No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Tag Archives: New Testament

U2’s Bono interview about Christ


Okay….so I am always on the lookout for how celebrities describe their faith.  I find it interesting.  9 times out of 10 they end up creating a God that does not exist in the Bible.  Then along comes this excerpt from a book where Bono from U2 is being interviewed about his faith.  Actually the interview is from September 2010…but never the less it is an incredible read.  The following excerpt is from the poached egg and can be found at this link.

Christians in a rock band?

 

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

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More reliable…Aristotle or the New Testament?


 In one of our previous posts we took a look at the time frame between the crucifixion and the writing of the New Testament.  What we found was that the timeline of the writing was no different than our current timeline of writing books about our recent history.  This is a standard that is acceptable to all historians.

Now that we can verify that the timeline is acceptable, can we verify that the words

Which is more reliable?

Which is more reliable?

 themselves are acceptable?

First it must be conceded that the original text of the New Testament (and Old Testament for that matter) do not exist.  However, there are a significant number of copies (manuscripts) that do.  This is a critical point.  Most atheist’s will argue that a lack of the original autographs indicates that there is no way we know that the words in the New Testament accurately represent the events they depict.  This argument is faulty because copies can give a gateway into what the original text said. 

Consider for a moment that someone (for whatever reason) wanted to copy this post.  Two days later…wordpress.com goes crazy, and this post is lost forever.  The only evidence that the original post existed would be the one copy made.  Now let’s expand that scenario.  Let’s say that 100 copies were made of my original post, and then wordpress.com crashes.  The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made.

In both examples the original post has been destroyed, and all we have are copies of the original post.  Now, how can we determine which best preserved the text of the original post?  Some would answer that the one copy would be the best representation of the original because there is less chance for an error in the copying of the original post.  Theoretically you would be correct.  The less something is copied the less chance there is for error in the copy.  Realistically that argument cannot stand.  The premise with the argument is that the copy is correct.  But how can you tell?  You can’t.  You have nothing to compare the 1 copy to, to determine how faithful it was to the original that was destroyed.  In this case the 100 copies would be a more reliable source to see what the original post said.  The reason, you can compare 100 copies and see any variance.  For example, if 99 of the copies have the sentence “The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” and the 1 copy has “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made” there is a high probability that the former was in the original. 

So the principle is simple, verification through sheer volume.

Consider the following statistics:

  Author Date Written Number of Copies Accuracy of Copies  
Plato 427-347 B.C. 7 —-  
Aristotle 384-322 B.C. 49 —-  
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 643 95%  
NewTestament 1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D. 5600 99.50%  
 

 

This is an incredible chart.  The New Testament has 5,600 copies…In Greek.  The “in Greek” is significant because the original text was written in Greek (common language of the day).  If we add copies from various languages such as Latin the total number of copies would go as high as 24,000.  That is 24,000 copies of the original documents, the original writings of the Apostles.  No other document in antiquity can claim such a volume.  Other famous writers of antiquity fail this test.  This is not to say that the copies of these other documents are inadequate or that the copies are wrong.  It is simply to say that you have much less quantity with which to verify its contents and, therefore, much less confidence in those copies. 

Consider Plato.  Plato is well known for his writing “The Republic”.  There are only 7 copies of the original.  How confident can one be that the translation we read of “The Republic” is the one that Plato wrote?  Confidence level has to be low because you only have 7 copies to compare against one another.  However, historically speaking, “The Republic” has been accepted as an accurate recording of Plato’s words.

Now consider Aristotle.  Aristotle is credited with making contributions to logic, metaphysics, biology, botany, politics, etc…  How confident can we be that what we read today represents what Aristotle actually wrote?  There are only 49 copies of Aristotle’s works.  Once again, historians easily accept the historicity and authority of the writings of Aristotle as many have dubbed him the “father of the field of logic”.  However, as compared to the New Testament, the confidence level has to be low.

Now consider the Greek poet Homer.  Homer is well known for his literary works such as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”.  If we look specifically at the Iliad you will see that there are 643 copies of the original.  This allows for a fairly broad comparison and can create a high degree of confidence that the Iliad that we read today, is very similar to the original version.    

Finally consider the New Testament. The New Testament is a combination of several authors.  There are 5,600 copies of those books in their original language.  This allows historians to compare 1 copy with 5,599 other copies to see if it matches.  Based on this comparison, scholars have been able to identify a 94% word for word match of all of the copies.  To put this into context…there are 138,020 words in the New Testament.  All 5,600 match precisely for 129,738 words.  Pretty incredible?  This would leave 6% open to review for error.  Scholars state the 3% of the 6% can be attributed to misspellings, notes in the margins, and punctuation errors.  This would leave 3% open for review.  Scholars argue, (and I agree) that the 3% have no impact on the message being delivered – they are simply a similar statement with perhaps slightly different vocabulary and syntax.  It would be the same as the example given above (“The only evidence of my original post is 100 copies made” verses “The only evidence of my post are the copies that are made”).

What does this mean?  This means that the 5,600 copies of the originals are at least 97% consistent with one another.  This means, that on text evidence alone, that you can feel 97% – 99% sure that the words you read are exact representative of the original documents.

That makes the New Testament the most textually reliable document in ALL of antiquity.

This fact, taken with the historical accuracy spoken of in our previous post means you can have complete confidence that the story recounted in the New Testament is reliable – this should, in turn increase your confidence in its message.

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The evidence that Jesus is real…The New Testament


By request we have decided to take a like at some of the overwhelming evidence for Jesus.  Not just the fact that he existed, but also that he was God in the flesh.  This can be a daunting task, so much so, a number of great books have been written on the topic.  One that is highly recommended by both KB and I is the book More than a Carpenter.  This is a great read that focuses on one man’s search to disprove that Christ existed, and ended up coming to Christ.    

To set this up…

Many atheists will say that either Christ didn’t exist (wasn’t even born), or will concede the point that He existed, but was not divine.  Most will tell you that the New Testament cannot be counted as historical evidence to support Christ.  This is a fascinating argument by atheists because the argument would undercut most, if not all historical events that were documented in antiquity.  The truth is that the historical events recorded in the Gospels, and the New Testament are the most documented events in antiquity.  Atheists choose to deny this truth…either out of ignorance or plain stubbornness.  We simply ask that atheists apply the same standards to the Bible as they would to other historical documents.

Now consider this for one moment.  The original dates of the New Testament writings were between 50 – 100 AD.  Some atheist’s will disregard the historicity of the

The New Testament...written in the same time frame as Band of Brothers.

 Gospels and Acts because they were not written at the time of Christ.  However, I would submit that this is simply a red herring.  Take for example the Events of World War II.  One of the most celebrated books about World War, Band of Brothers, was written in 1992.  Using interviews of the men, Stephen Ambrose was able to compile an excellent retelling of the events of Easy Company.  Band of Brothers chronicled the acts of the men of Easy Company.  It detailed some of their conversations, their emotions, and their actions.  I don’t believe there is anyone who would doubt that the events, or conversations documented in this book were not real.  But there is a catch.  This book was written some 40 years after the fact. 

Christ was crucified in approximately 33 AD.  If we were to apply the same time frame for Band of Brothers that would put that book being written at about 73 AD, which is smack dab in the middle of the time-frame when the New Testament was being written.  History books, in general, are written several years after the fact.  There are books being written about US Presidents… 200 years after the fact.  All are generally accepted as being historically accurate.  Remember, the New Testament was written within 20 – 70 years of the events it records.  This is the equivalence of reading a new history book about, Ronald Reagan’s Presidency (20 years), The Vietnam War (40 years), The Korea War (57 years), and World War 2 (65 years).

Keep in mind this is only a set up to future posts.  Our goal with this post was to demonstrate that the timing of the writing of the New Testament, is not that dissimilar to our current history books.

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