According to bestselling religious scholar Reza Aslan, the New Testament Gospels “are not, nor were they ever meant to be, a historical documentation of Jesus’s life.” The Gospels are, Aslan claims, fictional compositions from early Christians who re-imagined a Jewish revolutionary named Jesus as an ethereal Christ of faith. But is it really reasonable to read the New Testament Gospels as fiction? And, if the Gospels aren’t fiction, what genre of literature are they? In the first half of this week’s program, New Testament scholar Jonathan Pennington joins Garrick Bailey and Timothy Paul Jones to explore these crucial questions: What literary genre best describes the New Testament Gospels? And are these compositions believable as history? Michael Jackson is the star of the second half of this week’s program as Garrick and Timothy go looking for signs of grace in the bestselling single of the 1980s, “We Are the World” by U.S.A. For Africa. Along the way, Timothy reveals how he would still be single if it weren’t for REO Speedwagon, Garrick divulges his deep childhood fixation on Michael Jackson’s jacket, and Jonathan Pennington just can’t fight the feeling that he belongs in the band Pink Floyd. You’ll also learn how the churches of Timothy’s childhood saw the coming of the Antichrist in the song “We Are the World.” The dilemma drawn from the bowels of the Infinity Gauntlet this week leads to a showdown between Wakanda and Hogwarts that threatens to rend the space-time continuum. The resulting clash of ideas nearly leads to a breaking of the fellowship that binds Garrick, Timothy, and Jonathan together. In the end, a reference to REO Speedwagon becomes the magical potion that saves their friendship.
In this Episode about the Gospels and “We Are the World”
Jonathan T. Pennington, Ph.D., is associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is also director of the Ph.D. program. Pennington is the author of The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, Reading the Gospels Wisely, and Heaven and Earth In the Gospel of Matthew. He is also on the preaching staff at Sojourn East in Louisville, Kentucky and the host of the YouTube show, “Cars, Coffee, Theology.” Follow Dr. Pennington on Twitter at @DrJTPennington.
Questions to Discuss
1. Why does the genre of books in Bible matter?
2. What genre are the New Testament Gospels? How do we know?
3. Suppose someone listening to this program has a friend who is a skeptic and completely rejects the truth of the Gospels. What should a Christian do to help a skeptic see the truth of the Gospels?
Links to Click
If you want to dig deeper into the historical integrity of the New Testament, one great place to start is In Defense of the Bible, edited by Terry Wilder and Steven Cowan. To download a sample chapter, visit http://www.bhacademic.com
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth: book by Reza Aslan
What Are the Gospels?: book by Richard Burridge
The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ: book by Martin Hengel
Reading the Gospels Wisely: book by Jonathan Pennington
“Cars, Coffee, Theology”: YouTube show by Jonathan Pennington
“Can’t Fight This Feeling”: song by REO Speedwagon
“We Are the World”: song by U.S.A for Africa
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”: song by Band Aid 20
“Thriller”: song by Michael Jackson
“The Fly”: song by U2
If you are interested in earning a master’s degree online or on campus that will equip you with the most comprehensive apologetics training available anywhere, click here.
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The Closing Credits
Three Chords and the Truth: The Apologetics Podcast thanks B&H Academic for their sponsorship.
Brief excerpts of music played in each program, including excerpts of “We Are the World,” are included solely for the purposes of comment and critique as allowed under the fair-use provision of U.S. copyright law. “The fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, … scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright” (U.S. Code § 107, Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use).