In order to appreciate the significance of Messiah’s coming—and thus to understand the true meaning of Christmas—we need to travel back in time, back to the first Christmas, before this event even carried that name. We can’t offer you a time machine, but we can point you to the earliest written witnesses to the first Christmas: the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
These Gospel authors wrote their accounts on the basis of the eyewitness testimony of others; neither Matthew nor Luke was there on that fateful night in Bethlehem. Luke even explicitly alerts his readers to... Read More
God does not always do things the way that we think he should or act as we might expect. He does not always act in accordance with human wisdom (Paul develops this point in 1 Corinthians 1:18–25, 27–29). Nowhere is this clearer than in the infancy narratives of Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2. The birth of Jesus fulfilled God’s promises in a way that bypassed contemporary expectations. Our familiarity with the Christmas story unwittingly causes us to miss the unexpected wonder, shock, newness, and scandal which accompanied these events.
The Scandal of the Virgin Conception
Matthew provides... Read More
Biblical Foundations Online is the virtual extension of Biblical Foundations™. Biblical Foundations provides Christ-centered resources grounding believers in biblical truths and equipping them to share these truths with others. Join us for our first online course, a biblical-theological survey of God’s plan for men and women from Genesis to Revelation, and learn how to live out God’s design for you today. God’s Design for Man and Woman is based on the book by the same name published by Crossway. We’ll look at God’s design for man and woman as originally established at creation,... Read More
The disciples had not understood what Jesus meant when he said he would suffer, die, and be raised on the third day (Matt. 16:21–23; 17:22–23; 20:17–19). The Pharisees and religious leaders didn’t understand either, but they were concerned enough with Jesus’ predictions that they posted guards at his tomb (Matt. 27:62–66). Indeed, how could Jesus be expected to be raised from the dead? He had died a criminal’s death. More than that, he had died like a traitor or blasphemer, as one cursed by God according to the Scriptures (Deut. 21:22–23). It would be natural to think that the... Read More
For good reason the Gospels devote a great deal of space to the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion on Thursday and Friday of Passover week, as well as Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Sunday, the “Lord’s Day.” Yet little space is given in the Gospels to the day between “Good Friday” and Easter Sunday, sometimes known as “Holy Saturday.” None of the Gospels records any of the activities of the disciples on the Sabbath after his burial and prior to his resurrection, except for Luke, who simply writes, “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke... Read More
Remarkably, this year the dates of Easter week coincide exactly with those of the final week of Jesus, according to most likely estimates, as follows. Justin Taylor and I include a rationale for the original dates in our book The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Crossway, 2014). Here is a brief synopsis of these events.
Sunday, March 29: Jesus triumphantly enters the city of Jerusalem, mounted humbly on a donkey in keeping with prophetic messianic prediction. He later predicts his impending death and teaches at the Temple.
Monday,... Read More
I am grateful for the publication of several volumes in 2014 that will equip serious exegetes and preachers to study and proclaim God’s word with greater accuracy and authority. This pertains particularly to the study of Acts, Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, and 1 Peter. Other important books pertain to the divinity of Jesus, church leadership, and heaven. In the interest of full disclosure, while no books I authored are included, there are several books to which I contributed an essay (6, 7) or which I edited (2, 4).
1. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5... Read More
My years as a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School were certainly a very mind-stretching experience. I took classes with D. A. Carson on the use of the OT in the NT, with Doug Moo on the Second Temple period and on the Septuagint, with Grant Osborne on apocalyptic literature, and many more. In these classes, I came to realize that many issues in NT studies are considerably more complex than the average person realizes. In fact, becoming aware of some of these issues can be confusing, even disorienting, and can leave people bewildered, unless they have the necessary scholarly... Read More
In my Answers Magazine article and in my book (co-written with Justin Taylor) The Final Days of Jesus, I have implicitly assumed that Jesus was crucified on Friday (though our main argument was that Jesus died most likely in AD 33 rather than in AD 30). I’m hardly the only one who believes that Jesus died on a Friday (“Good” Friday), but some have taken issue with the fact that such a belief stands in apparent conflict with Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of Matthew that “just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three... Read More
Here’s what Easter may look like for many dedicated Christian families. Spring is always a very busy time of year, with spring cleaning, tax returns, school, and a million other things. You’d go to church and serve there in a variety of ways. But more often than not, Easter sneaks up on you. Palm Sunday? Oh, yes, it’s Palm Sunday! Perhaps the pastor preaches a sermon on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where an excited crowd waves palm branches, and everyone in the congregation is upbeat. Problem is, the excitement soon wanes, and Jesus ends up crucified. Good Friday... Read More
With the publication of Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God and the response How God Became Jesus by a team of scholars, Jesus is in the news again. That’s a very good thing. It’s also terrific that scholars are rising to the challenge of responding to the skeptical questions raised by the likes of Ehrman.
But at a deeper level, what is needed is to equip high school students and young college students, as well as their parents and youth leaders, to know what the issues are and to respond intelligently and biblically to questions such as, Why does God allow human suffering? Is the... Read More
The New York Times includes an article by Laurie Goodstein, “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife.” According to the article, Karen L. King of Harvard Divinity School announced at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome yesterday that a 4th-century Coptic papyrus fragment includes the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife,'” at which the manuscript tantalizingly breaks off.
The manuscript came into Dr. King’s possession through an anonymous collector who in turn in 1997 bought it from a German collector. The fragment has been... Read More
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the question of whether or not Jesus was born on December 25. To continue the conversation, here is what I continue to be the best article on the subject, by Paul Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at the University of Michigan. The piece appeared originally in Chronos, Karis, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies presented to Jack Fingan (ed. J. Vardaman; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989), and appears here with permission of the author. Read More
Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter every year, but few know when Jesus was actually born and when he died. Not that any great doctrine rests on the calculations below, but it sure is nice that we can have reasonable confidence that the dates of Jesus’ birth and death are secure and can be gleaned from a combination of biblical and extrabiblical historical data. I may not be willing to stake my life on the accuracy of the data below, but I am confident enough of these calculations that the license plate of my van reads as follows: 5BC–AD33. Read More
The Bauer-Ehrman thesis contends that “orthodoxy” is not a first-century phenomenon but only a later concept that allowed the Roman church to squelch alternate versions of Christianity. We have seen that Bauer virtually ignores the New Testament evidence while believing to find evidence for early heresy and late orthodoxy in various urban centers of the second century. Ehrman, likewise, makes much of second-century diversity and assigns the notion of orthodoxy to later church councils. The precursors of the orthodox, Ehrman calls “proto-orthodox,” even though it must,... Read More