The Raving Theist

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Historicity

October 4, 2005 | 142 Comments

Is the Bible historicical?

Comments

142 Responses to “Historicity”

  1. Abs like Jesus
    October 4th, 2005 @ 10:59 am

    As far as being an accurate historical account of events, no. In regard to being itself an ancient document not unlike the works of Homer or any other ancient authors.

  2. bill
    October 4th, 2005 @ 11:23 am

    Not really, unless you look at the archaeological evidence and see the document in it’s historical context.
    The Torah, or old testiment, was put together with the express purpose of ensuring that the disparate israeli/jewish tribes were brought together under one god. Up until they had settled in the region they had no real ‘king’ and worshipped a variety of gods.
    The torah or old testament was commisioned by their ‘king’ and all other forms of worship banned under threat of death. This was in order to bring the tribes together to defend their land from the invading tribes namely Assyria and, I think, the Hittites.
    It goes something like that anyway.
    So, there you go, it was a device to provide a aspiring ruler with divine purpose.
    Nothing new under the sun then really… eh Mohammed?

  3. PanAtheist
    October 4th, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

    Yes, the Bible *is* hysterical (in many places).

  4. leon
    October 4th, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

    Sniff sniff sniff In Pennsylvania there are many dead deer laying along the side of the road from being hit by cars. After a couple of days, they smell so bad it makes you sick but you have to drive by them to get where you are going.

    The bible smells exactly like that.

  5. Chris Hallquist
    October 4th, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

    I recently made an attempt to read the whole Bible, and I was actualy surprised by how lightly embellished some parts seem (I’m thinking of Kings and Chronicles). Genisis may not be historical, but some parts are probably pretty close to real events.

  6. PanAtheist
    October 4th, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

    embellished?
    probably?
    real events?

    Which real events would you be comparing this “lightly-embellished” text to, that you know that it is a “lightly-embellished” report, and how, exactly, do you arrive at this “probability” that it is close to … er … “real events”, …. and which real events was that again?

  7. PanAtheist
    October 4th, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

    Chris Hallquist actually wrote “Genisis may not be historical”.

    Genisis may not be historical.
    It may not be historical.
    It may not be
    It may not

    Yes, okay, Chris.
    Now how about being honest?!

  8. a different tim
    October 4th, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

    It certainly exists as a historical artefact.

    I mean, it’s not a science book or anything.

  9. Mookie
    October 5th, 2005 @ 12:37 am

    Most of it is probably oral (not very consistent) traditions converted to print, and then further distorted after being translated into one language after another. The names of cities and maybe the movements of tribal groups are accurate, to an extent. But because of the ridiculous blathering interspersed throughout the text, the entire body is suspect. Less than 5% is probably verifiable or not untrue, the rest is pure, grade A bullshit.

  10. bill
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:13 am

    btw – If my memory serves me well, I think that the original translation from the latin was commissioned by the Borgias. Says it all really.
    And, where’s Barnabus??? He was a cool character and the vatican has erased him from “history”.
    C’mon Ratzinger, OPEN THE LIBRARY!!!

  11. Kate B.
    October 5th, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

    Bill–
    The original translation of what into what? The Bible wasn’t written in Latin, although Latin translations of it circulated for centuries as the primary text. The original translation into Italian? When? And was Lucrezia even alive? If memory serves, that family has a rather long history. And then, of course, there are all the other translations, and the vernacular versifications that floated around for centuries (some of the Germanic ones that turn Christ and the apostles into an Anglo-Saxon ring-giver and his Comitatus sound fascinating). So, which translation exactly did you have in mind?

  12. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

    Why yes, the Bible IS hysterical.

  13. Mort Coyle
    October 5th, 2005 @ 7:25 pm

    “historicical”?

    The Bible is a collection of writings collected over about a 1,500 year period. It contains writings of various genres, such as poetry, prophetic oracle (to ancient peoples), biography, wise sayings, letters, historical chronicles, etc.

    It has also been scrutinized more intensely than any over collection of writings know to man. The result is that the portions of the Bible that were *intended* to convey historical facts (such as 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, the Gospels, Acts, etc.) have proven to be very accurate.

    Problems arise when people try taking Biblical books that are more *symbolic* in nature (such as much of Genesis or Revelation) and apply them as if they were historical chronicles. The result of such an ignorant and ham-handed approach (on the part of both atheists and believers) is gross misunderstandings of the Biblical texts.

  14. Reluctant Atheist
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

    Mort Coyle:
    1stly, the word is ‘historical’. Sorry.
    2ndly, this one: “Problems arise when people try taking Biblical books that are more *symbolic* in nature (such as much of Genesis or Revelation) and apply them as if they were historical chronicles.”
    Is utter nonsense.
    Stop sputtering and listen.
    There is absolutely NO evidence whatsoever that the Egyptian Captivity ever happened.
    You read that right. No records. None. Only a reference to the Hyskops.
    Before you cry “Censorship”, let’s look at Akhenaten.
    http://www.answers.com/Akhenaten – “After his death, his mummy was destroyed and most references to him were removed from temples and palaces.” In other words, they wiped him out of their records.
    But we still know about him.
    If the Egyptians couldn’t wipe all the records away of 1 man (Pharaoh, true), what about 3 million Jews?
    Tell me this is symbolic. Please.
    Daniel is off too. Oh, and check out the Moabite Stele, while you’re at it.
    So the historical approaches are pretty much WRONG anyways. Why then should we trust the SYMBOLIC ones?

  15. Reluctant Atheist
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

    Mort Coyle:
    1stly, the word is ‘historical’. Sorry.
    2ndly, this one: “Problems arise when people try taking Biblical books that are more *symbolic* in nature (such as much of Genesis or Revelation) and apply them as if they were historical chronicles.”
    Is utter nonsense.
    Stop sputtering and listen.
    There is absolutely NO evidence whatsoever that the Egyptian Captivity ever happened.
    You read that right. No records. None. Only a reference to the Hyskops.
    Before you cry “Censorship”, let’s look at Akhenaten.
    http://www.answers.com/Akhenaten – “After his death, his mummy was destroyed and most references to him were removed from temples and palaces.” In other words, they wiped him out of their records.
    But we still know about him.
    If the Egyptians couldn’t wipe all the records away of 1 man (Pharaoh, true), what about 3 million Jews?
    Tell me this is symbolic. Please.
    Daniel is off too. Oh, and check out the Moabite Stele, while you’re at it.
    So the historical approaches are pretty much WRONG anyways. Why then should we trust the SYMBOLIC ones?

  16. Reluctant Atheist
    October 5th, 2005 @ 8:02 pm

    Oops! Double-posted. Sorry, all!

  17. Mort Coyle
    October 5th, 2005 @ 11:52 pm

    Reluctant Atheist,

    I didn’t realize I sputtered.

    “There is absolutely NO evidence whatsoever that the Egyptian Captivity ever happened”

    No evidence is not the same thing as *contrary* evidence. However, there is evidence. You say no records whatsoever exist regarding the Egyptian captivity of the Israelites but there are records; the Israelite records. Since your anti-religious bias prejudices you to reject those, you want a second set of records from a non-Israelite source. Do you hold other purported ancient events to this same standard? In other words do you only believe an ancient event occurred if it can be quantified by two sources (preferably with opposing interests)? If so, you must reject a lot of ancient history.

    Similarly, since some references to King Akhenaten survived the ages are you saying that records of every other event in the thousands of years of Egyptian history must also have survived?

    Further, the Exodus from Egypt is the defining event for the Jewish people. Most ancient peoples defined themselves by their victories and conquests, not by their exile and slavery (and rescue by a deity as opposed to their own might).

    Since you mentioned the Hyksos dynasty, you must realize that the history regarding the Hyksos is very complimentary to the story of the Israelites in Egypt.

    Not quite sure what you were getting at regarding censorship, but maybe it was this: It is not an unknown phenomenon that ancient kings would play up their victories and play down their defeats. The Moabite Stele is a good example of this.

    BTW, it’s interesting that you would mention the Moabite Stele. Here’s a quote from TIME Magazine, December 18, 1995 Volume 146, No. 25:

    “The skeptics’ claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend. Last year the French scholar Andre Lemaire reported a related “House of David” discovery in Biblical Archaeology Review. His subject was the Mesha Stele (also known as the Moabite Stone), the most extensive inscription ever recovered from ancient Palestine. Found in 1868 at the ruins of biblical Dibon and later fractured, the basalt stone wound up in the Louvre, where Lemaire spent seven years studying it. His conclusion: the phrase “House of David” appears there as well. As with the Tel Dan fragment, this inscription comes from an enemy of Israel boasting of a victory–King Mesha of Moab, who figured in the Bible. Lemaire had to reconstruct a missing letter to decode the wording, but if he’s right, there are now two 9th century references to David’s dynasty.”

    I imagine that, had you been around prior to the translation of the Moabite Stele and the Tel Dan fragment, you would’ve been one of those stridently claiming that King David was a myth.

  18. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 2:48 am

    Mort Coyle:
    “No evidence is not the same thing as *contrary* evidence. ”
    Use that in a court of law.

    “but there are records; the Israelite records.”
    Yes, and they’ve proven to be fairly inadequate, in historiographic terms. No, I don’t need a degree to see this.

    ” Since your anti-religious bias prejudices you to reject those, you want a second set of records from a non-Israelite source. ”

    Thanks for reading my mind. No, I call it the way I see it. Yes, I want external outside attestations, like most of recorded history.

    “Do you hold other purported ancient events to this same standard?”
    Ummm, isn’t that the historical standard?

    “are you saying that records of every other event in the thousands of years of Egyptian history”
    There’s a big difference between day-to-day activities, fashion, the minutiae of life, and 3 million people, which would definitely impact the records in no little way, esp. after 430 yrs (or 215, according to Josephus).

    “Further, the Exodus from Egypt is the defining event for the Jewish people.”
    Doesn’t make it proof.

    Since you mentioned the Hyksos dynasty, you must realize that the history regarding the Hyksos is very complimentary to the story of the Israelites in Egypt.

    http://www.answers.com/Hyksos – “A Semitic people who invaded Egypt and ruled it during the 17th and 16th centuries B.C. They introduced the horse and chariot into Egypt.” Doesn’t sound like captivity to me.

    “Not quite sure what you were getting at regarding censorship” – had an argument (similar, about JC’s historicity), & he began suggesting censorship, due to the lack of 1st century multiple attestations. Thought it would be used again – sorry.

    “BTW, it’s interesting that you would mention the Moabite Stele.”
    I qualify it thusly.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/mesha-stele – “And I sat in the midst of the city the man of Sharon, and the man of Mahrath.

    And Chemosh saith unto me: Go forth, and take Nebo from Israel.

    So I walked in the night, and I made war upon it from the crack of dawn until noon; And I held it.

    I killed all of them, seven thousand in number, men and women and maidens and slaves, unto Ashthar-Chemosh (The god Chemosh appears as a double god, female and male) I dedicated it.

    And I have taken from there the vessels of Yahweh, and carried them before Chemosh.”

    The differences are of interest – it either A. Casts doubt on David’s story, B. As you say, the ancient kings would brag about their conquests and given to hyperbole, or C. casts aspersions on both accounts. Of course, in reality, the truth usually lies somewhere between.
    Of course, I never alluded to whether or not David existed.

    “I imagine that, had you been around prior to the translation of the Moabite Stele and the Tel Dan fragment, you would’ve been one of those stridently claiming that King David was a myth.”
    I suggest you get a refund on your armchair psychology degree: it was a waste of money.
    Whether I am a skeptic or not, I AM an honest man. My motto is ‘Ipsa race loquitor’ – the thing speaks for itself.

  19. bill
    October 6th, 2005 @ 5:51 am

    Kate B: You make my point far better than I did. Thanks for the info. xx

  20. bill
    October 6th, 2005 @ 5:57 am

    Whoah! Anti-relligious bias!!! On a site called raving atheist!!! What the f*ck did you expect? *rsehole!
    I expect you’d like uis all to be stoned to death or burned at the stake or someting eh?

  21. bill
    October 6th, 2005 @ 9:45 am

    Oops. Grossly false statement about the latin bible ‘n’all that, but then I didn’t say it was true did I? I pointed out that it was only a memory and thus implying it was prone to inaccuracy. I can see why so many people that challenged the church got burned at the stake while you lot were in charge. Why can’t any of you oh-so-clever people read properly?
    And where is Barnabus??? You didn’t critise or even mention that?
    Why don’t all you clever xtians apply the same rigorous examination of the facts to your own beliefs then? As if!
    I notice with great interest that none of you have dared challenge my first observation either about the origins of the bible. The general thrust of it is true. I gleaned these facts from a carefully researched BBC broadcast earlier this year and it went wholly unchallenged. Must have been due to all that scientific evidence.

  22. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 4:37 pm

    bill:
    Thanks for that commentary. It seems that painting w/a broad brush is a specialty on the other side of the fence – I think they take classes in Fallacies 101.

    This is especially amusing: “”Problems arise when people try taking Biblical books that are more *symbolic* in nature (such as much of Genesis or Revelation)”
    1st off, it smacks of convenience.
    2nd, most people are unaware of the use of allegory in re: the bible. It was introduced by the Greeks, & came into full use during the 1st century.
    Check out this website: http://www.bibleorigins.net/ChristOriginsMechanismsAllegory.html
    for an indepth analysis.

  23. DamnRight
    October 6th, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

    What records are missing:
    1. All the 1st born of Egypt dead.
    2. The Egyptians pillaged of their valuables.
    3. 3 million slaves escape.
    4. Egypts army wiped out.
    5. 3 miilion people plus livestock wander the desert for 40 years without leaving a trace of archeological evidence. (yet Christians say evolution nust not have happened because we haven’t found all the pieces).
    6. Invasion of Canaan – Cities destroyed & nations wiped out.

    You’d think there’d be someone, other than the biblical writers, who’d notice all that.

  24. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

    DamnRight:
    Damn straight!
    Oh, wait, the apologists say that the culture of the area is prone to ‘hyperbole and exageration!’
    That sets me straight. Waitaminnit….aren’t those the same things?
    Waitamminit….doesn’t that make them inherently less believable?
    But, let’s see, my use of the empirical method is, oh, what were the words exactly? Oh yeah: “anti-religious bias prejudices”.
    Aren’t bias and prejudice synonyms?
    Apparently I use a different dictionary than Mr. Coyle.
    Can’t wait to shuffle off this mort coyle.

  25. Mort Coyle
    October 6th, 2005 @ 10:25 pm

    Re: “What the f*ck did you expect? *rsehole!”

    Bill, relax. Take deep breaths. See if you can contribute something more worthwhile to the conversation than insults. And thanks for clearing up that most of your knowledge about Biblical history comes from a show you saw once on the telly.

    Raving Atheist, Re: Hebraic Allegory

    I visited the link you provided to bibleorigins.net. “In depth analysis”; your joking right? The claim which is made on that site; that Christianity was invented by Hellenized Jews who reinterpreted the Torah in light of the *new* Greek concept of allegory; is laughably absurd, as are most of the positions put forth on the site. The site’s author is a junior high school social studies teacher who admits that he is “…”an amateur bible scholar,” not having ANY formal education in Bible studies beyond a general Intro to “History of Western Civilization 101″ in college.” Is this the best you can do for sources? Perhaps sources like these tell you what you want to hear, but they are not credible.

    Why don’t you take a look at what a “neutral” site like Wikipedia has to say: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory

    Particularly this bit:

    “The allegory has been a favourite form in the literature of nearly every nation. The Hebrew scriptures present frequent instances of it, one of the most beautiful being the comparison of the history of Israel to the growth of a vine in the 80th Psalm. In the Rabbinic tradition fully-developed allegorical readings were applied to every text, with every detail of the narrative given an emblemmatic reading, a tradition that was inherited by Christian writers, for whom allegorical similitudes are the basis of exegesis, the origin of the arts of hermeneutics. The late Jewish and Early Christian visionary Apocalyptic literature, with its base in the Book of Daniel, presents allegorical figures, of which the Whore of Babylon and the Beast of Revelation are simply the most familiar.”

    Re: “Yes, I want external outside attestations, like most of recorded history.”

    Aren’t you aware that much of what we know of ancient history comes from single sources?

    Re: Hyksos.

    There are multitudes of websites that document the historical links between the Hyksos and the Israelites in Egypt. Here’s one example: http://www.freemaninstitute.com/Gallery/joseph.htm

    It’s hard to take the time to correct every factual error you’ve made without generating a ridiculously long post, so let me close by addressing your original question about whether the Bible is “historicical” (in hopes that you really were seeking an honest answer):

    Apparently, over 25,000 sites have been discovered that pertain to the Bible. As Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archeologist said, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”

    Here are four pages that enumerate the overwhelming evidence (from ancient manuscripts, archeology, fulfilled prophecy and statistical probability) that the biblical is historically accurate:

    http://faithfacts.gospelcom.net/maps_m.html
    http://faithfacts.gospelcom.net/maps_a.html
    http://faithfacts.gospelcom.net/maps_p.html
    http://faithfacts.gospelcom.net/maps_s.html

    And this is from: http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/bib-qur/bibarch.htm):

    THE BIBLE’S ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE:

    (1900=Abraham, 1700=Joseph, 1447=Moses, 1000=David):

    What has become evident over the last few decades is that unlike the difficulties found with the Qur’anic evidence, the most fruitful area for a confirmation of the Bible’s reliability has come from the field of archaeology, for it is here that the past can speak to us the clearest concerning what happened then.

    Because Abraham is honoured by both Christianity and Islam it is interesting to look at the archaeological evidence concerning his time which is now coming to light in the twentieth century. What we find is that archaeology clearly places Abraham in Palestine and not in Arabia.

    1) Abraham’s name appears in Babylonia as a personal name at the very period of the patriarchs, though the critics believed he was a fictitious character who was redacted back by the later Israelites.

    2) The field of Abram in Hebron is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (now also believed to be Ramases II). He had just finished warring in Palestine and inscribed on the walls of his temple at Karnak the name of the great patriarch, proving that even at this early date Abraham was known not in Arabia, as Muslims contend, but in Palestine, the land the Bible places him.

    3) The Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period, depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account of the plight of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’.

    There is further archaeology evidence which supports other Biblical accounts, such as:

    4) The doors of Sodom (Tell Beit Mirsim) dated to between 2200-1600 B.C. are heavy doors needed for security; the same doors which we find in Genesis 19:9. Yet, if this account had been written between 900-600 B.C., as the critics previously claimed, we would have read about arches and curtains, because security was no longer such a concern then.

    5) Joseph’s price as a slave was 20 shekels (Genesis 37:28), which, according to trade tablets from that period is the correct price for 1,700 B.C. An earlier account would have been cheaper, while a later account would have been more expensive.

    6) Joseph’s Tomb (Joshua 24:32) has possibly been found in Shechem, as in the find there is a mummy, and next to the mummy sits an Egyptian officials sword! Is this mere coincidence?

    7) Jericho’s excavation showed that the walls fell outwards, echoing Joshua 6:20, enabling the attackers to climb over and into the town. Yet according to the laws of physics, walls of towns always fall inwards! A later redactor would certainly have not made such an obvious mistake, unless he was an eyewitness, as Joshua was.

    8) David’s capture of Jerusalem recounted in II Samuel 5:6-8 and I Chronicles 11:6 speak of Joab using water shafts built by the Jebusites to surprise them and defeat them. Historians had assumed these were simply legendary, until archaeological excavations by R.A.S. Macalister, J.G.Duncan, and Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel now have found these very water shafts.

    Another new and exciting archaeological research is that which has been carried out by the British Egyptologist, David Rohl. Until a few years ago we only had archaeological evidence for the Patriarchal, Davidic and New Testament periods, but little to none for the Mosaic period. Yet one would expect much data on this period due to the cataclysmic events which occurred during that time. David Rohl (in A Test of Time) has given us a possible reason why, and it is rather simple. It seems that we have simply been off in our dates by almost 300 years! By redating the Pharonic lists in Egypt he has been able to now identify the abandoned city of the Israelite slaves (called Avaris), the death pits from the tenth plague, and Joseph’s original tomb and home. There remain many ‘tells’ yet to uncover.

    Moving into the New Testament material we are dependant on archaeology once again to corroborate a number of facts which the critics considered to be at best dubious and at worst in error.

    9) Paul’s reference to Erastus as the treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23) was thought to be erroneous, but now has been confirmed by a pavement found in 1929 bearing his name.

    It is to Luke, however, that the skeptics have reserved their harshest criticisms, because he more than any other of the first century writers spoke about specific peoples and places. Yet, surprisingly, once the dust had settled on new inscription findings, it is Luke who has confounded these same critics time and again. For instance:

    10) Luke’s use of the word Meris to maintain that Philippi was a “district” of Macedonia was doubted until inscriptions were found which use this very word to describe divisions of a district.

    11) Luke’s mention of Quirinius as the governor of Syria during the birth of Jesus has now been proven accurate by an inscription from Antioch.

    12) Luke’s usage of Politarchs to denote the civil authority of Thessalonica (Acts 17:6) was questioned, until some 19 inscriptions have been found that make use of this title, 5 of which are in reference to Thessalonica.

    13) Luke’s usage of Praetor to describe a Philippian ruler instead of duumuir has been proven accurate, as the Romans used this term for magistrates of their colonies.

    14) Luke’s usage of Proconsul as the title for Gallio in Acts 18:12 has come under much criticism by secular historians, as the later traveller and writer Pliny never referred to Gallio as a Proconsul. This fact alone, they said, proved that the writer of Acts wrote his account much later as he was not aware of Gallio’s true position. It was only recently that the Delphi Inscription , dated to 52 A.D. was uncovered. This inscription states, “As Lusius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the proconsul of Achaia…” Here then was secular corroboration for the Acts 18:12 account. Yet Gallio only held this position for one year. Thus the writer of Acts had to have written this verse in or around 52 A.D., and not later, otherwise he would not have known Gallio was a proconsul. Suddenly this supposed error not only gives credibility to the historicity of the Acts account, but also dates the writings in and around 52 A.D. Had the writer written the book of Acts in the 2nd century as many liberal scholars suggest he would have agreed with Pliny and both would have been contradicted by the eyewitness account of the Delphi Inscription.

    It is because of discoveries such as this that F.F.Bruce states, “Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record.”

    In light of archaeological evidence, books such as Luke and Acts reflect the topography and conditions of the second half of the first century A.D. and do not reflect the conditions of any later date. Thus it is because Luke, as a historian has been held to a higher accountability then the other writers, and because it has been historical data which has validated his accounts, we can rest assured that the New Testament can be held in high regard as a reliable historical document.

    We have no reason to fear archaeology. In fact it is this very science which has done more to authenticate our scriptures than any other. Thus we encourage the secular archaeologists to dig, for as they dig we know they will only come closer to that which our scriptures have long considered to be the truth, and give us reason to claim that indeed our Bible has the right to claim true authority as the only historically verified Word of God. This is why so many eminent archaeologists are standing resolutely behind the Biblical accounts. Listen to what they say (taken from McDowell’s Evidences 1972:65-67):

    G.E. Wright states,”We shall probably never prove that Abram really existed…but what we can prove is that his life and times, as reflected in the stories about him, fit perfectly within the early second millennium, but imperfectly within any later period.”

    Sir Frederic Kenyon mentions, “The evidence of archaeology has been to re-establish the authority of the Old Testament, and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting.”

    William F. Albright (a renowned archaeologist) says, “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, certain phases which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”

    Millar Burrows of Yale states, “On the whole, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record.”

    Joseph Free confirms that while thumbing through the book of Genesis, he mentally noted that each of the 50 chapters are either illuminated or confirmed by some archaeological discovery, and that this would be true for most of the remaining chapters of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

    Nelson Glueck (a Jewish Reformed scholar and archaeologist) probably gives us the greatest support for the historicity of the Bible when he states, “To date no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.”

  26. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 10:58 pm

    Mort:
    1stly, it’s Reluctant, not Raving. I can understand the confusion, it’s quite excusable.

    2ndly:
    I find his dissertations interesting, and denying the Hellenistic influences (no, not accusing, just stating) on the ME is silly. Also, 1 doesn’t need a degree to disagree. Nor does it invalidate one’s viewpoints. As you have observed, it is indeed easy to find a source that agrees w/you.

    3rd:
    “We have no reason to fear archaeology.”
    Not afraid of archeology, sir, appreciate it if you would stop
    projecting as to my motives.

    4th:
    “Why don’t you take a look at what a “neutral” site like Wikipedia has to say:”
    And then you blanket me w/subjective authorities. I believe that’s called an argument from authority, coupled w/a retreat behind scholarship. Could you provide authorities that are a tad more objective?
    Here’s a quote from your side of the fence, BTW: “”We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can’t really say anything.” – David Noel Freedman (in Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)”
    No, I’m not joking.

    6th: Luke? I find it terribly suspicious that in the Synoptic he details the crucifixion, but in Acts, he says (twice, to my knowledge) that JC was ‘hung from a tree’, which are 2 different punishments. & Luke himself confesses that he compiled the Synoptic from 2nd hand sources (perhaps 3rd). & that the only Theophilus Xtian literature knows of lived approx. 180 CE.

    7th: I will look into it, as I am interested. I will do the research. It was the research that made me an atheist, after all.

    8th: I find it interesting that you bring up a large # of points that I hadn’t mentioned. Those red herrings are tasty, I must admit. Not to mention the Reductio Ad Absurdum/Poisoning the Well fallacies.
    Is there a class I could take? Fallacies 101?

  27. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 10:59 pm

    Oops, #2 is referring to http://www.bibleorigins.net, BTW. Sorry.

  28. Reluctant Atheist
    October 6th, 2005 @ 11:08 pm

    mort:
    “6) Joseph’s Tomb (Joshua 24:32) has possibly been found in Shechem, as in the find there is a mummy, and next to the mummy sits an Egyptian officials sword! Is this mere coincidence?”
    Just how is this evidence? Where is the source for this?

    7) Jericho’s excavation showed that the walls fell outwards, echoing Joshua 6:20, enabling the attackers to climb over and into the town. Yet according to the laws of physics, walls of towns always fall inwards! A later redactor would certainly have not made such an obvious mistake, unless he was an eyewitness, as Joshua was.”

    My understanding of this is that 1 of 5 walls fell. Are you quoting Gasparang, or Kenyon?

  29. Reluctant Atheist
    October 7th, 2005 @ 12:08 am

    mort:
    McDowell!? You’re quoting McDowell at me!?
    ROFLMAO!
    Is this not the sweetest of ironies? Does this not tickle the funny bone?
    ETDAV was my 1st step on the path of Atheism!
    When I 1st read this post, I thought, “where have I seen this before?” “Wow, that was rather quick!”
    So you’re an inerrantist Fundie?
    Are you McDowell himself?
    Either way, strap in: we’re gonna have a ride!

  30. Mort Coyle
    October 7th, 2005 @ 1:23 am

    Non-Raving Atheist,

    I think you may have missed that the final section in my post (THE BIBLE’S ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE) was taken directly from the web site, http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/bib-qur/bibarch.htm (as stated). As such, you may have incorrectly assumed that certain statements were directed toward you (such as your exception to the statement about fearing archeology, which is actually addressed to Christians).

    With that in mind, I’ll try to respond to your points:

    Re: 2ndly: I don’t recall stating a denial of Hellenistic influences, but the author’s ideas about the origins of Christianity are silly. Certainly he’s entitled to his opinion, but (by his own admission) it is not an educated opinion.

    Re: 4th: If I provide (as I have and can continue to do) sources, however qualified, that support the historicity of the Bible, you will reject them as “subjective”, so how can I possibly provide what you define as an “objective” source? Do you agree that the reference to Wikipedia’s entry on “Allegory” counters the statements made on bibleorigins.net and does so from a relatively “objective” source?

    As far as the quote you took exception to about “looser standards”, I don’t understand your surprise. That’s a very candid assessment about the fact that dealing with ancient evidence is not as exact as dealing with contemporary evidence.

    Re: 6th (what happened to 5th): The Greek word that Luke used, which is translated into “tree” in English, was “Xulon”, which is a somewhat broad word used for something made of wood, including a tree. Here is a link that goes into more detail:
    http://answering-islam.org.uk/Responses/Menj/stauros.htm
    There is no contradiction here, just a failure on your part to dig deeper.

    Luke was an “investigative journalist” of sorts who did a very thorough job of researching Jesus and the early church. The “Theophilus” he writes to was probably a wealthy patron and possibly a Roman official who may have asked Luke (a known companion of Paul) to research and write the account. “Theophilus” literally means “friend of God” and most likely was a kindly nickname or maybe even a way of addressing the recipient without revealing their true name (due to persecution).

    Re: 8th: The goal was not to plant red herrings but, as I stated, to “… close by addressing your original question about whether the Bible is “historicical” (in hopes that you really were seeking an honest answer)”. Wasn’t that the original point of your question?
    Or is it only answers that support your views which are valid while any others are “red herrings”. I notice, BTW, that you attempt a lot of analysis of my methods, without actually dealing with the information provided.

    Re: Post #28, 6th: I get the impression that you are confusing “evidence” with “proof”. Evidence is information that can *help* in forming a conclusion, particularly when combined with additional bits of evidence. Thus, a tomb in Palestine which contains the sword of an Egyptian official in and of itself proves nothing, but adds to a chain of evidence. Again, this comes from
    http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/bib-qur/bibarch.htm but I believe their source is probably Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The tomb in question, BTW, which was in Shechem (modern-day Nablus) was apparently desecrated during a Palestinian/Israeli territorial skirmish in 2001.

    Re: Post #28, 7th: I don’t think they were quoting either Kenyon or Garstang directly, but I would assume they lean more towards Garstang’s conclusions. Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Wood on Jericho? He actually used Kenyon’s own observations and data to disprove the conclusions that Kenyon reached (particularly in regards to dating). Here’s an interesting link:
    http://www.utexas.edu/courses/wilson/ant304/projects/projects97/kingp/jericho.html

    So, back to your original question, “Is the Bible historical?”, a vast number of archaeologists, historians, anthropologists and other learned and qualified individuals (not junior high school teachers) would answer with a definite “Yes!”.

  31. Mort Coyle
    October 7th, 2005 @ 1:29 am

    McDowell? No I’m not Josh McDowell, although I did read “Evidence” 15 or 20 years ago. And no, I’m not a “fundie”.

  32. Reluctant Atheist
    October 7th, 2005 @ 4:28 am

    “I get the impression that you are confusing “evidence” with “proof”.
    From http://thesaurus.reference.com/search?q=proof – Entry: proof
    Part of Speech: noun 1
    Definition: evidence

    Sorry about missing #5. Only human.

    “Or is it only answers that support your views which are valid while any others are “red herrings”. I notice, BTW, that you attempt a lot of analysis of my methods, without actually dealing with the information provided.”

    You are misinterpreting, I believe. I tried to address a few points, you introduced several (!) more. I have seen this several other times, & a pattern seems to emerge. It muddies the waters tremendously. It has the taste of a blitzkrieg.

    “There is no contradiction here, just a failure on your part to dig deeper.”

    Ahem. The KJV I currently have doesn’t have that in it’s greek dictionary. Ergo, I did try to look it up. Really, ask me 1st, instead of jumping to conclusions. There IS a difference between hanging off a tree, and being nailed to a cross. 1 would think that such an ‘accurate’ historian would qualify such an item. Hanging from a tree is a punishment for false messiahs: crucifixion is a decidedly different thing. Especially to the ancient Israelis.

    “Do you agree that the reference to Wikipedia’s entry on “Allegory” counters the statements made on bibleorigins.net and does so from a relatively “objective” source?”
    I don’t see the contradiction here. Yes, I DID read it.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=allegory – “1.
    a. The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.
    b. A story, picture, or play employing such representation. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick are allegories.
    2. A symbolic representation: The blindfolded figure with scales is an allegory of justice. ”

    “Luke was an “investigative journalist” of sorts who did a very thorough job of researching Jesus and the early church. The “Theophilus” he writes to was probably a wealthy patron and possibly a Roman official who may have asked Luke (a known companion of Paul) to research and write the account.”

    This sounds like guesswork. Probably? Sounds very sketchy to me. What kind of physician was Luke? Lineage? What happened to him? Just curious.

    “not junior high school teachers”.
    So let me get this straight: unless I AGREED w/you, I could spend the next 3-4 decades doing HONEST research, learning the bible inside and out, I would automatically be wrong, unless I had a degree?
    Honestly? This sort of thing pisses me right off.

    Let me be perfectly blunt: when I began researching the bible, I didn’t approach it from a perspective of it being right OR wrong. I tried very hard to be objective and fair. I went to apologists websites. I went to skeptics websites. I started w/the Synoptics and John ONLY. I read and read and read…
    Way too many problems. Way too many contradictions.

    It came apart. It failed the litmus test of logic.

    You also began analyzing me w/o any foreknowledge of me.
    Attack the argument, not the arguer.

    http://jeromekahn123.tripod.com/newtestament/id27.html (no, not joking again) – ” Strauss emphasized how glaring the contradictions are when he declared, of the Resurrection;

  33. Alex
    October 7th, 2005 @ 8:14 am

    I’m going to spend 0 time researching this shit, because firstly I

  34. bill
    October 7th, 2005 @ 9:10 am

    Mort: Greetings, from the birthplace of Pontius Pilate! Keeping up the good work he started.

    Read up on the bible? You must be joking! Life

  35. Percy
    October 7th, 2005 @ 9:45 am

    “I

  36. Percy
    October 7th, 2005 @ 10:11 am

    “So let me get this straight: unless I AGREED w/you, I could spend the next 3-4 decades doing HONEST research, learning the bible inside and out, I would automatically be wrong, unless I had a degree?
    Honestly? This sort of thing pisses me right off.”

    Would you be skeptical if a junior high mathematics teacher put up a website stating that English was actually based on Vietnamese? Of course you would – numerous qualified linguistics experts state otherwise. You guys are comparing evidence and opinions. If you invoke the musings of a junior high social studies teacher (who, by his own admission, is an amateur Bible scholar) and cite his opinions as “indepth analysis”, don’t you think we’d naturally be skeptical (particularily when his conclusion differs so much from other conclusions by historians and archaeologists that are based on *real* indepth analysis)?

  37. bill
    October 7th, 2005 @ 11:17 am

    Hi Percy:

  38. Reluctant Atheist
    October 7th, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    Percy: am unclear as to who you’re talking to, so:
    “Would you be skeptical if a junior high mathematics teacher put up a website stating that English was actually based on Vietnamese?”
    Of course I would. But my motto is ‘Ipsa race loquitor’, the thing speaks for itself. Rather than dismissing him, read his articles, do a little analysis, & get back to me.
    I’m not a wide-eyed child w/o any critical standards. I am a skeptic, 1st and foremost.

    “I

  39. Mort Coyle
    October 8th, 2005 @ 12:57 am

    Oy, so much to respond to, so little time!

    Re: Luke: “There IS a difference between hanging off a tree, and being nailed to a cross. 1 would think that such an ‘accurate’ historian would qualify such an item.”

    Again, this comment betrays complete ignorance of the Greek language that Luke used. “Tree” and “cross” could be used interchangeably, in the same way that “house” and “home” are often used interchangeably (although a house isn’t strictly a home and a home isn’t strictly a house). The link I provided earlier goes into great detail on the uses of “stauros” and “xulon”. The latter, according to my Greek lexicon can be translated as:

    1. Wood

    A. that which is made of wood
    1. as a beam from which any one is suspended, a gibbet, a
    cross
    2. a log or timber with holes in which the feet, hands, neck
    of prisoners were inserted and fastened with thongs
    3. a fetter, or shackle for the feet
    4. a cudgel, stick, staff

    2. a tree

    Luke didn’t need to qualify his use of “cross” and “tree” because the people he was writing to would have understood.

    “Hanging from a tree is a punishment for false messiahs: crucifixion is a decidedly different thing. Especially to the ancient Israelis.”

    I don’t know where you got this, but it’s completely inaccurate. According to Levitical law, the punishment for false prophets/messiahs was stoning. Crucifixion was a distinctly gentile practice, not a Jewish one.

    If you really do have an interest in properly examining the Bible, might I make a few suggestions?

    1) Dump the KJV. It was great in 1611, but nowadays you should go with the NAS, NRSV or NIV.

    2) Go to http://www.e-sword.net, where you can download (mostly for free) all kinds of Bibles, concordances, etc.

    3) Read “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Fee & Stuart.
    I’ll even send you a copy if you wish.

    Re: “This sounds like guesswork. Probably? Sounds very sketchy to me. What kind of physician was Luke? Lineage? What happened to him? Just curious.”

    When dealing with ancient history, you are dealing with a lot of guesswork. In fact, archaeology involves a great deal of guesswork (or, if you prefer, postulation). You should know that.
    Ancient forms of writing, such as cuneaform on clay tablets or ink on papyri were not well suited for longevity, not to mention the effects of wars and calamities on written records. The result is information that comes to us gradually, in fragments.

    What’s remarkable is how meticulous the ancient Jews were at preserving their writings (our Old Testament). Likewise, a new invention in the 1st century, the codex, facilitated wide distribution of the various writings that came to be known as the New Testament.

    Regarding the rest of your questions about Luke, wikipedia provides a pretty good picture of what is known about him:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_the_Evangelist

    Re: “So let me get this straight: unless I AGREED w/you, I could spend the next 3-4 decades doing HONEST research, learning the bible inside and out, I would automatically be wrong, unless I had a degree?
    Honestly? This sort of thing pisses me right off.”

    No, you would not be automatically wrong, you might get lucky, but you would be deficient in knowledge. It’s not about the degrees, its about the knowledge and learning from credible sources. Your junior high school teacher is not *automatically* wrong, but he is wrong nonetheless. This is based on examination of his views.

    Re: “Way too many problems. Way too many contradictions.”

    I wonder about this. Many apparent “contradictions” end up being misunderstandings or incorrect expectations. Your concerns about Luke appear to be an example of this. What you perceived as a “contradiction” was actually the result of your lack of knowledge of Koine Greek. Additionally, sometimes people assume certain things about the Bible and when they encounter something that doesn’t fit their assumptions, they assume the problem is with the text, not with themselves. For example, the gospels were written by different individuals, with different audiences in mind, for slightly varying purposes, in some cases using different primary sources. Why then would we expect lock-step uniformity? One day, when I was in high school, three armed gunman came into the classroom and “kidnapped” the teacher (this was a “staged” event intended to take us by surprise – it was also back in the day when something like this could be done at a school). After the “kidnapping” each student was questioned by a “detective”. What amazed us was the wide divergence in the way various students described the event; from how many gunmen there were, to what they wore, to what they said, etc. Frankly, I would be suspicious of a group of eyewitness accounts that were perfectly in sync. On the other hand, all the students in my class agreed on the essence of what took place. One of the most powerful pieces of corroborating testimony to the gospels is that all of the Apostles stuck to their story on pain of death (except John who, despite torture and exile, died of old age). They suffered and died and gained nothing (in this life) from their gospel. Likewise for many “non-Apostles” who witnessed the Christ event and swore to the death that it was true.

    Re: “Find me 5 archeologists who have 1st hand knowledge of the archeological finds, who were atheists/non-religious, who have since converted based on the evidence they’ve seen and researched in re: this subject.”

    Wow, that’s a very specific request. I’m not where I would find that type of information; to fit into those exact parameters, but I’ll look around a bit. In the meantime, there are of course ample numbers of scientists, scholars, etc. who have converted from atheist to theist.

    For example:

    Henry F. “Fritz” Schaefer, one of the foremost theoretical chemists of our day.
    William Phillips, co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics.
    Francis Collins, director of the U.S. Human Genome Project.
    Rustum Roy, one of the world’s foremost materials scientists, who holds three chairs at the Pennsylvania State University.

    Of course, these men, and others of their ilk are still only human, but they are certainly not the ignorant buffoons that many on this forum like to portray believers as.

    Lastly, here’s a link to an interview with Andrew Flew, the highly respected Professor of Philosophy who, after decades of championing atheism, recently “converted” to theism (not Christianity, mind you):
    http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/

    Oh, and Bill, re:: “I

  40. Reluctant Atheist
    October 8th, 2005 @ 3:34 am

    Mort:

    “Again, this comment betrays complete ignorance of the Greek language that Luke used. ”
    I did actually look up the references to ‘cross’ (prior to posting this), and it is indeed ‘stauros’ which translates (alternately) to pole or cross – stake or post. Xulon apparently does mean tree. Still, a qualifier would be required, if Jesus was to be ‘all things to all men’. We’re talking CLARITY here, for crying out loud. Watershed moment in humanity’s alleged salvation? If I were there, and a believer, and a physician, I would MOST CERTAINLY be more careful about the account I was giving to everyone.
    Of course, if the end of days were right around the corner, hey, why bother?

    “One of the most powerful pieces of corroborating testimony to the gospels is that all of the Apostles stuck to their story on pain of death (except John who, despite torture and exile, died of old age). ”
    Crap. I hate this 1. You probably will sputter at this, and I hate saying something like this, it sounds like an atheist slam, but, hey, the WTC terrorists went to their deaths, the Manichees (& their founder) suffered for their faith. Suffering for faith? Buddhists immolating themselves in protest over the Vietnam war? Suicide bombers? I’m sorry, but that simply doesn’t fly. That they believed? Sure. I can respect that. It lends some credence. But history is filled w/people dying for what they believe in, Xtian and non-xtian alike.

    “Frankly, I would be suspicious of a group of eyewitness accounts that were perfectly in sync. ”
    I can agree w/that, to a certain degree. Perceptions differ from person to person. I’m not insisting on synchronization: people are people. Of course there’ll be differences. NOT SO MANY, THOUGH! 19 (that I can count). Some small, some HUGE. These people KNEW each other. Luke was companion to Paul, we all know that Paul had some interaction w/the apostles (hell, Paul and Peter didn’t get along).
    Devil’s in the details, I say. & I mean, hey, let’s be brutally honest: the alleged author of Matthew was just plain incompetent. The geneologies are off (oh, that’s a topic for another time, but I will broach this later), I could go on and on just right there. I don’t need to read Koine Greek to see it: Ipsa race loquitor.

    “No, you would not be automatically wrong, you might get lucky, but you would be deficient in knowledge.”
    Of course. Appeal to authority isn’t always a fallacy.
    One would have to dissect lineages, languages, delve deeply in the mire of diverse cultures. I admit this freely. I am 47 this month, and the last thing I would ever expect would be that life is convenient. Some work is required. ‘All things to all people’?
    Then again, when Yamauchi/McDowell pulls his ‘500 witnesses’ exercise in sophistry (for 1 example), well, it’s plain ridiculous. More on this later. Point here is: if this is indeed the word of some deity, well, this same deity points out the foolishness of humanity on multiple occasions , and yet, we are provided with the hodge-podge, long, involved, mish-mash of national identity, racism, & downright ugliness, well, the deity doesn’t seem so omniscient, if you catch my drift.
    I don’t want the simple version: that’s ridiculous. But the bloody thing is so incredibly complex, so incredibly anal, it’s just too much.
    For an operating system manual, Microsoft does a better job. And they ain’t that damned good at it.

    ” they assume the problem is with the text, not with themselves.”
    I feel this is simply simplistic reductionism: “It’s not the book, it’s the reader”. Risking parroting myself, but: ‘All things to all people’. I don’t want it easy. But this bible of yours is just simply out of the reach of logic.

    “I don’t know where you got this, but it’s completely inaccurate.”
    Honestly, I did that from memory. My understanding was that it was both stoning and hanging. Might be off on this, will get back to you.

    I am still unconvinced about the Hyskops, BTW. Big difference between captivity and ruling a country, I’m going to have to say.

    “I think you may have missed that the final section in my post (THE BIBLE’S ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE)”
    Gee, small wonder, probably buried in there somewhere.

    Was aware of Dr. Flew. Spinozan/Deist viewpoint, something like that?

    I don’t have a very high opinion of McDowell (which you may have garnered already). Someone starts quoting JM, I kinda go into knee-jerk mode. Haven’t read Strobel, but when an investigative journalist goes only to 1 side, well, that’s not a balanced viewpoint, IMHO. I’m very much a Centrist (I’d like to think), and I try to weigh the argument from both sides. I did do the research. I do understand (to a limited degree) the differences between Aramaic and Greek (no, not a linguist: I just read a lot).

    I enjoy the debate. I do like to hear both sides of an argument. As to procuring a bible (the 1 I have was given to me, when I was researching the subject, pre-atheist)? Well, I am an atheist, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite, either.

    And, while I’m at it, if you really want to be heard, if you’re really trying to spread the ‘word’ as it were, you might refrain from using words like ‘ignorant’, or exclamations like ‘you’re joking!’ Hell, I’m a big boy, you’re just a typed name on the screen, I can just pick up my toys and go home (which I haven’t done yet). But (IMHO), your just reinforcing the meme when you respond like that. Small wonder then, that most atheists get up in arms.
    Sure, you’re on the Raving Atheist thread. Sure, you’re going to get pummeled. You’re in the minority opinion. I understand that completely. It’s a heated debate, emotions run hot. I rather enjoy the combative war of words.
    But I’m an atheist. I’m not held to higher standards. I didn’t agree to the set of rules you did. Breathe: remember the word ‘Selah’. I expect you know its meaning.
    You wanna spread the word? Sorry, you gotta live it, too.

  41. Mort Coyle
    October 8th, 2005 @ 10:00 am

    RA,

    I’m going to try a new approach and not section my response with quotes of your previous statements. It’s just getting to feel like I’m writing a legal document or something.

    Firstl off, I want to touch on the issue of my use of the word “ignorant”.
    The word “ignorant” simply means “uneducated”. I’m ignorant of a great many things; physics for example, and Chinese history (although I’ve picked up a bit from kung fu movies). In fact I’m happy to admit that I *don’t* know more than I *do* know. As such, I’m circumspect about spouting out my views on Chinese history, because my lack of education on the topic will quickly display itself. Likewise, my pointing out that your misinterpretations of Biblical passages are due to ignorance of the Greek is not an insult, but a point of fact.

    I’m not sure what standard of behavior you expect from “xtians”,
    or where you derived it from, but I have no problem with friendly confrontation and debate, which includes “calling” someone when they make a ridiculous statement. Jesus was actually a pretty confrontational guy, as was Peter, Paul, etc. (why do you think they got into so much trouble?).

    I’m not really here to “spread the word”, as you say. I have no illusions about “converting” anyone here. At your age, you’ve most likely made up your mind. Like you, I enjoy a good debate/dialog. I’ve not seen anything on Raving Atheist that has upset me or shocked me (I used to be an atheist too, btw). I have gotten quite a few good chuckles though.

    Have to go for now, but I’d like to get to the meat of your last post, particularly regarding your perceived contradictions in the Bible.

  42. leon
    October 8th, 2005 @ 11:09 am

    Abe Priori: Sniff, sniff, sniff

  43. Mort Coyle
    October 8th, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

    *sigh*

    So much for intelligent dialog…

  44. Reluctant Atheist
    October 8th, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

    Mort:
    Nicely put.

    “but I have no problem with friendly confrontation and debate, which includes “calling” someone when they make a ridiculous statement.”

    I have gone round and round w/an Xtian on another blog, & he kept whining about “Why do you keep sneering at my opinion?” To which I told him, “Hey, a human being and an opinion are 2 different things. An opinion is an abstract: a human is not. If I find your opinion ridiculous, I feel obliged to point it out.” He stopped bridling after that. So we’re on the same page.

    “Likewise, my pointing out that your misinterpretations of Biblical passages are due to ignorance of the Greek is not an insult, but a point of fact.”
    I can live w/that. Maybe not agree w/it, but that’s fine.

    “I’m not sure what standard of behavior you expect from “xtians”,”
    Well, just wanted to ascertain if you were a ‘looney toon’. Guess not. I’ve had a run-in w/a couple of trolls on other blogs, & I’d guess you’ve seen behavior on your side of the fence that makes you shake your head, and reach for the ‘No true Scotsman!’ fallacy (sometime’s it’s not a fallacy).

    Moreover, I hold w/Thomas Paine, who used the bible to disprove the bible in the AR. Paine’s my hero, so don’t even go there. I employ his methods (albeit I am nowhere NEAR as smart as he was, nor as eloquent).

    As a sidenote, not germane to the meat of the matter: Chinese Wushu is best learned under an instructor. Most of the crap in those movies is just eye-candy. But they are fun to watch.

  45. Reluctant Atheist
    October 8th, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

    leon:
    That was pretty funny.
    And yeah, I’d laugh if I were the recipient.

  46. Mort Coyle
    October 9th, 2005 @ 1:10 am
  47. Reluctant Atheist
    October 10th, 2005 @ 2:33 am

    I’d like to thank you for this post. It shows a lot of thought, and I do appreciate the time and effort. Now, as you and I are complete strangers, there is no way for you to know this, but I have heard all of this before. It is very eloquent, but I still have major reservations.

    “The key difference between these

  48. Bill
    October 10th, 2005 @ 5:30 am

    Mort: Thanks for your comments but I didn’t mention George Orwell. Huxley’s genius lies in the fact that he explores a hypothesis, ‘experiments’ with human nature and does not pass judgement. It does not surprise me that you feel uncormfortable with that. Comparing Brave New World to 1984 is meaningless in this context.

  49. bill
    October 10th, 2005 @ 6:28 am

    Oops, sorry Mort. I got that one wrong didn’t I? I must spend more time reading things. My apologies. I’ll have a hunt for the book.
    However I maintain that I still find the comparisons on that level quite pointless however both books are still a great deal more valuable in aiding understanding the world we live in than the bable.
    And you used to be an athiest? Are you sure you weren’t just an indestructable teenage rebel like C.S. Lewis? Maybe your journey to rationalism could only begin once you had become a xtian and you have still to wade through the dogma of religion reach intellectual enlightenment? But then even C.S Lewis never made it so you may not have enough time left yourself. Fortunately for the religious they can make their huge mistake and there will be no eternal damnation, so it ultimately doesn’t really matter. Phew!
    See how comforting it is to know there is no god?

  50. bill
    October 10th, 2005 @ 7:46 am

    Mort: I’ve just read some reviews of the book. I don’t think that I would disagree with the author on very many points.
    I am sure he must address the problem of the abuse of the medium of television and the pandering to the lowest common denominator etc. (ie the problem is not in the medium itself but in its use as an instrument of control). That is to say I would hope that he would go deeper and look at the reasons why people embrace the deadening influence of entertainment television. (The commercialisation of sport in Europe, particularly football (soccer), goes hand in hand with this) I think this is closer to the problem Huxley posed in Brave New World. The people are only getting what they want so, why do they want it?
    I am currently in the fortunate position of having no television at the moment. Great joy, although one does miss out on some quality documentaries and there is still some worthwhile journalism out there. (Even if you don’t agree.)
    Thanks for the tip. I may read it.

  51. dj357
    October 10th, 2005 @ 8:38 am

    hmm….historical?
    yes.
    ACCURATELY and UNBIASEDLY historical?
    NO.

  52. Oppie
    October 10th, 2005 @ 9:45 am

    There are a good many historical references, stories and facts that exist out there about many different things. Some are mainstream and some may have attemped to cover others up, or just wipe that account out of history. I’m sure there are many things in history that have been lost or wiped from record. The big problem here is this, no one is trying to develop morals, a way of life or an organized system of worship out of most of them. When you start trying to tell people this is the truth and you need to think about joining us, is when you need to separate fact from fiction!

  53. Mort Coyle
    October 10th, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

    Hi Oppie,

    This sounds like a variation on Sagan’s “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” argument. This is a fairly subjective argument however, based on one’s presuppositions. What I mean is this: If one believes in the existence of God, then the whole Jesus story isn’t that extraordinary (relatively speaking). On the other hand, if one doesn’t believe in God to begin with, then accepting the Jesus story would seem to be an huge obstacle (though not insurmountable, imho).

    Let me ask you this: What, in your opinion, would qualify as suitable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?

    Reluctant Atheist, appreciated your post. I’ll reply as soon as I am able (lots going on right now…).

  54. bill
    October 11th, 2005 @ 5:23 am

    Mort: Extraordinary claims really do require extraordinary evidence. “Assuming” the existence of god with no evidence is not an acceptable argument. That’s the problem with anything you have to say.

    A joke: A physicist, a philosopher and an economist are shipwrecked and cast adrift in a lifeboat. They only have tinned food but have no tin opener. (short version) The physicist and philosopher try their methods to open the tin but fail. They turn to the economist who smugly says “Its easy. First of all, we assume a tin opener.”…

    You say you believe in god and spend a great deal of time dissecting other people’s arguments but I really feel you have no right to comment until you satisfactorily answer the following question.
    What’s god?
    If you can’t give a reasonable description/definition of your god why should anyone listen to anything else you have to say?
    I am certain that if your dare to reply to this we will be subjected to the usual pile of crap about his divine presence and accepting Jesus into your heart blah, blah, blah and then you’ll still expect to be taken seriously.
    This is why we (the unbelievers!) know you are crazy and in an enlightened society you would be receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital. Even you have no idea what you’re talking about

  55. Mort Coyle
    October 11th, 2005 @ 11:08 am

    Hi Bill,

    “Extraordinary claims really do require extraordinary evidence. “Assuming” the existence of god with no evidence is not an acceptable argument.”

    Who defines what are “extraordinary” claims? Is there an objective standard? No, your presuppositions and assumptions define what is, to you, extraordinary.

    The overwhelming majority of people in the world *do* believe in a God. To them, it is the claim that there is no God which requires extraordinary evidence in order to be believed.

    I’ve always liked that joke, in part, because it touches on the fact that everyone sees the world through lenses of assumptions, presuppositions, expectations, etc. No one is purely objective.

    So you’ve asked me a question, what is god?, but also defined what you consider unacceptable criteria for an answer. Again, this is attempting to force me to stay within your worldview, when I don’t share your worldview. By stating, “If you can’t give a reasonable description/definition of your god why should anyone listen to anything else you have to say?”, you are positioning yourself to reject anything I might say by simply declaring it “unreasonable”. But again, who defines what is reasonable or not? You? What you’re really demanding is that I (and God, for that matter) bow to *Bill’s* view of things before we are allowed to approach. There’s a certain arrogance to this. If there is a God who created the universe, I imagine He’s the only one who legitimately has the right to expect such reverence.

    “This is why we (the unbelievers!) know you are crazy and in an enlightened society you would be receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital.”

    Sure. That’s what the Soviets did to Christians. Is that your enlightened society? I’m glad you’re not in control of things, Bill.

  56. Mort Coyle
    October 11th, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

    Reluctant Atheist,

    Re:

  57. Bee
    October 11th, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

    Place names do not a historical account make. Stephen King set many of his stories in Maine. That does not mean that vampires were living in Maine in the 1970’s. It also doesn’t mean that a killer clown mega-spider being was murdering kids in Maine in the 1990’s.

    Egypt exists. Everyone in the middle east and southern europe knew all about them – Egypt was where you went to find work, way back in the b.c. day. That the israelites would talk about Egypt is no big surprise – everyone talked about Egypt. However, way back in this string Reluctant Atheist pointed out that there are no records at all that support the Egyptians enslaving the Israelites. Egypt had slaves, but mind you, she tended to assimilate them into her culture, not unlike Borg, without the technobraincontrol gadgets. The fact that Egypt mentions the Israelites only one time in the entire ancient record (and the Egyptians left a hell of a lot of records – they recorded everything from military conquests to mundane farming technology), and even then it is a bare mention, hardly even an aside, not even a footnote, really, is indeed telling. For a people who recorded everything, and many of those records survived, and for a country whose rulers tended to the arrogant (hence the pharoah as god ideal), if the so called captivity had been even noticeable in the Egyptian scheme of things, it probably would have been mentioned. Probability: it never happened.

    Besides, we know that slaves weren’t used to build the pyramids, or the temples or tombs – those were skilled workers who basically had the best gig in town. Medical care, plenty of food, etc. Doesn’t leave much room for the modern usage of the word slave, which leads me into another point. Doesn’t it seem just a little political, the whole story of the plagues?

    But, to reiterate, place names do not a historical account make. Coming from a religion that has formed it’s beliefs upon the backs of just about every other belief that it ever came into contact with, I’d say there’s a good chance that most of the bible stories, while possibly having some grain of truth somewhere that doesn’t even begin, in the written form we know and hate today, to reflect on actual occurrences. Where I’m from, we call them tall tales. Kind of like Washington and the cherry tree.

  58. Kamikaze189
    October 11th, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

    Even if the bible portrays historical events accurately, what effect does this have?

    If you decide to write a story with fictional characters and historical events, you will still have made up characters and possibly made up events. AKA Historical fiction.

    Once you admit that a book is historical fiction, you have a problem. What if your historical fiction book tells of a huge battle, but no other source has record of this battle? No evidence either? It’s fiction.

    If you think that some stories from the bible are real (to be taken literally) and some are to be taken symbolically (not literal, ie FICTION or MADE UP ( possibly to learn a lesson)) you are basically saying it is historical fiction anyway.

    My entire point is this; nothing can be learned with certainty from this book alone if you think even PART is fiction.
    I’m not talking about Jesus, by the way, I’m talking about the big guy; that’s really what we’re talking about with the bible anyway, Jesus is just the middleman. By proving the bible accurate historically, you still prove absolutely nothing in the way of a god.

    Also, who would like to visit the forums and defend a literal interpretation of the bible?

  59. Reluctant Atheist
    October 11th, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

    Mort:
    “Thank you. I appreciate the dialog and your courtesy. As I mentioned earlier, I have no illusions about

  60. Reluctant Atheist
    October 11th, 2005 @ 7:26 pm

    bill:
    Love the joke, BTW. Got 1 that’s semi-applicable (w/thought);
    The president 1 day becomes obsessed w/the equation 1 + 1 = 2. Now, everyone knows this is a fact. But the president becomes insistent. “How do we know this is so?” So he calls 3 experts: A physicist, a statistician, and an economist.
    He calls in the physicist, and asks: “What does 1+1 equal?”
    The physicist leaves, comes back the next day. “Mr. President, we can say, empirically and emphatically, all proof points to the fact that 1+1 = 2.”
    He then calls in the statistician. Asks the same question. “Let me get back to you in two weeks, sir,” is the reply.
    2 weeks later, the statistician returns. “Mr. President, after extensive polling, we can’t say for sure, but we are fairly certain that the answer is greater than 2, but less than 4.” The president thanks him, and calls in the economist. “What does 1+1 equal?” he asks.
    The economist walks over to the window, draws the shades, and asks, “What would you like the answer to be?”
    Let that simmer, do some substitutions, & let me know if you think that’s germane or not.

  61. Mort Coyle
    October 11th, 2005 @ 9:02 pm

    Hi Bee,

    I’m sorry but I don’t get how your obvious statement about place names relates to this discussion. Forgive me for being obtuse.

    Not sure where you’re getting your information from, but you’ve stated several errors in your post. There is actually a long history of Semitic people in Egypt, sometimes as wanderers, sometimes as settlers, sometimes as refugees, sometimes as conquerors, sometimes as slaves. The Hebrews were one such Semitic tribe.

    One well known instance of Semites in Egypt that Reluctant Atheist and I briefly discussed is the Hyksos. In a nutshell, the Hyksos were a Semitic people who invaded Egypt and gained control for a few hundred years. Many historians think it was during this time that Joseph came to Egypt and the Pharoah that Joseph served was a Hyksos ruler. Eventually the native Egyptians rose up and drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. Many historians believe that at this point the decendants of Joseph, lacking Hyksos protection, were enslaved by the new Egyptian rulers. Some historians believe that records indicate that there was a second purge of Hyksos from Egypt a few hundred years later. These historians conjecture that such a second purge may have actually been the Exodus.

    Here are a few links to sites that go into this in more detail. I cannot endorse the sites themselves, but they provide a decent overview of this particular theory:

    http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/thera/hapiru.html
    http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/thera/exodus.html

    There is another theory that the Exodus happened much earlier than the time of the Hyksos occupation. Archaeologist David K. Down (who is a Christian) explains this viewpoint here:

    http://biblicalstudies.qldwide.net.au/chronology_of_egypt_and_israel.html

    Re: “Coming from a religion that has formed it’s beliefs upon the backs of just about every other belief that it ever came into contact with…”

    I’ve heard this regarding Christianity and Buddhism, Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, etc., etc., but upon closer examination all I’ve been able to find in any instance are very general similarities.

    I’d be interested in learning:

    1. What are the alleged similarities?
    2. Can you verify that the similarities are true?
    3. What’s the earliest evidence of this alleged similarity? In other words, can we determine that the similar feature in the other religion actually predates Christianity. Practitioners of Mithraism, for example, appear to have incorporated elements of Christianity in order to try to keep their religion alive when it was on the decline.

    I will grant you this though, beginning with the time of Constantine (4th Century) Christianity did become infused with many “pagan” Roman elements. It’s not to difficult, however, to identify and excise those elements.

  62. Mort Coyle
    October 11th, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

    “Let that simmer, do some substitutions, & let me know if you think that’s germane or not.”

    I’m having trouble. Please explain how it might be germane.

  63. Reluctant Atheist
    October 11th, 2005 @ 10:41 pm

    Mort:
    Probably isn’t. Popped into my head for some reason. D’oh!

  64. Mort Coyle
    October 11th, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

    Reluctant Atheist,

    Re: My statement: “Frankly though, every follower of Jesus that I know came to their faith not by logic or evidence, but by an encounter with God. Such was the case with me. The ongoing relationship I have with Jesus forms the foundation of my belief and it is not something I can encapsulate into a logical proof. I know that

  65. bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 5:23 am

    Mort: To them, it is the claim that there is no God which requires extraordinary evidence in order to be believed.

    OK, Mort, that’s it, you are officially a lunatic!

    I won’t bother to credit the rest of your nonsense rhetoric with a reply as you clearly don’t believe anything. If you did you would be able to clearly explain what it was.
    Instead you seem to spend all your time analysing everyone else’s posts and offer nothing by way of explanation for your own unfounded ravings. If you are not prepared to explain your belief in any meaningful way, when denied the opportunity to trot out the usual waffle, then what exactly are you doing here?

    If a divine creator is not and extraordinary claim then what is???

  66. bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 5:51 am

    “This is why we (the unbelievers!) know you are crazy and in an enlightened society you would be receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital.”
    Sure. That’s what the Soviets did to Christians. Is that your enlightened society? I’m glad you’re not in control of things, Bill.

    – Yeah, right, and the christians did such a good job eh? Anyway there’s nice wee spot in Billy Bunter’s Gulag waiting just for you.
    >: )

  67. Mort Coyle
    October 12th, 2005 @ 9:39 am

    So, Bill, are you saying that you want me to tell my story? I just didn’t think that was the kind of thing most folks here would want to hear. Besides that it would be rather lengthy and off-topic (since the original question of this thread was whether or not the Bible is historical).

    Re: “Yeah, right, and the christians did such a good job eh?”
    If you’re talking about the Dark Ages, then heavens no. Most of the people who were tortured and killed by the Catholic Church for “heresy” were followers of Jesus like myself. 1,000 years ago, you and I would both be burned. There was nothing “Christian” about that. No, that was every bit as evil as the Gulags.

  68. Mort Coyle
    October 12th, 2005 @ 10:29 am

    Oh, and Bill,

    “If a divine creator is not and extraordinary claim then what is???”

    Approximately 8% of the world’s population currently do not believe in a God.* This means that 82% of the world’s population does. Based on that, it appears that claiming there is no God is the extraordinary claim. The burden is on you.

    * Source: Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2005
    http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/atheism.html

  69. bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 10:46 am

    Yeah and over here the best selling daily paper has as its main selling point a bare breated woman on page three. It doesn’t make it a good newspaper. Pandering to the LCD has never got the human race anywhere.
    Ok, if god’s not extra-ordinary then it can’t be supernatural either and therefore must be observable in an ordinary/natural way.
    Nope, still don’t see it.
    Which claim do you want to make? Natural or supernatural, ordinary or extraordinary? The French would have you beheaded for trying to have your cake and eat (and this is not the first time you’ve tried to claim all sides of the argument. Ooh-la-la!)
    I think this does tie in with the thread, to an extent, as it is examining the relevance of the bable. Hope the others agree and aren’t too bored with this.
    (notice how I didn’t bang on about the flawed arithmetic which was just a typo.)

  70. bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    Mort:
    Ha!
    I’ve just had a look at your source (Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2005)

    Another deliberate attempt to mislead.
    Are all you guys really all the same? How depressing that you present yourself as a reasonable man only for me to find out that you will misdirect at every opportunity thus bogging down any useful, open debate in semantics and pointless arguments on the meaning of words. But then that’s why you’re here isn’t it?
    Only a goddie could argue that a divine creator is not an extraordinary phenomenon.
    It doesn’t strengthen your argument in the slightest. Quite the opposite.

  71. Mort Coyle
    October 12th, 2005 @ 12:14 pm

    Kamikaze189, sorry for the delay in responding to your post. I didn’t mean to ignore you.

    Re: “My entire point is this; nothing can be learned with certainty from this book alone if you think even PART is fiction.”

    That’s quite an assumption your making there. It strikes me as rather arbitrary.

    Keep in mind that the Bible really isn’t a book; it’s a collection of writings. The Bible is like a miniature library, containing 66 books written over 1,600 years (from 1500 BC to 100 AD) by over 40 writers (including kings, peasants, doctors, poets, fisherman, farmers, priests, laborers, rich, poor, educated, uneducated) in locations ranging from Iraq to Israel to Egypt to Turkey to Italy.

    The Bible didn’t fall from the sky. It wasn’t dictated by an angel or dug up intact from under a mountain. It’s a collection of books written by real people in real historical places and circumstances. Every book in the Bible is what’s called an “occasional” document, which means there was some event or situation or occasion that caused it to be written. What always amazes me is that you would expect such a diverse collection of documents to be disjointed and self-contradictory (even holy books by single authors, such as the Koran or the Book of Mormon are filled with internal contradictions and external errors). It turns out that the Bible has an incredible internal harmony and integrity and external veracity (such as historical/archeological, etc.). As I

  72. Mort Coyle
    October 12th, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

    Bill,

    Thank you for being gracious about my math typo! If only the IRS were as forgiving.

    Those are some pretty strong accusations you’re making about me; that I’m intentionally trying to mislead, etc. Apparently this barrage of character insults was based on something you saw on the link I provided. What was it (you never said)? Is this not a reputable source for this type of information? It seems to match up with statistics I’ve seen elsewhere. What exactly are you taking issue with?

    I’m stunned by some of the assumptions and leaps of logic that I’ve seen in this discussion. Here’s a great example:
    “Ok, if god’s not extra-ordinary then it can’t be supernatural either and therefore must be observable in an ordinary/natural way.”

    So something extraordinary must be supernatural and something supernatural can’t be observable and something ordinary must be natural and observable? Lot’s of pre-conditions that you’re surrounding yourself with there. Stay away from quantum physics whatever you do.

  73. Bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

    Well this really:

    Country Total Pop.(2004) % Atheist/actual # Agnostic/Nonbeliever in God (minimum – maximum)
    1 Sweden 8,986,000 46-85% 4,133,560-7,638,100
    2 Vietnam 82,690,000 81% 66,978,900
    3 Denmark 5,413,000 43-80% 2,327,590-4,330,400
    4 Norway 4,575,000 31-72% 1,418,250-3,294,000
    5 Japan 127,333,000 64-65% 81,493,120-82,766,450
    6 Czech Republic 10,246,100 54-61% 5,328,940-6,250,121
    7 Finland 5,215,000 28-60% 1,460,200-3,129,000
    8 France 60,424,000 43-54% 25,982,320-32,628,960
    9 South Korea 48,598,000 30%-52% 14,579,400-25,270,960
    10 Estonia 1,342,000 49% 657,580
    11 Germany 82,425,000 41-49% 33,794,250-40,388,250
    12 Russia 143,782,000 24-48% 34,507,680-69,015,360
    13 Hungary 10,032,000 32-46% 3,210,240-4,614,720
    14 Netherlands 16,318,000 39-44% 6,364,020-7,179,920
    15 Britain 60,271,000 31-44% 18,684,010-26,519,240
    16 Belgium 10,348,000 42-43% 4,346,160-4,449,640
    17 Bulgaria 7,518,000 34-40% 2,556,120-3,007,200
    18 Slovenia 2,011,000 35-38% 703,850-764,180
    19 Israel 6,199,000 15-37% 929,850-2,293,630
    20 Canada 32,508,000 19-30% 6,176,520-9,752,400
    21 Latvia 2,306,000 20-29% 461,200-668,740
    22 Slovakia 5,424,000 10-28% 542,400-1,518,720
    23 Switzerland 7,451,000 17-27% 1,266,670-2,011,770
    24 Austria 8,175,000 18-26% 1,471,500-2,125,500
    25 Australia 19,913,000 24-25% 4,779,120-4,978,250
    26 Taiwan 22,750,000 24% 5,460,000
    27 Spain 40,281,000 15-24% 6,042,150-9,667,440
    28 Iceland 294,000 16-23% 47,040-67,620
    29 New Zealand 3,994,000 20-22% 798,800-878,680
    30 Ukraine 47,732,000 20% 9,546,400
    31 Belarus 10,311,000 17% 1,752,870
    32 Greece 10,648,000 16% 1,703,680
    33 North Korea 22,698,000 15% ( ? ) 3,404,700
    34 Italy 58,057,000 6-15% 3,483,420-8,708,550
    35 Armenia 2,991,000 14% 418,740
    36 China 1,298,848,000 8-14% ( ? ) 103,907,840-181,838,720
    37 Lithuania 3,608,000 13% 469,040
    38 Singapore 4,354,000 13% 566,020
    39 Uruguay 3,399,000 12% 407,880
    40 Kazakhstan 15,144,000 11-12% 1,665,840-1,817,280
    41 Estonia 1,342,000 11% 147,620
    42 Mongolia 2,751,000 9% 247,590
    43 Portugal 10,524,000 4-9% 420,960-947,160
    44 United States 293,028,000 3-9% 8,790,840-26,822,520
    45 Albania 3,545,000 8% 283,600
    46 Argentina 39,145,000 4-8% 1,565,800-3,131,600
    47 Kyrgyzstan 5,081,000 7% 355,670
    48 Dominican Rep. 8,834,000 7% 618,380
    49 Cuba 11,309,000 7% ( ? ) 791,630
    50 Croatia 4,497,000 7% 314,790

  74. bill
    October 12th, 2005 @ 1:54 pm

    Mort: “I’m stunned by some of the assumptions and leaps of logic that I’ve seen in this discussion.”

    Yeah, me too.

  75. Reluctant Atheist
    October 12th, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

    Mort:
    http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html
    lists it at 16%.
    Answers.com – minority.
    In a socio-economic context, the term “minority” tends to refer to groups of people who, according to a particular set of criteria, are fewer in population than other ethnic groups. All criteria for ethnicity have bearing on designating a minority

  76. Mort Coyle
    October 12th, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

    *sighing & slowly shaking head*

    Bill, Bill, Bill…

    The list you posted is a list of the TOP fifty countries containing the largest percentage of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or non-believer in God. It states this at the top of the table.

    Further down on the page, right below where it says “Conclusion”, it states:

    “Based on a careful assessment of the most recent survey data available, we find that somewhere between 500,000,000 and 750,000,000 humans currently do not believe in God.”

    Now, according to the CIA World Factbook (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html),
    which I assume is a fairly reliable source, the world’s population is currently 6,446,131,400. So if we divide 500,000,000 by 6,446,131,400 we get 7.7%. If we use 750,000,000 we get 11.6%. Granted, I went with the lower number and the reason is that the Cambridge report seems to include agnostics, not just firm atheists.

    Whether we go with 8%, 12% or 16% as Reluctant Atheist suggested, the point is that an overwhelming majority of people do not consider the existence of a God to be an extraordinary claim which would require extraordinary evidence.

    RA: “Atheism is neither a religion, culture, lifestyle, or any other definition.”

    I would consider atheism a worldview, ie. the framework through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldview).

  77. Prayertulip
    October 12th, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

    re: post 59. Yes, becoming a Christian does defy all wording. You “see what you hear”. Does that make sense? Every true Christian that I have encountered has the same experience, yet different. The Bible is living, and powerful…..,it is a matter of faith.

    I have enjoyed reading these posts. I enjoyed the link-Hebrews4Christians as well.

    I know there will be some ignorant comment, but I don’t care.

  78. Mort Coyle
    October 13th, 2005 @ 1:55 am

    Reluctant Atheist,

    Obviously, I

  79. bill
    October 13th, 2005 @ 11:14 am

    zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz …..

    Wha’? huh? nngg.

    zzz, zzz, zzz…

  80. Prayertulip
    October 13th, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

    re: post #78: WOW! such a wealth of information. I love it! Mort to you attend a Calvary Chapel?

  81. Percy
    October 13th, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

    “zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz …..

    Wha’? huh? nngg.

    zzz, zzz, zzz…”

    Never attend college my friend ;)

  82. Mort Coyle
    October 13th, 2005 @ 3:06 pm

    Shhhhhhh! Percy, you’ll wake him! Let him sleep on… He’s happier that way.

  83. Mort Coyle
    October 13th, 2005 @ 8:41 pm

    Prayertulip,

    Glad you found something useful!

    I’m part of a small church at meets in a house. We don’t have a name nor do we have any clergy. When we gather, everyone participates (and we usually share a meal). (1 Cor. 12:14-26, Col. 3:15-17, Eph. 5:15-20, Eph. 4:15-16, 1 Cor. 14:26, Rom. 1:11-12, Heb. 10:23-25)

  84. prayertulip
    October 13th, 2005 @ 10:51 pm

    True christians are all “clergy”. Priests. A Holy Nation. We are similar to your church in that we have “kinships”. We have different kinships all over town. We break bread and worship, and study God’s infallable Word. You can look up Calvary Chapel if you want to. It is interesting in that it is very informal…..not “churchy”.

    Anyway, thanks again for your useful food.

  85. Reluctant Atheist
    October 13th, 2005 @ 11:50 pm

    Mort:

    “That particular earthquake, which killed tens of thousands, occurred in 31 B.C., not A.D. I apologize for the error and shall go and flagellate myself.”

    See that it doesn’t happen again! ;) Kidding. Don’t be too rough on yourself. :)

    “The Jewish Talmud (Talmud tractate Yoma 39b, Ch. IV) makes reference to several strange events that occurred in 30 A.D. These include an interesting story concerning a Rabbi Yhanan be Zakkai, who reported that the doors of the temple opened of their own accord forty years before the fall of Jerusalem. This was seen as a portent of the temple coming to an end. It is often conjectured that an earthquake caused these huge doors to open.”

    Hmmm…now that is interesting. Got link? I can probably find it somewhere on the web.

    “Also, Jerome, in the late 300

  86. Mort Coyle
    October 14th, 2005 @ 2:49 am
  87. bill
    October 14th, 2005 @ 6:08 am

    Never attend college my friend ;)

    You might have told me earlier!

  88. bill
    October 14th, 2005 @ 9:03 am

    Mort:
    Prayertulip said:
    “…God’s infallable Word…”

    OK, so why don’t you take issue with that statement, after all you’ve said??? I detect a highly significant bias here, for all your pseudo-academic smokescreen (I can spot it a mile away, always have been able to).
    Wholly justifies my decision to disregard your attempts to claim the intellectually rigourous highground.
    And you thought I was asleep. Heh, heh!
    Gotcha!

  89. Percy
    October 14th, 2005 @ 9:22 am

    Bill,

    “OK, so why don’t you take issue with that statement, after all you’ve said??? I detect a highly significant bias here, for all your pseudo-academic smokescreen (I can spot it a mile away, always have been able to).
    Wholly justifies my decision to disregard your attempts to claim the intellectually rigourous highground.
    And you thought I was asleep. Heh, heh!
    Gotcha!”

    I don’t know how you could have come to such a conclusion unless you truly were asleep.

    P.S. Have you ever considered being a logic jumper in the Olympics?

  90. bill
    October 14th, 2005 @ 10:05 am

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  91. Mort Coyle
    October 14th, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    Uh-oh, Bill woke up and he’s cranky…
    ________________________
    Re:

    Prayertulip said:
    “…God’s infallable Word…”

    OK, so why don’t you take issue with that statement, after all you’ve said???
    ________________________

    Why should I? I can discuss theological terminology with other believers anytime. Right now, I’m more interested in staying on track with this particular discussion, rather than going off on such tangents.

    If you have a problem with what Prayertulip wrote, why don’t you address it directly to Prayertulip?

  92. JohnH
    October 14th, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

    Is the Bible historical? Yes, much like Forrest Gump is historical. A certain interpretation of (historical) cultural events serves as backdrop for a fictional tale.

  93. Mort Coyle
    October 14th, 2005 @ 4:47 pm

    So JohnH, are you saying the the entire Bible is a fictional tale or only parts of it? If only parts, which parts? And how do you distinguish and quantify which parts are fictional?

  94. JohnH
    October 14th, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

    Mort Coyle,

    I would only dare say that some that read as historical narrative are in fact stories (one might say “true myths”) only meant to relay a moral message. The flood and creation stories, for example, are scientific and historical nonsense, but still convey important moral messages. There’s plenty of evidence that the authors simply borrowed myths of surrounding and preceding cultures and molded them for their own purposes. Which, in itself, IMO, doesn’t preclude the possibility of divine inspiration.

    Not being a Bible scholar, nor arrogant enough to pretend I am, I’m not prepared to expound at length about interpretive methodology or anything of the sort. And I certainly haven’t read enough of the relevant scholarly work to have a list of which texts are thought to be in which genre. But in general, as I’m sure you know, the way you do this is to compare Biblical texts with parallel information from other fields of study (archaeology, geology, physics) and other cultures of the time, and determine what is plausible and what is not. For example, analyizing other literature of the same time might tell us that the book of Job is fiction, or that Daniel isn’t prophecy. And physics and geology might tell us that a global flood is nonsense.

  95. Reluctant Atheist
    October 15th, 2005 @ 2:20 am

    “But the discontinuity of Matthew

  96. Mort Coyle
    October 15th, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

    Hi JohnH,

    I can’t take issue with the methodologies you’ve mentioned, as they are quite valid, only with some of the conclusions you’ve reached. The methods you’ve mentioned are, of course, among those used for centuries by scholars who have concluded that the *historical* accounts in the Bible are accurate (and yes, that was an appeal to authority).

    You brought up the idea of the flood and creation stories being borrowed from other cultures. Re, the flood, I think the more likely possibility is that a cataclysmic flood event did occur (perhaps, for example, the Bosphorus deluge), which became burned into the psyche and history of pre-Semitic peoples, such as the Akkadians who witnessed the event. If this is true, then the Hebrews didn’t so much “borrow” the flood story as they “inherited” it.

    Here are a couple of interesting books in this regard:
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684810522/ref=ase_ontarioconsultanA/102-1972541-0352914
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0300076487/ref=pd_sim_b_1/102-1972541-0352914?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

    As one reviewer succintly put it, “The Sumerian ‘Deluge’ story, the Akkakian ‘Atrahasis’ epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Noah’s Flood are 7000 year old echoes of this awesome event.”

    In addition, there *is* evidence, though much more faint, that a global flood *could* have occurred. For example, the highly regarded historian Norman Cohn, in his book “Noah’s Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought” points out that there are 300 cultures around the world who have stories of a massive flood. These cultures range from the Middle-East to China, Russia, India, South America, North America, Pacific Islands and Europe. For example, Greek mythology has a story of Deucalion, son of the Titan Prometheus, who, along with his wife, survived a world-wide flood brought on by Zeus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deucalion).

    Those who support the theory of a global flood also point to evidences from the fields of astrophysics, geology, paleontology, linguistics, and anthropology for support.

    My own view is that a massive regional flood-event definitely did occur when the Mediterranean Sea overflowed into what is now the Black Sea. This event was cataclysmic enough that to the ancient people living on the shores of what had been a fresh-water lake, the whole world was coming to an end. Accounts of this event have been passed down to us from cultures that sprang from that region.

    In addition, though, I don’t discount out of hand the possibility of a prehistoric flood of a much larger scale, possibly even global. There is enough evidence available to leave that door open.

    When dealing with the question of whether or not the Bible is historical or fiction, one does need to factor in variables such as culture and time. There is a vast difference from the time-period of the Flood (and the “true myths” from this time as you so nicely put it) to the much more recent (though still ancient to us) time period of Christ.

    I appreciate your further explanation on your comment that, “a certain interpretation of (historical) cultural events serves as backdrop for a fictional tale”. Though I don’t entirely agree with that assessment, I understand better what you meant. Thanks.

  97. Reluctant Atheist
    October 15th, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

    Mort:
    In accordance w/my reading on the ‘Net, the Bosphorus deluge was originally put forth by Ryan and Pitman in 2000, but was dismissed in 2002, 1 of the 2 gentlemen in question has rescinded this theory. I’m assuming this is what you’re basing your assumption on, in re: the Bosphorus deluge? If not, apologies.

    http://www.world-science.net/home/comments-in.htm – “Alas, there was no

  98. Mort Coyle
    October 15th, 2005 @ 9:03 pm

    MC – “Something else worth pointing out is that the books of the Bible never claim to contain all knowledge or all events. ….but that doesn

  99. X the Y
    October 15th, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

    “I appreciate your further explanation on your comment that, “a certain interpretation of (historical) cultural events serves as backdrop for a fictional tale”. Though I don’t entirely agree with that assessment, I understand better what you meant. Thanks.”

    I entirely mostly agree with JohnH’s take, but he doesn’t go far enough. The Forrest Gump fictional character didn’t do anything it requires superpowers to do. The Forrest Gump fiction analogy is an extremely conservative assessment.

  100. Reluctant Atheist
    October 16th, 2005 @ 1:06 am

    Mort:

    “That

  101. Reluctant Atheist
    October 16th, 2005 @ 1:15 am

    Mort:
    This is a better link to the Bosphorus theory: http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2003/prAvalon.htm

  102. Mort Coyle
    October 17th, 2005 @ 12:10 am

    Reluctant Atheist,

    Congratulations on breaking 100 posts on this thread. Woohoo!

    A bit of “housekeeping”:

    RA

  103. Reluctant Atheist
    October 17th, 2005 @ 1:45 am

    “Congratulations on breaking 100 posts on this thread. Woohoo!”

    Do I get a prize? ;)

    A bit of “housekeeping”:

    “RA –

  104. Michael Tripper
    October 18th, 2005 @ 10:28 pm

    You’re all fools.

    Christianity sprung from Judaism which sprung from the slaves of the Pharaohs.

    The Pharaohs fashioned themselves living Gods who must be obeyed at all times a la the gods of judaism, christianity and islam.

    Those who purport to be great moral leaders follow the teachings of the Pharaohs – absolute rulers who commanded armies of slaves and demanded absolute obedience on pain of death and worse.

    The only difference being that instead of a capricious human commanding such powers it was now, to ancient tribesmen, a just, above-human entity commanding those powers, freeing them from the Pharaohs direct control.

    It is madness to keep following the philosophy of 6000 year-old tyrants.

    It is difficult living in this world with the large quantities of people who cling to these philosophies of the dictator.

  105. Mort Coyle
    October 18th, 2005 @ 11:19 pm

    RA –

  106. Reluctant Atheist
    October 18th, 2005 @ 11:23 pm

    Mr. Tripper:
    I beg your pardon, but I don’t consider myself a fool.

    Your theory bears some resemblance to Freud’s “Myth and Moses”, where he conjectured that Moses lived approx. in the same time frame as Ankneton (11th dynasty), & that Moses ‘lifted’ the idea, as it were.

    I’m an atheist, BTW, so I don’t follow the philosophy at all.

  107. Michael Tripper
    October 19th, 2005 @ 1:12 am

    RA go away

    make my day

    RA

    go away

    go away

    are you okay

    RA

  108. Zed
    October 19th, 2005 @ 1:24 am

    “Michael Tripper”

    If you followed your own advice, you’d have no reason to post any stanzas.

    Micael Tripper, if you don’t like it go away

    no one forces you to stay

    go away

  109. Reluctant Atheist
    October 19th, 2005 @ 1:26 am

    Michael Tripper:
    I am curious. Why on earth should I go away? I assume you’re talking to me?

  110. Michael Tripper
    October 19th, 2005 @ 2:10 am

    alright goodbye

  111. Michael Tripper
    October 19th, 2005 @ 2:20 am

    RA that stuff about freud was utter nonsense, I’m talking about the historical record.

    And the current realization is how the myths of Jesus and Horus are similiar.

    As far as I can recall it was the greeks coming out of a pagan society that started democracy. And these monotheistic philosophies were against democracy hence the growth of democracy as religious hegemony waned in the West. The parallels from what a pharaoh would demand of his people to what the monotheistic god demands are obvious to all but fools – the willfully ignorant and those who profit from the status quo at the expense of civilization.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=ISO-8859-1&client=googlet&q=jesus+horus

  112. Reluctant Atheist
    October 19th, 2005 @ 3:02 am

    Michael Tripper:
    Sorry. Trying to flesh it out. Gotta admit, didn’t give me a lot to work with.
    Hey, I’m on your side. I agree. The historical record? I cited it earlier.
    http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/2/982front.html
    The parallels between Horus and Jesus? I do believe that many of the elements of JC’s were borrowed from multiple sources, but Xtianity was unique in the salvation via sacrifice. Are you referring to Graves’ ’16 Resurrected Saviors’?
    Here’s a better link: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5.htm.

    You are also correct about the Greek influences. The Greeks, at a particular juncture, shifted the focus of their view from the community to the individual, which eventually became reflected in the ME.

    We’re not so far apart, you and I.

  113. Reluctant Atheist
    October 20th, 2005 @ 3:23 am

    MC:

  114. Jesus in my anus
    October 21st, 2005 @ 11:48 am

    The bible is only historical because it was written in the past, not because it represents any significant truthful element.

  115. Mort Coyle
    October 21st, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

    RA: “http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/genealogy.html Further on this: an example perhaps, of an adopted king for the ancient Israelites?”

    MC: Well, there were only 43 Israelite kings, so the odds of an adoption occurring in that line are rather slim. It may have occurred but I’m not aware of any explicit reference. There are other parallels in ancient Hebrew culture however. In Genesis 15, Abraham mentions that, since he is childless, his servant Eliezer of Damascus will inherit his estate. Jacob adopts his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48), the result being that they receive shares in the Promised Land similar to the shares that Jacob’s own sons will inherit. In fact, this adoption is the reason that Ephraim and Manasseh are counted among the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob himself is adopted by his father-in-law, Laban, in Genesis 29–31.

    The Hebrew Talmud states, “Whoever raises an orphan in his home, scripture considers him as if he gave birth to the child.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b).
    ________________________

    RA: “From the above website: �Around the end of fifteenth century Annius of Viterbo suggested another alternative explanation to this discrepancy. This “explanation” maintains that the genealogy in Matthew applied to Joseph while the one in Luke applied to Mary!�”

    Yes? And? I can see the sarcasm dripping from the comment, above, but it’s not saying anything particularly scandalous or difficult. A great many theological truths were recovered in the 15th and 16th centuries as the Dark Ages gave way to the Reformation and scholarship flourished. I.H. Marshall, perhaps the foremost “Lukan” scholar of our day, attributes the “Marian genealogy” theory to Annius of Viterbo (1490) and does not discount it (Marshall is most likely the origin of Paul Tobin’s reference). The renowned French theologian LaGrange finds the view hinted at by Augustine and also references Annius. Luther, Lightfoot, Wieseler, Godet, Weiss, A.T. Robertson, Geldenhuys, etc., etc. (very credible theological sources all) support the “Marian genealogy” viewpoint.

    However, there is, and has been, ongoing debate about Luke’s genealogy. This is because there are actually several plausible interpretations. I go with the Mary/Heli viewpoint as it strikes me as the most obvious.
    ______________________

    RA: “Luke talks about the census (6 C.E is the only date I have for it), for which they had to travel to Bethlehem. I find this odd. Why? Nazareth didn�t exist till the 4th century.”

    What?! 4th century? Oh please, now you’re beginning to sound gullible, pulling things off of anti-Christian websites without researching them first. Wikipedia actually has a pretty good page in Nazareth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

    As far as rulers requiring people to travel to their ancestral home for a tax census, it was not unknown in the Roman Empire. An official Roman governmental order dated A.D. 104 has been found which states:

    “Gaius Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt [says]: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.”

    Another document from 48 A.D. reads as follows:

    “I Thermoutharion along with Apollonius, my guardian, pledge an oath to Tiberius Claudius Caesar that the preceding document gives an accurate account of those returning, who live in my household, and that there is no one else living with me, neither a foreigner, nor an Alexandrian, nor a freedman, nor a Roman citizen, nor an Egyptian. If I am telling the truth, may it be well with me, but if falsely, the reverse. In the ninth year of the reign of Tiberius Claudius Augustus Germanicus Emperor.”
    _____________________

    RA: “Another botched effort for Matthew, as he was trying to link this to Judges, �& he shall be called a Nazarite�, whence the confusion, because Judges refers specifically to Samson. The actual term, if memory serves, was �notsr� which translates roughly to �branch�. “

    Matthew never makes reference to Judges when he says “He will be called a Nazarene.” That’s a botched interpretation on your part. In fact, Matthew doesn’t reference any particular prophetic book but instead uses the general term “the prophets”.

    Matthew is not talking about the Nazirite vow. Here’s a pretty concise explanation of what a Nazirite vow is, BTW: http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/20020210.htm

    You are correct, however, that the word Matthew uses is “notsr”, which *does* translate roughly to “branch” or “sprout”. There are a couple of interesting points about this:

    First, as always, you must keep in mind Matthew’s intended audience. To the Jews, especially the devout Jews in Jerusalem, Nazareth was a despised place. It was in the far North of Judea, traditionally a place of Gentile alien darkness. The Jews actually referred to Galilee, the region where Nazareth was, as the “land of darkness”. In John’s Gospel, when Philip tells his brother Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”, Nathanael responds, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46). Matthew later quotes from Isaiah 9 and relates it to Jesus: “… Galilee of the Gentiles, the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matt. 4:15-17)

    Probably a large part of this disdain for the North had to do with the fact that throughout history, invaders had come from the North into Israel (Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Syrians, Romans, etc.).

    So to be known as a Nazarene was to be “low class”. It was to be marginalized, rejected and even despised. This fits with what the prophets said about the coming Messiah. For example Isaiah said He would be “despised and rejected” (Is. 52).

    What does this have to do with “notsr”? Notsr would be translated as “branch” or “sprout”. To this day, Hebrew speakers refer to Jesus as “Yeshu ha Notsri” – “Jesus the Branch”. Isaiah, in about 600 B.C., wrote about the coming Messiah as follows, “A shoot will rise from the stump of Jesse [King David’s father]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Is. 11) Since the time of Isaiah, one of the names Jews had used to refer to the awaited messiah was “the Branch”; referring to the one who would restore David’s kingdom. Sort of like if I say “W” (or “Dubya”) you’d probably guess who I’m talking about.

    What Matthew is doing here is making a very clever play on words (which goes completely over our English speaking heads). He is saying that Jesus is that “Branch” (continuing the “Son of David” motif set forth in the genealogy) and simultaneously that Jesus will be despised and rejected.
    __________________

    RA: “Also, no explanation as to how John the Baptist survived the alleged slaughter.”

    John the Baptist didn’t live in Bethlehem. Luke makes this clear in 1:39 when he writes, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Zech and Liz were John the Baptist’s parents. The “hill country of Judea” is the region North and West of Jerusalem, also sometimes referred to as Samaria.
    ____________________

    RA: “Polis� actually translates to �city-state�. Can�t really buy into the �small town� theory. Do you have a secular, archeologist website to verify this, please?”

    I’ll work on that. The technical, classical Greek definition of “polis” is, as you say, “city-state” (with all the attendant socio-political concepts). In the common (or Koine) Greek, however, “polis” was used in a more generic manner.

    Since, however, you seem to be asserting that Bethlehem was a large city-state, please provide some credible references to support that claim.
    _______________________

    RA: “In Matthew, correct? In relation to the alleged slaughter? Wasn�t Bethlehem Ephrathah also a proper name, as well?”

    “Ephrathah” is the ancient name of Bethlehem (Gen 35:19, Ruth 4:11). There was also a person named Bethlehem who was the son (or grandson) of Ephrathah (1 Chronicles 4:4, 2:50-51). Micah (5:2) is clearly speaking of the town not the person and Matthew’s original readers would have understood the difference. In fact, every reference to Bethlehem, besides I Chronicles, is very clearly speaking of a place. Reminds me of that old joke, “No man is an island, but Eugene is a city.”
    _______________________

    RA: “Very interesting. You�ve made the trip yourself then? What is your source on this?”

    Any map of ancient Judea that includes a mileage reference can corroborate this.
    ______________________

    “Ummm�but the Magi reported back to Herod, & refused to fill him in on the details, if memory serves.”

    The Magi meet with Herod on their way to see Jesus and tell him what they know at that point. After seeing Jesus, the Magi do not report back to Herod and fill him in on the details. If they had, Herod wouldn’t have found it necessary to slaughter all the baby boys in a village. He could have zeroed in on Jesus.
    _______________________

    MC: “Such a contingent traveling into Judea would have come to Herod�s attention and it would be diplomatically expedient for the Magi to meet with Herod.�”

    RA: Any records to support this?

    Do you think we have records of every event that occurred in ancient times and that any lack thereof proves that an event didn’t occur? Common sense and a basic understanding of the ancient world should make it clear that a delegation of diplomats (traveling to see a king) carrying valuable items would not travel without armed escort and would make diplomatic overtures in the “host” country, so as not to be misconstrued as having aggressive or subversive intent.

    I wonder again if you reject all ancient history that cannot produce multiple independent means of verification. If so, what you consider reliable ancient history must be very small indeed. Or is it just in matters pertaining to Christianity that you apply this standard?
    _____________________

    RA: “Here�s another link: http://cgrg.geog.uvic.ca/abstracts/PerkinsOnceDuring.html”
    Interesting. That is certainly one possibility.

    RA: “Sorry, that sounds like moral relativism to me. I guess everyone�s ancestors were barbarians. My understanding is that Anti-Semitism stems from Matthew citing �Let his death be on our heads, & our children�s heads�.”

    No, it’s understanding the historical context. Luther (among others) made some huge gains in breaking out of the Dark Ages, but in many ways he still hung onto a lot of old Catholic ways of thinking. Luther was definitely a mixed bag, as were Zwingli, Calvin and the other Reformers. The Anabaptists (whom I identify with) were mercilessly persecuted by both the Protestant Reformers and the Catholic Church.

    Anti-Semitism doesn’t stem from Matthew’s citation, it stems from people *misusing* Matthew’s citation to justify their pre-existing anti-Semitism. Actually, anti-Semitism is a much more complex issue than that. I highly recommend Max Dimont’s “Jews, God and History” for a better understanding.
    _________________________

    RA: “My understanding is that there were only 12 years of persecution.”

    Initially the church was mostly Jewish and was persecuted by Jewish authorities. This type of persecution lasted roughly 100 years, from Jesus’ resurrection in approx. 30 A.D. to the Bar Kochba rebellion in approx. 130 A.D. Roman persecution of Christians began in 64 A.D. with Nero and ended in 313 A.D. with Constantine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it has been calculated that between the first persecution under Nero in 64 to the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians experienced 129 years of persecution intermingled with 120 years of toleration and peace. Also, persecution was more intense in some places within the Roman Empire than others.

    By the way, the most common charge leveled by the Romans against Christians was that they were “atheists” (because they didn’t worship the Roman gods).
    __________________________

    RA: “& Rome fell, because most of its resources were diverted to religion. Then Theodosius passes the law against all non-Xtian religions, resulting in massive persecution, destruction, devastation of documents & non-xtian temples (guess we�ll never know if Mithraism copied from Xtianity, or the reverse).”

    This explanation of what caused the fall of the Roman Empire is over simplistic and seems based largely on Gibbon’s monumental “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” published between 1776 and 1787. Gibbon (like Paine) was a champion of Modernity and the vision of an “Age of Reason” that would leave the “relic” of Christianity behind. Gibbon’s work, though impressive, was clearly colored by his “modernistic” worldview and at times almost borders on polemic.

    In reality, the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire are much more complex and include factors such as lethargy, bureaucracy, civil wars, a series of incompetent Emperors, overextension of an undermanned military, an economy that was too dependant on slavery, internal corruption, the rise and movement of the Germanic peoples (Goths, Vandals, Visigoths), incursions by Asiatic peoples such as the Huns, the assimilation of these Germanic and Asiatic peoples into the Roman Empire and the resulting dilution of Roman identity, plagues, etc., etc.

    Speaking of Modernism (and Post-Modernism), I don’t suppose you’ve read “The Twilight of Atheism” by Alister McGrath? McGrath posits that atheism is so couched in Modernity that Post-Modernity is gradually making atheism irrelevant.
    ________________________

    RA: “Going to have to request sources to back that up (atheism, Stalin, etc.). I�ll research it as well.”

    This is from infidels.org, a site that I believe you’ve used as a reference in the past:

    “The institution of “state atheism” came about when Stalin took control of the Soviet Union and tried to destroy the churches in order to gain complete power over the population.” http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/intro.html

    Paul Tobin, another source you’ve sited states: “It is true that Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, were all atheists. But the primary influences that led to their atrocities were not atheism per se but their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas.” (http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/hitlerstalin.html) This is, of course, a red herring because atheism is essential to Marxism. It is as essential to Marxism as belief in God is to Christianity.

    One closing question… I’ve noticed, particularly towards the end of your last post, that you use the term “Xtian” a lot. Why is that? It strikes me as beneath you, because it comes off as somewhat petty and immature. Is it really that traumatic to type the word Christ? I just wonder about this because it would be like if every time I referred to atheists I typed “stupidatheists” or some other pejorative name. It seems so… unnecessary.

  116. Reluctant Atheist
    October 21st, 2005 @ 10:38 pm

    ” Well, there were only 43 Israelite kings, ..[truncated for brevity]… In fact, this adoption is the reason that Ephraim and Manasseh are counted among the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob himself is adopted by his father-in-law, Laban, in Genesis 29–31.”

    Interesting. But the topic was inheritance of kingship, I believe.

    The Hebrew Talmud states, “Whoever raises an orphan in his home, scripture considers him as if he gave birth to the child.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b).

    I may be a little dense here. This scripture is via the Babylonian Gemara (?), which is 4th or 6th century (sorry, always get the dates mixed up). A little post ex facto, for my taste.

    “Yes? And? I can see the sarcasm dripping from the comment, above, but it’s not saying anything particularly scandalous or difficult. A great many theological truths were recovered in the 15th and 16th centuries as the Dark Ages gave way to the Reformation and scholarship flourished. I..[truncated for brevity]… and has been, ongoing debate about Luke’s genealogy. This is because there are actually several plausible interpretations. I go with the Mary/Heli viewpoint as it strikes me as the most obvious.”

    I was just quoting the website, is all. Suspicious, that Luke didn’t qualify it properly. Or Matthew. I disagree completely.

    “What?! 4th century? Oh please, now you’re beginning to sound gullible, pulling things off of anti-Christian websites without researching them first. Wikipedia actually has a pretty good page in Nazareth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

    No, I have looked into this, thank you. From the same source:
    “Nazareth is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, nor in Josephus, nor in the Talmud. Jerome in the 5th century says it was a viculus or mere village, and modern estimates of its size in the first century are in the low hundreds. It was a satellite village of Sepphoris 6.5 km (4 miles) away.”

    I have heard the “not writing a travelogue” theory, but from my limited understanding, Josephus actually resided in Japha (for some time), which is approx. a mile away. I’ve read somewhere that Nazareth was actually a Japhan necropolis. Also, some pieces of lamps were found, & other miniscule items, but I for 1 would be more convinced it existed if someone could come up w/better proof.

    “As far as rulers requiring people to travel to their ancestral home for a tax census, it was not unknown in the Roman Empire. An official Roman governmental order dated A.D. 104 has been found which states:”

    “Gaius Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt [says]: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.”
    Another document from 48 A.D. reads as follows:

    “I Thermoutharion along with Apollonius, my guardian, pledge an oath to Tiberius Claudius Caesar that the preceding document gives an accurate account of those returning, who live in my household, and that there is no one else living with me, neither a foreigner, nor an Alexandrian, nor a freedman, nor a Roman citizen, nor an Egyptian. If I am telling the truth, may it be well with me, but if falsely, the reverse. In the ninth year of the reign of Tiberius Claudius Augustus Germanicus Emperor.”

    That’s all well and good, but where is the census in question? My understanding is that Augustus was rather proud of his censuses (censi?), listed them as 1 of his major accomplishments, & held them every 14 years.

    Matthew never makes reference to Judges when he says “He will be called a Nazarene.” That’s a botched interpretation on your part. In fact, Matthew doesn’t reference any particular prophetic book but instead uses the general term “the prophets”.

    Granted. Apologies, as I am doing most of this from memory. Which prophet(s), BTW?

    “Matthew is not talking about the Nazirite vow. Here’s a pretty concise explanation of what a Nazirite vow is, BTW:”

    Wasn’t really talking about a vow.

    “You are correct, however, that the word Matthew uses is “notsr”, which *does* translate roughly to “branch” or “sprout”. There are a couple of interesting points about this:”

    Guess my memory’s not completely shot then. Phew!

    “First, as always, you must keep in mind Matthew’s intended audience. ..[truncated for brevity]..So to be known as a Nazarene was to be “low class”. It was to be marginalized, rejected and even despised. This fits with what the prophets said about the coming Messiah. For example Isaiah said He would be “despised and rejected” (Is. 52).”

    “What does this have to do with “notsr”? Notsr would be translated as “branch” or “sprout”. To this day, Hebrew speakers refer to Jesus as “Yeshu ha Notsri” – “Jesus the Branch”. Isaiah, in about 600 B.C., wrote about the coming Messiah as follows, . ..[truncated for brevity]…What Matthew is doing here is making a very clever play on words (which goes completely over our English speaking heads). He is saying that Jesus is that “Branch” (continuing the “Son of David” motif set forth in the genealogy) and simultaneously that Jesus will be despised and rejected.”

    Interesting theory. Might have something to do w/the necropolis I mentioned earlier.

    “John the Baptist didn’t live in Bethlehem. Luke makes this clear in 1:39 when he writes, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Zech and Liz were John the Baptist’s parents. The “hill country of Judea” is the region North and West of Jerusalem, also sometimes referred to as Samaria.”

    I’ll go along w/that. Good explanation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlehem says: Afterwards Herod the great “when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,” sent and slew “all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16, 18; Jer. 31:15).” Unless there’s some Greek translation point that I’m missing? Just asking.

    “I’ll work on that. The technical, classical Greek definition of “polis” is, as you say, “city-state” (with all the attendant socio-political concepts). In the common (or Koine) Greek, however, “polis” was used in a more generic manner.

    Since, however, you seem to be asserting that Bethlehem was a large city-state, please provide some credible references to support that claim.”

    Well, it was more in the line of an honest inquiry than an assertion, but here’s 1:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlehem – “The city, located in the “hill country” of Judah, was originally called Ephrath (Gen. 35:16, 19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11). It was also called Beth-lehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2), Beth-lehem-judah (1 Sam. 17:12), and “the city of David” (Luke 2:4). It is first noticed in Scripture as the place where Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside,” directly to the north of the city (Gen. 48:7). The valley to the east was the scene of the story of Ruth the Moabitess. ..[truncated for brevity]… But it was distinguished above every other city as the birth-place of “Him whose goings forth have been of old”

    I’ll look at it in more depth.

    “Ephrathah” is the ancient name of Bethlehem (Gen 35:19, Ruth 4:11). There was also a person named Bethlehem who was the son (or grandson) of Ephrathah (1 Chronicles 4:4, 2:50-51). Micah (5:2) is clearly speaking of the town not the person and Matthew’s original readers would have understood the difference. In fact, every reference to Bethlehem, besides I Chronicles, is very clearly speaking of a place. Reminds me of that old joke, “No man is an island, but Eugene is a city.”

    *Smile* – nice twist on John Donne, that.

    “RA: “Very interesting. You’ve made the trip yourself then? What is your source on this?”

    “Any map of ancient Judea that includes a mileage reference can corroborate this.”

    Has anyone factored in the equations of traveling on camel, rest stops, getting pulled over by the Romans? Not fascetious: just asking.

    “The Magi meet with Herod on their way to see Jesus and tell him what they know at that point. After seeing Jesus, the Magi do not report back to Herod and fill him in on the details. If they had, Herod wouldn’t have found it necessary to slaughter all the baby boys in a village. He could have zeroed in on Jesus.”

    Correct. Memory is a fickle creature at best.

    “RA: Any records to support this? ”

    “Do you think we have records of every event that occurred in ancient times and that any lack thereof proves that an event didn’t occur? Common sense and a basic understanding of the ancient world should make it clear that a delegation of diplomats (traveling to see a king) carrying valuable items would not travel without armed escort and would make diplomatic overtures in the “host” country, so as not to be misconstrued as having aggressive or subversive intent.”

    True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it? Was it commonplace? Doesn’t seem so, from your earlier extrapolation on Parthians.

    “I wonder again if you reject all ancient history that cannot produce multiple independent means of verification. If so, what you consider reliable ancient history must be very small indeed. Or is it just in matters pertaining to Christianity that you apply this standard?”

    I trust very little in regards to most Western history. “The victor writes history”, as per Churchill. Perhaps it’s just that Aristotellian worldview. But yes, I do. Higher standards. Watershed moment in history, and all that.

    “No, it’s understanding the historical context. Luther (among others) made some huge gains in breaking out of the Dark Ages, but in many ways he still hung onto a lot of old Catholic ways of thinking. Luther was definitely a mixed bag, as were Zwingli, Calvin and the other Reformers. The Anabaptists (whom I identify with) were mercilessly persecuted by both the Protestant Reformers and the Catholic Church.”
    Anti-Semitism doesn’t stem from Matthew’s citation, it stems from people *misusing* Matthew’s citation to justify their pre-existing anti-Semitism. Actually, anti-Semitism is a much more complex issue than that. I highly recommend Max Dimont’s “Jews, God and History” for a better understanding.”

    I’ll see if I can lay hands on that book. No, I realize there’s more to the picture, & your point of misuse is well-taken.

    RA: “My understanding is that there were only 12 years of persecution.”

    Initially the church was mostly Jewish and was persecuted by Jewish authorities. This type of persecution lasted roughly 100 years, from Jesus’ resurrection in approx. 30 A.D. to the Bar Kochba rebellion in approx. 130 A.D. Roman persecution of Christians began in 64 A.D. with Nero and ended in 313 A.D. with Constantine. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it has been calculated that between the first persecution under Nero in 64 to the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians experienced 129 years of persecution intermingled with 120 years of toleration and peace. Also, persecution was more intense in some places within the Roman Empire than others.”
    “By the way, the most common charge leveled by the Romans against Christians was that they were “atheists” (because they didn’t worship the Roman gods).”

    Was aware of the atheist charge. Was also aware that after Martyr’s martyrdom, many Xtians went out of their way to become martyred, defacing idols, raising hell as it were. Understood that Nero persecuted them by blaming the fires on them. Trajan, from what I’ve read, was very tolerant of other faiths.

    “This explanation of what caused the fall of the Roman Empire is over simplistic.”

    Yes, it is. Allow me to qualify it further: a factor that contributed to it, then. Apologies. Pretty big factor, I’d think, but will research it further.

    “Speaking of Modernism (and Post-Modernism), I don’t suppose you’ve read “The Twilight of Atheism” by Alister McGrath? McGrath posits that atheism is so couched in Modernity that Post-Modernity is gradually making atheism irrelevant. ”

    Haven’t read it. Can’t really afford books at this juncture.

    “This is from infidels.org, a site that I believe you’ve used as a reference in the past:
    “The institution of “state atheism” came about when Stalin took control of the Soviet Union and tried to destroy the churches in order to gain complete power over the population.” ”
    “Paul Tobin, another source you’ve sited states: “It is true that Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, were all atheists. But the primary influences that led to their atrocities were not atheism per se but their dogmatic Marxism and communist ideas.” (http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/hitlerstalin.html) This is, of course, a red herring because atheism is essential to Marxism. It is as essential to Marxism as belief in God is to Christianity.”

    In response: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/t.htm

    “Marx saw Atheism as associated with crude communism and sought to transcend Atheism by revolutionising the social conditions which create the need for people to believe in God, rather than atheistic polemics against belief in God.
    Marxism is neither atheistic nor agnostic nor pantheist, but practical-critical. It does not counter the theist by dogmatically asserting that God does not exist, but rather, asks why it is necessary to believe in God and how it is possible to live without God.”

    I will do further research as per this topic.

    “One closing question… I’ve noticed, particularly towards the end of your last post, that you use the term “Xtian” a lot. Why is that? It strikes me as beneath you, because it comes off as somewhat petty and immature. Is it really that traumatic to type the word Christ? I just wonder about this because it would be like if every time I referred to atheists I typed “stupidatheists” or some other pejorative name. It seems so… unnecessary. ”

    Well, for 1, it’s the difference of 5 keystrokes as opposed to 1. It’s also the same concept applied to Xmas. I thought I used Xtian a great deal more than that. No offense offered or intended. Sorry. Simplistic reductionism does have its uses.

  117. Sofi
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 12:06 am

    I just want to clarify that:

    * The Torah is no the Old Testament, but just part of it. The Torah is made up by the so-called five books of Moses.

    * The Bible is not a book but an anthology. It is made up by different books written by different people and in different times, arbitrarily included (canonic books) while some other texts of the same time were left out (extracanonic).

    * As with any ancient text, some of the content may be embellished reality, and a lot of it simply a body of ideas to rule over the lives of people and distinguish them from “the others”. And again, as well as with other ancient texts there may be some legendary elements (i.e, with an element of truth, as oppposed to “myth”, where there is not true element whatsoever). Archeological and linguistic research point out to the true behind the legend, while separating legend from myth.

  118. Mort Coyle
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 1:46 am

    I’ll post later this weekend re the points you brought up, RA, but I wanted to at least comment on this point re the Magi:

    “True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it?”

    Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistance on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.

    I just stumbled upon this article and though I’d post it since it addresses the original question of the historicity of the Bible:
    ____________________________

    History, Archaeology and Jesus

    Hard evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus.

    by Paul L. Maier

    Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past. Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.

    o All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    o Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.
    o Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.
    o Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.
    o High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    o Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    o Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.

    In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37—100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.

    In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.

    Josephus on Jesus

    Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:

    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).

    Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.

    Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Archaeology

    A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.

    The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics—until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.

    That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.

    As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).

    Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive. An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.

    That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.

    In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.

    The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.

    As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.

    At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.

    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

  119. Reluctant Atheist
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 2:09 am

    Sofi:
    Nicely said. I believe the 1st 5 books of Moses are the Septuagint?

  120. Mort Coyle
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

    RA: “I believe the 1st 5 books of Moses are the Septuagint?”

    No, but good try, as its a similarly strange sounding word:

    The first five books are called the Pentateuch, which literally means “five containers” because each book was a scroll kept in a seperate case.

    The Jewish scriptures in total are broken into three primary categories:

    * The Law which, as Sofi stated is aka the Torah or Pentateuch
    * The Prophets
    * The Writings, which includes the Psalms, Proverbs, etc.

    All of these put together are referred to by Jews as the “Tanakh” and by Christians as the “Old Testament”.

    When Matthew writes of Jesus, “So it was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” His use of “the prophets” is referring to the entire section of the Jewish Tanakh called “The Prophets” (broken out as 19 seperate books in the Christian O.T.).

    The Septuagint is the translation of the Tanakh, or Old Testament, from Hebrew into Koine Greek. This was done around 100 to 300 years B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt. The Septuagint is also referred to as the “LXX”, which are the Roman numerals for “70”. This designation comes from the way that the translation was supposedly performed; by 70 Jewish scholars (or 72 depending on which account you read).

    One reason for the creation of the Septuagint was the vast number of Jews living outside of Judea, in places such as Alexandria, Damascus, Rome, etc. In fact, at the time of Jesus, more Jews lived outside of Judea than within (as is also the case nowadays). The Jews outside of Judea spoke primarily Koine Greek while those within Judea spoke primarily Aramaic and Hebrew and secondarily Koine Greek (in order to conduct business with Gentiles).

  121. Mort Coyle
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 10:00 pm

    OK, back on track.

    RA: “Interesting. But the topic was inheritance of kingship, I believe.”

    The answer to which we will have to extrapolate based on what prevailing views in Judaism towards adoption were.

    RA: “This scripture is via the Babylonian Gemara (?), which is 4th or 6th century (sorry, always get the dates mixed up). A little post ex facto, for my taste.”

    The Babylonian Gemara is the written form of the oral Talmud which dates back centuries earlier. The 4th and 6th centuries have to do with when the Talmud was committed to written form and edited. It actually provides quite a good gauge of what Jewish thinking had been for centuries on a variety of subjects.

    RA: “Suspicious, that Luke didn’t qualify it properly. Or Matthew. I disagree completely.”

    Luke did qualify it with his wording regarding Joseph, perhaps not to your liking, but I think his original readers would have understood what he meant. It’s interesting that there are no references in writings of early church fathers about disputes or difficulties with Luke’s genealogy.

    Matthew, as we’ve discussed at length, was on a completely different track, and his intended readers would have understood *exactly* what he was getting at.

    RA: “I for 1 would be more convinced it [Nazareth] existed if someone could come up w/better proof.”

    Agreed, that would be nice. I think, however, there is ample evidence of Nazareth being a small village outside of Sepphoris and not particularly noteworthy on its own merits.

    Here’s another thought. If Nazareth were a “made up” place, why is it mentioned by various N.T. and O.T. writers? Why not just pick a place that *did* exist?

    RA: “That’s all well and good, but where is the census in question?”

    Here’s an article that goes into great detail on Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, and the Census:
    http://users.rcn.com/tlclcms/census.html

    RA: “Interesting theory. Might have something to do w/the necropolis I mentioned earlier.”

    It is one postulate that a primary industry in Nazareth may have been making coffins and ossuaries. Would fit in with Jesus’ step-dad, Joseph, being a carpenter.

    RA: “Has anyone factored in the equations of traveling on camel, rest stops, getting pulled over by the Romans? Not fascetious: just asking.”

    Good point. There’s plenty of room available time-wise to factor such things in.

    RA: “Was also aware that after Martyr’s martyrdom, many Xtians went out of their way to become martyred, defacing idols, raising hell as it were.”

    I find that assertion very difficult to accept. Now it’s your turn to provide historical records to support this. The records I’ve seen, such as Pliny’s letter to Trajan, indicate that Christians were quite the opposite of “hell raisers”. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html
    Granted, Pliny’s letter pre-dates Justin Martyr. Still I’d like to see something to back up your assertion.

    MC: “It is as essential to Marxism as belief in God is to Christianity.”

    RA: “In response: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/t.htm”

    Ummm… Do you really think a website called “marxists.org”, which exists to present Marxism in the best possible light, is the most accurate resource to use?

    To quote Marx himself:

    “Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again.”

    “To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.”

    “But for man the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that it proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved forsaken, despicable being…..”

    Hmmm… “…resolute positive abolition of religion…”, “…categorical imperative to overthrow…”.

    Here’s an interesting treatise on Marx: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0010.html

    RA: “Well, for 1, it’s the difference of 5 keystrokes as opposed to 1. It’s also the same concept applied to Xmas. I thought I used Xtian a great deal more than that. No offense offered or intended. Sorry. Simplistic reductionism does have its uses.”

    Ok, fair enough.

  122. Mort Coyle
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 10:14 pm

    OK, back on track.

    BTW, a couple of my recent posts seem to have been “intercepted” by the moderator and not post, so I’ve had to start all over and re-do them. I’m assuming this has something to do with recent changes to the board and not some type of censorship.

    RA: “Interesting. But the topic was inheritance of kingship, I believe.”

    The answer to which we will have to extrapolate based on what prevailing views in Judaism towards adoption were.

    RA: “This scripture is via the Babylonian Gemara (?), which is 4th or 6th century (sorry, always get the dates mixed up). A little post ex facto, for my taste.”

    The Babylonian Gemara is the written form of the oral Talmud which dates back centuries earlier. The 4th and 6th centuries have to do with when the Talmud was committed to written form and edited. It actually provides quite a good gauge of what Jewish thinking had been for centuries on a variety of subjects.

    RA: “Suspicious, that Luke didn’t qualify it properly. Or Matthew. I disagree completely.”

    Luke did qualify it with his wording regarding Joseph, perhaps not to your liking, but I think his original readers would have understood what he meant. It’s interesting that there are no references in writings of early church fathers about disputes or difficulties with Luke’s genealogy.

    Matthew, as we’ve discussed at length, was on a completely different track, and his intended readers would have understood *exactly* what he was getting at.

    RA: “I for 1 would be more convinced it [Nazareth] existed if someone could come up w/better proof.”

    Agreed, that would be nice. I think, however, there is ample evidence of Nazareth being a small village outside of Sepphoris and not particularly noteworthy on its own merits.

    Here’s another thought. If Nazareth were a “made up” place, why is it mentioned by so many different N.T. and O.T. writers? Why not just pick a place that *did* exist?

    RA: “That’s all well and good, but where is the census in question?”

    Here’s an article that goes into great detail on Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, and the Census:
    http://users.rcn.com/tlclcms/census.html

    RA: “Interesting theory. Might have something to do w/the necropolis I mentioned earlier.”

    It is one postulate that a primary industry in Nazareth may have been making coffins and ossuaries. Would fit in with Jesus’ step-dad, Joseph, being a carpenter.

    RA: “Has anyone factored in the equations of traveling on camel, rest stops, getting pulled over by the Romans? Not fascetious: just asking.”

    Good point. There’s plenty of room available time-wise to factor such things in.

    RA: “Was also aware that after Martyr’s martyrdom, many Xtians went out of their way to become martyred, defacing idols, raising hell as it were.”

    I find that assertion very difficult to accept. Now it’s your turn to provide historical records to support this. The records I’ve seen, such as Pliny’s letter to Trajan, indicate that Christians were quite the opposite of “hell raisers”. (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/pliny.html) Granted, Pliny’s letter pre-dates Justin Martyr’s death, but I’m not aware of such a radical change after Martyr. Please provide some sources.

    MC: “It is as essential to Marxism as belief in God is to Christianity.”

    RA: “In response: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/t.htm”

    Ummm… Do you really think a website called “marxists.org”, which exists to present Marxism in the best possible light, is the most accurate resource to use?

    To quote Marx himself:

    “Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again.”

    “To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.”

    “But for man the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that it proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved forsaken, despicable being…..”

    Hmmm… “…resolute positive abolition of religion…”, “…categorical imperative to overthrow…”.

    Here’s an interesting treatise on Marx: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0010.html

    RA: “Well, for 1, it’s the difference of 5 keystrokes as opposed to 1. It’s also the same concept applied to Xmas. I thought I used Xtian a great deal more than that. No offense offered or intended. Sorry. Simplistic reductionism does have its uses.”

    Ok, fair enough.

  123. Mort Coyle
    October 23rd, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

    Sorry for the duplicate posts!!!

  124. Reluctant Atheist
    October 23rd, 2005 @ 3:52 pm

    MC: this is vis-a-vis your post from October 22, 2005 1:46 – will respond to some of the later ones soon.

    MC: Thanks for the correction on Pentateuch.

    “True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it?”
    “Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistence on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.”

    No, I would expect records from BOTH sides. Or either side. I want solid facts, not conjecture. Sorry.

    This article? I don’t know if I should be disgusted, or amused. Or both.

    “Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past.”

    Tell that to Homer. Oh, right, he was a poet, not an historian. Utter crap. Buddha was a real person, as well as mythological.

    “ Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.”

    Rather, it’s soft evidence.

    “All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.”

    No disputes, though I don’t recall Claudius being mentioned.

    ”Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.”

    I recognize Pilate, who are these other guys?

    ” Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.
    “High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.”

    No one disputes any of these people. Covering an argument from silence w/shouting isn’t good logic. This guy takes classes from Bill O’Reilly?

    “In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37—100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.”

    Proves nothing. Stephen King’s works talk about the state of Maine, cultural referents abound. Still fiction.

    “In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.”
    Josephus on Jesus
    “Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:”
    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).”

    None. Possible interpolation. No dates, sources?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
    “Over the last century, the consensus seems to have changed, and the subjective nature of many of the arguments used in the 19th century has been recognised. Judging from the 2003 survey of the historiography, it seems that the majority of modern scholars consider that Josephus really did write something here about Jesus, but that the text that has reached us is corrupt to a perhaps quite substantial extent. There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. However a significant number of scholars consider it genuine, on the grounds that all of the passages supposed to be corrupt are upheld by other writers; a significant number of scholars likewise consider the passage interpolated, on the ground that all the passages upheld are likewise demolished by other writers.”
    Also, same source: “It seems clear that, whatever the current fashion of scholarship, that most people feel uncomfortable with the text as it stands, but that no conclusive evidence exists to allow a final closure of this endlessly debated question.”

    It’s still under dispute, then. Still not hard proof.

    “Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.”

    What utter bullshit. Tacitus named Chrestus. Suetonius was given to hyperbole, and recounted the story of the Phoenix, Pliny the younger wrote a letter to Trajan asking what he should do about the Xtians. 2nd hand hearsay. That Xtians existed is given.

    “Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    FULL correlation? Why is there still dispute then? Bottom line my ass.

    “A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.”

    Rather have the whole series of articles, thanks. Brief listings?

    “The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics—until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.”

    Everyone knows Augustus had censuses. Still only soft evidence.

    “That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.”

    Not under dispute.

    “As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).”

    Again, no sources. Was aware of the synagogue being found.

    “Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive.”

    Which isn’t under dispute that I know of.

    “An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.”
    “That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.”

    No one ever disputed that crucifixions took place. Heel bones appeared? What about the whole body? Were the legs amputated, as with Jehonanon?

    “In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.”

    I don’t recall any place being under dispute besides Capernaum. It may confirm named places, but any fiction novel can do that.

    “The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.”

    Again, no dispute as to Paul’s existence.

    “As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.”

    Who refused? Names, times, places where archeology was dismissed outright would be nice. Otherwise, pure rhetoric.

    “At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.”
    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

    So lessee, cover an argument from silence with shouting, ad hominem/poisoning the well, special pleading, equivocation, so many fallacies, so little time!
    Extremely unimpressed. Sorry.
    My insistence on hard evidence is most assuredly not an easy out. “All things to all men”, here’s a deity that supposedly created everything, but leaves clues behind that are pretty much involved connect-the-dots, & MAYBE the picture will emerge? We’re talking about people’s souls here, salvation of humanity, etc., 1 would think that we’d have more solid evidence than guesswork. I know, I carp about this, but I am like Didymus, in this respect at least: I need to see the wounds, & touch them.
    I know, it’s faith. I feel that’s too easy an out, myself. I would love to abrogate my responsibilities as a moral creature, hand it off to some abstract being (hey, I’m as lazy as the next man), let it all sort itself out, but the years have taught me, that more often than not, IMHO, it’s an abdication of said responsibility that causes much of the world’s problems.

  125. reluctantatheist
    October 24th, 2005 @ 1:31 am

    Mort:
    In re: post of October 22, 2005 1:46 AM

    MC: Thanks for the correction on Pentateuch.

    “True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it?”
    “Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistence on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.”

    No, I would expect records from BOTH sides. Or either side. I want solid facts, not conjecture. Sorry.

    This article? I don’t know if I should be disgusted, or amused. Or both.

    “Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past.”

    Tell that to Homer. Oh, right, he was a poet, not an historian. Utter crap. Buddha was a real person, as well as mythological.

    “ Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.”

    Rather, it’s soft evidence.

    “All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.”
    No disputes, though I don’t recall Claudius being mentioned.

    ”Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.”

    I recognize Pilate, who are these other guys?

    ” Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.

    “High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.”

    No one disputes any of these people. Covering an argument from silence w/shouting isn’t good logic. This guy takes classes from Bill O’Reilly?

    “In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37—100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.”

    Proves nothing. Stephen King’s works talk about the state of Maine, cultural referents abound. Still fiction.

    “In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.”
    Josephus on Jesus
    “Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:”
    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).”

    None. Possible interpolation. No dates, sources?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
    “Over the last century, the consensus seems to have changed, and the subjective nature of many of the arguments used in the 19th century has been recognised. Judging from the 2003 survey of the historiography, it seems that the majority of modern scholars consider that Josephus really did write something here about Jesus, but that the text that has reached us is corrupt to a perhaps quite substantial extent. There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. However a significant number of scholars consider it genuine, on the grounds that all of the passages supposed to be corrupt are upheld by other writers; a significant number of scholars likewise consider the passage interpolated, on the ground that all the passages upheld are likewise demolished by other writers.”
    Also, same source: “It seems clear that, whatever the current fashion of scholarship, that most people feel uncomfortable with the text as it stands, but that no conclusive evidence exists to allow a final closure of this endlessly debated question.”
    It’s still under dispute, then. Still not hard proof.

    “Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.”

    What utter nonsense. Tacitus named Chrestus. Suetonius was given to hyperbole, and recounted the story of the Phoenix, Pliny the younger wrote a letter to Trajan asking what he should do about the Xtians. 2nd hand hearsay. That Xtians existed is given.

    “Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    FULL correlation? Why is there still dispute then?

    “A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.”

    Rather have the whole series of articles, thanks. Brief listings?

    “The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics—until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.”

    Everyone knows Augustus had censuses. Still only soft evidence.

    “That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.”

    Not under dispute.

    “As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).”

    Again, no sources. Was aware of the synagogue being found.

    “Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive.”

    Which isn’t under dispute that I know of.

    “An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.”
    “That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.”

    No one ever disputed that crucifixions took place. Heel bones appeared? What about the whole body? Were the legs amputated, as with Jehonanon?

    “In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.”

    I don’t recall any place being under dispute besides Capernaum. It may confirm named places, but any fiction novel can do that.

    “The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.”

    Again, no dispute as to Paul’s existence.

    “As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.”

    Who refused? Names, times, places where archeology was dismissed outright would be nice. Otherwise, pure rhetoric.

    “At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.”
    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

    So lessee, cover an argument from silence with shouting, ad hominem/poisoning the well, special pleading, equivocation, so many fallacies, so little time!
    Extremely unimpressed. Sorry.
    My insistence on hard evidence is most assuredly not an easy out. “All things to all men”, here’s a deity that supposedly created everything, but leaves clues behind that are pretty much involved connect-the-dots, & MAYBE the picture will emerge? We’re talking about people’s souls here, salvation of humanity, etc., 1 would think that we’d have more solid evidence than guesswork. I know, I carp about this, but I am like Didymus, in this respect at least: I need to see the wounds, & touch them.
    I know, it’s faith. I feel that’s too easy an out, myself. I would love to abrogate my responsibilities as a moral creature, hand it off to some abstract being (hey, I’m as lazy as the next man), let it all sort itself out, but the years have taught me, that more often than not, IMHO, it’s an abdication of said responsibility that causes much of the world’s problems.

  126. Reluctant Atheist
    October 24th, 2005 @ 3:45 pm

    MC: Thanks for the correction on Pentateuch.

    “True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it?”
    “Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistence on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.”

    No, I would expect records from BOTH sides. Or either side. I want solid facts, not conjecture. Sorry.

    This article? I don’t know if I should be disgusted, or amused. Or both.

    “Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past.”

    Tell that to Homer. Oh, right, he was a poet, not an historian. Utter nonsense. Buddha was a real person, as well as mythological.

    ” Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.”

    Rather, it’s soft evidence.

    “All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.”
    No disputes, though I don’t recall Claudius being mentioned.

    “Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.”

    I recognize Pilate, who are these other guys?

    ” Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.

    “High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.”

    No one disputes any of these people. Covering an argument from silence w/shouting isn’t good logic. This guy takes classes from Bill O’Reilly?

    “In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.”

    Proves nothing. Stephen King’s works talk about the state of Maine, cultural referents abound. Still fiction.

    “In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.”
    Josephus on Jesus
    “Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:”
    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).”

    None. Possible interpolation. No dates, sources?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
    “Over the last century, the consensus seems to have changed, and the subjective nature of many of the arguments used in the 19th century has been recognised. Judging from the 2003 survey of the historiography, it seems that the majority of modern scholars consider that Josephus really did write something here about Jesus, but that the text that has reached us is corrupt to a perhaps quite substantial extent. There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. However a significant number of scholars consider it genuine, on the grounds that all of the passages supposed to be corrupt are upheld by other writers; a significant number of scholars likewise consider the passage interpolated, on the ground that all the passages upheld are likewise demolished by other writers.”
    Also, same source: “It seems clear that, whatever the current fashion of scholarship, that most people feel uncomfortable with the text as it stands, but that no conclusive evidence exists to allow a final closure of this endlessly debated question.”
    It’s still under dispute, then. Still not hard proof.

    “Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.”

    What utter nonsense. Tacitus named Chrestus. Suetonius was given to hyperbole, and recounted the story of the Phoenix, Pliny the younger wrote a letter to Trajan asking what he should do about the Xtians. 2nd hand hearsay. That Xtians existed is given.

    “Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    FULL correlation? Why is there still dispute then? Bottom line my rear-end.

    “A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.”

    Rather have the whole series of articles, thanks. Brief listings?

    “The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics-until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.”

    Everyone knows Augustus had censuses. Still only soft evidence.

    “That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.”

    Not under dispute.

    “As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).”

    Again, no sources. Was aware of the synagogue being found.

    “Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive.”

    Which isn’t under dispute that I know of.

    “An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.”
    “That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.”

    No one ever disputed that crucifixions took place. Heel bones appeared? What about the whole body? Were the legs amputated, as with Jehonanon?

    “In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.”

    I don’t recall any place being under dispute besides Capernaum. It may confirm named places, but any fiction novel can do that.

    “The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.”

    Again, no dispute as to Paul’s existence.

    “As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.”

    Who refused? Names, times, places where archeology was dismissed outright would be nice. Otherwise, pure rhetoric.

    “At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.”
    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

    So lessee, cover an argument from silence with shouting, ad hominem/poisoning the well, special pleading, equivocation, so many fallacies, so little time!
    Extremely unimpressed. Sorry.
    My insistence on hard evidence is most assuredly not an easy out. “All things to all men”, here’s a deity that supposedly created everything, but leaves clues behind that are pretty much involved connect-the-dots, & MAYBE the picture will emerge? We’re talking about people’s souls here, salvation of humanity, etc., 1 would think that we’d have more solid evidence than guesswork. I know, I carp about this, but I am like Didymus, in this respect at least: I need to see the wounds, & touch them.
    I know, it’s faith. I feel that’s too easy an out, myself. I would love to abrogate my responsibilities as a moral creature, hand it off to some abstract being (hey, I’m as lazy as the next man), let it all sort itself out, but the years have taught me, that more often than not, IMHO, it’s an abdication of said responsibility that causes much of the world’s problems.

  127. ent lord
    October 24th, 2005 @ 4:44 pm

    If memory serves, a ring of antiquity counterfeiters were arrested last year. There were a number of “historical” biblical relics associated with this group, the most famous being the St John ossiary. As I remember, a quote from the authorities was that this ring had produced most of the biblical finds of a generation.
    In light of these forgeries, it must be asked how many of these relics are real?
    Also, it seems the problem with the Bible is that too often the only supporting information is the Bible. For example, people point to St Luke as a historical person when the Gospel of Luke was not even named for a couple of hundred years after its earliest version. All of the Gospels were named after the fact based upon oral tradition. No one knows who the true authors were, except that it is certain, from textual analysis, that some of the authors certainly cribbed from other Gospels.
    The comparison of Egyptian history to biblical history does not recognize that much of what we accept as Egyptian history is verified by mentions in the histories of other nations, for example, the Hittites. The biblical events are not substantiated from secondary sources. If Solomon were truly the monarch of a vast kingdom, it is funny that he has fallen between the cracks of history.
    Corroboration is what makes history history. Troy was considered to be mythic before Schliemann and even today there is a dispute over which “Troy” is the Homeric Troy. If archeological sites are open to interpretation, how is biblical archeology so certain of itself, given the general lack of contemporaneous secular materials for corroboration?

  128. Reluctant Atheist
    October 24th, 2005 @ 9:20 pm

    MC:
    In re: your post on October 22, 2005 1:46 AM

    I’ve been trying to post this over the last few days, but am not having much luck. Apparently we’re not allowed to cuss anymore. All cuss words have been changed. Still doesn’t go thru?

    MC: Thanks for the correction on Pentateuch.

    “True. & such an event (the Magi traveling unto Roman soil) should’ve been recorded somewhere, shouldn’t it?”
    “Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistence on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.”

    No, I would expect records from BOTH sides. Or either side. I want solid facts, not conjecture. Sorry.

    This article? I don’t know if I should be disgusted, or amused. Or both.

    “Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past.”

    Tell that to Homer. Oh, right, he was a poet, not an historian. Utter nonsense. Buddha was a real person, as well as mythological.

    ” Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.”

    Rather, it’s soft evidence.

    “All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.”
    No disputes, though I don’t recall Claudius being mentioned.

    “Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.”

    I recognize Pilate, who are these other guys?

    ” Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.

    “High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.”

    No one disputes any of these people. Covering an argument from silence w/shouting isn’t good logic. This guy takes classes from Bill O’Reilly?

    “In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.”

    Proves nothing. Stephen King’s works talk about the state of Maine, cultural referents abound. Still fiction.

    “In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.”
    Josephus on Jesus
    “Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:”
    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).”

    None. Possible interpolation. No dates, sources?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
    “Over the last century, the consensus seems to have changed, and the subjective nature of many of the arguments used in the 19th century has been recognised. Judging from the 2003 survey of the historiography, it seems that the majority of modern scholars consider that Josephus really did write something here about Jesus, but that the text that has reached us is corrupt to a perhaps quite substantial extent. There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. However a significant number of scholars consider it genuine, on the grounds that all of the passages supposed to be corrupt are upheld by other writers; a significant number of scholars likewise consider the passage interpolated, on the ground that all the passages upheld are likewise demolished by other writers.”
    Also, same source: “It seems clear that, whatever the current fashion of scholarship, that most people feel uncomfortable with the text as it stands, but that no conclusive evidence exists to allow a final closure of this endlessly debated question.”
    It’s still under dispute, then. Still not hard proof.

    “Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.”

    What utter nonsense. Tacitus named Chrestus. Suetonius was given to hyperbole, and recounted the story of the Phoenix, Pliny the younger wrote a letter to Trajan asking what he should do about the Xtians. 2nd hand hearsay. That Xtians existed is given.

    “Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    FULL correlation? Why is there still dispute then? Bottom line? I doubt it.

    “A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.”

    Rather have the whole series of articles, thanks. Brief listings?

    “The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics-until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.”

    Everyone knows Augustus had censuses. Still only soft evidence.

    “That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.”

    Not under dispute.

    “As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).”

    Again, no sources. Was aware of the synagogue being found.

    “Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive.”

    Which isn’t under dispute that I know of.

    “An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.”
    “That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.”

    No one ever disputed that crucifixions took place. Heel bones appeared? What about the whole body? Were the legs amputated, as with Jehonanon?

    “In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.”

    I don’t recall any place being under dispute besides Capernaum. It may confirm named places, but any fiction novel can do that.

    “The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.”

    Again, no dispute as to Paul’s existence.

    “As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.”

    Who refused? Names, times, places where archeology was dismissed outright would be nice. Otherwise, pure rhetoric.

    “At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.”
    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

    So lessee, cover an argument from silence with shouting, ad hominem/poisoning the well, special pleading, equivocation, so many fallacies, so little time!
    Extremely unimpressed. Sorry.
    My insistence on hard evidence is most assuredly not an easy out. “All things to all men”, here’s a deity that supposedly created everything, but leaves clues behind that are pretty much involved connect-the-dots, & MAYBE the picture will emerge? We’re talking about people’s souls here, salvation of humanity, etc., 1 would think that we’d have more solid evidence than guesswork. I know, I carp about this, but I am like Didymus, in this respect at least: I need to see the wounds, & touch them.
    I know, it’s faith. I feel that’s too easy an out, myself. I would love to abrogate my responsibilities as a moral creature, hand it off to some abstract being (hey, I’m as lazy as the next man), let it all sort itself out, but the years have taught me, that more often than not, IMHO, it’s an abdication of said responsibility that causes much of the world’s problems.

  129. Reluctant Atheist
    October 24th, 2005 @ 9:43 pm

    MC:
    “Ummm… Do you really think a website called “marxists.org”, which exists to present Marxism in the best possible light, is the most accurate resource to use?”

    Well…..then perhaps you can stop using websites that “exists to present Xtianity in the best possible light”?

    Fair is fair, after all.
    Been trying to post a response to your 10/22 post, but it keeps getting rejected somehow.

  130. reluctant atheist
    October 24th, 2005 @ 9:48 pm

    MC: Thanks for the correction on Pentateuch.

    “Agreed. It should and probably was. But I don’t think you realize how little of ancient records survived, particularly of a somewhat minor king like Herod in what was considered a backwater place like Judea. Your constant insistence on historical records is an easy out, but is also very unrealistic.”

    No, I would expect records from BOTH sides. Or either side. I want solid facts, not conjecture. Sorry.

    In re: your post on 10/22

    This article? I don’t know if I should be disgusted, or amused. Or both.

    “Mythical personalities are not involved in authentic episodes from the past.”

    Tell that to Homer. Oh, right, he was a poet, not an historian. Utter nonsense. Buddha was a real person, as well as mythological.

    ” Nor do they leave hard evidence behind. In the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, however, there are many points of contact between His record in the Gospels and the surrounding history of His times. Just as the New Testament is studded with authentic geographical locations, it is also full of genuine personalities who are well known from secular sources outside of the Bible record, including some that are even hostile to Christianity.”

    Rather, it’s soft evidence.

    “All of the following are Bible characters about whom we know as much, or more, from secular ancient historical records than from the New Testament.
    Roman emperors: Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius.”
    No disputes, though I don’t recall Claudius being mentioned.

    “Roman governors: Pontius Pilate, Serguis Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus.”

    I recognize Pilate, who are these other guys?

    ” Local rulers: Herod the Great, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Philip, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, Lysanias, Aretas IV.

    “High priests: Annas, Joseph Caiaphas, Ananias.
    Prominent women: Herodias, Salome, Bernice, Drusilla.
    Prominent men: John the Baptist, James the Just.”

    No one disputes any of these people. Covering an argument from silence w/shouting isn’t good logic. This guy takes classes from Bill O’Reilly?

    “In some cases, the additional, non-Biblical information on these personalities is immense. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), for example, supplies about a thousand times as much data on Herod the Great as does Matthew’s Gospel.”

    Proves nothing. Stephen King’s works talk about the state of Maine, cultural referents abound. Still fiction.

    “In other cases, the secular facts are crucial. The New Testament does not tell us what became of Jesus’ half-brother, James the Just of Jerusalem, the first bishop of the Christian church (Acts 15). Josephus, however, gives us the details of his being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin in A.D. 62.”
    Josephus on Jesus
    “Twice Josephus refers to Jesus. His second reference concerns the episode involving James, whom he defines as “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Earlier, in the middle of his reports on Pontius Pilate’s administration, Josephus has a longer passage on Jesus. For centuries this had been dismissed as a Christian interpolation. But what is doubtless the original wording has now been restored. In view of its importance, the entire passage is presented here:”
    “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 20:200).”

    None. Possible interpolation. No dates, sources?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus
    “Over the last century, the consensus seems to have changed, and the subjective nature of many of the arguments used in the 19th century has been recognised. Judging from the 2003 survey of the historiography, it seems that the majority of modern scholars consider that Josephus really did write something here about Jesus, but that the text that has reached us is corrupt to a perhaps quite substantial extent. There has been no consensus on which portions are corrupt, or to what degree. However a significant number of scholars consider it genuine, on the grounds that all of the passages supposed to be corrupt are upheld by other writers; a significant number of scholars likewise consider the passage interpolated, on the ground that all the passages upheld are likewise demolished by other writers.”
    Also, same source: “It seems clear that, whatever the current fashion of scholarship, that most people feel uncomfortable with the text as it stands, but that no conclusive evidence exists to allow a final closure of this endlessly debated question.”
    It’s still under dispute, then. Still not hard proof.

    “Other non-Biblical, non-Christian ancient references to Jesus occur in the pagan Roman authors Cornelius Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger, as well as in the Jewish rabbinical traditions. One especially important notice in the last, the arrest notice for Jesus, will be dealt with in the next article.”

    What utter nonsense. Tacitus named Chrestus. Suetonius was given to hyperbole, and recounted the story of the Phoenix, Pliny the younger wrote a letter to Trajan asking what he should do about the Xtians. 2nd hand hearsay. That Xtians existed is given.

    “Bottom line: In view of the many points of tangency between the Biblical and non-Biblical documentary evidence and the full correlation of these two, history also supports the complete historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    FULL correlation? Why is there still dispute then? Bottom line? I doubt it.

    “A comparatively young discipline only about 125 years old, scientific archaeology has delivered a spectacular amount of “hard evidence” from the ancient world that correlates admirably with information inside the Old and New Testaments. A whole series of articles would be possible on this theme alone. However, a brief listing must suffice, which is limited to discoveries relating directly to the life of Jesus.”

    Rather have the whole series of articles, thanks. Brief listings?

    “The existence of Nazareth in Jesus’ day had been doubted by critics-until its name showed up in a first-century synagogue inscription at Caesarea. Augustus’ census edicts (in connection with the Nativity) are borne out by an inscription at Ankara, Turkey, his famous Res Gestae (“Things Accomplished”), in which the Roman emperor proudly claims to have taken a census three times. That husbands had to register their families for the Roman census was mandated in census papyri discovered in Egypt.”

    Everyone knows Augustus had censuses. Still only soft evidence.

    “That Herod the Great ruled at the time Jesus was born is demonstrated by the numerous excavations of his massive public works in the Holy Lane, including the great Temple in Jerusalem. That his son Herod Antipas ruled Galilee is shown in similar digs at Sepphoris and Tiberias. Coins from these and the other Herodian rulers are a commonplace in coin collections.”

    Not under dispute.

    “As for Jesus’ public ministry, the remains of the foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where He taught still exist below the present ruins of the fourth-century synagogue there. The remains of Peter’s house at Capernaum, later converted into an octagonal Christian sanctuary, have been uncovered. The hull of a first-century boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ time was discovered in 1986, giving us new information on how Jesus could sleep through a storm during the famous episode of the Stilling of the Tempest (Mark 4:35ff.).”

    Again, no sources. Was aware of the synagogue being found.

    “Relating to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, an ancient flight of stairs down to the Brook Kidron has been excavated, doubtless used by Jesus and His disciples on the way to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives, where ancient olive trees still thrive.”

    Which isn’t under dispute that I know of.

    “An inscription naming His judge on Good Friday, Pontius Pilate, was discovered at Caesarea in 1961. The very bones of the chief prosecutor at that trial, the high priest Joseph Caiaphas, came to light inside an ossuary (a stone chest used to store bones from burial sites) uncovered in 1990, the first bones of a Biblical personality ever discovered.”
    “That they nailed victims to crosses, as in Jesus’ case, was proven when another ossuary was open north of Jerusalem in 1968, and a victim’s heel bones appeared, transfixed with a seven-inch iron spike. Burial in tombs closed up with rolling stone disks is more than apparent today in many such sepulchers in Judea and even Galilee.”

    No one ever disputed that crucifixions took place. Heel bones appeared? What about the whole body? Were the legs amputated, as with Jehonanon?

    “In addition, many of the sites in Jesus’ ministry, such as Bethsaida, Chorazin, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Shechem, Bethany and, of course, Jerusalem are in process of excavation, promising even more archaeological discoveries relating to the life of Jesus. If the past is any precedent, almost all of these will confirm the New Testament accounts.”

    I don’t recall any place being under dispute besides Capernaum. It may confirm named places, but any fiction novel can do that.

    “The archaeological supports in the case of Jesus’ greatest follower, Paul of Tarsus, are especially impressive. Ruins in Cyprus, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome and elsewhere all bear out the many references about Paul in the New Testament.”

    Again, no dispute as to Paul’s existence.

    “As hard evidence from the past, “the very stones cry out” the reliability of the Biblical record. It is amusing to note that many of the last century’s most trenchant critics of Jesus and the New Testament refused at first even to consider the result of archaeology, so counter to their opinions was its evidence! Today, I can’t imagine anyone, friend or foe of the faith, would be stupid enough to hold so foolish an attitude.”

    Who refused? Names, times, places where archeology was dismissed outright would be nice. Otherwise, pure rhetoric.

    “At the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity, then, we should be ready to tell everyone that the sum total of the literary, historical and archaeological evidence from the ancient world dramatically supports the New Testament record on Jesus. Those who claim it does not are sadly misinformed, tragically closed-minded, or dishonest.”
    Dr. Paul L. Maier is professor of Ancient History and chaplain at Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo, MI.

    So lessee, cover an argument from silence with shouting, ad hominem/poisoning the well, special pleading, equivocation, so many fallacies, so little time!
    Extremely unimpressed. Sorry.
    My insistence on hard evidence is most assuredly not an easy out. “All things to all men”, here’s a deity that supposedly created everything, but leaves clues behind that are pretty much involved connect-the-dots, & MAYBE the picture will emerge? We’re talking about people’s souls here, salvation of humanity, etc., 1 would think that we’d have more solid evidence than guesswork. I know, I carp about this, but I am like Didymus, in this respect at least: I need to see the wounds, & touch them.
    I know, it’s faith. I feel that’s too easy an out, myself. I would love to abrogate my responsibilities as a moral creature, hand it off to some abstract being (hey, I’m as lazy as the next man), let it all sort itself out, but the years have taught me, that more often than not, IMHO, it’s an abdication of said responsibility that causes much of the world’s problems.

  131. Mort Coyle
    October 26th, 2005 @ 12:26 am

    Apples and oranges, in regards to the question at hand (whether atheism is inherent in Marxism. A site promoting Marxism may well find it convenient to de-emphasize the atheistic aspects, whereas a site promoting Christianity is going to emphasize the theistic aspects.

    I’ve had a lot of trouble with posts also…

  132. Reluctant Atheist
    October 26th, 2005 @ 11:49 pm

    MC:
    Not a communist myself, but the point is, as you’ve pointed out before, it’s always easier to find a site that agrees w/you. Hmmm….
    Tiny posts like this get thru. Maybe we’re both too verbose? LOL.
    I was starting to feel a little persecuted (yeah, we atheists get those vibes sometimes too: ours are more likely, LOL), but since you’re having problems as well…..

  133. Thorngod
    October 27th, 2005 @ 5:41 pm

    It was a long and stormy site—but what has the historic accuracy of Biblical writings to do with atheism versus spiritualism? If a gentle fellow wearing a white linen robe appears before you and proclaims that one plus one always comes to two, you will not be inclined to argue. But if he insists that the total is five, then, even if his cranium is wreathed in a strange electric radiance, you are justified in challenging him to prove his contention. The fallacy of spiritualism did not arise from the misinterpretations of reality by our ancestors of 2,000 to 10,000 years ago, but from those made by the earliest Cro-Magnons in their efforts to make sense of the world and to ally its powers, real and imagined, to their own. . . .
    Jesus did not invent a religion. He kept the one he was born to, and only tried to humanize it a little. All religions are mere versions of an original, the one carried out of Africa over a million years ago. Those who will not see the truth of this are condemned forever to worship the great Nada.

  134. Mort Coyle
    October 27th, 2005 @ 9:16 pm

    Interesting, Thorngod. Please tell me more about this original, one million year old African religion. What were it’s defining characteristics?

  135. Thorngod
    October 28th, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

    IN ANSWER TO M. COYLE: We are all out of Africa (by best anthropological, lexicographic and genetic evidence). The earliest attempts of our species to bargain with the forces of nature could not properly be termed “religion,” but it was out of such efforts, and from the mysterious stuff of dreams, that religion arose. Try to imagine yourself as a fellow named Ak or Ug, forty thousand generations back. Could you know that the things of your dreams were nonsubstantive? (For that matter, consider the nonsensical ideas most people still today attribute to their dreams!) For the primordial human, seeing was indeed believing, and the fellow hunter who had been killed two days before, and now reappears in more robust form, perhaps exhibiting enhanced powers, would surely produce a profound impression on the mind of the dreamer. It does not require exceptional mental exertion to see how religion would evolve from early man’s efforts to interpret and deal with the world, nor to understand that our present-day religions, like present-day languages and cultures, are the latest branchings of a tree that has its roots in that brute beginning.

  136. Mort Coyle
    October 29th, 2005 @ 2:42 pm

    Hmmm… I was hoping for something a bit more substantial than just a restatement of the postulate (which I’m familiar with through the writings of Nietzsche, et al.).

    How do we know that early man had such difficulty differentiating dreams from reality? How do you make that rather large leap from Ug dreaming about his “fellow hunter” who died, to Mort (and billions like him) having a waking experience with a supernatural being (aka God)?

    If you recall, the topic of this particular discussion was “Is the Bible Historical?” What happens if we apply the same standards that we’ve been using throughout this discussion to the “African proto-religion” postulate?

    One would assume, and those who originally put forth your stated postulate did assume, that as man moves farther from his “brute beginnings” the need for religion wanes. In today’s world of relative comfort and security (for us in the First World anyway), the need to use religion as a tool to “interpret and deal with the world” should become less and less.

    Yet the opposite is true. Contrary to the assumptions of Nietzsche, Freud, Marx and the rest, Modernistic atheism is on the decline.

    A brief but interesting article in this regard:
    http://www.insightmag.com/media/paper441/news/2005/02/28/Features/Atheism.Worldwide.In.Decline-881763.shtml

  137. Reluctant Atheist
    October 29th, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

    Mort:
    The article you cite is terribly erroneous on some points.
    1stly, it’s difficult to pin down exactly how many atheists are in the world today. Statistics vary, in accordance w/the multiple variations. There are weak atheists, strong atheists, apatheists, ignostics, agnostics, etc. Almost as many varieties as some religions I could name.
    2ndly, it uses the fallacy of the unrepresentative sample. Flew is pretty much an anomaly.
    & this quote: “many frauds, psychopaths, and careerists as religion does”
    Oh, really? When was the last time an atheist performed an atrocity that theists get blamed for? I mean recently? How many times has an atheist been front page news? Last decade or so?
    3rdly, the numbers go up every year (albeit, as I said before, it’s a difficult number to gauge). It’s marginal, sure, but I’d like a decent sampling from a (recent) secular source, where more atheists are returning to the ‘fold’ as it were.
    Really, no sources cited, it just seems like it’s something religious people want to hear.
    Go read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism.

  138. Mort Coyle
    October 29th, 2005 @ 10:30 pm

    RA: “…it’s difficult to pin down exactly how many atheists are in the world today.”

    I would agree with this. The article is dealing primarily with Modernistic Atheism or, as they put it, “”Atheism as a theoretical position”. In other words, Atheism as a tenable philosophy, particulary in academic circles. This is why Flew is mentioned, not as an anomaly, but as a bellwether.

    This is a UPI news article, BTW. News stories generally don’t list sources.

    RA: “When was the last time an atheist performed an atrocity that theists get blamed for? I mean recently? How many times has an atheist been front page news?”

    Interesting questions. I can’t think of many high-profile atheists nowadays. There isn’t an Atheist Channel on cable TV or an Atheist Coalition lobby in government (that I know of). Organized atheism does not have the visibility of organized Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc., probably in large part due to its extreme minority status. Attempts by atheists to organize (apart from a political philosophy such as Marxism) have been dismal failures, perhaps, as you mentioned, because of the divergence among atheists. The obnoxious antics of people such as Madalyn Murray O’Hair and Michael Newdow haven’t helped the cause of organized atheism either (in the same way that the likes of Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart haven’t been helpful to Christianity).

    I will render a personal opinion, which I cannot back up with any hard data. I believe that some of the more embarrassing televangelists (such as Robert Tilton) are probably atheists. Only a con man who had no fear of God would engage in some of the shenanigans I’ve seen from their ilk.

    I’m particularly interested in your first question, “When was the last time an atheist performed an atrocity that theists get blamed for?” Off hand I can’t think of any, in recent times. Going back a little farther, I’ve heard some claim Hitler was an atheist, but that seems to be highly disputable. At least, he did not claim to be an atheist. Of course, there are the usual suspects of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., but they were clearly atheists, so don’t apply to your question. To flip this around though, what are recent examples of theists (not in name only, but actual believers) performing atrocities that atheists got blamed for?

    Of course, the problem with these labels of “theist” and “atheist” is that it’s difficult to know what, or whether, a person really believes or disbelieves in their heart, unless they themselves make a proclamation. And even then, as Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” In other words, actions speak louder.

    Now, I’m going to make a strange acquiescence: I think that, throughout history, there have been many who claim to believe in God; but their god is really an extension of their own desires. The Bible calls this a false god; an idol; an anti-Christ. This is the god of self who encourages atrocities and injustices. This is the worst form of theism and of atheism: The replacement of belief in the true God with a belief in a self-made, self-centered, false god.

  139. Reluctant Atheist
    October 30th, 2005 @ 4:11 pm

    MC:
    “This is a UPI news article, BTW. News stories generally don’t list sources.”
    Understood. However, %’s & figures aren’t given. It seems to give an unsupported pre-supposition w/o supporting facts.

    “The obnoxious antics of people such as Madalyn Murray O’Hair and Michael Newdow ”
    Well, I confess I know very little about O’Hair (will read up on her), but Newdow, IMHO, was well w/in his rights to protest the Pledge issue. Be that as it may, the differential between O’hair & Stalin is huge, really shouldn’t be coupling the two together.

    “heard some claim Hitler was an atheist”
    Now here’s someone NO ONE wants to lay claim to, & w/good reason. He was certainly no atheist, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a syphillic dictator w/a messianic complex? It’s a complex issue, w/multiple contestations on every side, far too lengthy to go into. He was (& still is), from my limited knowledge, still in good standing w/the C church.

    “what are recent examples of theists (not in name only, but actual believers) performing atrocities that atheists got blamed for?”
    Good reversal. Hmmmm. I’d say the BTK killer, but that wouldn’t be fair, as I can’t recall any atheist SK’s (recently, or if there have ever been any, for that matter). Not painting w/a broad brush here: old age has performed her dusty dance on my brain cells.

    “Now, I’m going to make a strange acquiescence: I think that, throughout history, there have been many who claim to believe in God; but their god is really an extension of their own desires.”
    Your honesty & class are duly noted here sir.

    “The replacement of belief in the true God with a belief in a self-made, self-centered, false god.”
    & here is that mysterious divide no 1 can communicate to the other. I, for instance, have no such delusion. I am just a man. Flawed & imperfect. Don’t believe in god(s) (which really kinda takes the flavor out of reading fantasy & horror these days, gotta admit). I just believe in humanity. I realize what you’re saying, but I find it irrelevant (at least IMHO). I feel I have a great deal of empathy for my species. I love people, & I want my species to survive, to ascend. Yes, I have moral standards. No, no 1 is better or lesser than me: there are just degrees of self-perception.

    Your view is that belief is integral to life: I say it is not. I believe in the here & now. & of course, the future. I have no need, anymore, to put faces to the strange sounds outside the campfire: science has done that for me, & there are rational explanations for everything.

    To believe that humanity is cursed from birth, by events long ago, & that fear is the lynchpin of existence, to me, is falsehood. That is perhaps me, & I am but a finite creature, & could well be wrong. But I will need more than an abstract concept, & a book written long ago: I must needs, like Didymus, to see the wounds & touch them, to assuage mine unbelief.
    My pardon, for droning on.

  140. Mort Coyle
    October 30th, 2005 @ 7:23 pm

    May I begin by saying how much I’ve been enjoying our dialog?

    RA: “Be that as it may, the differential between O’hair & Stalin is huge, really shouldn’t be coupling the two together.”

    Agreed. My intention wasn’t to equate O’Hair with Stalin, but to point out that O’Hair is (was) one of the few people I know of who are famous primarily because of their atheism.

    RA: “He was (& still is), from my limited knowledge, still in good standing w/the C church.”

    I think just about every practicing Catholic in the world would take umbrage at that statement. There are lingering questions about the Catholic church’s role vis-a-vis Hitler, particularly in terms of whether or not the Pope and Cardinals could have done more to oppose him. It is most definitely the position of the Catholic church today, however, that Hitler is NOT in good standing.

    RA: “I just believe in humanity… I love people, & I want my species to survive, to ascend. Yes, I have moral standards. No, no 1 is better or lesser than me: there are just degrees of self-perception… Your view is that belief is integral to life: I say it is not. I believe in the here & now. & of course, the future.”

    “I have no need, anymore, to put faces to the strange sounds outside the campfire: science has done that for me, & there are rational explanations for everything.”

    It sounds to me like belief is an integral part of your life as well.
    You believe in humanity, in science, in rationalism, etc. I think we are all creatures of faith, the differences have to do with what we put our faith in.

    “I have no need, anymore, to put faces to the strange sounds outside the campfire: science has done that for me, & there are rational explanations for everything.”

    Underlying this statement is a set of values and assumptions that dictate what is, for you, rational. For me, a belief in and relationship with God is quite rational. Proponents of Intelligent Design can offer extremely rational support for their viewpoint. Most Christians are quite educated and rational people, not superstitious bumpkins.

    “To believe that humanity is cursed from birth, by events long ago, & that fear is the lynchpin of existence, to me, is falsehood.”

    This provides me perhaps with some insight into what you think Christianity is about. If this is your perception, it is a misperception. The lynchpin of existence is not fear, but love.
    God is love. This is the bedrock truth upon which the Christian faith is built. A very well known verse of scripture puts it this way:

    “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us…

    God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whem he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
    (1 John 4)

    This is language of love, not fear, and it is the heart of the Christian message.

    “That is perhaps me, & I am but a finite creature, & could well be wrong. But I will need more than an abstract concept, & a book written long ago: I must needs, like Didymus, to see the wounds & touch them, to assuage mine unbelief.”

    I appreciate your honesty. Frankly, I’m much more comfortable with an honest atheist than with someone who claims to follow Jesus but whose actions indicate otherwise. Jesus didn’t seem to mind when Didymus first made that demand, so my prayer is that He will likewise respond to you.

  141. Reluctant Atheist
    October 30th, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

    MC:
    “May I begin by saying how much I’ve been enjoying our dialog?”
    I am as well. However, since we’re on the Raving Atheist blog, better start mixing it up & calling each other names, lest we invoke the wrath of the bloggers that be!

    “It sounds to me like belief is an integral part of your life as well.”
    Well, it sure beats the hell out of nihilism, that’s fer sure! Yes, I surely do believe in something other than ‘nothing’. I believe in my country, my species, the world around me, etc.
    I also believe in independence, of the mind & the spirit. Co-dependence to an abstract concept seems anathema to me.

    “Most Christians are quite educated and rational people, not superstitious bumpkins.”
    A lot of scientists are indeed religious. Here’s a link: http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/naturalism.html. I feel obliged to point out here, that the philological origins of ‘cretin’ & ‘bigot’ are actually religious in origin (not that they apply in the modern mainstream any more). Not calling names here: interesting factoids is all. No, I’d not paint w/such a broad brush. It’s superstition to me: but the 1st amendment grants everyone that right, no matter what I think. Besides, I also believe in freedom. I feel the definition of evil is the manipulation of another’s free will, at any level. Physical, mental, etc.

    “The lynchpin of existence is not fear, but love.”
    Well, lessee, we’re born in original sin, we’re all automatically sinners, only redeemable via a select belief, eternally children (& yes, since, by your doctrine, we cannot evolve to the same level as our alleged creator, that’s sort of a macrocosmic version of the ‘Tin Drum’, or Harlan Ellison’s ‘Jeffty is Five’). & we have free will to reject the creator, but if we do so, it’s eternal damnation? Sounds like fear to me. Pavlovian conditioning, albeit not on a physical level.

    “It is most definitely the position of the Catholic church today, however, that Hitler is NOT in good standing.”
    Hmmm. A link’d be appreciated. Something, someone directly affiliated w/the CC. Here’s 1: http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/arguments.html. Afraid the jury will be perpetually out on this 1.

    “My intention wasn’t to equate O’Hair with Stalin, but to point out that O’Hair is (was) one of the few people I know of who are famous primarily because of their atheism.”
    Understood. 1 can see how the comparison(s) could be misapplied.
    Lance Armstrong, i.e., is an atheist. As is Jon Stewart.
    here’s a good link: http://www.wonderfulatheistsofcfl.org/Quotes.htm

  142. bill
    October 31st, 2005 @ 7:16 am

    Thorngod, why do you bother?
    Mort is a dogmatic, pseudo-academic god-zombie. You will never get a rational argument from him. Loads of lengthy quotes and attempts to shore up his academic credentials by belittling people that are not as ‘well read’ as him (is he the pope?) but not an original thought or idea. But then, as I am sure you are well aware, original thinking is anathema to dogmatic belief, so at least he’s true to his beliefs.
    It is a shame to see such a waste of a life but what can you do?
    Heh, heh!

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