Q & A With Dr. Craig: Some Bible Questions

Dr. Craig answers some Bible questions concerning the authorship of the gospels, the date of Jesus’ birth, the Bart Ehrman debate, and whether today’s Christians are to tithe.

Kevin Harris: Welcome to the Reasonable Faith podcast with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. Dr. Craig, we have some Bible questions today. We usually deal with more philosophical/theological questions but occasionally we get some good Bible questions, and if you’re ready we’ll take a look at some of these.

Dr. Craig: Okay.

Kevin Harris: This comes from the UK:

I have recently seen arguments on the validity/reliability of the Gospels by comparing the two nativities, mainly by Islamic websites and even atheists such as Christopher Hitchens. They both state, “Luke says he is born around 4 A.D. but Matthew dates him 4 B.C.” and use scholarly work to prove this and state that certain events in the nativity never happened, as there is no evidence and so on. I’m finding it hard to get evidence for this and struggling to find anything as a rebuttal against these arguments. Could you please help me out?

Dr. Craig: I’m not sure why he would say that the Gospels date the events differently, especially with this kind of specificity. Because the Gospels don’t enable you to determine dates like this. They do represent Herod as having not yet died. So Jesus was born prior to the death of Herod. But I’m not aware of any sort of inconsistency in more specific dates between Matthew and Luke. And the best place to look would be simply in some good commentaries on the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of Matthew. I think very often I find laypeople aren’t aware that there are these massive commentaries that are written by biblical scholars on these sorts of subjects. So they ought to go out and get, say, for example, Darrel Bock’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke, and read what he has to say about these passages. Get Craig Keener, his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, see what he has to say about these. These commentaries are tremendously valuable sources of information about the Gospels. And every Christian ought to have a few of these commentaries in his library. Another really good book is The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels edited by Scott McKnight et al. published by InterVarsity Press. This ought to be on every Christian’s bookshelf—The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels published by InterVarsity. And there you’ll find articles on the birth of Jesus, including the historicity of the trip to Bethlehem and the census ordered by Caesar, and so forth. So those would be a couple of resources that he might want to consult.

Kevin Harris: Okay. A good commentary clears up so many things. And ninety percent of the questions, really, that we get—get a good commentary because the work is there, the work has been done, and so on. We’ll be glad to try to point those out to you.

Dr. Craig: And if I might add, Kevin, I find working through a commentary can be very helpful in one’s personal devotional life. For example, I would highly recommend as an exercise in your personal devotional reading, to take the Gospel of Mark, for example, and read one paragraph, just one paragraph a day, and then read the commentary on that paragraph by William Lane – similar name to mine, but no relation – William Lane, fine New Testament scholar, wrote a commentary on the Gospel of Mark. And it is very illuminating to simply read the passage, and then read Lane’s commentary on the passage for the day. And that will really make that Gospel come alive to you in a way that just reading it without a commentary wouldn’t enable you to see the insights.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, you know, Paul said that God has gifted the church with teachers, resources and things like that. So, absolutely.

Dear Dr. Craig, I’ve been an active Christian for three years. My family started going to my church and kept going for a few months. The message on tithing on Sunday after Sunday made my family quit church and their Christian walk altogether. My church is a big advocate for tithing. They feel like most pastors are in it for the money. Well, this left me really upset. I studied the Scriptures and concluded that tithing is not for today. Please give me your input on whether tithing is for today, or not…

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Some Bible Questions | Reasonable Faith