Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Craig Blomberg Interview Transcript

The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Craig Blomberg. Original audio here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.

BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics315. Today I am speaking with New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Colorado. Blomberg has written on a diverse range of issues, including wealth and poverty, parables, eschatology, hermeneutics, and women in ministry. However, his academic work has tended to focus on the historical Jesus and gospels research. And so the purpose of this interview is to ask Professor Blomberg questions surrounding the reliability of the gospels, and how the Christian apologist can best defend them. Thanks for joining me today, Dr. Blomberg.

CB: You’re very welcome, thanks for having me.

BA: Now Dr. Blomberg, your area of specialty is in New Testament studies, and one of your most renowned books, written over twenty years ago, is The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. So, I’d like to ask you questions surrounding the reliability of the gospels, but before I do, can you tell me a bit about how you got into this field of study?

CB: It really goes back to my first years as a Christian in both high school and college, when I was very active trying to share my new-found faith with friends of all different kinds, and I was committed to trying to give good answers to them, and one set of those questions, particularly when I would try to talk about Jesus’ views on a particular topic, I would get, especially in the classroom, from professors, the line, “Well of course modern scholars have demonstrated that Jesus probably never actually said that.” And, I realized that a huge part of a credible Christian witness was bound up with being able to say actually there are probably good reasons to believe that he did.

BA: So, when we’re looking at the gospels themselves, you would say they play a pretty central role to defending Christianity as historically true overall?

CB: If those are the four books that most directly introduce us to the life of Jesus, who’s the founder of our faith, then I don’t see how it can be any other way.

BA: As we look at how scholars date the gospels, what’s the general consensus about their date of writing and what importance does that play from an apologetics standpoint?

CB: The general consensus with only rare exceptions is that they are first century documents. You can line up more conservative scholars who will typically date Matthew, Mark, and Luke to sixties of the first century, and John to the nineties, and in more liberal circles, Mark either to the very late sixties or seventies, Matthew and Luke to the eighties, and again John to the nineties. And there’s a time and a place for a discussion of those respective proposals, but even on the latest standard dates, with Christ having most likely been crucified in the year thirty, some would argue for thirty-three, you are looking at a sixty year period at the most, and closer to a thirty year period to the earliest of the written gospels, which may to the modern person sound like a long period of time, but in the ancient Mediterranean world, was a remarkable short period of time between existing biographies, and the life of the main characters that they actually treated.

BA: And what goes into determining from a historical standpoint, the authorship of these gospels, isn’t that disputed to some point?

CB: The authorship again, tending to fall along conservative versus liberal lines, is disputed, and but again, I think it’s important to point out what there is agreement on. Even those who do not support Matthew and John, two of Jesus’ twelve closest followers, and Mark and Luke, both companions of Peter and Paul, as the actual authors would say, though perhaps the authors are anonymous or unknown to us, they are likely to have been close followers of the first generation of Jesus’ disciples. And so, they are still in, again, by ancient standards, very good position to be accurate reporters on what they talk about.

BA: Well, one of the common things that you’ll hear, watching say the History Channel or whatever, you’ll hear documentaries talking about all these other gospels, or missing gospels, or the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, you name it, they’ve written a gospel, supposedly. So, what about other gospels, how did we arrive at four being in the Bible?

CB: There are no other documents for which there is solid evidence that their origin is first century, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And although you can certainly find scholars who have created speculative hypotheses about such, if you actually take the time to read the various other documents that have come to be called gospels, you will discover that none of them is a prose narrative of the life of Jesus, covering his birth or time with John the Baptist, followed by lengthy recitation of his sayings and deeds from many different contexts in his ministry, followed by the events that climaxed in his death and resurrection. 

Although they have come to be called gospels, they fall into one of two categories, either short collections of narratives that try to fill in the gaps, or the perceived gaps, left by the canonical literature. So, you can find what scholars have come to call Infancy Gospels, with amazing wonders worked by the baby and the young boy Jesus. Or, you can find an elaborate account of what happened when Christ descended to Hell, so it was believed, between his death and resurrection. What are primarily in the news are not these kinds of apocryphal gospels, but the Gnostic literature, the so called Gnostic Gospels, which are without exception, not narratives, but collections of discrete sayings or teaching, or monologues attributed to Christ, but which breathed a very different air from early first century Judaism. They breathed the air of second through fifth century Gnostic cosmological speculation, which means that they are filled with discussions about the nature of heaven and the catalogues and hierarchies of angels and demons. They are filled with discourses about how the world was created, with all of these various supernatural beings that populated it. One exception, and really the only document that even very liberal scholars take at all seriously as potentially giving us another window into the real Jesus of history, is the Coptic or Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, which is made up of a hundred and fourteen separate sayings attributed to Jesus, most of them following upon each other with very little narrative connection at all. Occasionally, small groups will be on a similar theme before things shift. More than half of them begin simply with the words, “And Jesus said,” without any context. And, among these a hundred and fourteen sayings, there are roughly a third that are very obviously Gnostic and quite different than anything you would find in the New Testament. 

There are roughly another third that are similar enough to a saying of Jesus somewhere in the four gospels, that they may have been taken over from the gospels, and in some instances slightly modified. And then, the remaining not quite one third of the sayings, are those that are cryptic enough, or without sufficient context, that they could be understood in an orthodox fashion, but they could be Gnostic as well. And it’s typically among those sayings that scholars do occasionally suggest that there may be a handful of additional teachings that really do come from Jesus, but they don’t allow us to paint a picture of Him that is significantly different from what emerges from the Canon.

BA: Well, when you mention the Canon, that is one of the common questions that people have as they get into studying how the New Testament came about. Talk about what the Canon is, and what that means, and what sort of process went into at least the selection of the gospels for the Canon.

CB: Canon is simply an English word that means a rule or standard that comes from a Greek word Kanon, that was often used to refer to a measuring rod. When we talk about the “Canon of the Bible,” there is both the old and the New Testament. Jesus was born into a world in which there already was a Hebrew scripture, the bible of the Jewish people, and when one comes to the New Testament, we are talking about a process that began early in the second century, at the latest, culminating in the fourth century, in which Christians increasingly sensed that it was appropriate, just as God’s covenant with Israel was ratified and inscripturated by the books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and the accounts of the origins of the people of Israel, that it was only natural to expect God to do something similar, given the Christian conviction that Jesus was the one who inaugurated a new covenant, a new covenant that in fact was the fulfillment of what the prophets of the old covenant had foretold. So, a process began that we can, to a large degree trace, in which over the course of a couple hundred years, that there was growing agreement around the ancient Roman Empire, in which Christianity was birthed, that the twenty seven books that were finally formally accepted and ratified by ecumenical councils toward the end of the fourth century, were unique and distinct from all other Christian literature that had been produced during that time period and merited being brought together and treated with the same reverence and authority that Jews had treated what Christians now call the Old Testament. 

As far as the gospels go, there really was very little debate. The six books of the twenty seven in the New Testament that we can find at least a little bit of discussion and debate over, are Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 & 3 John, and the book of Revelation. And, as listeners can tell, that list does not include any of the four gospels, or Acts, or any of the letters of Paul. There were one or two very minor discussions, very isolated to certain locations, as to whether or not one or two of the Apocryphal or Gnostic gospels should be included, and what’s fascinating about those conversations, it that they took place in orthodox circles. We have no record in any of the wide body of actual Gnostic literature, of any Gnostic ever putting forward one of the gospels as to be treated on a par with the rest of the New Testament. So, the criteria that tended to be used were three-fold, looking for works that were believed to reflect the true and faithful apostolic tradition of the first generation of Jesus’ followers, typically written by an Apostle or close associate of an Apostle, a second criteria was a criterion of non-contradiction, believing that these works were consistent with the Old Testament, and with Old Testament prophecy. One of the fascinating things about the Gnostic literature is they are very anti-Semitic, and not consistent with Jewish claims at all, even to the point of at times calling the Jewish God, a separate God from the God of the Christians, and lesser, and inferior, and evil God. And then, the third criterion was simply one of very widespread use and acknowledgment that there was an inspired or inspiring sense to these documents. That just because somebody in one location may have particularly valued an early Christian text wasn’t sufficient, it was the view of the councils, that books should be included that had been used from their inception, and viewed as widely relevant and authoritative in virtually every part of the Christian world.

BA: Well, you mentioned there how the gospels were accepted very early, and they were recognized as authoritative quite early. I notice today there are a lot of skeptics who would discount any sort of references to the gospels, or New Testament documents, and would opt for giving more weight or authority to things that are found outside of what we find in our New Testament or our bible today. Why do you think that is, and are these non-Canonical sources better or more authoritative than what is in our bible today?

CB: Ours is a culture of the new. We sell products by advertizing that they are new and improved. In the ancient world all modern marketers would be unemployed, because to be new was to be suspect, and to be old and to be tried and tested, and to have survived for centuries, and been useful guidance for people was what folks in the ancient Mediterranean looked for. I’m afraid that we have cultivated, not only through advertizing, but through the media more generally, what is considered news and what isn’t, and countless other phenomena, a curiosity about that which is new, different, distinctive, and Christianity is now an old message, an old story, it’s been around for two thousand years. 

Those who perhaps understand the challenge that Christianity poses for them, the universal claims that it makes on people’s lives, saying that Jesus is someone with whom all people have to come to grips, and make a decision about, may find it convenient to run from that call and that commitment by preferring other world views, other religions, other perspectives that tickle their ears, to borrow language from the New Testament. But, these are not documents that have first century pedigree, these are not documents that breathe the air of the same world view and culture of the New Testament, even those that seem to be more sympathetic to certain modern agendas like the apparent pro-feminism of some of the Gnostic documents have to be used very selectively in order for them to appear to promote those causes. Because, texts that are conveniently ignored, promote a very chauvinist form of religion, even more so than some of the New Testament documents that at times appear to do.

BA: Now, as we continue along here, I want to ask you some questions or present objections that some might have to trusting the gospel accounts, and I’d like to get your take on ‘em. Now, first off, this is kind of the perspective I would take as a skeptic, basically along this line, “What do we do with the issue of miracles when we’re looking at the gospels? Like we’re reading along and everything seems fine, but then we see accounts of walking on water, loaves and fishes being multiplied, you know, what should we think... is this really historical?” How do we deal with the issue of miracles in what would be normal historical documents, like the gospel accounts?

CB: If you begin from a starting point that excludes the possibility of the supernatural, a priori, then obviously you have to explain these texts as mythical, or perhaps that people were fooled into thinking they saw or experienced things that weren’t what have actually been described in the New Testament. If you begin from an anti-supernatural position, then by definition, you have to be an atheist; you have to exclude God, who is quite supernatural. And, one can then have a conversation and ask if it is in fact scientific or rational to exclude God a priori. If by definition, science is the study of that which is repeatable, testable under laboratory conditions, many scientists today are much more cautious, than even a generation ago, about saying that science has any ability to pronounce one way or the other on the existence of God or the supernatural. Even if one would take that position, it’s quite interesting that one can find many other ancient texts that occasionally contain accounts of the miraculous, that classical scholars still rely on for providing reasonably accurate history about the other kinds of things they described. If you study the accounts in Roman history that describe Julius Caesar finally deciding to cross the Rubicon River back from Gaul into Italy and commit the republic to the war that would turn the Republic into the Empire, you discover we have those accounts in four different historians, and at least one of them includes a number of miracle stories along the way; yet, that doesn’t stop students of world history from recognizing that Caesar crossing the Rubicon is one of the most well known, and historic, and believable, and datable events of what we now call the First Century BC. 

If on the other hand, you at least allow for the possibility of miracle, then you have to take each miracle story that you come to and examine it on a case-by-case basis, whether in the New Testament documents or other ancient documents. You have to ask questions of genre, are these intended to be myths? Are there textual signals that suggest that something other than history is being presented as there commonly are among myths of ancient Greece and Rome, signals that we don’t find in the New Testament stories? We have to ask questions as you have done already about authorship, and dating, and were these people in positions to accurately report what they experienced? Are they multiply-attested? Are they found in more than one independent source? Do they serve a definable function or purpose that’s consistent, in this case, with Jesus’ overall agenda? Or are they simply fanciful, or random, or arbitrary, or perhaps even self-serving? Questions like those can be asked, should be asked, of the New Testament accounts of miracles, and of countless other ancient documents that have miracles. And when you do, you will discover that it is the Christian literature that is the only literature in the history of the world that claims by people who walked with, and lived with, and heard, and saw, and experienced first-hand, someone they knew to have been a human being who lived within their lifetime. Christianity is the only source anywhere in the world that even makes the claims that the kinds of miracles, and particularly, the resurrection of Jesus, occurred in documents that were written close enough to the time of the events they describe, by people whose life spans they overlapped with and intersected the events that were described. It doesn’t make the New Testament miracles necessarily true, but it does set them off as unique, and it’s a question worth pondering.

BA: Alright, so miracle claims within historical documents, you would say, “should be taken on a case-by-case-basis, and you have to weigh all the different factors and contexts surrounding that, but even if you were to determine that something would be perhaps non-literal or historical, that doesn’t negate the truthfulness of the rest of the document.” Would you say that’s accurate?

CB: That’s a marvelously succinct summary of what I didn’t say nearly so concisely.

BA: You know, the other thing that you are going to come across a lot is this accusation that the gospels are full of contradictions. Now, I don’t know of specific examples that I want to pull out right now, but I want to know from your perspective, as a New Testament scholar, when you hear people “on the street” say something along the lines of, “Oh, you know, the New Testament or the gospels are full of contradictions.” What goes through your head when you hear that?

CB: The first thing that I would want to ask people if I am actually having a conversation with them is, which ones they have in mind. That question will enable me to determine if they have made the comments that they have made simply based on hearsay, somebody else said it, or they read it on somebody’s web site, or if they are actually familiar enough with the contents of the gospels to know of some of the difficulties and apparent contradictions. Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s as far as the conversation can go because they really don’t know what particular phenomena they’re talking about. But, if they have specific examples, then I am more than happy to discuss them further.

BA: Are there certain categories that you would say that many of these alleged contradictions fall into that are coming from inherent misunderstandings of how someone would read a text? Could you maybe unpack some of these common misunderstandings that would make people think that these are contradictions or errors?

CB: Absolutely, The only fair way to interpret any document is according to the historical, and cultural, and linguistic conventions, and expectations of the time and place in which it was written. Ours is a culture of a high degree of scientific precision. We expect, perhaps at times unrealistically, that if we see quotation marks around words in print, that means that those individuals said exactly those words, and they have been reported verbatim. The ancient world did not have quotation marks, none of the Mediterranean cultures or earlier, nor was there any felt need for quoting somebody’s words verbatim. What was the felt need, was to be faithful to their intent, to their meaning, to capture what we might today call the gist of what someone had said, and it was actually considered good historical style not to slavishly repeat somebody’s words, but to put them in your own words, perhaps explaining their significance as you did so. The same can be said when it comes not just to reporting someone’s speech, but to narrating events in their life. There are countless ways to be faithful and true to a person’s experience, and yet, put them within interpretive frameworks that can differ from one biographer to the next. There clearly are ways to distort and misrepresent people as well. And sometimes, modern folks are under the misimpression that ancient historians and biographers didn’t make those distinctions, but we know of them because they’ve been preserved. 

Writers like Lucien in his book, “On Writing History” describe them in considerable detail. So, I think the biggest category, the most important thing to say is, judge the differences between parallel accounts of the gospels by the standards of accuracy and precision of the first century middle east, not of the twenty-first century western world. Allow for all kinds of variation in the way things are reported. Only if you see two statements that you are convinced could not simultaneously be true, do you really have something worth stopping and focusing on in more detail.

BA: Now, what about the Gospel of John? Many would say that this is a lot different than the synoptic gospels. They would say that it’s written much later; the author had a big theological point to get across. Does that give us good reason to have doubts about its accuracy or historical authenticity? How do the differences we see in the Gospel of John come into play here?

CB: There’s no doubt that if you are reading through the New Testament in canonical sequence, and have in a fairly recent period of time, finished reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and then turn to John, that you’ll quickly discover that the majority of information about Jesus in the first three gospels is not repeated in John, and conversely that the majority of what is in John is not found in the earlier gospels. There is no question as well that John seems to draw more overt theological conclusions from the material that he narrates from the life of Christ, and that one of the consistent emphases is what could be called a very high Christology, that is to say, a view of Jesus that makes Him one with God and appropriately called divine. Again, the question is, Are these simply complementary perspectives? Has John decided that the first three gospels did well enough on what they covered? That for the most part he was not going to repeat them, but supplement them. Or, must we say that, these are in fact contradictory understandings of the life of Christ. 

I think we sometimes fail to appreciate how much theology there really is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Sometimes it is more implicit that explicit, but it’s only Matthew and Luke that describe Jesus being conceived of a virgin – that’s not in John, and yet, that certainly portrays him as very distinct, and unique, and divine child. And even some of the most dramatic statements in John’s gospel, the so called “I am sayings” where Jesus on seven different occasions calls himself the “Good Shepherd” and “The Vine,” and “The Way and the Truth and the Life,” and “The Resurrection and the Life,” and “The Bread of Life,” and so on, even to the point of in John chapter eight, using the language of the very divine name for God in Exodus 3:14, when in John 8:58 He says, “I am that I am.” That, at first glance, seems utterly unparalleled in the other three gospels until you realize the Greek behind our English translations of such passages like the one you referred to earlier, the walking on the water, where rowing for much of the night, against strong winds, the Disciples are terrified, thinking they’re seeing a ghost as Jesus comes walking to them, and His words to them, at least as Mark renders them into Greek, Mark chapter six are, “Fear not, I am.” It’s possible to translate that simply as, “I am He.” But, in a context of the miraculous, of what at least is preternatural, if not even supernatural, it certainly sounds like the language of Theophany, of God disclosing himself using the very language for deity in the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s these kinds of comparisons that I think one has to make, and countless more could be made, to show that on closer inspection, the first three gospels and John perhaps do not differ nearly as much, certainly not in any contradictory ways, than might at first blush appear.

BA: Do you think that it’s an error to focus on the differences over and against similarities that we see amongst the gospels?

CB: Well, if it’s not an error, it’s at least very one-sided, and will give you an imbalanced perception. If someone has spent long periods of time focusing on the similarities, then sure, they may need to focus on distinctives to balance things out. But, I doubt there are too many people in the world that fall into that camp, and probably a whole lot more that have just superficially noted the most glaring differences, and need as well to run more thoughtful and detailed study to realize how many similarities there are.

BA: Now, shifting gears to talk a bit about Bart Ehrman, New Testament critic. From your perspective, has he made a very substantial case against the reliability of the New Testament, or is it more of a rhetorical public impact of his work?

CB: No, I’d say very much the second of those. Ehrman’s works have tended to cluster around two themes. One being textual criticism focusing on the way the manuscripts of part or all of scripture were copied and passed on over the centuries, prior to the invention of the printing press. And the other major theme has been what we’ve already talked about, the other later “Christian documents” that Ehrman likes to call alternative Christianities or lost Christianities. Except of course, they’re not lost because we know of them, and they’ve never have been lost, because we’ve known about them all along, and what’s been more recently discovered simply is more of the same of what we already knew about. But, it sells books to use titles like, Misquoting Jesus, which in fact is just a book about textual criticism and talks about what scholars have always known, that there are textual variants among the manuscripts and it’s the job of the textual critic to use agreed upon and fairly objective procedures to determine what an author most likely originally wrote. Even Ehrman, if you read him carefully, will concede that the vast majority of the New Testament is beyond any serious suspicion in terms of the contents of what was first written. But, he likes to focus on the microscopic minority of passages where there are interesting differences, and I’m afraid, doesn’t write in the kind of context that helps readers to understand that context, to understand that they’re just looking at the tiny minority, and that no doctrine or tenet of Christianity in any way hangs on any of these handful of disputed texts. Had he wrote the book in that kind of a context, it might have become a textbook in a few colleges and universities, but sales would have been limited.

BA: You know, you’ve heard about some people have read books by the likes of Bart Ehrman, and that causes them to doubt the reliability of texts. They see some apparent contradiction, and it causes them to reject the Bible, some even end up abandoning Christianity, or even stop believing in God. Now, I find that interesting, I’m just wondering if we’re to find an error somewhere in say the gospels, does that give us good reason to doubt the rest of the gospel accounts, or chuck the New Testament, or…

CB: Not by any means! And one of the real ironies of Ehrman’s own personal pilgrimage which he describes in the introduction to his book Misquoting Jesus, is that, unfortunately, significant portions of his nurture as a young student and supposedly as a Christian, were precisely from one wing of very conservative Christian faith that has tried to argue an all or nothing approach. And tragically, they apparently convinced Ehrman more of the all or nothing approach than they did of the actual case for the reliability of scriptures. So that when he found a passage that he did not find to his satisfaction, a solution to an apparent contradiction, by his own narrative, that started him down a path that finally lead to him calling himself an Agnostic. With all due respect, that’s just utterly absurd. Because, if a classical scholar is studying Arrian or Plutarch’s biographies of Alexander the Great, and they find one of a handful of places where those sources do contradict each other, they don’t write them off, they simply say, “Okay, one of them’s probably right and the other’s wrong, now let’s move on, there’s still plenty that both agree on that is eminently plausible, and we still have long chapters on Alexander the Great in world civilization textbooks that are probably quite accurate.”

BA: Well, we had talked earlier just about the issue of miracles and how that can be a challenge to some in accepting the historicity of the gospel accounts. But, another objection comes along the lines of Jesus’ own predictions about His return, and they would cite portions of scripture in the gospels where Jesus is talking about things happening within “this generation,” and they would point out and say that, “See, He was mistaken, or this didn’t take place within that generation, this shows that Jesus’ claims here are false.” What are your thoughts on those sorts of objections?

CB: You have to identify the passages in question, and there are three of them. One is in Mark 9:1, with parallels in both Matthew and Luke, in which Jesus says that, “There are some standing there” in His presence who will “not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power.” What does that refer to? Intriguingly, in all three synoptic gospels, the very next verse introduces the story of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, being revealed in dazzling glory, to a select group of His followers in the presence of Moses and Elijah. That certainly qualifies as a very good candidate for a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, come in power, in which case there is no reference to His return there at all. The second passage comes in Mark chapter 13, I believe it’s verse 30, and again, with parallels in Matthew and Luke, “Surely I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Well, what are “all these things”? Presumably, something that’s been narrated earlier. So, I backed up to verse 29 and I read, “Even so when you see these things happening, you know that it, or He, is near, right at the door.” The first twenty-eight versus of Mark 13 involve the disciples asking about the destruction of the temple and Christ’s return, and Jesus giving a whole lot of preliminary events that must occur, finally building up to a description of His return, but it’s hard to think that verse 30 is including a reference to His return if the “all these things” are the same the “these things” in verse 29, which, when you see them happening you know that it’s near. And you see Christ returning, you no longer know that it’s returning, you know that it has come. So, presumably, verse 29 is referring to everything previously in Mark 13, except Christ’s actual return. And if one studies the narrative of the book of Acts, and the information in the epistles and Revelation, not the mention non-Christian historians, one can find evidence that all of the preliminary signs of earthquakes and famines and wars and persecution, etcetera did abundantly occur in the first Christian generation culminating in the destruction of the temple by the Romans in Jerusalem in AD 70. 

The third and final of those passages that you revered to is Matthew 10:23, and it’s found only in Matthew, and here Jesus is speaking to the disciples, as He is sending them out on missionary work, and also looking beyond His death and resurrection, to a time when they will be persecuted. And, He writes, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly, I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” There is not evidence that first century evangelists, especially in light of the evacuation of so many of Israel’s residents after the war with Rome in 70, there is no evidence that first century evangelists did go to every single town of what Josephus narrates were over two hundred in Galilee alone. And with years of occupation, and the dispersion of Judaism worldwide, if the purpose of 10:23 is to refer to the evangelism of the Jews, the primary inhabitants of Israel in the first century, then that is still an incomplete mission to this day. And, it’s interesting; this passage doesn’t say anything about a particular generation, it just says, “Here’s something you won’t finish doing before the Son of Man comes.” So, to sum up, when you actually look at the three passages that have often been alleged to teach that Christ believed He would return in one generation, and was wrong, none of them can be seen to actually teach that.

BA: Well all right, well I think that answer was very helpful. And as our time’s running out here Dr. Blomberg, what would be your advice for Christian apologists who are studying and defending the reliability of the gospels?

CB: Don’t overstate your case, because if it becomes clear that that’s what you’re doing, then you will lose credibility, at least in some people’s minds, to some degree, even on those areas where your case is solid. I would also want to appeal to Ephesians 4:15, to speak the truth in love. There seems to be a certain personality trait that on the one hand, God uses mightily, that enables certain gifted, bright individuals to speak very boldly in situations from which others would recoil. But, some of that same boldness can come across as cockiness or arrogance, and sometimes be perceived as more interested in winning and argument than winning a person. And, very few people in the history of the world have ever come to Christ because someone who they find personally obnoxious has nevertheless convinced them with an argument. And so, it’s a combination of the two put together, we need to understand history, we need to understand what is and is not true, what can and cannot be demonstrated, what is that which Christians believe by faith, and what it is that Christians have good historical support to affirm as well. And then, we have to remember that we are interacting with human beings who God dearly loves, and for whom He sent His son to die, and we need to love them at least as deeply and passionately as we try to win them with our arguments.

BA: Well, that’s excellent advice Dr. Blomberg, thank you so much for joining me today.

CB: Thank you for having me; it’s been a pleasure.


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