What Christians Should Know About Paul

By Eric Chabot

Given that historians look to those who are contemporaries of the events, Paul is an important resource for what historians can know about Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the earliest documents we have for the life of Jesus are Paul’s letters. Paul was a very competent rabbi who was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin.  Both Christian and non-Christian scholars have come to have great respect Paul.

Allow me to list some of the basics every Christian should know about Paul:

1. Paul was educated

In this case, I have adapted much of this material from A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians (The Jewish Roots of the New Testament) by Joseph Shulam and Hilary Le Cornu. I have taken most of these points from their section called Paul: A Biography, pgs, 435-469.

1. Paul studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3), the grandson of Hillel.

2. Hillel the Elder was nicknamed “the Babylonian” because he was descended from a family of Babylon.

3. Beit Hillel ended up having three successors, Rabban Gamaliel, the Elder being the first Sage esteemed with the honorific title of Rabban—“our master.”

4. The house of Hillel was unique in that it was an example of a family of who originated from the diaspora, with no priestly connections, which attained the position of hereditary leaders of the nation until, in the time of Rabbi Judah ha Nasi (170-200 C.E.), its members were officially recognized as by the Roman government as Patriarchs. [Read more...]

Tips For Studying The Bible

Tips-for-Studying-the-BibleAs Christians, we have a lot of questions that we don’t always know how to investigate on our own, and we’re grateful when somebody will come in and give us the quick answer. But if you’ve raised kids, you know that when your kids have a question and ask you to sort something out for them, they come away with one kind of knowledge. When you allow your kids to work through, and find, and research the answer for themselves, they come away with a completely different kind of understanding. I can remember when I first came to Christianity out of atheism, I really needed to examine the issues for myself. And let’s face it, there are lots of times when it’s not so much an understanding of the truth; it’s not so much that the truth is out there and I just can’t grasp it; it’s that I hold some type of prerequisite, presupposition, that prevents me from seeing the truth clearly.

That’s why for me, as a new Christian, apologetics websites were just as important as the skeptic sites I had been visiting. I wanted to get some balance and some clear thinking on the issues we know are inherent to the Christian worldview. I found myself applying the same skepticism I had as a detective, and an atheist, to my own examination of Scripture. Here is my approach to answering some of my own questions about Christian doctrine, and Christian evidence. These are principles and tools that may help you sort out the truth for yourself. To help you remember, each of them start with the letter “D”. First, some qualities I think are important as a student of the Bible:  [Read more...]

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 15

Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.’ Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” Exodus 4:19-23

Moses Parting Red SeaThe Bible story about Moses is about to get extremely supernatural. So far, except for the burning bush incident, the story about Moses seemed plausible, but now God is sending Moses back to Egypt to do “wonders before Pharaoh”.

As an atheist, I saw this part of the story as myth/legend/fairytale. The rest of Exodus seemed false because it was a supernatural being commanding human beings how to live, where to go, what to do, what to believe.

How in the world could I investigate something like the ten plagues and parting of the sea so the children of Israel could escape from Egyptian soldiers? How could I investigate the people of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years with supernatural provisions, protection and discipline from God? How could I investigate a man named Joshua leading the wandering Israelites from the desert into Canaan to fight against foreign peoples and capture cities and land for themselves? How as an atheist who vehemently denied the existence of God and the supernatural could I possibly investigate this subject honestly and objectively?

I turned to history and archaeology to see what answers might lie there.

[Read more...]

Does God Condone Slavery?

1521805_10204871865335315_6327381679876600641_nMany may be surprised to learn that in the Old Testament, God expressly forbids the slave trade, commanding that anyone who steals a man is to be put to death, whether he has sold the victim yet or not (Exodus 21:16).

Naturally, this raises the question of why God had laws on slavery. It must be understood that there were different types of slavery in the ancient days. One was the all-too-familiar slave trade of kidnapping a person from their home country and selling them for profit (this being the type God forbade). Another was those in debt who sold themselves into slavery.

This second type of slavery was the most common, and was based on finances, not on race (oftentimes Jews had Jewish slaves). If a person ran into debt, instead of ending up homeless and desolate, he could sell himself as a slave. Basically, a well-to-do man would “buy” the one in debt, and from then on the one bought was the “slave.” The buyer or “master” would then pay off all the slave’s debts, and in return the slave would work for him for a specified amount of time until this loan was paid back (in Jewish culture this was no more than six years, for God ordered that slaves were to be freed the seventh year). In the meantime, the slave was guaranteed food, clothing, and housing. [Read more...]

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 14

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” Exodus 2:16-17

Moses Parting Red SeaWhen we last looked at the life of Moses he was sitting by a well in the land of Midian. What must have been going through his mind? He was the biological son of Hebrew slaves, raised as the adopted son of a daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. As Stephen recited in Acts 7:22 – “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” How quickly things changed. At the age of 40 (Acts 7:23) Moses fled Egypt for a new life in Midian. What would he do there? How would he live? What would become of him?

I had my own questions about Moses in 1971. I had been content to be an atheist until three Christians presented evidence in answer to my questions about truth claims concerning Christianity. I wasn’t used to Christians having answers to my questions, so as a journalist I was curious to see where their evidence would go.

I looked at the Bible’s information about Moses from a journalistic perspective. I had investigated old stories before, but nothing this old. What was the evidence for Moses’ existence? Was the evidence testable? What about extra-biblical testimony? Did the information about Moses in the Bible read like history or mythology? Lots of questions, but what were the answers? And where would those answers lead me in my investigation? Would I find enough evidence to warrant continuing or would the story of Moses end my search for the truth about the existence of God?

[Read more...]