Third in a series on “How to Use Apologetics In Your Teaching Without Scaring Anyone Away.”
You’re teaching through the New Testament at your church or Bible study group. Early on you run into the Massacre of the Innocents in Matthew 2:16-18. You ask yourself, “What kind of slaughter was this? How many boys were killed? Did it make other news?”
That’s a great place to start: asking questions. Actually it’s not that hard. If you look it up on Wikipedia you’ll find it said, “Since the sole evidence for the event occurs in the Gospel of Matthew, New Testament scholars treat its historicity as an open question and biographers of Herod deny that the event occurred.”
If it’s on Wikipedia, you can be sure someone in your group is wondering about it too. Can we trust the text here or not?
Question and Answer
That’s the first step I’ve been recommending in the process of using apologetics in your teaching, without scaring anyone away. Think through what you’re teaching, and try to discern if anyone in your group would have a question, problem, or doubt about it. Name that question when you teach, and then address it.
Of course you have to know an answer. This time you know right where to go for it. You do some more digging, and you find that there’s no reason to doubt the account is historically true after all. Herod was well-known as a murderer, slaughtering members of his own family. Bethlehem was a fairly small town, so there wouldn’t have been more than 20 babies killed. This is horrible on any account, but considering who Herod was, it’s not surprising it didn’t make a lot of news.
So with this, you can confidently report that there’s nothing here to cause anyone to doubt that this really happened.
Now, how much digging did that actually take? Not much. It’s in the notes for the 2017 Apologetics Study Bible for Students.
Historical Reliability in a Single New Testament Document
Now, you might have to go somewhere else to find that it’s also not a big deal that some scholars think the Bible can’t be trusted for anything unless it’s corroborated from other sources. Lots of other sources. No other ancient book gets treated with the same universal doubt from skeptical historians.
There’s tons of history that we accept on just a single source — as long as that source isn’t the New Testament. Which is playing by an historical double standard, actually. That’s something you should probably be aware of, and if you weren’t before, I’ve given you a first glimpse of it right here.
But wait! There’s a short insert article on a closely related topic, sitting on a corner of the same page as Matthew 2:1. That helpful information opens up right along with your easy research on the Massacre of the Innocents. It’s there for you, and you can teach from it without having to do loads of homework on your own.
Apologetics Study Bible Versions
I’ve had the original Apologetics Study Bible since it came out in 2012. It’s helpful in the same way, but I actually prefer this student edition. There’s nothing even slightly dumbed-down about it. It’s a great source, with all kinds of answers to all kinds of questions. All throughout this Bible you’ll also find essays on topics ranging from archaeology to sexuality.
And there’s nothing hard there for your class or congregation to understand. See, you can use apologetics in your teaching!
(Full disclosure: I have an article in the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, on “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” Watch here for more information on that question in a few weeks.)