Talking about the Week That Changed the World

CRI-Blog-Maier, Paul-Week that Changed the World

Hank Hanegaaff: We have a special broadcast on tap. It has to do with the resource available for those who support the ministry all this month. It is called The Week that Changed the World (DVD) by Dr. Paul Maier. This week, The Week That Changed the World, is a week in which Jesus Christ suffered fatal torment. It is a week in which He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It is a week in which we know that He was going to appear and give many convincing proofs that He had risen from the dead. In fact, it was a week that resulted in an absolutely transformed world. This is not called The Week That Changed the World in the sense of just one epic week but this is called The Week That Changed the World in the sense that this is the quintessential week in all of human history.

To talk about that, Dr. Paul Maier, his is a professor of ancient history. He has written some of the most exquisite books. I love his two novels, particularly Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome. He has written many nonfiction works, including Josephus: The Essential Works and Eusebius: The Church History, a book on the first Christian historian. He has also penned a lot of children’s books, and he was the author of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? Glad to have you on the broadcast!

Paul Maier: Coauthored with you, I might add. Good to be back, Hank.

Hank: We did that one together, didn’t we?

Paul: We certainly did.

Hank: You know that was a book that had a lot of significance because the subject never went away.

Paul: How true. We documented absolutely all the errors that Dan Brown made. It was an incredible book (The Da Vinci Code), I tell you. I’ve never seen a book where every time where Jesus or Christ or the church is mentioned is a lie either in whole or in part. I’ve never seen a book like that.

Hank: Well, let’s talk about the DVD. I mean, it is absolutely splendid. I’ve watched it a number of times. You know, I mentioned this in the opening of the broadcast, but this is not just a week, this is the week.

Paul: Indeed. It is the most carefully documented week also in the gospels. I’m glad for that because Jesus didn’t make a move, I think, during that week that hasn’t missed countered aside by some critic somewhere. I’m so glad we have such detail, especially in the gospel of John, as you well know.

Hank: Paul, I want you to talk about what leads up to Holy Week because, for many Christians, the thought of Lent raises the question: I’ve heard about that, but I’m not sure exactly what that’s all about and why it might be significant? Why is Holy Week, the forty days, so critical for Christians?

Paul: Well, because it’s one of the earliest church festivals. Easter, of course, was celebrated before Christmas was, and then, of course, what caused Easter and what led up to it, the church had to prepare for it. Indeed, this was one of the earliest festivals of the early church. It is the Paschal Season, they call it. Indeed, we have here the culmination of Jesus’ ministry. What happened from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is very critically important for the Christian faith and everyone else’s eternal fate.

Hank: You have gone through some very, very difficult situations in your life overall, as all of us have, but recently you suffered a stroke. I suppose when you suffer a stroke, you get a true evaluation of things in terms of what really matters not just for time but for eternity. Talk about that.

Paul: How very true that is. You realize you’re mortal after all. Yes, it was on Election Day, November 8; I had a mild stroke. I didn’t think I had a stroke at first. I wasn’t going to call a doctor, and I said, “No.” Then, I heard myself say “No,” and the way I talked with this slight slur that I’m using right now. I’m not fully over it. I hope to God that I could finally say, “Goodbye,” to this strange speaking ability of mine, but this is a problem right now, and I hope you hearers can be very generous and listen anyway, despite my attempts at handling the English language from a complicated vantage point.

Hank: You know, Paul, it’s interesting to me. I remember this with respect to my father as well. He was a speaker, then he got a fibrosis of the lungs, it encroached on his ability to assimilate oxygen, and so the very thing he had done all his life became very, very difficult for him. You’re one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever heard, and the proof of that is in The Week That Changed the World. The job you did in that DVD is absolutely unbelievable. It’s superb. It’s spectacular. How difficult is it to lose the very skill that God has given you, that you have used to teach so many students and lecture around the world?

Paul: Well, certainly it’s tough indeed. By the way, the DVD, however, was filmed before I had the stroke. I talk normally on that one. Again, it’s an odd coincidence it was Election Day, November 8. I think — a little joke here — it may have been my response to the options we had for presidential candidates, but I don’t want to get into politics at this point. Yes, it is very difficult. Again, there’s something satanic about the nature of hitting a person where he’s at his strongest. I think public speaking was my gift, following in many ways the work of my dad, who founded the Lutheran Hour years ago, Dr. Walter A. Maier, and then to find out that I have this slight speech handicap is very unnerving. Fortunately, people have been very generous. They claim they can understand me. I hope that goes for your hearers also.

Hank: I can certainly understand you. One of the first things that I want to drive home is the fatal torment of Jesus Christ. Your comments would be very helpful because there are many people that deny that Jesus Christ suffered fatal torment. For example, the Muslims will say that Jesus was not crucified, God made someone look like Jesus, and the lookalike was crucified in place of Jesus. How can we be certain from a historical and archeological perspective that Jesus did in fact suffer fatal torment?

Paul: When you find dispassionate, non-Christian, secular sources saying the same thing that the New Testament does in terms of Jesus suffering on the cross and dying, then, for goodness’ sake, that pretty well clinches the case for me. Whenever I find people claiming that somebody took his place, I say, “Wait a minute. This sounds like it comes from the Qur’an. This, of course, comes six centuries after the fact.” So, I always ask, “Which is the more reliable source of information: eyewitness testimony or something that happened six-hundred-plus years later?” Of course, the answer is obviously you have derivative material in the case of Islam, and by the way, we can now trace where that material came from. Unfortunately, the prophet Muhammad was in touch only with heretical Christianity in his formative years. It was a Gnostic heresy of Egypt under a Gnostic teacher, Basilidies was his name, who claimed that somebody else took Jesus’ place. This kind of remained with him. If only we would have had Muhammad in touch with normal Christianity, and if only there had been a good Arabic translation of the Old and New Testament available to him, and if only Christian missionaries had dealt more directly or kindly with him during his formative years, I cannot tell you how changed the world would be today. It is such an incredible shame that Muhammad was who he was and was not an Eastern martyr for Christianity or Eastern witness to Christianity. That’s one of the great might-have-beens of history.

Hank: Paul, there is a lot of conjecture on what the cross looked like. I was listening to Bill O’Reilly the night before last. He said of certainty that the cross Jesus was crucified on looked like a capital “T.” Jehovah’s Witnesses say that it was a torture stake. A lot of different forms of the cross. Is there any historical or archeological clue in terms of what the shape of the cross actually was that Jesus was specifically crucified on?

Paul: I don’t know how Bill O’Reilly can say of a certainty. There’s certainly not certainty. But, it is pretty clear that the regular looking cross (†), the so-called crux immissa, which is the typical cross we’re used to is the one because there is a titulus over Jesus’ head, which says, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” This would be very appropriate in a placard placed over Jesus’ head. I know in the tau cross, the T-shaped cross, they would have had this strung out along the top of the cross beam, that’s very unlikely, and by the way, you find a lot of evidence of mistaken logic in some of Bill O’Reilly’s material there. He claims that he spent all of ten months researching the life of Jesus. Well, you know, others of us spent our whole life times and don’t come up with pat answers. There’s a lot of picking and choosing in terms of cherry-picking the evidence there in that book. No, the regular cross we’re used to best answers all the problems.

Hank: This is one of the things you’ve given your life to. You have given your life to actually doing the first-rate primary research. This is very, very significant when it comes to the life of Jesus Christ, and most particularly when it comes to The Week That Changed the World.

Paul: This is so terribly important. We call it Holy Week of course, but what happened from Palm Sunday to Easter are momentous events in the life of Jesus, the culmination of His ministry, and really the beginning of the Christian faith as we know it. If it had gone any differently, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, we wouldn’t be talking, you wouldn’t have a program today, and nobody would be listening to me, either. It would be a different world. But, instead of that, we have the most successful single phenomenon in the history of humanity, namely the Christian church. There’s never been any other movement on Earth which has the loyalties of over two-and-a-half-billion people or three-billion people in the present generation alone. This could not have developed from a vacuum. This developed from situations that are well known in history and can be verified in the use of secular materials, which is my particular specialty. I love to compare what is explained in the New Testament gospels and epistles, then see what the outside sources for the ancient world say. Do they contradict what we have in the gospels, or do they agree? They agree magnificently again, and again, and again.

This blog adapted from the March 24, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast. Listen to the full interview here.


Lenten Disciplines: Training for the Eternal Inheritance

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Lenten SeasonWe are now well into the Lenten season. Lent literally means fortieth. It is marked by Christians through fasting, prayer and acts of kindness. Western Christianity began Lent March 1 this year, which ends April 13, and Eastern Christians began on February 27 and will end on April 7 this year.

The Lenten disciplines train us for our eternal inheritance. I love what the apostle Paul said: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24–27 NIV).

You know wishing does not win a race. It takes disciplining the appetites. It takes making them your slave. Thus like a coach, Paul urges his young protégé to forego endless myths and legends and instead train hard in the gymnasium of life. Why? Because physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things (1 Tim. 4:7–8). It has promise not only for the present life but also for the life to come.

I would say that prejudice against the spiritual gymnasium is breathtaking. We live in this self-indulgent culture in which feeling good is esteemed to be the highest value or virtue. The apostles had a decidedly different perspective. That is why Paul practiced disciplines like fasting (Acts 13:1–3; 14:19–23). He was emulating Christ. He believed that was the highest virtue. Therefore, Christ fasted (Matt. 4:1–2) and Paul emulated that fasting as well. He lived and practiced the things that his Lord taught so that he might be empowered by God’s energies and not just his own energy.

I think if each person listening to me right now were brutally honest with themselves, they would say that more often than not they walk in the way of the world. How many can truly say that we have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires? Who among us can truthfully say that he has engaged in mastering those passions that for far too long they have been mastered by? Yet, that is precisely what Christ calls us to do. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 NIV).

Mental ascent. Good intentions. They do not in and of themselves produce transformation. It is not just our beliefs that need changing; it is our behaviors. If our habits remain the same, then our lives are going to remain the same as well. I cannot tell you how many people have told me over the years that they would dearly love to memorize Scripture, and yet very, very few are willing to embrace the disciplines necessary to carve the Scriptures into the canvas of their consciousness.

I am not talking today as I open the broadcast about fasting for the sake of fasting or fasting to curry the favor of God. No. We fast from food in order to experience union with God. Doctrinal correctness is not a replacement for correct discipline as though what we do and what we think have no bearing upon one another—of course they do.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7–8 NIV).

This blog is adapted from the March 6, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Ash Wednesday 2016

Bible-Rm. 5.8-AshWednesday2Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time for Christians to remember their own sinfulness, and need for divine forgiveness.

Sometime ago Gretchen Passantino Coburn wrote a piece on the Lenten season. In it she offered these helpful insights on Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday begins a forty day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and recognize that God’s forgiveness comes at an infinite price — the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.

On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, calling the people to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian.

Ashes (and “sackcloth,” or rough, plain clothing, usually of camel’s hair) traditionally represent mourning (2 Sam. 13:19; Gen. 37:34), repentance (Job 42:6; Matt. 11:21; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8, 13), and the judgment of God (Rev. 6:12). When King Ahasuerus ordered all Jews to be killed, Mordecai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and . . . cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” The Jews throughout the land prayed “with great mourning. . . with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3). This was for the dual purpose of mourning for their coming death and of demonstrating their repentance to God, pleading with Him to spare them from His judgment. When Jonah preached God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the pagan king of Nineveh and his subjects understood that if a nation repents from its evil ways, God may withhold His judgment (Jer. 18:7-10), so they repented and prayed that God would spare them.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).

Ash Wednesday should remind Christians that they are sinners in need of a savior, and that their salvation comes at the sacrifice of God’s Son.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).

Hope this has been helpful!

—Warren Nozaki