Dragomans take on the project article
Kristof: Dragoman, I deeply admire Jesus and his message, but am also skeptical of themes that have been integral to Christianity — the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and so on. Since this is the Christmas season, let’s start with the virgin birth. Is that an essential belief, or can I mix and match?
Dragoman: When you say essential, the real gist here is whether a person is damned for denying or being non-committal to the virgin birth. 1John 5:1 declares that “everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ, out of the GOD has been born”. Jesus said you must receive birth from above and Peter called Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living GOD, not a human father. The scriptures reveal Jesus as sinless, and tell us that all born via the seed of man are sinful. GOD can have nothing to do with such a process and it would be incongruous to have the eternal GOD and a mere mortal man as both being the fathers of Jesus – besides it seems impossible. Further, why the incredulity? Our own existence is a mystery to us and it is ontologically reasonable that if GOD can create man in His own image, then He can come as a man while retaining His Godhood. I suppose Christ could have materialised like Adam and not been born of a virgin so a superficial answer might be not-essential, but both these options are equally unusual, at any rate it would be essential to reckon Christ as sinless and yourself as sinful. To involve a human father straight out contradicts scripture and shows a paltry understanding. However, it can be said if you deny the virgin birth, you can have no confidence in calling yourself a Christian and would be justly put out from a church and separated from. If you were unsure, yet admitted the possibility of the virgin-birth, then you could certainly not be anything more than a pew-sitter and tithe-payer in the house of GOD.
Kristof: But the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life, like the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, don’t even mention the virgin birth. And the reference in Luke to the virgin birth was written in a different kind of Greek and was probably added later. So isn’t there room for skepticism?
Dragoman: Neither does 1John 5:1 expressly mention the Resurrection, or repentance. One must leave room for necessarily intrinsic, implicit, and inferred elements. Irregardless of Mark being written out fully first, given that Mark was not one of the twelve apostles, some of his gospel came from written notes or the memories from the twelve. Why indeed would he write a separate genealogy, if he knew Matthew and Luke had greater expertise in these areas? If the purported gospel author is the same as the “certain young man” of Mark 14:51-52 and the Mark of Col 4:10-11, then he is both a Jew and highly proximate to key events. There must have been collusion for Mark cannot have been present at certain events he records e.g. Mark 14:33-42, 9:2-10.Although Luke 1:2-3 presents the author himself not as an eyewitness; (this seems to have been the ministering 11 apostles and perhaps some very close disciples in his estimation),yet he is portrayed as nonetheless having been so intimately privy to and diligently recording events from the inception, whether from his own memories and notes, or that of others who had a great deal to do with Jesus Christ; (the Greek grammar seeming to clearly bear this out whereas some English translations may seem misleading – much thanks to Donald Guthrie for the correction). Luke is simply not at all a Jewish name, but neither are Apollos and Nicodemus, and it is well feasible to envisage him a great scholar, perhaps of Syrian descent, who became a Jewish proselyte, dwelling maybe in Jerusalem and becoming very closely connected with John the Baptist’s parents. In that event, he might have been such an intimate disciple. Or else, if not a proselyte, which depends on whether they come within the ambit of the “circumcision” in Col 4:11, he may have become extremely close friends with James the son of Joseph, the apostle John, Cleopas, and various others, giving him “horses-mouth” information, explaining the tremendous genealogical insights. Actually, it is completely feasible to imagine Luke as circumcised, (for personal choice or medical reasons), dwelling around southern Israel, not being an ethnic Jew and not becoming a proselyte either, yet nonetheless enabling far greater acceptance among the Jews on the ground of being circumcised alone. Assuming the same identity, this can satisfactorily resolve Col 4:14 with Luke being circumcised, yet not “of the circumcision”. In so far as the different Greek is concerned, Matthew was called near Nazareth in Galilee, Peter and John were partners in a fishing business in Galilee, while Mark seems to be well acquainted with Galilee and Peter; he might even have been his son; 1Pet 5:13, cf. the Greek of Phil.10. They may have spoken and written Greek like immigrants often speak English, easily understandable, yet with syntax and grammar still much like their mother tongues, here the Hebrew tongue of the day and even like the Hebrew dialect of their area, while Luke would speak “king’s” Greek, or at least some more cultured dialect. So what if he either used the Antiochian or the southern Judean Greek dialect, (after all the Greek empire split into four sectors after Alexander), employing additional words and different tenses to more comprehensively targum the Hebrew Jesus and His followers used? You might also like to consider Mark 1:1,11; and Gal 4:4, concerning the virgin birth. Besides, you are being awfully presumptuous about your so-called history, especially in setting Galatians before the other three gospels. Yet there is more in Mark itself. Consider Mark 3:33; “Who is my mother and my brethren?” which would be a most grievous insult not only to the Jews, but in light of the scriptures for any to set light on one’s parents so, unless Jesus had warrant to say this. It seems valid to say in a very real sense Mary can be considered the mother of Jesus, e.g. Matt 2:11, John 19:26, and in a very real aspect He cannot, whether or not readers approve of such an analysis. The Biblical justification is that Jesus Christ is the means by which GOD the Father created Mary herself, borrowing her womb to come in human form and justifying the King of the Jews/Israelites title. Genetic features may have passed from Mary to Jesus, but there is no way blood – the life of the flesh, did so. Moreover, nowhere does Jesus call Himself the son of Joseph, nor is termed so by any New Testament writers; another real problem. Strikingly, Mark 12:35-37 shows that if Christ cannot be called the son of David after a human physical sort, then nor can He be termed the son of Joseph, as Joseph came directly from king David’s line. Therefore, Jesus Christ does not have a human father. Importantly, the true Biblical theologian cannot avoid discussing John chapter 8, namely verses 24-25, and 58, in respect to the virgin birth, or rather not having any existence at all; spirit, soul, or body deriving from a human father, and only non – sin connected or related features or attributes from Mariam. The Greek, in my opinion renders as, “If for not you will believe that I am, from dying you in the sins of you. They said then to Him; You who are? And He said to them the Jesus; the beginning the what also I declare to you…..He said to them the Jesus; truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham to be happening/occurring/existing making, (present passive infinitive), I am”. While some may debate that Jesus did not make belief in His pre-existence to Abraham a critical element in salvation, nevertheless vs.25 seems to embrace the “I AM” as inclusive of whatever Jesus Christ declares about Himself, including subsequent declarations like what follows very closely in vs.58, pertinently not “I was”, which might admit of Arian and Russellite heresies holding Jesus Christ to be indeed before Abraham, yet nonetheless Himself created as a mighty spirit creature originally; but “I AM”- always existing, ever being, and eternally conscious.
Kristof: And the Resurrection? Must it really be taken literally?
Dragoman: Yes indeed, see Rom 10:9-10 and 1Cor:15:1-8, 12-18. Even a view Christ did not rise then but shall rise later is unacceptable. If, having heard the gospel, you do not believe it, then you cannot be classed as saved, see Mark 16:15-16.
Kristof: But let me push back. As you know better than I, the Scriptures themselves indicate that the Resurrection wasn’t so clear cut. Mary Magdalene didn’t initially recognize the risen Jesus, nor did some disciples, and the gospels are fuzzy about Jesus’ literal presence — especially Mark, the first gospel to be written. So if you take these passages as meaning that Jesus literally rose from the dead, why the fuzziness?
Dragoman: The fuzziness is on the surface only, and only requires a little lateral thinking. One who rises from the dead – the body having been well and truly dead, yet not undergoing any decay whatsoever, might be expected to perform a pretty good personal makeover, or hold the eyes of folks so as to be unrecognizable. Understandably, a third day resurrection was just too radical, and very few if any literally believed this, maybe Mary of Bethany, Nicodemus, the Roman centurion, Joseph of Arimathaea, some unnamed Magi. Nearly all would initially have had a massive sense of unreality, or something akin to shock, but this passed, did it not? We can elaborate a little further, an emotionally supercharged woman, Mary of Magdala readily believes upon hearing that certain voice unlike any other; it reaches into her very soul and spirit, the apostles and many disciples recognize him; seeing and feeling His wounds, many see Him ascend into heaven and His Pentecost prophecy comes to pass in detail. Actually, if one has the time to explore the matter of unclearness, particularly while grappling with the Greek text, what seem to be great hurdles in both major and minor issues can be more than satisfactorily overcome, and you will find details filled in such a cunning way as to suggest the authorship of GOD, the writers being merely channels. See my article; “Clumsy contradictions or Crafty complementing? – reconciling the gospel accounts.” However, great scholars such as Edersheim seemed to be of the view variation in minor detail does not really matter, yet it can justly be argued in a document purporting to be the word of GOD, highly reasonable explanations should be offered to eliminate any puzzlement at all. Hence, my claim goes even further. Indeed, the resurrection was and is radical, but sin required a radical treatment.
Kristof: So where does that leave people like me? Am I a Christian? A Jesus follower? A secular Christian? Can I be a Christian while doubting the Resurrection?
Dragoman: No to all the above; you must believe with all your heart GOD has raised Him from the dead. Further, you have no warrant to reckon yourself as spared from eternal punishment. To explain deeper, you show no signs of necessary Bible requisites such as personal conviction for sin and manifest no repentance for sins. Evident in your very questions is a sense of righteousness by works, energy expenditure, deeds, law keeping, and apparent good character e.g. the mention of Gandhi. There is no sense of your desperate need of Christ, neither any perception of an utterly depraved nature incapable of doing good in the sight of GOD, nor any realisation you will perish if you do not believe and receive Him. You may believe such and such, but it is not a question so much as to what one reckons to be acceptable belief, faith, or trust, but rather whether GOD deems an acceptable critical mass point has been reached, justifying Him bestowing a clean heart and a new spirit, (though the old nature still remains), a spirit which enables one to keep the laws of GOD, to love sacrificially even our enemies, and to actually do the will of GOD, whereas previously one possessed no such power, having been a slave to sin – this is the new birth and regeneration. This will be evidenced by godly desires, a sense of GOD’S presence even when being disciplined or enduring ordeals, and real notice ability of direction and guidance, inter alia. Moreover, your admiration won’t cut it, not being worth a dime. You also demonstrate a deficient, inadequate, and insufficient understanding concerning the works, person, and words of Jesus Christ, nor do you embrace the scriptures as the word of GOD.
Kristof: Dragoman, people sometimes say that the answer is faith. But, as a journalist, I’ve found skepticism useful. If I hear something that sounds superstitious, I want eyewitnesses and evidence. That’s the attitude we take toward Islam and Hinduism and Taoism, so why suspend skepticism in our own faith tradition?
Dragoman: Yet you accept histories, even bad ones, involving subjective presumptions such as Mark was written first, in the opinion of Dr. so and so. You do well to be wary, but the scriptures reveal we are blind spiritually, unless GOD enlightens us. One needs GOD to give insight and wariness, as human powers of reasoning, particularly morally, are greatly defiled. Besides, the scripture declares if one does not believe Moses and the Prophets, nor will one believe even if one rose from the dead – Luke 16:27-31; (the Old Testament alone, the New Testament not being yet written). Fearfully also, there will be deceptions soon coming upon the earth, which the majority of the non – Christian world will reckon to be proof of GOD, but belong to Satan – fire falling from heaven etc. Frighteningly as well, these deceptions are so powerful, they would deceive Christians themselves, but for Divine restraint of the power and prevention. As far as our senses are concerned, though faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, it does not at all follow faith itself is irrational. Infact, faith ought be founded upon what is observed, and Rom 1:20 informs us what is observed alone from the world and human experience ought lead all humans to faith, not to oppose it, being obvious. It is legitimate to utter that what is visible and sentiently observed logically leads to the invisible, that there is a GOD who cares, a Creator of order shown in the scientific and mathematical laws, who illustrates life principles in the Creation itself. Some more will be adduced respecting evidence. Many eminent scientists pre and post Darwin had no problem accepting the creation account, a worldwide flood and all the bible history. There is no evidence of crossing between the species. Have you considered the case for a young earth and universal flood? e.g. read “The Genesis Flood – Whitcomb and Morris”, or similar, and peruse the wealth of Creation Science information. Can you specifically detail why you find Darwinism so convincing, or compelling, or do you believe upon trust? To this might be added, the clear rise and fall of various nations and cities which well corroborate or at the very least do not contradict legitimate archaeological findings, the last days prophecies being very tenable in light of this modern technological society, specific data points such as planes, machine guns and tanks, the implied running out of fossil fuels, the re-formation of the nation of Israel, the involvement of Tarshish, (essentially Great Britain, but also others), the internal consistency of the whole Bible, and from this writer an absolutely jigsaw fitting representation of all the ethnic groups of the world which, together with a study into the Bible gemstones yields such specific information such as biblical Havilah is what is today called Australia, and the Havilah people are the indigenous of that continent, not in any speculative or fanciful manner, but in a very tight fashion. Finally, there is the sheer greatness, grandeur, and righteousness of GOD’S law and all His precepts – Deut 4:8, (Authorized version), together with the utter singularity of Jesus Christ – His impeccable virtue and wisdom. What person ever spoke like Him? – the next person is nowhere near close. What governments not privy to the scriptures enacted similar legislation? – even those privy have rejected most of it in favour of their own stinking regulations. In conclusion here, does not the Bible tell us the truth about ourselves and all humanity?
Kristof: I’ll grudgingly concede your point: My belief in human rights and morality may be more about faith than logic. But is it really analogous to believe in things that seem consistent with science and modernity, like human rights, and those that seem inconsistent, like a virgin birth or resurrection?
Dragoman: Firstly, your belief in human rights and morality may be more about your own feelings, passions, and impulses, rather than faith or logic. Some beliefs may closely parallel the mind and heart of GOD, whereas others will not accord. It is written that there is a way upright/straight to the faces of men, but its end the ways of death, and all way of each individual man upright in his own eyes but will weigh the hearts YHVH – Prov 14:12, 21:2, (my custom being like Edersheim, to translate scripture naively, while not altogether claiming full accuracy). You might for example believe in abortion, homosexuality, (incl. rights to adopt children), animal experiments, forms of witchcraft, conscription, compulsory voting, carnal knowledge aside from marriage, divorce on demand, compulsory immunisation, no capital punishment, majority vote democracy, Hiroshima and the raining of bombs on Dresden as justified, legalised prostitution, no punishment for blasphemy or adultery, female bishops and deacons, compulsory education, freedom of religion, sexual reassignment procedures and surgery etc. yet be at odds with GOD. Christians have their own deceptions here too, so deceitful and desperately wicked is the human heart – Jer 17:9. Your passion and inquiry ought rather be a much broader search, encompassing such questions as what are the objective and universal standards of moral conduct applying to all people at all times, how we should live, what is evil and how to overcome/escape/be delivered from its power, pollution, and any righteous penalties arising from offending GOD. Modernity is like a changing spirit of the age, and is useless, being centred in majority opinions of sets of people coupled with flavour of the times popular and charismatic trendsetters. Science indeed shows us in part the destructive nature and cause – effect relation of sin and very bad consequences e.g. sexual immorality frequently leads to vile diseases, excess of alcohol and various drugs tend to paralyse and damage the body sometimes fatally, laziness cultivates poor work performance, anger and anxiety lead to medical problems as does obesity, many products and habits are addictive etc. However, the matter is way too broad for science and Tesla’s thought reading machine is more plausible than your personal negative behaviour sin detector. Lastly, like miracles generally, people are not going to readily believe what is outside their common experience, yet our very own existence and procreation is miraculous, as are our physical growth and mental development. Further, given that we cannot imagine being nothing; if we can conceive of personal existence after death, then what is the problem with one rising from the dead? After all, we have no ordinary human here, but the Lord from heaven.
Kristof: Can I ask: Do you ever have doubts? Do most people of faith struggle at times over these kinds of questions?
Dragoman: Indeed, one such as John the Baptist, who had no superior amongst those born of women, a verse showing Jesus Christ actually could not be said to be born of woman, for He is greater than John the Baptist, doubted under affliction as to the identity of Christ, but interestingly not so as to deny GOD. There is a difference between degrees of faith apropos GOD assisting us in the trials of life and doubting fundamentals upon which the Christian faith is based, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As it is written in 1Cor 15:1-8, namely vs.2; “By which (the gospel) also ye are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain”. Continuous doubt as to the Resurrection falls within the ambit of this verse. More commonly, doubts arise as to whether one could at all be saved because of the gravity of past sin, or a very real struggle subsequent to conversion where one experiences failure and ongoing battles with sin and temptation. Here I give the following advice, stand on 1John 5:1 and quote it back to GOD, while remembering how GOD has delivered you in the past, and be ready to perform our part e.g. prayer, godly separation, discipline of habits, and embracing means of grace such as Christian fellowship, in the battle between spirit and flesh. At least pray earnestly, confess honestly, and witness ardently if faced with sexual temptation where you find yourself slow to flee due to your lust, and be bold and fearless in the presence of violence. Personally, I had no assurance of salvation, until I read the Greek text of 1John 5:1, barely a year ago and 27 years into my Christian walk. Maybe, have a perusal of John Bunyan’s “Grace abounding to the chief of sinners”.
Kristof: What I admire most about Christianity is the amazing good work it inspires people to do around the world. But I’m troubled by the evangelical notion that people go to heaven only if they have a direct relationship with Jesus. Doesn’t that imply that billions of people — Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus — are consigned to hell because they grew up in non-Christian families around the world? That Gandhi is in hell?
Dragoman: A very fair and valid query. I struggled especially on this point concerning the Shaolin kung-fu monks of China, and some others when I observed lifelong celibacy, a very ordinary vegetarian diet, tremendous discipline and exertions, an ability to endure and suffer without any complaining, and great respect for elders and authority, so different from your usual Western Christian. However, the gospel is for virgins also, and none of these are greater than John the Baptist. Only GOD is good, and any willpower or ability, anything positive at all, is due to GOD’S grace, for if GOD were to take His compassions away, they would also perish in their sin, and there is no telling, what like us, they might do. Further, there is severe pride, evident in an excessive respect for mere mortal humans as if they were and are mediators between GOD and people, plus rampant sensual/soulish/sentient worship and idolatry. Add vague notions as to sin with false teachings like re-incarnation, and one can perceive the man-made presumption in this false way. Mark 6:11 informs us, “whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you … it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgement, than that city”. It is trite to point out individuals make up cities, so an apparently highly virtuous person, who neither will listen at all to GOD’S messengers, or having had the message clearly preached to them, nonetheless reject it, must fall within this verse – how could they not? Although the message here was repentance, as the resurrection had not yet occurred, it is evident someone truly repenting would believe in the resurrection, as it happened. In light of Mark 16:15-16, and 1Cor 15:2, the resurrection, having been clearly demonstrated and testified, is now shown to be integral to saving faith, and one will be judged or have condemnation upon them if they do not believe this, upon hearing it. If folks never heard the gospel, GOD nevertheless had and has His wise purposes in causing people to live during the times they do, and being the very definition of fairness and impartiality, will take all the advantages and disadvantages of a person in judging them. In the Old Testament, one simply had to acknowledge their iniquity and disobedience, and turn wholeheartedly to the LORD, who would proceed to cleanse them, e.g. Jer 3:12-15. Moreover, we cannot underestimate conscience, and a person who observes evil in themselves, begging to the GOD they perceive to be holy, albeit know imperfectly, to assist them to overcome it will and would have received help from above to this end, whether in a pre – Christian, non – Jewish setting, or in places untouched by the gospel, yet I must re-emphasize genuine repenters will believe Jesus is the Christ, who rose from the dead. GOD might take into account the gospel was preached yet in hypocrisy, pride or malice and thus being without power. Who knows? Many might only understand while they are dying, yet be received into the Kingdom even with rewards and credit for deeds and intentions GOD deems honourable. If someone was not against the gospel, GOD might consider them as being for it. Children and infants who did not know good or evil cannot be punished, when they have committed no sin, or even paltry offences, and cannot be held accountable for the sins of others. By the way, it is utterly irrelevant whether a deceased infant were baptised or not regarding salvation – the very idea is idiotic and absurd. My GOD saved such as Nebuchadnezzar, Manasseh, and David Wood, and possesses love and compassion I cannot comprehend, so need I vex myself about this sort of matter?
Read Edersheim and Donald Guthrie,
1. There is no way Mark was written first because he would not have omitted the Sermon on the Mount unless Matthew had already done a sterling record already.
2. We have not even begun to consider fulfilled Bible prophecy concerning Jesus Christ.
3. The meaning “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is a young female virgin who has not ever ovulated or had a period in the Hebrew tongue; compare the Hebrew word for “widow,” which is very similar denoting a woman who has ceased ovulating and menstruating. Additionally, it would be utterly pointless and redundant information to mean a young woman.