John Armstrong — Jesus’ doubter, cynic and Deist — posted a video response to The Real Jesus. Above is his video and here is my written response to him.
I’ve written on most of the points you bring up in your video on my blog and on my YouTube V-logs. I think maybe that’s why you linked to my v-log in the first place.
I don’t see any new objections here.
That being said, biblical chronology is interesting to me and I’ve come to the conclusion in the past two years that it’s a key issue in solving a lot of theological debates within the church as well as apologetic battles with skeptics and seekers.
I am a partial preterist, so I think that the 70 A.D. mark is important to help Christians understand not only the book of Revelation and the Mount Olivet Discourse, but also why the NT was written when it was written and why these dates are non-negotiable.
I presuppose that the NT is correct. I admit my bias. I also reason backward in time from the 70 A.D. mark to get certain dates.
Here is one time marker for example: The Mount Olivet Discourse can’t be correct unless it was given in or after 30 A.D. “This generation shall not pass away until all these things shall take place” — speaking of the destruction of the Temple.
A Hebrew generation is 40 years, so that gives the EARLIEST year for the Mount Olivet Discourse and the crucifixion which took place that same time.
30 A.D. plus 40 years = 70 A.D.
Since Jews never entered the rabbinical ministry before their 30th year (which is actually age 29 in Hebrew reckoning) then Jesus entered the ministry at age 29 or 30. If three Passovers are recorded in the Gospels, then that would give a date of 26 or 27 A.D. when Jesus reached age 30.
So when was Jesus born?
If you subtract 30 from 27 A.D. The birth of Jesus occurred around 4 B.C.
John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36). He entered the ministry in the days of Pontius Pilate (26 A.D; Luke 3:1).
Here I think Luke is giving really specific dates. Jesus could not have been younger than 33-years-old in 30 A.D. and John the Baptist could not have entered the ministry prior to 26 A.D.
John the Baptist was conceived in the days of Herod (Luke 1:5; 2:1). Here, Luke refers to King Herod the Great of Judea and NOT Herod Antipas, who he later names as Herod Tetrarch of Galilee (Luke 3:1).
Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.
So from this much alone, Luke’s account matches Matthew’s. John the Baptist was born in 5 B.C. (Luke 1:5; 2:1) and Jesus was born no later than 4 B.C. during the last months of the reign of Herod (Matthew 2:1).
This chronology matches other dates such as the beginning of Pilate’s administration coinciding with John the Baptist’s ministry (26 A.D.) and the administration of Herod’s sons (Luke 3:1).
Now let’s deal with Quirinius.
Your entire argument rests on the idea that Quirinius had NO ADMINISTRATION WHATSOEVER over Syria during Herod the Great’s reign. You don’t prove that he did NOT. You say you have contrary evidence, but you do NOT cite it.
However, I have in Justin at least one historical record to corroborate this.
Justin, Apology, Chapt 34: “And hear what part of earth He was to be born in, as another prophet, Micah, foretold. He spoke thus: ‘And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come forth a Governor, who shall feed My people.’ Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius [Quirinius], your first procurator in Judaea.”
Quirinius was a ruler in the eastern Roman Empire from the time of 14 B.C. to 12 A.D. Quirinius, at the time of King Herod’s death was doing military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire (Tacitus, Annals 3:48; Florus, Roman History 2:31). Justin’s “First Apology” indicaties that he either was a co-ruler with the governor of Syria (Quintilius Varus) over Judea or at least placed in charge of the census in Judea.
So Quirinius is hardly a problem if you believe Justin. He was not the “governor” of Syria, but simply a “procurator” in both Judea and Syria. In fact, the phrase “hegemoneuontos tes Syrias Kyreniou” (Luke 2:2) can be taken to mean any kind of ruler. The word “hegemonoi” in Greek can mean a variety of titles meaning ruler, governor, procurator, authority, etc.
For instance, Pilate is also called a “hegemonoi,” in the New Testament, but Herod of Judea (another of Herod the Great’s son) was the Tetrarch at the time of the crucifixion. Pilate was a prefect or a procurator, yet he had greater authority than Herod of Judea. It’s no problem since “hegemonoi” is translated variously as governor, procurator, prefect, in the New Testament.
Furthermore, Roman rulers often held more than one title in a province and sometimes held titles over several provinces.
Justin records that Quirinius was a “procurator of Judea.” Other histories record that this would have been while Varus and Saturnius served as governors.
Why would Luke then call him “governor of Syria” if he were simply a regional procurator? Why does he not name Varus or Saturnius? There is no contradiction here. He could have had more authority than Varus or Saturnius, just as Pilate had more authority than Herod.
It’s also interesting that Justin didn’t simply copy Luke and call him “governor of Syria” — he calls him “procurator of Judea.” Sometimes historical accounts that don’t match exactly just give MORE information not necessarily contradictory information. And more importantly, whether he was right or wrong, Justin obviously used another source than Luke — one that puts Quirinius in the right place at the right time.
Tertullian also does the same thing in his fourth book Against All Heresies: “But there is historical proof that at this very time a census had been taken in Judaea by Sentius Saturninus, which might have satisfied their inquiry respecting the family and descent of Christ.”
Note that Tertullian mentions Saturnius, and doesn’t simply copy Luke. He can’t be making it up because he states emphatically that proof of the census existed.
So if we try to reconcile the various sources, we have information that Jesus was born when Herod was governor of Judea, Saturnius had been governor of Syria and a ruler of Judea, and Varus had been governor of Syria, and Quirinus was procurator of both Syria and Judea.
If all the secular dates are correct that puts Jesus’ birth in an 18 month window from late 6 B.C. to early 4 B.C.
A lot of these questions about overlapping administrations are understood better if you see a map of Palestine and realize how small the area is. We are talking about an area 100 miles in length to travel from Judea, through Samaria, Galilee, Iturea, then to Syria and Abilene. Then Asia Minor begins about 200 miles north of that area.
As you stated correctly, Quirinius was in Asia Minor overseeing campaigns against the Homonadensians from 5 to 3 B.C. This campaign was waged in Cilicia in the southeastern part of Asia Minor. He would have been on the border of Syria. So it’s possible to place him in Syria sometime from 6 to 4 B.C. We know he was at the most 100 to 200 miles away.
I’ve given you a plausible time-line. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you are right and that Tacitus contradicts Luke about Quirinius. At the very most, all you’ve proven is that Tacitus and Luke disagree and so at last one of them is wrong. You must admit that secular historians often make mistakes!
You raise several other points too, but I think those are much weaker and fairly easy to refute. These concern the arrangement of materials in the Gospels but it is well know that Matthew and John don’t always arrange their materials chronologically, but are concerned with thematic arrangement. A good harmony of the Gospels is needed. I can point you to one if you want.
I think if the discussion were to be continued it ought to be on a forum such as TheologyWeb, or as a forum on our websites.
That being said, we are covering ground that has been covered thousands of times before.
Do you want to talk about the census next?
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?
This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.
Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.
The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?
As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).
Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.
Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
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High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!
Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification
In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).
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