Rather than an open-minded juror, we need a prudent investor. A prudent investor does not require a compelling case against Christianity in order to withhold from it; rather, a prudent investor requires a compelling case for Christianity in order to buy into it. How so? Christianity makes extraordinary claims - extraordinary claims about persons, extraordinary claims about events, and extraordinary claims upon the lives of persons who accept these extraordinary claims. It does not behoove a prudent investor to buy into extraordinary claims unless they are proven false. Rather, extraordinary claims warrant extraordinary evidence.
I have heard this claim often from skeptics, but I have a hard time sympathizing with its sentiments. A prudent investor with money to invest may investigate many options before deciding where to invest his money, or he may choose not to invest it at all. He may wrap it in a napkin and bury it in the ground, if he wishes, and, while he will have gained no profit from it, he will, by his conservatism, at least guarantee that he will not have lost his capital.
The investment of our lives is not that way. Life is either invested, or else it is simply “spent.” We cannot hold onto it. We can invest it deliberately or lose it, by default. In that sense, Christianity does not call upon us to invest any more heavily in it than does any other philosophy—or none at all. The passage of time will eventually take from us every moment, every penny and every breath—and we will have stewarded it all, either prudently or foolishly.
The choice to devote our lives to following Christ will cost us everything—but so will any other choice we can make for our lives. We may either live our lives (and lose them) without a philosophy or a goal, or else we can choose one of the existing options. These options have generally been catalogued under the headings of various worldviews or religions. To my knowledge, the options are: 1) nihilism, 2) naturalism/materialism, 3) pantheism/monism, and 4) varieties of theism. If there are other options, which are not branches of these general categories, I have not encountered nor had occasion to consider them.
For reasons that we both accept (and can therefore save time by not arguing), we have both concluded that the fourth category is more reasonable and believable than the other three. Thus we judge it wise (as prudent investors) to pursue different theistic models.
A prudent investor, who has already decided, upon rational (and possibly other) grounds, that the pursuit of the true God represents a desirable investment of life can hardly complain if he finds that theism makes claims that seem extraordinary
to non-theists. However, once we have accepted as probable the existence of a supernatural deity, no one can say, at the onset, what supernatural things such a deity might do, if He wished. Miraculously parting the Sea of Reeds to rescue His favorite people might well be within the range of His activities. For all we could predict, He might also choose to take on a human form and perform among men various wonders, not unlike the miracles performed by the prophets, by Jesus, and by the apostles. He might even undergo a death and resurrection.
It is the claim that God exists
that skeptics regard to be the “extraordinary claim.” Once we have gotten over that hurdle, nothing else that God might do can, a priori
, be regarded as extraordinary, until such a time as we may have had occasion to see for ourselves (or to examine the testimonies of credible persons, who may have witnessed) His activities.
I would regard credible
witnesses to be those who 1) show no signs of mental illness or instability, 2) were present to see an event to which they are testifying, 3) have given us no previous occasion to regard them as liars, and 4) have no perceptible motivation to deceive (i.e., nothing to gain by making something up), and 5) were, perhaps, previously disinclined to believe in the things that they later witnessed. Such witnesses may, after all, turn out to be mistaken in what they think they have seen, of course. But insofar as we must consult any witnesses at all (and often we must do so, if we are to learn anything), these are the kind that I tend to trust.
The testimony of such witnesses first provided me with the incentive to invest in their story. What I found for myself, having made the investment, more than confirmed that they had told the truth.
When I think of people (like yourself, for example) who have chosen to invest their lives in some other enterprise, I always wonder by what convincing witnesses they have come to be persuaded of the prudence of their investment, and in what way their experience has vindicated the wisdom of their decision.
Now, it would be out of order to hold that Christianity accords with preceding Jewish revelation, simply because some Christian authority says so. Rather, one must first examine the preceding Jewish ediface [sic] - on independent terms, without regard for Christian construal (or for anachronistic rabbinic developments, for that matter). Then one must evaluate whether or not Christianity fairly accords with the preceding ediface. If this question cannot be answered to satisfaction, then the supposed authority of Christianity is seriously undercut.
That Christianity accords with the preceding Jewish revelation is not the complete claim of the New Testament. Christianity includes additional revelation that modifies some features of the preceding revelation. Its claim is that, if the preceding revelation could be viewed through the eyes of the Spirit who inspired it, it would be seen to have anticipated the Christian revelation. Jesus imparted that Spirit to His disciples, which accounts for their unique perception of the meanings of Old Testament prophecies.
The Christian case is not devasted (nor even surprised) by the fact that the Jewish experts who lacked the Spirit (I would not expect many rabbis to claim to possess the Spirit, unless they also claimed to be prophets) disagree with the Christian interpretations of the prophecies. These Jewish scholars often disagree even among themselves, and the fact that they reject Christian interpretations fits predictably with the fact that they are not Christians. Were they to adopt the Christian interpretation, we must assume that they (like many others of Jewish background, including some former rabbis) would be Christians as well.
One assumption of Christianity is that previous revelations are sometimes modified by subsequent revelation. Our discussion, above, of dietary laws provides a case-in-point. On this particular topic, the Jewish revelation itself contradicts or modifies previous divine revelations (e.g., the mosaic kosher laws modify Genesis 9:3, which itself modified Genesis 1:29-30).
The irony I find in your position is that you accept the validity of the “preceding Jewish revelation” as a starting point, and then criticize Christians for accepting the further “Christian revelation.” You and I both seem to accept that there have been “revelations” given by the Creator. You accept one of them, and I accept more than one. I know of no reason for questioning the Christian revelation, which would not equally warrant a questioning of the Jewish one.
Is it “out of order” for the Jews to accept the preceding Jewish revelation “simply because some authority [like Moses] said so”?
If God establishes one norm for a group of people that is applicable to a particular timeframe, and then, when He sees fit, changes it, without explanation as to why He did so, this would be within the range His prerogatives. So long as nothing in the new revelation is inconsistent with God’s essential nature and character, He might have some surprises for us.
If this statement leads you to ask why I don’t accept such subsequent claims of revelation as that of the Mormon Church, I would have to say that, once again, it is a matter of weighing the credibility of the witnesses. Additionally, that “revelation” (in that it advocates polytheism) contradicts the very nature of God.
In our previous exchange here, I have already begun to press against Christianity's fit with the faith it grounds upon. If your patience and energies allow for it, I will continue to do so in our discussion here.
If I must opt out of the discussion in the future, it will not be for lack of energy (and probably not for lack of patience), but for lack of time. I am in the midst of preparing five different Powerpoint presentations under a tight deadline, which, for me, is very time consuming.
One may propose a psychological explanation [of Saul’s conversion], coupled (or not) with a physiological dimension. If Saul were under some manner of physical stress (hunger or fatigue), this could have contributed to whatever he experienced. Then again, it would seem that this was not the only mystical experience in his lifetime. Some persons are prone to visions or the like; in some cases, this may be a matter of delusion, or of fertile/credulous imagination.
Some people are prone seizures and hallucinations, but some are prone to being contacted by God also (e.g., Moses). I think Paul was an intelligent fellow—and (being Jewish) was probably a "prudent investor." He was aware of the deceptive phenomenon of false revelations (2 Thess.2:2, 9). His assessment of his experiences—on the road to Damascas and subsequently—resulted in his investing heavily in the genuineness of the revelations he received. While one may choose to believe he was mistaken, I cannot find any reason to discredit his experience—being, as it was, followed by a career characterized by miracles resembling those of Jesus and the other apostles. That even the demons recognized his authority, along with that of Christ (Acts 19:15), also impresses me.
But in any event, this is a slender reed for a prudent investor. How many millions of persons have had mystical experiences? Even if we were to limit our field of consideration to persons who are generally healthy and sincere, should we imagine that all of these experiences bear authentic messages from heaven? Similarly, there are thousands of claims to the miraculous. The claims about Saul are hardly more demonstrable than numerous claims made by individuals of varying religious affiliations. Shall we buy into Paramahansa Yogananda because of his charming account of mystical experiences and miracles?
Once again, there is such a thing as satanically-empowered miracles. Paul acknowledges this, but he apparently expects his readers to be able to recognize the difference between the demonic wonders of a man like Simon Magus, and those performed by Paul and the apostles as confirmation of their message (2 Cor.12:12).
How can one know the difference? One way is to apply the test that Moses provided in Deuteronomy 13:1-3. If a miracle is given as confirmation of the legitimacy of a god other than Yahweh, then that “miracle” is not to be trusted.
I realize that Jews believe Christians to proclaim a different God from Israel's Yahweh. Perhaps traditional explanations of the trinity by Christian theologians have contributed to the confusion. As I see it, the Old Testament abounds with activities accomplished by the Word of Yahweh and the Spirit of Yahweh. To refer these as “persons” (as in traditional trinitarian formulations) may present an unnecessary stumblingblock (the Bible does not use such language), but to acknowledge that God’s Word and Spirit are in some sense viewed as extensions of Himself should not occasion undue controversy. To postulate that one of these (the Word of Yahweh) was made to "tabernacle" among men in the form of a human may stretch the capacities of our imaginations, but it cannot be maintained that this has necessarily introduced a God different from the Yahweh of the Tanakh.
And beyond this - even if Saul had experienced some sort of authentic vision on that occasion, this would not necessarily validate every theological opinion of his thereafter.
Your statement, as it stands, conforms to strict logic. But it does not take into consideration the implications of the specific vision we are considering. If the reports are correct, Jesus, at the time of giving that vision, also gave an assignment of apostleship to Saul, along with the standard equipment of apostleship (again, 2 Cor.12:12). This would include the opening of the understanding to understand the Old Testament scriptures (Luke 24:45).
Paul claimed that the message he preached came to him by revelation (Gal.1). Even if true, this would not guarantee his infallibility in presenting or in finding scriptural support for his message. However, there was apparently some shared insight among the apostles as to the applicability of certain prophecies to certain Christian doctrines, because Paul would present his Old Testament “proof texts” with the full assurance that Christian audiences would find them convincing. If we say that this is only due to to the gullibility of the Christian audiences, we are then assuming that they were less intelligent and more gullible than are we—an assumption for which I can find no warrant.
I believe that, once one has apprehended the framework of the apostolic ideology, the scriptures they used can be seen to be appropriately applied in their arguments. If you should respond that this requires a very large assumption concerning the validity of the apostles’ framework, I admit that it does. It is an assumption that Christians believe to be well justified by the special nature of the apostles’ calling and gifting. One can hardly expect that a skeptic who rejects the deity of Christ Himself would be disposed toward recognizing the special authority of the apostles. The latter comes with the territory of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
Now truly - do Christians believe [the Christian interpretation of the resurrection appearances] to be reasonable, or do they reason such to be believable? Perhaps we might check an impromptu barometer: if any other religious claimant can provide similar evidence, will Christians believe them too? Let us say that some other religion can supply four biographies - three being not precisely in agreement with one another, and one being comparatively eccentric. And let us say that they can supply pious letters from a half-dozen sources, some of whom were also biographers. And let us say that these sources claim certain extraordinary events took place, and were witnessed by thousands of people, albeit in a foreign country that no present-day person can visit or correspond with. Will Christians find it reasonable to believe this religion? Will they believe its metaphysical explanations for the phenomena it describes to be reasonable? And how will they choose between such lustrous candidates for their religious loyalty?
If the scenario you describe would arise in the absence of the evidences that already exist for Christianity, or if the new idea provided evidences equal or superior to the evidences for Christianity, then I think we would be foolish and blind to lightly disregard the metaphysical viewpoint to which the evidence points. We do not (or at least I do not) credit the primary Christian evidences because of a prior commitment to Christianity (though we might, subsequently, credit some of the less-impressive evidences because of our Christian commitments). We credit the claims of Christianity because of the weight of the evidences, further bolstered by a personal encounter with the One at the center of those claims.
Moving on - a prudent investor is going to need extraordinary reason to buy into "orthodox" Christian interpretation.
Given the variety of possible worldviews into which one may invest, I would think one would require extraordinary evidences for any view, if it is to be chosen over its ordinary competitors. It is the judgment of this investor that the evidential support for the claims of Christ is vastly superior to that which can be rallied to the support of any competing system.
The basic matter of considering miracles attributed to Jesus is not terrifically different from what we have discussed in the case of Saul.
True. Both rest upon the testimony of credible eye-witnesses. It is hard to imagine a better foundation for belief in such things, apart from being there to see them with your own eyes.
When it comes to the empty tomb, a prudent investor will prioritize a host of reasonable explanations before coming to the explanation held by Christians. Why? Because people lying happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people fantasizing happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people hallucinating happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people being confused happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people making mistakes happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people stealing bodies happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. Because people spontaneously recovering from grave trauma happens a lot more than people coming back to life from the dead. And because we have little access to the primary settings of post-crucifixion events, to examine physical data and interview witnesses carefully about what they experienced and the circumstances in which they experienced it.
It is often impossible to reconstruct a historical situation by appeal to what events happen a lot more than other events. History (and our own life experiences) is full of unique events which do not conform to a pattern of what happens a lot more than something else happens. The best evidence available of any historic occurrence is access to credible eye-witness testimony. Most of the alternative scenarios suggested in your paragraph can be eliminated by taking the explanation of the facts of the case requiring the least ingenuity. When you add to the mix the personal interactions with the risen Christ that are a normal characteristic of those who have met Him in every age, the weight of evidence for the resurrection explanation is incalculably enhanced.
I said “normal” in order to contrast what I am describing (which includes my own experience) with any sub-normal variety of religious experience within the general category of Christendom. I have never talked to you about the nature of your previous Christian experience (which, from the nature of your present arguments, I take to have been non-existent). I know you once professed Christian faith, and even served as the pastor of a church, but, like many others of whom the same could be said, it would appear that you never encountered Jesus for yourself. For this (and for all others like you in this respect) I am truly sorry. It definitely places you at a disadvantage in a discussion such as this one, I think.
As for I Corinthians 15, Paul invokes thirteen specific witnesses (excluding himself), and a horde of anonymous witnesses - when writing to individuals who, living in Greece, are unlikely to meet more than a handful of said witnesses to gauge their personal character and competency, and the nature of their experience (e.g., did the anonymous horde experience Jesus walking in their midst, speaking to each one in a personal manner; or did they experience Jesus momentarily upon a nearby hilltop, waving to them?). And a prudent investor in the present is farther removed yet from the witnesses than Corinth.
Each potential investor must assess the evidences for himself, and invest accordingly.
Overstretched and unconvincing claims [concerning Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies] do not speak well to the trustworthiness of those who advance those claims.
“Overstretched” is in the eye of the beholder.
It is not necessary for said assemblage of prophecies to apply to a figure who has already appeared in history.
This is quite true. But if one has arrived who admirably fulfills them, it would seem superfluous to look for another.
Jesus is also portrayed as citing the command "You shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind" - a command which does not reduce to a moral code with the exclusion of ritual behavior (particularly for Christians who consider it obligatory to baptize in water and/or to celebrate a Eucharist or Lord's Supper).
Loving God means seeking to do what best pleases Him. To discover what it may be that would please Him, we would be wise to consult His commands and instructions—especially His most recent ones. If He commands the continuous observance of certain rituals, like baptism and the Lord’s Supper (a question to be debated separately), then those who love Him will keep such commands.
Of course, this statement presupposes a certain cynical view of the motivation of (and a certain arbitrariness on the part of) the New Testament authorities, which no one, upon the grounds of evidence, is obligated to share with you.
As opposed to presupposing a certain angelic view of their motivation and interpretive practice?
When men give every evidence of honesty and virtue in their lives, and are willing to live lives of poverty, self-sacrifice and torture for their message, it seems unwarranted and uncharitable to accuse them of sinister motives which they give no evidence of possessing. I do not ordinarily judge people so uncharitably. Why should I make an exception in this case?
One person's cynicism is another person's realism. My comment was not restricted to New Testament writers; it was applied to a number of parties from that same general era. It is simply realistic to consider the possibility that New Testament writers thought and behaved like other parties in their milieu (and like numerous interpreters beyond their milieu as well). Many of these parties may have been sincerely pious, but their methods speak for themselves. When the interpretation of a passage is not substantially derivable from the passage itself - fairly, within its context - it is eisegetical.
Realism needs to take reality
into account. What we are exploring together is whether the claims of Christianity conform to reality or not. If they do, then what the stubbornly skeptical individual calls “realism” may merely be bigotry.
You might prefer to understand what New Testament writers have done by who they are. If these people are "authorities," then it doesn't matter what they do - it is legitimized by virtue of their authority. But it is prudent to understand who these people are by what they have done. Their interpretive maneuvers undercut their putative authority.
I agree with this entire paragraph, with the exception of the last sentence. Their interpretive maneuvers would only undercut their putative authority if it could be demonstrated that their interpretations were not correct (it is not enough to object that they are unorthodox). Exegesis requires that all relevant factors be considered in the interpretation of a passage. If the apostles were correct in seeing many of the Old Testament statements as requiring a spiritual interpretation, then those who neglect that factor would be handicapped in their efforts to correctly exegete.
Finally, if you would like specific evidence pertaining to New Testament writers, we might begin with Matthew 2:15 & 18, and Galatians 4:21ff.
My last comments, above, are relevant to some of these examples. I have dealt with the difficulties that you are raising to these verses in my lectures, and elsewhere (probably even on this forum). If we are going to say that Matthew and Paul were deceptively pulling verses out of context, without a presumed framework of thinking that (to them) validated their application of the passages, then are we to also assume that they hoped not to be caught in the act? Were they not writing to audiences who, they hoped, were acquainted with the Old Testament and with the texts they were citing? I think they were. Before we conclude that their applications of these passages were fallacious, we must do a better job than I think you are doing of ascertaining the manner in which these writers are making the applications, and what philosophical rationale lay behind their interpretations. Once these things have been discovered (not an impossible task to those willing to make a charitable investigation), we will then (and not until then) be in a position to assess the strength of the points they are seeking to make.
My apostle would certainly agree with my statement to which you are responding. Even the passage you cite agrees with my position. My understanding is that the only moral issues of the law that define Christian duties are those which reduce to the love commandment. The passage in Romans 14 (as well as the similar discussion in 1 Corinthians 8 through 10) makes my very point—namely, that these laws of cleanness and uncleanness are not mandatory for Christians, except in circumstances where love would require a Christian to voluntarily comply with them out of concern for the sensitivities of others.
You are thinking here about what Paul says to Christians in general; I am thinking of the implication of his statement for Christians who "[count] something to be profane." When it comes to a Christian who regards these laws as obligatory to themselves, Paul would not have them eat and be condemned, would he? And so, even from the viewpoint of a Christian "authority," these laws describe a moral obligation that remains incumbent upon some men - those of a certain conscience.
I apparently edited my post at some point after you excerpted my remarks. I realized that I had not answered your main point, and added another paragraph below the one you have cited. You can see my comments there.
Love and worship would mean different things to those who have received divine revelation than they would to those who never received such. I am not making "love" the new religion. "God" is our religion; "love" is the duty imposed by our religion (that is, by our God). The scriptures are God's revelation of what He means by the command to "love." Monotheism is probably not intuitive in mankind. Nor is chastity. It is the revelation of the true God Himself that enlightens our lives. In the light of that revelation, we can understand what love's response must be.
And so, if both ritual and moral obligations depend upon revelation for one to know them properly, instinct does not suffice as a "way to distinguish between 'moral law' and 'ceremonial law.'
I was not referring to mere animal instincts as a guide to what loving behavior looks like. Human instincts are honed by civilization, experience, and (in the case of Bible-believers) revelation. My point is that moral behaviors can be recognized as such (perhaps only after they have been pointed out to us, if we are dull-witted) upon adequate reflection. Ceremonial requirements cannot be justified by mere reflection. They must be revealed. Even after they are revealed, the reasons for them may remain permanently opaque. Our love for God tells us instinctively that we should worship Him in whatever manner pleases Him. It is revelation, not instinct, that must inform us of the details.
What I am saying is that, when we reflect upon the revealed moral laws, our hearts tell us, “Of course! What other course of action could a good God require of man?” But when we read of the revealed ceremonial laws, we are often likely to say, “Well if that don’t beat all!”
One thing that Christians do know, is that following Christ's teaching will never displease His Father.
Christians ‘know’ this? Or Christians believe this?
Your objection to the word “know” here simply arises from the difference in your past experience with Christianity and that of normal Christians. “Knowing God” is the normal experience for those who enter the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:34).
I will acknowledge that the line between belief and knowledge is a blurred boundary. Everything that we think we “know” really amounts to something we have come to believe very thoroughly. I can say that I know the sky is blue. That does not mean that this knowledge is anything more than a very high level of confidence (or belief) that my eyes do not deceive me.
At a certain level, belief stands upon such grounds that its denial would require infinite skepticism, to the point even of delusion. I can say that I have come to know Jesus and God with the same certainty with which I can say I know I am an American citizen. There is a remote chance that I don’t even exist, and that I am only a dream of the cosmos—but if we must reserve our use of the word “know” for such matters as will not allow any degree of absurd challenges, then we will have to expunge the word from our vocabulary.
Your assertion was that "Moses and the prophets had instructed Israel to look for just such a Messiah as Jesus." So where does Moses give this instruction? If you want to use material beyond the Pentateuch, then please articulate how you ascribe it to Moses.
In saying “Moses and the prophets” I would have thought I would be understood to not be referring to Moses alone. The testimony of Moses and the prophets represent different parts of one whole revelation, given progressively over a long period of history. I consider the writings of Moses to belong to the prophetic tradition of Israel, but what was hinted at in Moses is further described in later revelation.
Tangentially, I am interested in where you might have acquired the idea that the Sadducees worked from the Pentateuch exclusively. I am aware that this is claimed in a Matthew Henry commentary, but I would like to know if there is any further substantiation to that idea.
I am sure you are aware that this statement is very commonly asserted about the Sadducees. My understanding was that it is based upon a (possibly ambiguous) passage in Josephus. I cannot cite the passage at the moment, nor is it a main point of any argument I was making.
Concerning Hebrews - I am aware that you regard the Christian scriptures as having authority, but I asked where the Old Testament indicates such-and-such. Is it so difficult a thing to let the Old Testament speak for itself?
Apparently it is a rather difficult thing—hence the rabbinic traditions that the Orthodox felt the need to affix to it.
Concerning Zechariah - let us consider the verse carefully…
This you have done very well. Many of your observations are most interesting and helpful in understanding how a Jewish interpreter would exegete the passage. You may even be correct in your exegesis. As you know, my understanding of the passage is informed by the New Testament use of the passage, upon the value of which you and I will probably never agree.
[O]n what basis does one apply this discussion of a new covenant to the Messiah? Is it applied that way in the Old Testament text itself?
The Messiah is, in my opinion, the Shepherd "David" who is sent when God makes the everlasting covenant with Israel (e.g., Ezekiel 37:24-26)
Where is "David" in Jeremiah 31? That was the passage we were discussing; it is the one that articulates a "new covenant." Ezekiel 37, on the other hand, does not articulate a new covenant per se; neither does it state that a covenant would be mediated by "David."
I don’t believe that David is mentioned in Jeremiah 31. That is why I included Ezekiel 37, where he is mentioned in connection with the “everlasting covenant”—which, following the Christian revelation, I equate with the New Covenant (see Hebrews 8:7ff and 13:20). I make no apologies about following the Christian revelation. In my judgment, it is as reasonable to apply these two passages to the same covenant as it would be not to do so.
You are right that Ezekiel 37 does not specify that David mediates the covenant. Nor does it deny it. The New Testament affirms it.
Would you care to enumerate your list of "rabbinic scholars like Saul/Paul"?
No. I don't know the names of many rabbinic scholars of any stripe. Saul, however, could hardly have been without companion scholars in the early church who agreed with him. Even if he was alone among rabbinic scholars in his interpretation, yet his revelations from Christ give him a unique credibility among Christians.
I ask that you use an honest hin in your rhetoric, Steve. If a pharmaceutical company were to say "doctors like Stephen Colbert recommend Vaxadrine," should they not know at least one other doctor who recommends that product?
I will not take your bait. You would like me to say, “Wait a minute! Stephen Colbert isn’t a doctor!” so that you could reply, “Neither is Saul of Tarsus a rabbinic scholar!”
You would be mistaken, though, unless you know more about his background than he knew. Unless he was hallucinating, he was a particularly precocious protégé of Gamaliel.
Um - where in Isaiah 54 do you get the Messiah including gentiles participating along with Israel? Exegetically, that is? Could you also look carefully at the source texts referenced in Romans 15:9-12, and explain from them exegetically how they indicate the Messiah will include gentiles participating along with Israel?
Not at this time. That would be very time-consuming. And not only that, it would be impossible to do to the satisfaction of one who has no confidence in the spiritual insights and authority of the apostles of Christ.
If you say I am not making an adequate case to convince you of these things, I would clarify that I am answering your various requests that I present my reasons for seeing these matters as I do. That is all I am attempting. If I had perceived you to be asking me to convince a determined skeptic that the evidence for Christianity is such as to preclude every conceivable challenge of its critics, I should not have wasted my time in any such attempt.