Archive for March, 2007

An Open Letter

March 28, 2007

Dear New Testament scholar Frank Maloney,

I saw you on the Today show this morning, promoting a new book that you collaborated on. The book is entitled The Gospel According to Judas, and my understanding is that it questions a number of traditional beliefs about Jesus and the events of his life (just in time for Easter, of course!). I’m not surprised that another book like this is coming out; I am, however, a little surprised that you, a Roman Catholic, are so enthusiastic about it. But that is neither here nor there.

The reason I am writing is to take issue with what seems to be an underlying presupposition in your approach to the Gospels. During the interview today, you made two specific claims about events in the Gospels that indicate to me something of the direction you take in your hermeneutic. You said that Jesus never actually walked on water; the accounts that claim this were written not to report a real event but simply to affirm that Jesus is divine. You also claimed that Judas never received thirty pieces of silver for the betrayal of Jesus. You based this claim on the fact that only Matthew mentions the thirty pieces of silver and that he connects them to an Old Testament prophecy in order to show that God’s purpose is coming to pass, but as a historical event this never happened.

Based on these two examples, I infer that you operate with this hermeneutical presupposition:

If an account in the Gospels can be shown to have a significant theological purpose, then its historicity is doubtful.

Why else would you have made the claims mentioned above unless you believed this? From what I could gather from your short presentation this morning, it sounds like you try to keep theology separate from history. If the Gospel writers were writing one, then they probably weren’t writing the other at the same time.

I have heard these kinds of claims many times (normally from liberal Protestants). I want you to know that I believe your presupposition is a false one, that theology and history actually do go together in Scripture, and that the Gospel writers wrote true history with a theological purpose. I believe that if you jettison the history in order to grasp the theology, you actually end up with neither, because the Christian faith is rooted in actual, historical events. Just because post-Enlightenment thinkers find it hard to swallow the historical value of a well-crafted story doesn’t mean people in the first century (including the Gospel writers) were afflicted with the same deficiency of faith. I happen to believe (in continuity with 2,000 years of Christian tradition) that there exists a sovereign, personal God who rules over history, and that he is quite capable of making theological points through historical events. I would have taken it for granted yesterday that a high-profile Roman Catholic like yourself would share that belief, but after today I am not so sure anymore.

Here is what I don’t understand: how can a theological point that is presented in the framework of a historical event still be made if we reject the truth of the historical event? Apparently, you approach a Gospel narrative and say something like this: “Here, John is telling me through the account of Jesus walking on water that Jesus is divine, that he rules over nature and the forces of chaos. Excellent point, John. Of course, Jesus didn’t really walk on water, but I do accept the theological point.” But then, why do you accept the theological point if the historical event didn’t happen? If Jesus really is divine, then why couldn’t he have walked on water? And if he didn’t walk on water, then what is John really saying? It sounds to me like you want John to be saying this: “Jesus is such an inspiring figure that he makes me want to communicate something about him in an imaginary way.” But if his walking on water is imaginary, what does that make of his divinity? Is that imaginary too?

You seem to be drawn to the idea of Jesus that the Gospel writers, with their fertile theological imaginations, conjured up. I am drawn to the actual person of Jesus, the one who really did perform miracles and walk on water and get betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. I don’t give a rip about a Jesus of Matthew’s imagination, faintly connected to an actual historical person. I want to know the Jesus who really lived and died for my salvation. And I believe I do know him because the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to write down true historical accounts (yes, shaped by their own theological points, but still historical) of his life, death, and resurrection.

I respect you as an accomplished New Testament scholar. I am thankful for your work and that of many others who help people like me understand the New Testament. But I often find that New Testament scholars who share some of your presuppositions tend to be good exegetes but terrible theologians. And that is why I am thankful for men like Don Carson and Tom Schreiner, New Testament specialists who approach their task from a solid theological perspective. They understand that history and theology belong together in the biblical writings, and for this reason, their writings are a breath of fresh air in a discipline that has long been dominated by those who share your post-Enlightenment presuppositions. You say that your debunking of traditional Christian beliefs about the historicity of the Gospels has nothing to do with undermining faith, but I wonder if millions of Christians around the world who hear the Scripture read in public worship every Sunday would be as happy about your conclusions. I know that I am not. Your approach to Scripture seems to me to be an attempt to accomodate it to the post-Enlightenment world. But the Word of God cannot be molded according to the ideas of man. Please stop domesticating the gospel.

Yours truly,
Aaron O’Kelley


More on Election 2008

March 26, 2007

It is notoriously difficult to predict what the Democrats will do. This post is pure speculation, and it is still a long time before we will know who the Democrats will nominate for President in 2008.

That said, of course we know who the three present front runners are: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Let’s go in reverse order.

John Edwards has both the advantage and the difficulty that he has been in a presidential race before. He knows what to expect, but at the same time he is part of the team that lost in 2004. Will the Democrats give him another shot? I doubt it. He strikes me as more of a sloganeering propagandist than a man with real ideas. His specialty is class warfare. Of course, Democrats love that, so I may be wrong about my prediction here. But I just don’t see a large percentage of Americans buying into his soup-line, 1930’s diagnosis of the present state of our economy. On top of that, he lives in the largest house in North Carolina. Jay Leno has said that John Edwards, who is famous for his “Two Americas” speech, can actually fit both Americas into his backyard!

Having said that, I do want to point out that I repudiate the recent personal insult that Ann Coulter gave Mr. Edwards. Rush Limbaugh has also echoed Coulter’s sentiment. Although I often agree with their political ideas, I think Coulter and Limbaugh hurt the conservative cause when they lower themselves to unwarranted personal attacks.

Barack Obama strikes me as more of a rock star than a politician. I have heard a great deal of hype about him, but very little substance about what he actually stands for. When I do hear his positions on the issues, he comes across as a typical liberal Democrat with nothing new to offer. His major advantage over Hillary Clinton is his consistency in opposing the Iraq war. His major disadvantage is that he has not been tested the way she has.

Hillary Clinton is, of course, a Clinton. She has lived in the White House for eight years and has served in the Senate for a full term. She has endured media scrutiny since the early 90’s. She is smart and politically astute, but not as appealing as her husband. Running for President as the wife of Bill Clinton has a major advantage: your husband is Bill Clinton. But it also has a major disadvantage: your husband is Bill Clinton! It will be interesting to watch how she will try to involve him in her campaign and suppress him at the same time. Her biggest challenge will probably be the very strong support she showed for the invasion of Iraq. I have heard recordings of what she said back in 2002, and she made an even stronger case for the war than President Bush did! She now has to try to harmonize her 2002 self with her present self and the trend of her party.

If I had to make a prediction right now (which I don’t, but I’m going to anyway), I would say that Clinton will get the nomination. I think this race will come down to experience. Obama is just not ready to be a presidential candidate, as he himself said back in 2004 when he rejected the idea of running for President in 2008. I guess that sentiment didn’t last.

Hillary Clinton, if she does get the nomination, will be a formidable opponent for any Republican. I think Giuliani could probably beat her, but all of the other Republican candidates have a lot of work to do if they want to be real contenders.

Of course, all of this speculation may be a moot point anyway. Election 2008 may ride less on the particular candidates than on the progress of the war. If the situation in Iraq dramatically improves, I expect a major Republican victory in 2008. The Democrats have consistently invested themselves in defeat; victory spells political doom for them. On the other hand, if Iraq does not improve, I expect another Democratic victory, maybe even bigger than the one we saw last year.

Election 2008

March 24, 2007

I know it is way too early to start making predictions about election 2008, but since every media outlet is doing it anyway, I thought I would join the fun.

From where I sit, circumstances don’t look good for my party right now (yes, I am now officially registered as a Republican). The front runner is Rudolph Giuliani. Yes, he showed great leadership in New York City. Yes, he would probably fight the war on terror better than any Democrat imaginable. Yes, he does have a broad range of support from people with all kinds of views in this country.

But he is pro-choice and pro-gay rights. His own family history is a mess. I don’t say this to condemn him or to claim that no one should ever get a second chance in life. I know many wonderful people who have messed up on their marriages. But if the Republican Party is going to be the party that stands for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, this is not the man to lead us at this crucial time in our nation’s history. I will probably vote for him if he gets the nomination, but that would be more of a vote against a Democrat than for him. I fear that, if he does get the nomination, he will not be able to energize the conservative base enough to win the election. The conservative base would have to be energized against Hillary or against someone else in that case. That was the Democratic strategy in 2004 (a vote for Kerry is a vote against Bush), and it didn’t work.

And then there is John McCain. He is broadly conservative, but a maverick on a number of things. I think his views on the issues are pretty solid overall, but he is not the kind of candidate who will energize support. He is probably too old to win. I know Reagan was old, but McCain is no Reagan. A McCain candidacy would probably resemble Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign. Republicans would probably think, “Yeah, he’s okay, but is this really the best we can do?”

And then there is Mitt Romney. He appears to be a conservative, but then he has changed his positions so many times that it is hard to keep up. I can understand changing your mind about an issue here and there, but Romney’s record, especially on the issue of life, seems to indicate that his positions change according to whatever is politcally expedient at the time. Again, I will probably vote for him if he gets the nomination, but he doesn’t energize me much either.

These are the leaders of the pack. My hope is that Romney will continue to do poorly in the polls so that another conservative alternative to Giuliani can rise to prominence. I want that alternative to be Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas. He is conservative, articulate, and unique in some ways. His weight loss story is great. He plays in a rock band and has promoted arts education in Arkansas, something Republicans are not normally known for. He is a Southern Baptist who recognizes that one’s religious views cannot be strictly separated from one’s political philosophy, as though religion were merely a private matter with no public consequences. And so, for all those who have been waiting for my opinion on this matter (pretty much the whole world, I’m sure), I officially endorse Mike Huckabee for President in 2008.

His biggest challenge will probably be that his name is “Huckabee.” Can you imagine hearing on the news, “The Huckabee Administration…”? Oh, well. I know he is relatively unknown right now, but I seem to remember another Arkansas governor who was also relatively unknown at this point in 1991. I think it can be done.

In my next post I’ll look at the Democrat candidates.

Does the Trinity Matter? Part 2

March 15, 2007

I have previously argued that the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, which means that God as he relates to us is a faithful representation of who God is in himself. If modalism were true, this premise would be falsified, and we would not truly know God. Modalism entails that God reveals himself as other than what he truly is.

What implications does this have for feminist issues facing the church today? I can think of two in particular:

1. First, the trend among feminists to revise the doctrine of the Trinity by cutting out the masculine language should be rejected. The “Father” and “Son” parts are the ones that draw some attention. Some feminist theologians have proposed that we revise the language along the lines of “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” Some have even proposed using feminine pronouns for God or offering prayers to “Mother God.”

I have no problem affirming that God is “Creator,” “Redeemer,” and “Sanctifier.” However, these titles are less personal than “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and they do not communicate with the same kind of specificity. All three titles can be predicated of a specific person of the Godhead, but they all three can also be predicated of the triune God himself. For example, the Father is Creator, but God the Trinity is also Creator. However, only the Father is Father. God the Trinity is not the Father. When we say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” we achieve a level of specificity that is unattainable with other words.

I do have a problem referring to God as “she,” “her,” or “Mother.” Why is this? Is it because I believe God is a male, a sexual being like us? No. God is not a sexual being (excluding for the moment any mention of Christ’s human nature). But this does not give us license to call him whatever we want when the culture pressures us to jettison masculine terminology. If the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, then God-in-himself corresponds to God as he has revealed himself. And if God has revealed himself in Scripture as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” with corresponding masculine pronouns, then we are not at liberty to say he was wrong to do so. To me, that is kind of like saying to William Shakespeare, “What would you do with Hamlet if I gave you another chance?” only it is far, far worse. When they seek to revise the doctrine of the Trinity as revealed in Scripture, feminists imply that God’s revelation of himself is not a faithful representation of who he really is. If that is the case, then the economic Trinity is not the immanent Trinity, and we have no real knowledge of God at all. We are free to make up whatever we want.

God has revealed himself primarily in masculine terminology not because he is a sexual being but because his relationship to us is the underlying theological foundation upon which the male-to-female relationship is built in our world. God calls himself the husband of Israel. Christ is the bridegroom who comes to receive his bride, the church. There is some feminine imagery used in reference to God, but these are always similes. In some sense, God is like a mother (Matt 23:37), but he is never called “Mother” directly. He is, however, called “Father” and “Son.” If we prayed to “Mother God” on the basis of Matthew 23:37, we would be misusing a simile. In fact, this verse would require us to pray to “Mother Hen” if we used it that way. We should avoid all attempts to revise trinitarian language. There is no need for us to try to be nicer, or more politically correct, than God.

2. Second, if the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, then we must assume that the trinitarian order we observe in redemptive history corresponds to God as he is in himself. Let me explain: In salvation history, we see the persons of the Trinity relating to each other in certain ways. The Son submits to the Father (John 5:30), and the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 16:12-15). We know that all three persons are of the same essence. The Father is not ontologically greater than the Son or the Spirit. All three persons are fully and eternally God. And yet, we see a clear pattern of authority and submission in the economic Trinity. Is this pattern an indication of how the persons of the Trinity are in relation to each other eternally, or is this pattern simply a temporary arrangement for the purpose of redemption? Let me rephrase that question with a more particular one: does the Son submit to the Father eternally or only for the purpose of his redemptive mission?

Evangelical feminists typically argue that the pattern of authority and submission we witness in the economic Trinity is not a reflection of the immanent Trinity. But to say this is to say that the economic Trinity is not the immanent Trinity. God is not in himself what he reveals himself to be. This is the same pitfall into which modalists fall, and it questions the basis of any true knowledge of God. If the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, then the pattern of authority and submission that we see between Father, Son, and Spirit must be reflective of their eternal relationships. The Son submits to the Father not just in history but in eternity. Even though they share the same essence, their personal distinctions warrant an order of authority and submission that does not compromise their essential equality. We see this confirmed from Scripture in many places. I have already referenced Jesus’ statement in John 5:30, in which he declares that he does not pursue his own will but that of the Father. Of course, this text clearly pertains to his redemptive mission. But is there any indication in Scripture that the Son submits to the Father in eternity? Yes. John 3:16 speaks of God sending his only begotten Son. This sending took place prior to the Son’s incarnation and is the basis of the incarnation. If evangelical feminists are correct, then the Son could just as easily have sent the Father. But is there not something fitting in the person of the Son as the Son that he should be the one sent by the Father? Are the divine persons arbitrarily related, or do these terms “Father” and “Son” actually mean something? First Corinthians 11:3 confirms what I have argued when it says that God is the head of Christ. This is clearly a reference to who God (the Father) and Christ are eternally. To make it an ad hoc arrangement between the Father and Son would not do much for Paul’s argument. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:28 says, “And when everything is subject to Him [Christ], then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.” This clearly pertains to eternity. When redemptive history is finished, and all things (save the Father himself) have been subjected to Christ, he will deliver up the Kingdom to the Father forever. No, the pattern of authority and submission between Father and Son is no ad hoc arrangement. It has been from all eternity and will be for all eternity.

If this is the case, then we have theological resources to understand the essential equality of men and women while still arguing for a legitimate pattern of authority and submission between them in accordance with Scripture. If the persons of the Trinity, being equal in essence, have distinctions in the roles that they fulfill that include authority and submission, then we should have no a priori objection to the idea that authority and submission are inherent in the husband and wife relationship and in the nature of church leadership. I believe what drives evangelical feminist exegesis of such passages as 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and Ephesians 5 is not the text itself but rather an a priori objection to the idea that women, because they are women, are called to submit to the leadership of men. A right understanding of the Trinity should make this objection disappear.

Does the Trinity Matter? Part 1

March 13, 2007

During the first four centuries of church history, ideas developed and controversies erupted over the nature of God. Perhaps the most important controversy in church history was the Trinitarian controversy of the fourth century that has given all subsequent generations a test of Christian orthodoxy: God exists eternally as three persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who share the same divine essence.

When I first started learning about the various controversies that surrounded this doctrine, I asked myself from time to time if this kind of theological precision really mattered. Take, for example, the Christian heresy known as “Arianism,” the view that the Son is a created being whose essence is not the same as that of the Father. Does Arianism really affect the gospel? Should we really say that Arians are unorthodox because they have a different understanding of who God is? They still believe in Jesus Christ and in his atoning work, so what’s the big deal? Why make a big fuss over words like homoousios (the Greek word meaning “of the same essence,” that was used in the Nicene Creed to affirm that Jesus Christ is of the same essence as the Father)?

Over time I came to realize that one’s doctrine of God has everything to do with the gospel. As Athanasius argued, if only God can save us, and Jesus is not fully God, then Jesus cannot save us. Arianism stabs right at the heart of the gospel. (Plus, it is mixed with some elements of Gnosticism, the earliest Christian heresy, but I won’t get into that here). Doctrines have consequences.

But I must admit, until recently I had trouble understanding how the heresy of modalism could threaten the gospel at all. Modalism is the doctrine that God is not three persons in one essence but is rather one person who plays three different roles, or reveals himself in three different ways. The Father is the Son, who is the Spirit, who is the Father, etc. Instead of three divine persons, modalism teaches that there are three different modes of the one divine person, God. Modalism is the official teaching of the United Pentecostal Church (please note that this is one Pentecostal denomination among many; the majority of Pentecostals believe in the historic doctrine of the Trinity as taught by the church). In all major branches of the church, baptism is performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but modalists baptize in the name of Jesus only to indicate their belief in only one divine person.

But modalists believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. Isn’t that enough? How can the fact that trinitarians distinguish between the persons who share the same divine essence really make much of a difference to the gospel? Having read Robert Letham’s book The Holy Trinity, I now understand much better why this is such an important issue.

To answer this question about why the heresy of modalism matters, I need to introduce two theological phrases: the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity. The phrase “immanent Trinity” refers to God as he is in himself apart from his relationship to creation. The phrase “economic Trinity” refers to God as he relates to his creation. We know God only has he has revealed himself. We cannot, by our own efforts, probe the mysterious depths of the immanent Trinity. We are in no position to do that. God must come to us, open himself to us, and invite us to know him by his own sovereign initiative (the economic Trinity).

Karl Rahner’s famous axiom was this: “The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity.” I agree with the first clause but deny the second. To help you understand what I mean, let me use a concrete example. Imagine that you dip a cup into the Atlantic Ocean so that it fills up with water. Could you say, “The water in this cup is the Atlantic Ocean”? Yes, so long as you mean “is” in a certain way (do you hear Bill Clinton in the background here?!). Statements that use “is” in English usually work in one of two ways: (1) They indicate strict identity (i.e., “Samuel Clemens is Mark Twain”; only Samuel Clemens is Mark Twain, and vice versa), or (2) They move from the more particular to the more general (i.e., “Fido is a dog”; not every dog is Fido). It is in the second sense (particular to general) that the sentence “The water in this cup is the Atlantic Ocean” is true. The water in the cup truly is the water of the Atlantic Ocean, a real sample that, if tested, would show properties consistent with the ocean. But then could you say, “The Atlantic Ocean is the water in this cup”? No. Reversing the nouns does not work, because to do so is to argue for a strict identity between the Atlantic Ocean and the water in the cup, which is manifestly not true. The Atlantic Ocean is not even close to being exhausted by the water in the cup.

Now, apply this to Rahner’s axiom: the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity. The first clause is true: God as he relates to his creation (the economic Trinity) is a real manifestation of God as he is in himself (the immanent Trinity). In other words, God does not reveal himself to be something that he is not. His revelation is accomodated to our capacity, but it is not falsified or obscured so as to be an unfaithful representation of who he is, just as the water in the cup is a true, though not exhaustive, sample of the Atlantic Ocean. But the second clause is false. The immanent Trinity is not the economic Trinity. This is to argue for a strict identity between the two, so that God as he relates to us (the economic Trinity) is an exhaustive revelation of who God is in himself (the immanent Trinity). But to argue this is to say that God cannot be apart from his creation, which is to compromise the distinction between the Creator and the creature and to veer into a dangerous panentheism. If Rahner’s axiom is true, then God cannot exist apart from the world; the world is not the product of his free, sovereign decision to create but is instead a necessary part of his being. This is to compromise the aseity, self-existence, and lordship of God over all that he has made. God has truly and faithfully revealed himself to us, but that revelation is accomodated to our capacity and does not come close to exhausting all of who God is. We can never know God exhaustively, though we can truly know him in our limited capacity.

This little detour into Rahner was necessary to get to what I now want to argue concerning the heresy of modalism. Modalism is heretical precisely because it obscures the proper relationship between the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity. Modalists believe that God reveals himself to us as something other than what he is, namely, three persons. God does not actually exist as three persons, but he has revealed himself to us in this way. This means that God’s revelation of himself (the economic Trinity) is not a faithful representation of who God is (the immanent Trinity), and, therefore, we can have no true knowledge of God as he is in himself. We do not know God if modalism is true. We know a misrepresentation of God. If eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3), then modalism, like Arianism, strikes at the very heart of the gospel.

In my next post I plan to show how a proper understanding of the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity should lead us to think through issues facing the church today, particularly those associated with contemporary feminism.

Leaving Again

March 7, 2007

We’re leaving town again tomorrow morning to head back to Texas, this time for my younger brother’s wedding. I hope to have a new post up around Tuesday or Wednesday.

In the meantime, read John Piper’s journal entry about the recent death of his father. It is very moving.

More on the Body of Jesus

March 4, 2007

I remember one day in college I was in a class where the professor asked this question: “Could there ever be any possible evidence presented to you that would convince you that Christianity is false?” [This was a Christian college, and most of the students and the professor were Christians, so that is why we were discussing this.]

I answered the question: “Yes, there is one kind of evidence, but only one. If anyone ever found the body of Christ, I would abandon the faith.”

Naturally, I was a bit surprised this past Monday to hear reports of someone claiming to have found just that. Well, actually, no one is claiming to have found Jesus’ body or his bones. The claim being made (set to air tonight on the Discovery Channel) is that an ossuary that once contained Jesus’ bones has been discovered, and traces of DNA (from bone fragments, I guess?) have been found in this ossuary.

It is becoming more and more evident as time goes by how silly these claims are. I have already posted links to some of the articles that evaluate this. But I have been thinking about something: if I am willing to give up the faith if someone ever convinces me that Jesus’ body has been found, then what would it take for me to be convinced that Jesus’ body has, in fact, been found? Clearly, this tomb in Talpiot outside of Jerusalem won’t cut it. What would?

I would have to say at this point, probably nothing would. I can’t fathom how I could ever be convinced by archaeological evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead. But I will try to sketch in here at least something of the kind of case that would have to be made in order to be even close to convincing:

1. The body would have to be discovered in a secret place, hidden from the masses. The tomb in Talpiot does not fit this description. Think about it: the entire Christian movement is predicated on the resurrection of Christ from the dead (and when I say “resurrection,” for you liberal scholars out there, I mean bodily resurrection because that is the only kind of resurrection known to Jews in the first century). There is no way that either Jesus’ followers or his family could have buried him in a family tomb known to have belonged to him and his family. The Christian movement as we know it would not exist were that the case. The evident facts of history discredit any attempt claim that Jesus’ burial place was public knowledge in the first century. Christians did not follow him because he was a great teacher (though he was) or because he showed them a wonderful new way to see the world (though he did). They followed him and died for him precisely because they believed he was raised from the dead. This is bound up with the earliest, most fundamental traditions of our faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). If early Christians (or, for that matter, early enemies of the church) knew where Jesus was buried, that would have been the end of Christianity.

2. There would have to be some kind of document or inscription that clearly identifies the body as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Messiah,” or something along those lines. There were tons of Jesuses back then, so not just any Jesus will do. “Jesus, son of Joseph” won’t cut it either. Both names were very common, and in any case, Jesus’ followers never referred to him as “son of Joseph.”

3. There would have to be clear evidence of a conspiracy to hide the body. But here’s the catch: it would have to be a conspiracy of massive proportions and yet only involve a few people. The early church proclaimed Christ as risen, and it takes more faith to believe that such proclamation was knowingly fraudulant across the board (leading to suffering and death for many) than it does to believe that Jesus was actually raised. So, if there was a conspiracy, it had to be pulled off by a small group of evil genuises who duped the world and never got caught. And who could have possibly pulled this kind of thing off, and why? From what we know of the New Testament records, we have no reason to suspect any of Jesus’ disciples of being evil genuises. Judas was pretty sly, but he died before any of this happened. And what would be the motive behind such a fraud? Furthermore, this theory cannot explain the clear evidence for appearances of the risen Lord to many different people at different times and places.

Those who made this documentary are asking us to believe that Jesus married Mary Magdalene (of which we have no record), had a son (of which we have no record; and don’t you think the early church would have made much of this guy if he was indeed Jesus’ son?), and was buried with his family in a middle-class tomb in Talpiot near Jerusalem, a site where such a family burial would have been public knowledge (and why Talpiot? why not Nazareth or Bethlehem, where they actually had family ties?). This simply does not square with what we know of the history of Christianity. To put it plainly: the only way this could be Jesus’ body would be if there were no church today. But there clearly is a church today. Therefore, this cannot be Jesus’ body.

Jesus’ body cannot and will not be found by archaeologists. There is nothing there for them to find.