How to Read the Bible

This was a part of a bible study for understanding the gift of tongues. I think it made more sense it give this section its own spot. Here I will outline some prominent and less prominent tools for understanding scripture. This is known as hermeneutics by theologians. Hermeneutics is the the study on how we should interpret the bible.  ______________________________________________________________

Exegesis: The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the original text which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance to modern times.

Historical Context: Deu 22:11, “Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen” Israel kept mixing up with foreign idols and this command was given to help keep Israel pure for God. Another possibility is that clothes made of two material were a luxury and showed someone caring more about how they dressed than the poor. If we understand Deu 22:11 in either of these contexts then it becomes clear how it applies to us today.

General Context: an easy example is Pslam 14:1 says, “God does not exist” in context though “The fools says in his heart, God does not exist” Therefore, if you take a verse out of its immediate context it may be misunderstood.

Literary Genre: Psalm 109:9, “Let his (a wicked person) children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Let his children wander as beggars…” The book Psalms is a book of poetry thus should not be understood as prescriptive but descriptive. Prescriptive scripture is any scripture which would command you to do an action. While a descriptive passage shows how things did happen, not necessarily, what should have happened.

– Original Language: Greek for the New Testament: When Jesus said, “Love your enemy” the Greek word for love in this passage is agape which means that Jesus is commanding a godlike love for your enemies and not a friendship style love. (You can check the Greek word by using google)

Eisegesis: The opposite of exegesis (to draw out) is to do eisegesis (to draw in),  his or her own purely subjective interpretations in to the text, unsupported by the text. In other words, instead of asking “What did this passage mean to the original audience, we skip that and ask, “What does the text mean to me?” This can be good or bad. Any time we do an eisegesis we must be careful that it is still biblical. ______________________________________________

Descriptive: (it describes the situation in the passage/what happened then).

Prescriptive (prescribes what we ought to do today/what we must do now).

Ex:  Mark 16: 17-18: “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  This a descriptive verse. _________________________________________________________

Unity: When passage(s) is taken to advance a view it should not contradict other passage(s).  Psalm34:15 speaks of God having eyes and ears, whereas John 4:24 says God is a spirit. We can reconcile them when we recognize that in Psalm 34:15 the author is using a figure of speech and is not asserting that God has literal, physical eyes and ears. He is asserting, rather, that God watches over His people and hears their cries for help; whereas in John 4:24 Jesus is asserting that God is not a physical being, therefore, the physical location of His worshipers is not what is most important to Him.1

Explanatory Power: If a particular view can explain more of the data; passages, unity, sometimes personal experiences*, then that view should be preferred over any view that does not have as much explanatory power.

Simplicity: If the explanatory power are equivalent then the simpler view is preferred.

Clarity: Use the passages that are the most clear to give insight into unclear passages.



Richard Rohr’s Article “How the Trinity Dissolve Racism”: A Critical Analysis


Richard Rohr recently wrote an article entitled ‘How the Trinity Dissolves Racism’,1 where he says, “The widespread Christian failure to understand and experience God as Trinity has provided a breeding ground for both implicit and explicit racism.” I think Richard Rohr was well intentioned with this article, but misguided. We may break down the logical consequences of such a statement into the following:

(1) person A’s intellectual misunderstanding of the trinity makes them highly more probable to be racist than a person who does understanding the trinity, or (2) a continuous experience with God will dissolve racism, and one needs to have an intellectual grasp on the trinity to experience him, or (3) a person who disbelieves in the trinity is literally prone to racism from that disbelief.

Now, out of the three options, (2) is most plausible. However, (2) still faces problems. One is that God continuously works with people where they are at and if someone happens to not believe in the trinity because they have had no exposure to the belief, God will not hold that against them. Take for instance the first followers of Christ, the disciples, they were asked by Jesus, “whom do you say that I am?”, and all but Peter were silent. Peter responded, “You the Messiah”. Jesus replies, “my Father revealed that to you Peter”. Thus, up to this point none of the disciples really knew who Jesus was and it is plausible that many of them still weren’t sure that he was God. But there they were experience God in the flesh and didn’t even realize it. No conception of the trinity yet, perhaps no conception of God becoming incarnate, yet he was there right next to them. God clearly can give experience of himself without us having the right intellectual beliefs. Furthermore, in James it says, “You believe in one God—Good! The demons believe too, and they shudder!” What a proclamation that is. Surely these demons knew of the trinity and had an experience with him. Yet, they are literally the essence of racism.

I think, what Mr. Rohr would have been better off saying is, “the trinity provides good reasons to not be racist” and the rest of his article would have followed nicely still. But to say, “a disbelief in the trinity provides a breeding ground for racism” is absurd. I left out the word ‘experience’ in this paraphrase because it is not clear how a non-Trinitarian and a Trinitarian would experience God differently. I am certain there are plenty of people who believe in the trinity who are plenty racist and plenty of people who disbelieve in God and the trinity who are not racist. We may see there are still clear reasons to not be racist in otherworld views such as Unitarianism and Atheism. In Unitarianism there is only one person and one God. But God still would be the creator of us all, still all made of dust. If everyone is made of the same substance and we were all going to be held accountable for our deeds before the creator. Then there is good reasons to not be racist. Most explicitly is that everyone has the same standing in creation. The same thought process can be applied to an atheist world view as well. There are simply no good reasons to think once race is better than the other. In fact, we have reasons to believe when we learn to work together and corroborate with people who are different, we will be more successful.


A Short Summary of Erhman’s Book “Did Jesus Exist?”

In this post I am going to briefly summarize Bart Erhman’s book “Did Jesus Exist?” and his reasoning for thinking that there was an historical man named Jesus who was crucified. Erhman does not think that Jesus was God, or believe that the earliest Christians thought Jesus was God either but these are side points since his goal is to show overwhelming evidence that a guy name Jesus existed. Therefore, it should be clear his argument is not for the orthodox belief of Jesus but a different still historical Jesus.

Non-Christian Sources

One non-Christian source the people believed in a historical Jesus is Pliny the Younger, who was the governor of the Roman province of Bithynia-Pontus in what is now Turkey. He wrote a letter in 112 A.D, here is Erhamn summary of it,

“Pliny learned from reliable sources that Christians (illegally) gathered together in the early morning. He provides us with some important information about the group: they included people from a variety of socioeconomic levels, and they are meals together of common food. Pliny may tell the emperor this because of rumors, which we hear from other later sources, that Christians committed cannibalism. (They did after all, eat the flesh of the Son of God and drink his blood.) Moreover, Pliny informs the emperor, the Christians “sing hymns to Christ as to a god.”” (Non-Christian Sources for the life of Jesus, p 52).

This is important because this means that there were people who believed in Christ about 80 years after Jesus lived and therefore, those people would be in great position to know if Jesus actually did exist.

Another non-Christian source is Tacitus who was a high-ranking Roman officials and Tacitus says, “Nero falsely accused those…the populace called Christians. The author of this name, Christ, was put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate, while Tiberius was emperor…” (Ibid., p 55). Here we have a person who is the perfect position to know if a man name Jesus existed and then was executed and since he does claim this to be true then we should also think it is very plausible.

Flavius Josephus wrote The Antiquities of the Jews in 93 A.D. Now, there is reason to suspect part of what Josephus wrote was altered but there is a reasonable guess to what would have been the original and Erhman states this rendering this way, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. He was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many Greek origin. When Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”(Ibid., p 61).

Now, with Josephus we are getting closer to the time Christ lived and therefore, have more reason to trust what he wrote to be true, meaning that there was a guy named Christ condemn to the cross that a group of people called Christians followed.

This is a very brief summary of the non-Christian sources that we have that indicated a man name Jesus lived and was crucified. Given even these brief accounts the most plausible belief is not Christ never lived, but that at very least there was a person named Jesus Christ who some worshiped and followed, that was crucified.

The Gospels as Historical Sources

One does not simply have to just take the non-Christian sources as the only evidence that Jesus existed. Christian sources, even the New Testament, can and should count as evidence for the proposition that Jesus existed and was crucified. While it is common to think of the New Testament as one piece of literature it is important to remember that New Testament is a collection of books and letters. It would be more accurate to call the New Testament a Holy Library rather than a Holy Book. This means that each book of the New Testament that has an independent author, and can contribute to the cumulative case that Jesus existed and was crucified.  It is important that the authors are independent because if Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John all wrote from the same source then these four gospels would not be independent authors all confirming that same event but one author stating something happened. When examining any event it is important to have multiple people confirm said event if we want strong justification for believing the event. Erhman begins with the gospel of Mark,

“Our earliest Gospel account of Jesus’s life is probably Mark’s, usually dated–by conservative and liberal scholars of the New Testament alike–to around 70 CE…for now we are interested in the brute fact that within forty years or so of Jesus (alleged) life, we have a relatively full account of many of the things he said and did and of his death by crucifixion.” (The Gospels as Historical Sources, P 75).

The important note here is that the Gospel of Mark is within 40 years of Jesus life meaning if Jesus did not exist than people would surely know this. Here I think it is important to know that people of antiquity were not less intelligent than people today, many had less education but still there would be plenty of educated people refuting the claims by Mark yet best to my knowledge there is no one refuting Jesus existed.

Erhman goes on to explain why Matthew and Luke can still be counted towards the cumulative case despite access and using some of Mark’s material, “These Gospels were probably written ten or fifteen years after Mark, and so by the year 80 or 85 we have at least three independent accounts of Jesus’s life (since an number of the accounts of both Matthew and Luke are independent of Mark), all within a generation or so of Jesus himself, assuming he lived.” (P 76) The important note here is that Luke and Matthew have some accounts of Jesus that cannot be traced back to Mark hence they are independent accounts of Jesus. There is also the gospel of John which is written radically different than the synoptic gospels. John gospel was written around 90-95 A.D., which means that we have four independent accounts of Jesus’s life and death.

Erhman wraps up the accounts of Jesus that are closest to the time Jesus existed by saying, “For a historian these provide a wealth of materials to work with, quite unusual for accounts of anyone, literally anyone, from the ancient world. This alone seems sufficient to show that Jesus existed. But it should be noted that there is more evidence as well. We should conclude that man named Jesus lived and was crucified. This does not get us to a God/Man Jesus, but the argument did not intend to.

Work Cited
Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012. Print.

A Lesson in Fasting from the book Erza

Fasting is not practiced by Christians very often in American culture.  There is a major change from how Christians used to practice fasting. It is said that John Wesley used to require that every member must fast twice a week on Wed and Fri.[1] This practice of fasting goes back to Jewish culture who did fast regularly.  I wish to examine one account of fasting in the Old Testament that illuminates both the importance of fasting and other facets:

Ezra 8:21-23 (HCSB), “Then I proclaim a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.: So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”

There are several things to take notes in this passage: (1) They didn’t wish to dishonor their God, (2) they fasted and prayed, and (3) God listened. Each of these are very important since they all can be incorporated in our walk.

(1) indicates that the desire of their hearts was to honor their God. They had already proclaimed God goodness to those who seek him to the king. To ask for soldiers for protection after proclaiming trust in God would possibly show they trusted earthly ways more than heavenly ways. It is important to realize that they were not testing the Lord, but allowing God to act as he promised he would. If they were to be sincere in believing God would act as he promised then they have to seek him since they said, “God is good on all those who seek him.” (emphasis mine). This is why they fasted and prayed. For fasting and prayer encompasses the entire heart. One can be half-hearted in prayer, one can be half-hearted in fasting, but it is difficult to be half-hearted in prayer and fasting. This is particularly true in the situation they were in. The enemy surrounded them and they would die if God did not answer.

Our situation is not much different than theirs. We may not be surrounded by physical enemies, but enemies of Jesus surround us still. All of Western culture ask for your money, time, and effort into worldly things.How many times do you wonder if you should buy another shirt when you already have 50 plus vs. how many times do you wonder if you should donate your money to the needy? Clearly, the latter is more important. James says that pure religion is visiting the poor and widows.[2] Yet, most are more concern seeing the next good film, then they are about the salvation of their neighbor. If you are going to live in heaven here on Earth, then you must realize this. If you realize this, then the importance of prayer and fasting becomes apparent. We are not praying and fasting just for ourselves, but for our children, friends, and family. We are not just praying and fasting for these relations either, but for the honor of lives to be upon the God of glory.

[1.] See,

[2] James 1:27

The Liars Paradox: Pinocchio’s Nose

There are multiple versions of the Liar Paradox. Currently, I find the Pinocchio version most interesting. The paradox plays off the law of the excluded middle: A statement is either true or its negation is true. Now this particular version of the paradox goes as follows:

Pinocchio says: My nose will now grow. Now, Pinocchio knows that his nose only grows if he speaks a lie. Thus the problem is as follows:

  1. If he is telling you the truth then his nose will not grow, but then his lying.
  2. If his nose grows, then he didn’t lie. And the nose can’t grow.

One response I found on the Internet is that it isn’t a lie if you believe it. This is fascinating response. If Pinocchio has thought about the paradox, then he wouldn’t know if he was lying. However, we can specify that Pinocchio has not thought about the paradox. In fact, he believes that his nose will now not grow at the same time he says, “my nose will now grow”. Thus, he is lying and the problem continues.

There is a solution I tentatively hold to is that the law of excluded middle is partially false. It is partially false because it does not apply to future statements. If future statements have no truth value, then Pinocchio is neither saying something true or false. The future will never obtain in this instance because the action is dependent upon the value claim of the person speaking. One last note is that this solution does not work for all Liars Paradox. I think there are different solutions to different versions.

The Case Against the Empty Tomb

Peter Kirby wrote the chapter in The Empty Tomb entitled The Case Against the Empty Tomb. The Empty Tomb is a collection of work from various atheist from Robert Price to Michael Martin. In a past post I criticized Martin’s reasoning against Swinburne’s argument for the resurrection. I found Martin’s section entirely dubious.  Thankfully, Kirby section fairs a bit better. However, it should be noted that I am not too familiar with the arguments for and against an empty tomb – this review is merely a first reaction going off my background knowledge of the bible.

First Kirby starts off listing four other supposedly plausible scenarios that could replace the empty tomb story:

  1. Jesus was left hanging on the cross for birds.

  2. The Romans disposed of the body

  3. The body of Jesus was buried by the Jews in some sort of criminal grave

  4. The body of Jesus remained buried in a tomb.

Clearly, three and four could both be true. They both indicate that Jesus remain buried, so in what sense they are truly different I am not sure. Three is more specific but the added specificity isn’t necessary.  In any case these are plausible scenarios if there is no evidence for the empty tomb.

Kirby proceeds to argue that Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark so that they do not count as independent accounts of the same story. This notion has prima fascia credence, but I do not think it holds up under the internal evidence of Undesigned Coincidences argument, which is being popularized by Dr. McGrew (Click this link for more info: However, for the sake of argument let us grant that Kirby is right and Luke and Matthew do not count as independent witnesses. Kirby goes on to argue that the Gospel of John cannot help either, “Nevertheless, I would maintain that, even if John is literately independent, the section containing the empty tomb narrative is based on oral tradition that has been influenced by the synoptic gospels.” From what I gather Kirby argues against this by looking at symmetries between the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew, showing how John developed off Matthew. I have concerns that Kirby may be begging the question here, but I am not knowledgeable in a defense of the Gospel of Johns so we shall grant this too. Kirby finishes with this statement, “Since all accounts of the empty tomb are dependent on Mark, the story hangs by a slender thread indeed. The evidence that follows will cut that thread by showing that the story in Mark is most likely fictional.”  I agree that if everything is hanging on the Gospel of Mark then the empty tomb has only a very weak support. This is not to say that Jesus’ resurrection has weak evidence though. It would be weaker, but not necessarily weak. And though I disagree with the claim that everything rest on Mark’s gospel, I do want to examine the strong and weak points of Kirby’s argument from here.

First Kirby argues that Mark has fictional characteristics and one can see that Mark is basing the empty tomb story off an Old Testament story. “In 2 Kings 2:9-18, Elijah is carried off into heaven in a whirlwind in the presence of Elisha. But some believe that Elijah may still be around somewhere, so they persuade Elisha to send fifty men “who searched for three days without find him.” Now, this alone doesn’t really resemble much of the empty tomb story. Elisha supposedly saw Elijah disappear in a whirlwind, but some people wanted to believe that Elijah was still around so they searched for him. While no one thought Jesus was alive and the woman simply went to give their respect, to their surprise the body was missing. So, how does Kirby try to connect these two stories? By arguing they both reveal a poor kind of faith, “However, the act of the women evinces poor faith and misunderstanding concerning the resurrection of Jesus, and in that way the stories are similar.” So, the fact a few people had a poor understanding and perhaps acted irrationally is evidence that the empty tomb is based off 2 Kings? This is beyond dubious. What does it matter that both groups acted slightly irrationally (if they did) this happens all the time, it is human nature. That hardly shows the empty tomb story is based off 1 Kings. It is not hard to imagine that many stories have a “poor faith” in them but are not connected in anyway. I really wonder if Kirby just hastily put this section into the chapter without reflecting on it too much. But either way, no one should find this persuasive.

Moving on to more promising areas, an interesting fact about Mark is that the oldest manuscripts have his gospel ending with, “And they (the woman went to the empty tomb) said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.” Now, scholars argue whether this is where Mark intended to end his story or if the original ending was lost. In defense of the position that Mark intended to end here, scholars claim this goes on with Mark’s theme of discipleship failure. That no one in the gospel succeeds and woman are no exception at the greatest moment. In defense of the position that the original ending was lost; it would simply be weird that the women were told that Jesus had been resurrected but then really never told anyone. I think, either one of these situations could be likely until more background information is taken into consideration.

A third argument given by Kirby is that there are improbabilities within the Gospel of Mark. One problem is that it is odd that the woman would go alone to try and anoint the body if they knew that a large rock would be in the way. Here I agree with Kirby, it would be odd if the women didn’t know if a rock would be in a way if they knew the location of the tomb before heading there. And if they knew there was a rock in the way why wouldn’t they bring help to move it? It seems dubious to me that there would be someone there just waiting to move it if someone wanted to see the body.

Kirby goes on to argue that it is also strange that a pious Sanhedrin, that is Joseph, would ask Pilate to bury Jesus, since Joseph would have better things to do. Because of this William Lane Craig suggest that Joseph was a secret admirer and follower of Jesus which would explain why Joseph would want to bury Jesus. However, this is not even needed. It is possibly the Joseph was unsure what he thought about Jesus and if the curtains really did rip apart when Jesus died, Mark 15:38, then perhaps Joseph became convinced a mistake was made. This of course assumes he was around the crucifixion and/or temple when Jesus died. This is not unreasonable assumption though. But to bolster the claim Joseph could not have taken Jesus’ body Kirby argues that it is hardly reasonable to think Pilate would allow Jesus to have an honorable burial if Jesus was a criminal. Kirby summarizes this position well,

“this would require that Joseph considered the charge against Jesus to be unjust in the sight of God. Not only is it difficult to understand why a simple, pious Sanhendrinist would be moved to conclude that such a one had been crucified unjustly, but it is hardly plausible that Pilate would have allowed Jesus to be given an honorable burial, as this would be tantamount to an admission that Jesus was crucified without just cause.”

In response, I would simply direct the reader to Mark 15:14, when the Jews starting shouting crucify Jesus Pilate responded, “Why? What has he done wrong?” then in Mark 15:15 without being given an answer, “Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” So, if the Gospel of Mark is to be believed, Pilate only crucified Jesus because of the crowds not because he thought Jesus was guilty.

The last part I want to cover in this analysis of Kirby’s argument is that if the empty tomb location was known and was indeed empty then the location would be venerated. Thus, no tomb being venerated is evidence that the tomb was not empty. I agree with Kirby on this point.


 My mind has currently change on the last paragraph. The fact the tomb was not venerated is not good evidence the tomb was never empty. The early Christians primarily celebrated  resurrection. If they celebrate resurrection, then an empty tomb is superfluous.


  1. Price, Robert M., and Jeffery Jay. Lowder. “The Case Against the Empty Tomb.” The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005. 233-56. Print.

Dr. McNabb’s Blog Post: God Loves Satan and I Do Too.

Dr. McNabb’s post can be found here:

His argument for loving Satan is simple:

(1) God loves every person as much as possible.
(2) Satan is a person.
(3) God loves Satan as much as possible.                                                                                                   [Therefore]                                                                                                                                                           (4) God loves Satan.

It is clearly the case that (4) does not follow from the premises. Dr. McNabb would need the following proposition  p: every person is lovable to make his argument deductively valid. If he does not intend this argument to be deductive then the premises would still be needed for an inductive argument. But what defense can we make for a person who doubts p? I think it unlikely that there is any strong reasons we can give for p. However, let’s place this to the side and examine the second part of his argument.

Here is Dr. McNabb’s second argument: “Well, God tells us to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt 5:48). In fact, the context of that commandment is in reference to loving our enemies. And can you think of a greater enemy than Satan? It seems to me that we should follow God’s command and love Satan.”

Here is the argument formally:

  1. We are to be perfect as God is perfect
  2. God tell us to love our enemies and God loves his enemies
  3. Satan is an enemy
  4. Therefore,
  5. We should love Satan

This argument is much stronger than the first. I am very sympathetic to calls of loving our enemies. Anyone who knows me knows that this call to love thy enemy played a large part in convincing me of pacifism. However, I still disagree with the conclusion that we should love Satan. First, the bible is not a philosophical work so there is much in its language which is loose. The Jewish people would often use hyperbole to make their points clear. So, what data do we have to clear this up? First, we are to model after Jesus, and he loved his earthly enemies dearly. You can see this in his crucifixion when he asked the Father to forgive those who were killing him. However, we have no example of Jesus loving Satan. The closest thing we have is that Jesus granted Legion’s request to be cast into pigs (Luke 8:30). This can be seen in the light that Jesus had compassion on Legion. Presumably Jesus cares about animal’s well-being and having demons in them would not be good for their well-being. Thus, if Jesus is moral, then demons here have more worth than the animals. This is why he granted their request, out of compassion. But all this is hypothetical. I do not think we should pretend to know the mind of God in this matter. He could very easily had some other reasons for doing this that we cannot understand.  In fact most of the time Jesus talks about Satan his tone seems to be harsh. For example, John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” This verse isn’t directly about Satan but it isn’t a loving picture of him either. One point that is salient “whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature”. This leads to the question how can the person whose very nature is lying be healed without losing their essence? There was a time when Satan was not a lier, but that time has past. It seems that if God were to “heal” Satan he would have to go against Satan’s own will, which would be unloving. If God cannot do anything for Satan, then there is nothing we can do for him either. Our prayers for Satan would likely be useless since there is no way that Satan would desired to be saved given his new nature. For these reasons I do not love Satan. My primary reason for not loving the greatest enemy is that there is no clear action of Jesus or the apostle doing so.