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Reasonable Faith 7: The Self Understanding of Jesus


Here Craig is backing up his assertion that Jesus claimed to be God. This is to counter assertions that Jesus never said certain things, that he thought he was just a prophet, or a moral teacher. Craig uses modern textual criticism to show that certain sayings are authentic.

I see that it might be likely that Jesus considered himself God, but there seems to be insufficient information. I need to understand how the different factors actually support that Jesus said what Craig claims he did. Often, Craig will simply say something like “from the multiple attestation of this saying, we can say that it is authentic.” I don’t really have a means of judging that as acceptable. I think I would be warranted in demanding further information to judge these claims. Simply knowing what the scholarly consensus is (I think Ehrman tries to reflect this) would be helpful.

If I agreed that Jesus did say what is claimed that he said, does that make atheism less tenable?

What are some of the factors that might serve the role of E in increasing the probability of some saying or event S? The following are some of the most important: (1) Historical congruence: S fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which S is said to have occurred; (2) Independent, early attestation: S appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which S is alleged to have occurred and which depend neither upon each other nor upon a common source; (3) Embarrassment: S is awkward or counterproductive for the persons who serve as the source of information for S; (4) Dissimilarity: S is unlike antecedent Jewish thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent Christian thought-forms; (5) Semitisms: traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebraic linguistic forms; (6) Coherence: S is consistent with already established facts about Jesus (5258).

First, his authority comes to expression in the content and style of his teaching. These two aspects of his teaching are especially evident in the Sermon on the Mount. The typical rabbinical style of teaching was to quote extensively from learned teachers, who provided the basis of authority for one’s own teaching. But Jesus did exactly the opposite. He began, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old . . .” and quoted the Mosaic Law; then he continued, “But I say to you . . .” and gave his own teaching. Jesus thus equated his own authority with that of the divinely given Torah (5666).

Second, Jesus’ use of amen expresses his authority. The expression frequently attributed to Jesus, “Truly, truly I say to you,” is historically unique and is recognized on all hands to have been used by Jesus to preface his teaching (5692).

Third, Jesus’ authority is especially evident in his role as an exorcist (5704).

“But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (5706).

Finally, Jesus’ sense of divine authority comes clearly to expression in his claim to forgive (5719).

Jesus held that people’s attitudes toward himself would be the determining factor in God’s judgment on the judgment day. He proclaimed, “I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (5774).

any adequate theory of Jesus’ self-understanding must be able to explain the following thirteen established features of the historical Jesus: 1) his independent approach to the Law 2) his feeding of the 5,000 3) his interpretation of his miracles 4) his proclamation of the kingdom of God as present and in-breaking in his ministry 5) his choosing of twelve disciples 6) his use of the Son of Man 7) his use of amen 8) his use of abba 9) his distinguishing himself from his contemporaries, including John the Baptist, the Pharisees, Jewish revolutionaries, and the disciples 10) his belief that one’s future standing with God hinged on how one reacted to his ministry 11) his understanding that his death was necessary to rectify matters between God and his people 12) his sense of mission to the whole of Israel, especially to sinners and outcasts, which led to table fellowship with such people 13) his raising messianic expectations in a repeated pattern of controversy with his contemporaries (5781).

Many people will say Jesus was a man from outer space, and the more you argue with them the more they become entrenched in this position. Of course, such a view is hopelessly kooky, so that, oddly enough, this apologetic is probably more effective on the scholarly level than on the popular (5826).

Note: Kooky only because most people dont believe it. If Christianity saw Jesus as an alien, they would call Jesus as God ‘kooky.’

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