TAWDE: The Reluctant Eunuch (Ch 11) (Final Chapter)

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies!

I hope you all have enjoyed this book and that it has moved you closer to Jesus and given you more confidence to share the gospel with those who object to Christianity. As you’re likely aware, this is the final chapter in the book and its focus is on the person of Jesus.

Andy discusses the claims of many of our skeptical friends that Jesus never existed, we can’t know anything about him if he did, the gospels are simply made up, and similar reasoning. Again, he skillfully handles the objections while pointing the reader to the person and work of Jesus. Andy certainly could have chosen to write about all the historical data and given us stats upon stats as to why the gospels are reliable and point to Jesus being a person of antiquity; however, that’s not what he did. Rather he said, ‘Look at the evidence, consider what both Christian and non-Christian experts in the field say, and think about why you are rejecting Jesus.’

He does this because Jesus is the focus of Christianity, not stats or other known facts. In fact, on page 231 he writes, “You see, the question that lies at the heart of Christianity is not “Does God exist?” That may be something that keeps philosophers on either side of the question busy, but my problem with it is that it is way too abstract. The question that Christianity is primarily concerned with, that the Bible wrestles with, that the Gospels explore – through the lens of the life of Jesus – is far more personal than that: it is What kind of God?” ‘ What is God like’ is far more challenging that just answering ‘Does God exist? Yes or No.’ So, if Christianity is true, and this book has given plenty of reason to think so, what does that say about us? Who we are, what is wrong, and what do we need to be made right? This is where our focus is to be – on the person of Jesus – who he was, why he came, and what he did. Or, as Andy says in the final sentence of the book, “Perhaps it is time we laid bad arguments aside, even just for a few hours and gave Jesus a careful, considered look.”

  1. I glossed over many details and finer points of this chapter. Did any particularly stand out to you? If so, what was impactful?

  2. It’s easy to get caught up trying to show that God exists and that Christianity makes more sense than other worldviews, I’ve certainly done this. How does this chapter make you re-consider how you are sharing the gospel?

  3. As we’ve finished the whole book, I would really like to hear your thoughts and opinions on it and our discussions via RZIM Connect. What did you like/dislike, how were you encouraged/what made you give pause, how could we do this better, etc?

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Thanks for leading the book study and seeing it through to the end. I thought we’d have a few more people but oh well, thanks for all your efforts. I"ll be going back and re-reading and collecting your notes. I want to collate the chapter ‘overall questions’ so if I manage to talk to someone about them, I can have the book ready to give as a resource.

I thought Andy made a good point about genre of biographies as historical (or any other writing). A bit of a side story; my mother in law had a collection of old typed letters in various languages, family history going back to the early 20th century, in German, Swedish and Russian where their family roots came from. I couldn’t read the letters at all and they all looked the same, so I scanned them and ran them through Google translate. I did three and read them out to my mother in law (who is legally blind and needs people to read for her), and after finding some interesting history of the family (not too many skeletons in the closet :slight_smile: ), I ran a fourth one through Google translate and read the first few lines and immediately saw that this wasn’t a letter, it was a knitting pattern; laid out in Swedish in the same format as the letters.

I guess I tell this story; because as Andy says, it’s important to be clear about the genre of Biblical texts. If I tried to read a knitting pattern as a comedy I’m going to get confused.

So when it comes to history, what can we say about the Gospels, the four short biographies from which we derive most of our information about the life of Jesus of Nazareth? Well, the first thing is precisely that: they’re biographies. As regards what their authors were trying to do as they wrote, most scholars are comfortable with the fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were trying to write history; when one compares the Gospels with other ancient Greco-Roman biographies, there are striking parallels in terms of style and structure.278 That’s an important first step to get right, because if you fail to grasp the genre of a text, you’re going to go badly wrong. If I attempt to read a map of London as a romantic comedy,279 or The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a graphic novel, I am going to end up confused. Similarly, if we fail to appreciate that the Gospel writers were intending to write history, you are going to misunderstand them: for instance, you may make the sloppy mistake of labelling them as “fable” or “myth”.

But though Jesus’s story certainly has some mythic parallels, and acquired some mythic resonances as it became a whole culture’s
founding artefact, it does not read like a myth. It’s the wrong shape, in a number of different ways. For a start, it doesn’t happen in the same special time set aside for myths, the dream-time, the long ago zone off to the side of calendar history where gods and heroes strutted their stuff. What year was it when Odin hung on the tree? The question does not compute. It’s a category error, like asking what colour accountancy is. Jesus’s story, by contrast, happens at a definite historical address. As Monty Python’s Life of Brian puts it, ‘Judea, AD 33, teatime’.

When you read the Gospels properly this is one of the things that immediately strikes you: these are documents concerned with dates, times, and locations. On that last point, it’s fascinating to observe that the Gospels refer to dozens of place names along with details about them, displaying a level of geographical accuracy that is hard to explain were the Gospel writers simply amateurish hacks knocking out fiction in a rented room above a taverna somewhere, thousands of miles and hundreds of years removed from the events. Fine detail is a key clue: if asked to name the capital of France, even the most poorly travelled southern redneck could probably succeed if he tried really hard, but if I asked you to start naming minor villages a hundred miles from Paris, you’d probably struggle unless you’d actually visited the region. Yet that’s precisely the level of detail the Gospels get right, managing to know not just major cities such as Jerusalem but minor villages like Cana and Chorazin, one-goat towns in their day.

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 221). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

and yet, many sources claim that the Gospel’s were not eyewitnesses. Here’s a random one I stumbled across just now from what seems to be university curriculum.

https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/node/1754

with this little gem in the introduction:

Written a generation after the death of Jesus (ca. 30 C.E), none of the four gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus. Our earliest extant sources of information about Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings remain the letters of the apostle Paul.

and yet if you go and read the source; the Gospel writers certainly claim to be eye-witnesses; having seen with their eyes, and touched with their hands. 1 John

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that [a]your joy may be full.

I enjoyed the book by William Lane Craig: The Son Rises; Historical Evidence for the Resurrection fo Jesus Christ.

it’s also interesting to look at the harmony of the Gospels; pretty clever to get those Gospel account so much in agreement if they are written a generation or two after the eye-witnesses are dead. :wink:

I also thought Andy made a good point about why not put something more useful in the mouth of Jesus (if you were inventing the record). As usual he does his little humorous one at the end; about the coffee cup colour. :slight_smile:

If the first Christians were simply inventing the Gospels from whole cloth, then why not put something really useful into the mouth of Jesus? Rather than have him say things about the Temple tax (irrelevant after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 anyway) or engage in protracted debates with the Pharisees, why not invent a story where Jesus directly answers the circumcision question? Why not concoct an episode in which he clearly sets out how a church service should be ordered, including the choice of hymns and the colour of the post-service coffee cups?

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (p. 224). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

or Matthew the tax collector

Or, quite frankly, if the Gospel writers were simply writing stories to gain power and influence (as one version of the sceptical narrative goes), why doesn’t Matthew (a former tax collector, for heaven’s sake) possess the gumption to have Jesus announce the many blessings that will be showered upon those who send money to the church – oh, and by the way, here’s a forwarding address for the cheques. Rather, in contrast to all of this, the more you read the Gospels and allow them to be themselves, the more a Jesus emerges who was very much his own man, standing wholly within neither the Judaism that preceded him nor the early church that came afterwards. Thus if you insist on thinking that the Gospels are fictitious, you need at least to answer this question: fictions designed to do what, precisely?

Bannister, Andy. The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (pp. 224-225). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

and that is a great question; What would be the point of the disciples to invent Jesus; when all they got for it was suffering, torture and death? They were all hiding and scared, unless something happened that changed all their minds (including James, Jesus’ half brother who was a skeptic until after the resurrection).

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!

29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus one day soon with my real eyes; when our faith will become sight.

Thanks again for leading the book study; God bless in the days ahead.

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Hi. A bit late, so I won’t comment on the chapter, but just to say thanks for doing this and being dedicated. It has been very interesting and thought-provoking. :slightly_smiling_face:

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