it may keep us from diagnosing the real sickness in the church and securing the remedy.  We are rearranging the furniture while the walls are falling down.”

p. 35

“Campbell Morgan said that the church did the most for the world when the church was least like the world, and he was right.”

p. 36

 

“I, for one, am tired of hearing immature Christian entertainers ridicule our spiritual heritage in the name of contemporary evangelism.”

p. 37

 

“What would happen to our practical Christian walk if we drove home from church in quiet meditation instead of listening to the car radio or a new music cassette?  Or if we spent a few minutes at home alone with the Lord instead of immediately turning on the television of picking up the newspaper?”

p. 48

 

“Why does God permit ‘enlarged troubles’?  Surely our Father in heaven would want his children to be comfortable and free from afflictions.  Not so!  God has never promised to make us comfortable, but he has promised to make us conformable.  Our Father’s purpose is that all of his children ‘be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29); and in order to conform us, he must permit us to suffer.  Even our Lord Jesus learned obedience through suffering. . . . He knows how much you can take and how long the trial should be.  But he watches us to see if the trials are accomplishing all that they should accomplish.”

pp. 55, 56

 

“God has sent us out to be witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys.”

p. 63

 

“Whatever God calls me to do is the most important task at hand, and I must do it.”

p. 67

 

“The test of spiritual Christian living is not how much trouble we can escape but whether or not we are glorifying God in every circumstance.”

p. 74

 

“Evangelist Billy Sunday used to say that sinners cannot find God for the same reason criminals cannot find the policemen: They aren’t looking!”

p. 83

 

“A church on the move must confront reality and meet people where they are.  Separation is not isolation--it is contact without contamination.  Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners.  Many church members don’t have any unsaved friends, or if they do, they keep them at a distance. . . . Many churches today have abandoned the marketplace and spend their time reminding one another of the gospel.”

p. 89

 

“Real preaching is an act of worship, and listening to preaching ought to be an act of worship.”

p. 95

 

“We are emerging from an era of superstars and celebrities, people who have used Christians to build up their ministries instead of using their ministries to build up Christians.”

p. 105

 

“An outline is not a sermon any more than a recipe is a meal or a blueprint is a building.  We fill our notebooks and inflate our heads, but our hearts are still cold and empty.  We grow in knowledge without growing in grace.”

p. 115

 

“It came as a hard lesson for me to learn, but I have discovered that God can bless people I disagree with.  I am not talking about those who deny our Lord, but about born-again people who may have different ideas and interpretations, or different methods, from my own.”

p. 116

 

“No singer has the right to sing a lie any more than a preacher has the right to preach a lie.  In one of my pastorates, we had a young lady with a beautiful voice who often sang solos.  Unfortunately, she was rather careless in her personal life, and she became engaged to an unsaved man.  One Sunday, I learned that she was going to sing ‘Submission,’ a truly beautiful song; but I put a stop to it.  I had refused to perform the marriage ceremony, and I certainly was not going to let her ‘perform’ in church when she was openly defying God’s standards for Christian marriage.”

p. 119

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

A Table in the Presence by Lt. Carey H. Cash.  Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2004.  242 pp., hardback, $19.99.

 

I strongly suspect (and fervently hope) that most conservative Christians have been praying much over the past year and a half for the physical and spiritual well-being of American troops in the Middle East, especially for the forces fighting in Iraq (and as the father of a son in Iraq, I implore you to keep praying!).  No doubt many have received bits and pieces of reports from Iraq of God’s deliverance from harm, or how God has been working in servicemen’s hearts.  But this is the first published account of such that I am aware of; the subtitle describes the contents: “The dramatic account of how a U.S. Marine battalion experienced God’s presence amidst the chaos of the war in Iraq.”

 

The author, a Navy chaplain assigned to the 1st battalion, 5th Marines, recounts the 40 days in Kuwait before the invasion of Iraq (during which large numbers of men in the unit came to Christ), the initial invasion of Iraq and the first American fatality, Lt. Shane Childers (who, incidentally, graduated from the Citadel with my son Matthew in 2001 and was a close personal friend), the road to Baghdad, and a horrific firefight they experienced in the taking of Baghdad.  Through it all, the protecting and guiding hand of God was evident (including an incident reminiscent of 2 Kings 6:15-17).

 

There are some theological peculiarities, especially in spite of the author’s being a Southern Baptist and graduate of Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth.  For example, the author “baptized” converts by pouring water on their foreheads from a “chalice,” instead of immersion; he refers to the elements of the Lord’s Supper as “sacraments” and speaks at times as if they were a means of grace.  He speaks of “parishioners” and is a bit too ecumenical for me.  Yet, the accounts of conversions seem to be genuine.

 

The book could not be described as excellent, but it is timely.  God is working in Iraq, in the midst of conflict and in response to prayers, to save sinners, and to work His will in the kingdoms of men.  Let us pray that the present events in the Middle East will swing wide open the door to evangelizing the local populace who have been shut out from the Gospel by the tyranny of Islam and that from the coalition forces there, many will find Christ, and of that number, that many will be summoned by God to return to that region, armed, not with physical weapons, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

           

I bought my copy at Sam’s for about 35% of the cover price.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.  397 pp., paperback.

 

The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity by Lee Strobel.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.  299 pp., paperback.

 

“Apologetics,” as used with reference to Biblical studies, is the marshalling of evidence to defend the reasonableness, the veracity, the historicity of the Bible’s claims.  Apologetics seeks to bolster the faith of the believer, on the one hand, and to discredit the objections of the critic and remove obstacles from the path to faith of the unbeliever on the other.  Books on apologetics date from the second century A.D. when Christian apologists such as Justin Martyr began to defend the Christian faith against governmental persecutions, attacks of pagans, and subversions by heretics.  Books on apologetics must number in the hundreds, even thousands.

 

The primary problem with many books on apologetics, especially those aimed at educated critics, is that the author lacks the full intellectual preparation to write with authority on the whole spectrum of subjects he addresses.  To authoritatively defend the reliability of Scripture, a man would have to be an expert in Hebrew, Greek, and preferably several other languages (among them Aramaic, Latin, and several other ancient Near Eastern languages, such as Egyptian, Akkadian, and more), be well-versed in the textual criticism of both testaments, master the issues regarding the canon of Scripture (i.e., why the Bible contains the books it does contain and excludes the books it does exclude), have a thorough knowledge of ancient Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean history, know thoroughly the relevant archaeology, have a broad understanding of philosophy and comparative religions, and science, besides a thorough acquaintance with the actual contents of the Bible.  Of course, no single man, not even in several lifetimes, could attain such necessary expertise in all these fields.

 

The author Lee Strobel avoids this problem by consulting numerous experts in various aspects of apologetics in which they are indeed expert, rather than posing as the expert himself.  Strobel, once an investigative reporter and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune and himself a rabid skeptic towards Christ and the Bible, was a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church where Bill Hybels is pastor, and now is at Saddleback Valley Community Church in the Los Angeles area. 

 

Returning to his persona as an investigative reporter, Strobel interviews numerous well-informed scholars, asking them the questions that skeptics ask (including those he asked in his search for truth in the early 1980s), challenging their answers, raising objections, and reporting the experts’ responses.  The results are on the whole quite satisfying, showing that to an unprejudiced mind, the Bible and Christianity give satisfying, credible answers to the challenges by critics or seekers.  Of course, no evidence can convince the mind of the malevolently critical.  Such people do not seek truth; they seek affirmation of what they have already decided to believe.

 

In The Case for Christ, Strobel addresses the credibility of the Gospel records, their date and the basis (eyewitness or not?) of their claims.  How early is the testimony in the Gospels and the rest of the NT?  Are the four Biblical Gospels the most reliable sources of information about Jesus?  Are our copies of the Gospels accurate transcriptions of the originals?  Does extra-biblical evidence (literary and archaeological) corroborate or contradict the Gospel portrait of Jesus?  Is the Jesus who is the object of faith of millions the same as the historic Jesus of the first century?  What was Jesus’ perception of Himself--who did He believe Himself to be?  Since He claimed to be God, did He display any evidence of mental disease (a common, near universal occurrence with those who make such claims)?  Did He have the attributes of God, and did He really fulfill the OT prophecies of the Messiah?  Did He really die, or did He fake His death?  Was the tomb empty on Easter morning and His body gone?  Can the reports of post-death appearances be believed?  On the whole, the experts’ answers to these questions are excellent (though Ben Witherington’s remarks on Jesus’ self-perception stop short--unnecessarily--of acknowledging that Jesus claimed to be God, pp. 187-8, which He most assuredly did do).  Another error, a relatively minor one, is the affirmation that the Gospels were written after most of Paul’s letters were written (p. 43).  More accurately, about half of Paul’s letters pre-date Luke (and Matthew?), a smaller number pre-date Mark, and all pre-date John

 

Strobel concludes this book with the most practical of applications--if Jesus is who the Bible says He is, and if He did what the Bible said He did, then commitment of one’s soul to Him is the only reasonable response to the evidence.  He uses his own conversion testimony as a paradigm for other seekers for the truth.

 

The book contains extensive bibliography for further study.

 

The Case for Faith addresses broader issues, dealing with 8 common, often repeated, objections to the exclusive truth claims of the Bible.  The issues include the existence of evil and suffering, miracles versus science, creation versus evolution, Christ as the only way of salvation in a pluralistic world, the problem of hell, and the unchristian conduct of professing Christianity through the ages.

 

Strobel begins with the sad case of Charles Templeton, once a budding young evangelist and co-laborer of Billy Graham, who abandoned the faith and died in utter unbelief.  Templeton apostasized because God did not conform to his notions of what God should be and do.  What caused this once strong advocate of Christianity to jettison his faith?  And why have others refused to believe?  What obstacles, what objections blocked their personal paths to God?

 

As with The Case for Christ, Strobel travels across the continent seeking expert Christian apologists to address these issues, and he, the reporter, records their remarks, interacting with their claims.  And again, on the whole, and in particular cases superbly so, the answers to the skeptics’ challenges are met and more than answered.

 

Not that the book is flawless.  On of the experts, William Lane Craig, is an “old earth” creationist, who accepts the latest guesses of secular, anti-supernaturalistic “science,” particularly with regard to the so-called Big Bang (which is being increasingly discredited by those very secular scientists; see The Big Bang Fizzles in AISI 7:7).  One would think that evangelical scholars would learn from frequent (and bad) experience that when they choose to follow the philosophical and indeed religious musings of atheistic scientists regarding the origins of the universe, they--the Christians--will inevitably end up with egg on their face when those scientists abandon their old now-demonstrably impossible theory for a new soon-to-be discredited theory.

 

Likewise, J. P. Moreland, in discussing the issue of eternal hell, dismisses the frequent Biblical ascription of eternal fire in hell as merely figurative language (p. 176, 185).  That fire is presented over and over again in Scripture as one of the features of the place of eternal confinement of the lost--and more so in the words of Jesus than any other person in the NT--strongly supports the reality and literalness of the Biblical description.

 

In spite of their blemishes, both these books by Strobel can be strongly recommended.  Indeed, The Case of Christ is “just what the Doctor ordered” to counter the wholly bogus claims of the highly popular novel and soon-to-be-a-movie, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (we hope to address that subject in the next AISI), which is nothing less than a malevolent attempt at subverting the credibility of the Gospels.  I am glad to see that these two Case books by Strobel have been repeatedly reprinted (The Case of Christ is in its 36th printing, at least, and The Case for Faith is in at least its 21st) and are receiving wide distribution.

---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes from, The Case for Faith--

 

Quoting Peter Kreeft, “Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist.” (p. 33)

 

Quoting Peter Kreeft, “God gives us just enough evidence so that those who want him can have him.  Those who want to follow the clues will.” (p. 33)

 

Quoting Peter Kreeft, “The overwhelming majority of the pain in the world is caused by our choices to kill, to slander, to be selfish, to stray sexually, to break our promises, to be reckless.” (p. 38)

 

Quoting Peter Kreeft, “The greatest Christians in history seem to say that their sufferings ended up bringing them the closest to God--so this is the best thing that could happen, not the worst.” (p. 40)

 

Quoting Peter Kreeft, “On my door there’s a cartoon of two turtles.  One says, ‘Sometimes I’d like to ask why [God] allows poverty, famine, and injustice when He could do something about it.’  The other turtle says, ‘I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.’ “ (p. 50)

 

“Prominent evolutionist William Provine of Cornell University candidly conceded that if Darwinism is true, then there are five inescapable implications: there’s no evidence for God; there’s no life after death; there’s no absolute foundation for right and wrong; there’s no ultimate meaning for life; and people don’t really have free will.” (p. 90)

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