Robert Boylan is the author of a fairly sophisticated blog entitled “Scriptural Mormonism,” in which he frequently criticizes “Trinitarians,” especially evangelicals. A check of Boylan’s blog shows that I am mentioned in some 14 posts, mostly in the past twelve months or so. I contacted Boylan through Facebook at the beginning of 2016 asking if he would be interested in some dialogue, but he did not respond. Boylan has said plenty in those posts that merits a response, but here I am going to focus on one in which I am not mentioned.

Note: The day after this article was first posted on June 6, Boylan posted three articles on his blog in response. In the first of those blog articles, Boylan suggested that I should “rework the article” in light of his comments.[1] I have therefore done so instead of posting follow-up responses, as I would normally have done. After I posted a revised version of this article on June 8, Boylan posted two additional responses, which shall be mentioned very briefly in the appropriate places. This article, posted on June 9, is thus the third version of the article.

Bokovoy or Boylan?

On May 8, 2016, Boylan posted a piece he titled “David Bokovoy vs. Luke Wilson on the names of God.”[2] Boylan begins as follows:

A couple of years ago, the now-Dr. David E. Bokovoy (PhD, Hebrew Bible [Brandeis]) commented on an article produced by the late Luke Wilson of the Institute for Religious “Research” (anti-Mormons like to use [loosely] the term “research” in the names of their ministries, including Bill McKeever]). The post is no longer online, but I did save it for future use. It contains some interesting material, so I believe it worthwhile to reproduce it here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mormon scholar Jeffrey Chadwick has a new article in Meridian Magazine in which he explains why he thinks Jesus died on a Thursday rather than a Friday. I won’t attempt a thorough point-by-point rebuttal here but do want to offer some brief comments.

Mark is very clear on the chronology: Jesus died on “the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42), and the women went to the tomb “when the Sabbath was past…very early on the first day of the week” (16:1-2). Here “the Sabbath” must be what we call Saturday, and therefore Jesus died the day before Saturday, i.e., Friday. Chadwick’s explanation that the term “sabbath” could apply to other festival days doesn’t circumvent its usage in context in Mark, where it is explicitly the usual last day of the week in Mark 16:1.

Chadwick repeats some dubious arguments that a minority of non-LDS Christian scholars have made for a Thursday crucifixion. For example, “the third day” almost certainly should be understood to count inclusively; hence what we call Sunday would be the third day from Friday counting inclusively. The “three days and three nights” saying (Matt. 12:39-40) may seem difficult to square with a Friday crucifixion, but it has been shown that this is a Jewish idiomatic way of speaking and is not meant to be taken literally to mean a (roughly) 72-hour period. It can’t be taken literally even on a Thursday crucifixion view, since Jesus died just a few hours before sunset (Chadwick says around 3 pm, which is the usual understanding).

Chadwick’s agenda is really to square the day of Christ’s death with the Book of Mormon, and that’s understandable. However, there are some stubborn facts that make this almost impossible. Since Herod the Great died in 4 BC, Jesus must have been born in 5 BC (and 6 BC is possible). We know this because Luke reports that Jesus’ family stayed in the Jerusalem area for over a month (cf. Luke 2:21-22) and Matthew’s account indicates that they had lived in a house in Bethlehem for a period of time after Jesus’ birth (which was not in a house according to Luke 2:7, 12) and before Herod learned about the child king (Matt. 2:11). Herod’s order to kill Bethlehem boys two years and under (Matt. 2:16) also indicates that the child was perhaps a year old, again requiring a birth in early 5 BC if not 6 BC. This means one cannot square even a date of AD 30 for Jesus’ death with the Book of Mormon’s statements indicating that Jesus lived for 33 years (since if Jesus was born in early 5 BC and died in spring AD 30, he lived for 34 years. Besides, AD 33 is probably the correct date of Jesus’ death, which means Jesus was about 37 years old when he died.

Harold Hoehner’s book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977) is still the best book on the subject in my opinion. He has a more recent study but it is probably less accessible to those who are not scholars: “The Chronology of Jesus,” in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, ed. Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 3:2315-60. On AD 33 as the date of Christ’s death, see also Paul L. Maier, “Sejanus, Pilate, and the Date of the Crucifixion,” Church History 37 (1968): 3-13; Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, “The Jewish Calendar, a Lunar Eclipse and the Date of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Tyndale Bulletin 43 (1992): 331-51. It should be noted that all of these scholars were working on the chronological issues without the Book of Mormon being on their radar. That is, they were in no sense trying to refute the Book of Mormon.

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LDS scholars have been giving significant attention in recent years to the English grammar, vocabulary, and style of the Book of Mormon. The thrust of this literary output has been to argue that the language of the Book of Mormon, far from an embarrassing liability, is in some respects an apologetic asset—even evidence of inspiration. More broadly, these scholars have been arguing that allegations of ungrammatical usage in the Book of Mormon are often unfounded, being based on misunderstandings or ignorance regarding earlier English grammar.

The most recent offering in this burgeoning literature is an article by Stanford Carmack in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. According to Carmack, who has written other recent articles of relevance, mistakes in the analysis of grammar and usage in the Book of Mormon have been made on the assumption that Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is the appropriate reference in such matters. Carmack argues that the Oxford English Dictionary should be used instead. Following the lead of Royal Skousen, the leading scholar on the textual history of the Book of Mormon,[1] Carmack argues that the English of the Book of Mormon is written mainly in the Early Modern English that was current in the 1500s but archaic by Joseph Smith’s day—and not entirely due to imitation of the KJV. On this basis, Carmack argues that Joseph could not have been responsible for the English idiom of the Book of Mormon; it must have come from the Lord revealing specific words to Joseph. At the same time, Carmack admits that some of the language in the Book of Mormon is more modern.[2]

A thorough examination of Carmack’s article is beyond the scope of what I will attempt here. There are dozens of specific examples that would need to be considered and a thicket of assertions and inferences that would need to be evaluated. Carmack’s work in this and other articles will undoubtedly be hailed as having turned the English grammar question of the Book of Mormon into an astounding evidence of its divine inspiration. I believe there are serious holes in the argument and that it raises questions so far unanswered. For example, to the best of my knowledge no one has yet explained why God would reveal a translation of an ancient scripture to a nineteenth-century man in largely (but not entirely) sixteenth-century English. However, here I wish to address just one point, albeit a somewhat tangential point to Carmack’s overall project. The point concerns the use of the English pronoun thou in the King James Version (KJV), a matter of some possible relevance to its usage in the Book of Mormon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pursuit of Gods: Anna Diehl and Christian Post

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in Christology, Mormonism, Trinity

On November 2, 2014, I sent an email to Christian Post regarding Anna Diehl, who is one of its bloggers. Since I have heard nothing in response, I am now making my concerns public.

Christian Post (hereafter CP) is a major online media organization based in Washington, DC, that describes itself as “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website.” It is a member organization of the Evangelical Press Association as well as the National Association of Evangelicals, and has a statement of faith that is generically, solidly evangelical. As I noted in my email to CP, “We share the same orthodox, evangelical beliefs as your organization, as reflected in your excellent Statement of Faith.”

It was recently brought to my attention that one of the blogs featured prominently on CP’s website exists to promote heretical teachings that are clearly at variance with CP’s avowedly evangelical doctrinal position. I refer to the blog called “The Pursuit of God,” the author of which is Anna Diehl. Ms. Diehl denies the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity; her version of the doctrine explicitly contradicts CP’s statement of faith. In a recent article on Jesus and the Holy Spirit (Oct. 31, 2014) on her Christian Post blog, Diehl wrote:

When giving that famous Great Commission, Jesus told His disciples to baptize people in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught that there were three Gods—three Beings who met Yahweh’s definition of praiseworthy…. There are three Gods. Jesus and the Holy Spirit have no beginning. They were not created. They are Almighty Gods who are separate from Yahweh, yet equal to Him in every way.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel C. Peterson, a leading LDS scholar and apologist, has written an article entitled, “When the criticisms of the Book of Mormon can’t be taken seriously.” In his article he suggests that some criticisms of the Book of Mormon are so silly that they should be dismissed with laughter. “Sometimes, an efficient response to certain criticisms is simply a good laugh.”

Well, some criticisms might well be so implausible as to deserve ridicule. Often, however, what is really happening is that Mormon representations of the criticisms are caricatures. Take, for instance, Peterson’s description of a supposedly laughable criticism of the Book of Abraham (apparently he didn’t have enough for just the Book of Mormon):

More than 20 years ago, two critics suggested that the cosmological ideas in the Book of Abraham derive from a 1728 entry in Benjamin Franklin’s unpublished personal papers and from an obscure 1755 work by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant that was barely noticed in Germany and wasn’t published in English until 1900.

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Dale B. Martin of Yale just had an article published in which he argued that Jesus was crucified because his disciples were armed and planning an assault on Jerusalem (with the expectation that heavenly forces would back them up). Hardly anyone would have heard about this, except that it was written up in Newsweek.

Martin’s argument picks and chooses from the Gospels those elements that might seem to support his hypothesis. For some reason, the Gospel authors reported dutifully that the disciples had some swords the night of Jesus’ arrest, even though they supposedly distorted a number of facts in order to hide the intent of Jesus and his followers.

The idea that Jesus was leading a revolutionary movement is not new. A few decades ago it was S. G. F. Brandon leading the charge, so to speak, of that way of viewing the historical Jesus. Refuting such revisionist theories about Jesus is like playing Whac-a-mole.

Here is a bibliography on the issue, which includes the Newsweek article, Martin’s academic journal article, and some helpful blog responses:

Main, Douglas. “Jesus Was Crucified Because Disciples Were Armed, Bible Analysis Suggests.” Newsweek, Sept. 18, 2014.

Martin, Dale B. “Jesus in Jerusalem: Armed and Not Dangerous.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 37, 1 (Sept. 2014): 3-24. Subscription or single-use fee required.

Joseph, Simon J. “Armed and Dangerous?” Simon J. Joseph (blog), Sept. 23, 2014.

Le Donne, Anthony. “Simon Joseph on Dale Martin’s Jesus.” The Jesus Blog, Sept. 25, 2014. Two-part interview with Joseph.

Pounds, S. Brian. “A Reply to Dale Martin’s JSNT Essay (Part 1)” and “A Reply to Dale Martin’s JSNT Essay (Part 2).” The Jesus Blog, Sept. 23 and 24, 2014.

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Dale Tuggy: Are the Persons of the Trinity “Selves”?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in Trinity

In Dale Tuggy’s response earlier today to my previous post, he says, “Bowman reproduces the common theological saying that the ‘Persons’ of the Trinity are not ‘persons in the modern sense,’ that is, what I call ‘selves.’” This is not accurate. I never said anything about whether the Persons of the Trinity are “persons in the modern sense.” Neither the word modern nor any synonym appeared in my post. What I said was that the term was and is used analogously rather than univocally. This is as true of the ancient Greek word hypostasis or the ancient Latin word persona as it is of the modern English word person. Nor did I deny that the three Persons might be called “selves” but rather emphasized that it depended on precisely how such a term is understood.

This misunderstanding leads Dr. Tuggy to critique my position on the grounds that it is incompatible with certain NT teachings that are actually quite important to my understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Let’s look at these NT teachings briefly. Read the rest of this entry »

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In a previous article on this blog, “Anthony Buzzard, the Shema, and the Trinity,” I discussed Unitarian writer Anthony Buzzard’s misrepresentations of my statements about the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) in Putting Jesus in His Place, which Buzzard quoted out of context in a recent YouTube video. After Buzzard and I exchanged comments there, Dale Tuggy, on his blog about the Trinity, offered four observations or opinions on the matter. In his fourth point, he agreed with me that the Shema is not a “definition” of God, so no comment on that point is needed here. I appreciate Tuggy’s efforts and will respond to his first three points here.

1. According to Tuggy, what Buzzard probably meant was not that Jews in the biblical era were “anti-trinitarians” but that they held to “the view, roughly, that the one God ‘is unipersonal,’ that is, just is a certain self, person, or intelligent agent.” Tuggy thinks I should concede that this is what Jews at the time believed.

So much depends on precisely how words are understood here. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity views God as a single, intelligent being. If one stipulates that a single, intelligent being is by definition a “person,” then by that definition the Jews believed that Yahweh, the Lord God, was one person. By that definition, Trinitarians also believe that God is one person. Read the rest of this entry »

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In my previous article on this blog, “Anthony Buzzard, the Shema, and the Trinity,” I discussed Anthony Buzzard’s misrepresentations of my statements about the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) in Putting Jesus in His Place[1], which Buzzard quoted out of context in a recent YouTube video. This was just the first of two subjects on which he took issue with something I had said in that book. In this article, I will discuss his other criticism.

Referring to a comment regarding Luke 1:35 on page 88 of Putting Jesus in His Place, Buzzard made the following statement:

Robert Bowman tries to draw a distinction between being called the Son of God and being the Son of God. That will not work. In the Gospels we have one Gospel saying “Blessed are the meek,” or one of those qualities of Christianity, “they will be the sons of God,” and the parallel says, “they will be called the sons of God.” There’s no difference. I refer to the famous birth narrative book by Raymond Brown where he explicitly says, “There’s no difference. If you’re called the Son of God, that’s what you are.”

Here again, Buzzard ignores the context of the statement in my book. My focus was on responding to the claim that Jesus became the Son of God only at his baptism:

If the Father’s statement at Jesus’ baptism implied that Jesus had become the Son of God at that moment, this subtle implication was missed by both Matthew and Luke. Both of them report the same statement at Jesus’ baptism, yet both agree that Jesus did not become the Son of God at that time. Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 in his infancy narrative, “Out of Egypt I have called my son,” and applies it to the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:15). Luke states that Jesus would be called God’s Son because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). (This is not the same thing as saying that he would be God’s Son only as a result of that virginal conception.) Thus, there is no basis in the Synoptics for the idea that Jesus was “sent” at his baptism.[2]

Now, note first that I did not say that Jesus was called God’s Son but wasn’t really God’s Son. Of course, he is called the Son of God because he is the Son of God. That is not in dispute.

Second, I did not deny that Jesus’ virginal conception and birth were a reason why he would be called the Son of God. That is surely one reason why he is known as the Son of God. But Buzzard wants to claim that his conception and birth is the sole reason that he is the Son of God. That claim goes beyond the text.

Third, Buzzard claims to have found some biblical evidence against the distinction between being the Son of God and being called the Son of God, in a pair of parallel statements he claims are in the Gospels. He says, “In the Gospels we have one Gospel saying ‘Blessed are the meek,’ or one of those qualities of Christianity, ‘they will be the sons of God,’ and the parallel says, ‘they will be called the sons of God.’” Obviously, Buzzard is trying to recall something off the top of his head. Unfortunately, in this instance he mangles the texts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anthony Buzzard, the Shema, and the Trinity

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in Christology, Trinity

On Monday, August 25, the Unitarian writer Anthony Buzzard sent me a private message on Facebook, asking a theological question with no explanation of the purpose of his communication. I responded briefly and he followed with a more elaborate statement of his argument thinly veiled as a question. When I asked the reason for his communication with me, he simply restated his argument. I then asked him again on Friday, August 29, why he was communicating privately with me and if his intention was a private conversation or to get me to say something he could quote somewhere. Before he answered my question, Buzzard posted a YouTube video quoting selectively from my book Putting Jesus in His Place[1] and attempting to make a case that I was knowingly contradicting Jesus’ own teaching! He then sent me another private Facebook message saying he thought the conversation should be with everyone.

Buzzard’s claim that he was seeking a conversation with everyone is strange. He and I are both on Facebook and we even used to be in the same public Facebook group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Biblical Discussion Group. He could easily have initiated a public discussion in that group or in any of the other many online groups where I can be found, or by inviting me to join one of his groups. He still has not explained the reason for the private messages. This is not the first time he has done this. In November he sent me a private Facebook message taking issue with something else in my book. I very specifically told him that I was not going to get into a private discussion with him about such things.

In the YouTube video, Buzzard quoted selectively and out of context from Putting Jesus in His Place in order to pose his challenge. This is what he quoted:

If Judaism has a creed, it is the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema…. Jesus affirmed the Shema as the first and greatest commandment…. his view was in the mainstream of Judaism.[2]

Read the rest of this entry »

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