CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SYNOPSIS

 

A Zeal for God Not According to Knowledge:

A Refutation of Judaism’s Arguments Against Christianity

 

By Eric V. Snow

 

Chapter One:  Introduction

 

            This chapter sets the parameters of the debate and lays down the necessary philosophical framework.  It makes clear what the book does in defending Christianity against its Jewish critics and what it doesn’t.   It explains why the debate between Christianity and Judaism’s rival truth claims still matters in a diverse, multicultural world.  It gives reasons for believing there is only one true religion as against the common belief there are many ways to God.  It also describes why the long history of “Christian” anti-Semitism fails to prove that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.  Why a critique of Judaism doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic is also explained.

 

Chapter Two:  The Historicity of the New Testament Defended:  The Bibliographical Test

 

            This is the first of three chapters that defend belief in the New Testament as the inspired and inerrant word of God.  This chapter explains how well the New Testament stacks up against pagan historical works based on the amazingly large number of New Testament manuscripts and the relatively small time gaps between the earliest New Testament manuscripts and the autograph (first copy) of the New Testament when compared to pagan historical works which historians accept with few doubts.  It also deals with the issue of the canon and evidence that the New Testament was written in the first century A.D.  The issues form criticism raises about the reliability of oral transmission in the hands of the primitive Christians are analyzed.  Claims that only gentile Christian writers after the first century wrote the New Testament are rebutted as well.

 

Chapter Three:  How External Evidence Confirms the New Testament

 

            In this chapter, ancient primary historical sources and archeological that deal with the same people, places, and/or events as the New Testament are examined for whether they confirm or undermine belief in it.  The historical reliability of Luke is defended generally, but especially in connection with the 4 b.c. census that Quirinius conducted.  The early non-Christian sources that mention Jesus outside the New Testament are described and examined.  The arguments of the Scottish philosopher David Hume against miracles are scrutinized.  Why the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ trial should be considered reliable is also delved into.

 

 

Chapter Four:  The Internal Evidence Test:  Does the New Testament Contradict Itself?

 

            After explaining some general ways to deal with the alleged discrepancies of the New Testament, a long list of commonly cited, purported “contradictions” is dealt with, one by one.  The characters of Paul and Jesus are defended against various attacks.  Belief in the resurrection is defended on historical and logical grounds.

 

Chapter Five:  Did Paganism Influence Early Christianity?

 

            This key chapter systematically refutes all claims that first-century Christianity derived its teachings and sacraments from the pagan mystery religions of the Roman Empire.  It digs deeply into the detail needed for refuting convincingly such claims, especially those made by the Jewish Talmudic scholar Hyam Maccoby.  Certain standard errors routinely committed by those making such derivations are described before going into greater specifics.  Claims that the Eucharist and baptism were derived from paganism are closely examined.  Supposed precedents for Jesus’ birth, atoning sacrifice, and resurrection as found in various specific pagan cults are scrutinized and found wanting.  The case for the parallels between paganism and Christianity not being necessarily so problematic is also considered.  The comparisons made by Michoel Drazin between Buddhism or Hinduism and Christianity are also shown to prove little.

 

Chapter Six:  Was Gnosticism the Source of Christian Teaching?

 

            This chapter examines in detail Maccoby’s claims that Paul’s beliefs were derived from the ancient Roman religious/philosophical movement called Gnosticism.  After the crucial definitional issue is examined, the chapter makes a comparison between Plato’s philosophy and Gnosticism in order to show that many Gnostic beliefs could have been derived from Platonism.  The chronological problems that undermine Gnosticism as being a leading source for first-century Christian doctrine are examined in detail.  The real differences that appear between the beliefs of Gnosticism and Christianity when they are carefully examined are brought to light.

 

Chapter Seven:  The Messianic Texts Revisited

 

            Chapter seven carefully examines all of the most important Old Testament texts that prophesied of a Messiah to come, such as Isa. 52:13-53:12 and Dan. 9:24-27.  Certain distinctions, such as the difference between types and direct predictions, and some common ways of misinterpreting these texts are analyzed.   Standard Jewish interpretations of these texts are quoted and refuted.

 

Chapter Eight:  How Is a Man or Woman Saved?:  Judaism Versus Christianity

 

            This chapter analyzes the arguments that the defenders of Judaism have launched against Christian soteriology.  The theory of atonement (i.e., “Why did Jesus have to die?”) is carefully developed and compared to the Jewish theory of atonement as presented by its defenders.  Paul’s salvation theology is defended against claims that it is lawless and makes grace into a license for sin.  Problems with Jewish soteriology, such as the would-be requirement to continue offering animal sacrifices, are also delved into.

 

Chapter Nine:  Is the New Testament’s Portrayal of First-Century Judaism Accurate?

 

            In chapter nine the claims that the New Testament mischaracterized the Pharisees as self-righteous legalists are examined.  Maccoby’s defense of the Pharisees is especially scrutinized, such as their purported deep patriotism.  The claim that the oral law didn’t require the separation of Jew and gentile is refuted.  The age of the oral law is also examined.

 

Chapter Ten:  Was Jesus God?

 

            Using both the Old and New Testaments, this chapter is a systematic, in-depth defense of the deity of Christ and of the plurality of the Godhead.  It engages in careful, close exegesis of the relevant texts in order to refute misinterpretations of them.  Because the defenders of Judaism cite the New Testament in order to bolster their case, even as they deny its authority, their arguments are dealt with nearly as if they were Christian Arians or Unitarians.

 

Appendix, Bibliography, and Index

 

            This book has a brief appendix that compares the translations of the messianic texts as found two standard Jewish translations (the Tanakh, JPS) with two conservative, literal Christian translations (NKJV, NASB).  Here it’s shown that the bias of the Jewish translations of the messianic scriptures in some cases approaches that of the notorious New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses vis-à-vis the deity of Christ.  An extensive bibliography consisting of sources cited in the notes is included.  Although no index has been prepared to date, one should be included for this book once the final pagination has been determined in order to increase its reference value to scholars and others.

 

Special Note:  Submission Policy

 

Although multiple queries and book proposals (including sample chapters) are being sent out simultaneously, the full manuscript will be submitted to only one publisher at a time.