CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I used to be somewhat dismissive of slippery slope arguments

Not anymore.

"Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies"

Jesus Christ Acknowledged as Lord in the U.S. Constitution?

It's often said that the U.S. Constitution does not mention God or Christianity. Not true:

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord (emphasis added) one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,...

Hmmm? Just which Lord are they referring to? Not only referring to, but acknowledging. Jesus Christ, of course.

But are we reading too much into this rather common parlance?

Dr. John Mark Reynolds does not think so:

Of course, a secularist will say this was just a "polite phrase" of the time which meant nothing to the signers. I would dispute that for most of them but let that ride. The ability of the Framers to write about "our Lord" thoughtlessly is the most revealing fact of all, if true. It means they were so deeply immersed in Christian culture, that even when they rejected parts of Orthodox Christian teaching (as Jefferson and some of his disciples did), they could still sign documents this way.

A Brief Post on The Origins of the Roman Church

It appears that the Roman Church was founded about a decade or so after Jesus’ crucifixion. The evidence comes from Roman history and Paul’s letter to the Romans.

The Roman Historian Suetonius wrote that Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews in 49 CE because of persistent rioting “at the instigation of Chrestus.” Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25. 4. This expulsion is also referenced by Luke in Acts 18:2. The ban was not lifted until 54 CE, when Claudius died. See Paul Barnett, Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity, page 330. Many scholars believe the reference to riots instigated by Chrestus to be a reference to disturbances between Jews and Christians over the nature of Jesus. “The form and words he uses points to a well-known bearer of the name, and the common confusion between Christus and Chrestus makes it easy to suppose that Christ is meant.” F.F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, page 381. “Scholars have debated the precise identity of this person, but there seems little doubt that the events Suetonius records were brought about by arguments over the teaching of those Jews who had become followers of Jesus the Messiah (Latin Christus).” Dr. John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, page 16. Additionally, Paul's letter to the Romans was written by 57 CE and noted that he had for “many years planned to come to you.” Romans 1:13; 15:23. Thus, Paul clearly knew about the Roman Church's existence "many years" prior to 57 CE. This matches well with the evidence of Suetonius and would support the idea that the Roman Church was founded by the mid-40s.

But who would have founded a Christian community (or communities) in Rome so early in Christian history? Peter and Paul must be ruled out. Paul made it clear that he had never visited the Roman Christians prior to writing them. As for Peter, when Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, no earlier than 49 or 50 CE, he indicated that Peter's activities were focused in Jerusalem. Paul does note that Peter had ventured out to Antioch, but nothing was said about Peter engaging in missionary activities beyond Palestine. Moreover, Peter's trip to Antioch was clearly not as a founder of the church, but as a representative of Jerusalem checking on an already established church. When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans he made no mention of Peter at all. Again, this was in the late 50s, and it would be somewhat unusual for Paul to neglect mentioning Peter if Peter was either there or a principle person in the founding of that Church. Further, the Acts of the Apostles, although recording that Peter did venture out of Jerusalem, gives no indication that Peter ever ventured as far as Rome. And it gives no indication that Peter played a role in founding the Roman Church. Finally, the letter of 1 Clement, written to the Corinthian Church by a leader of the Roman Church, speaks highly of Peter and Paul, but makes no mention of Peter having founded the Roman Church.

So, whatever the roles played by Peter and Paul in the later development of the Roman Church – and not slighting their importance to early Christianity at all --, they were not its founders. Having ruled out the two most famous suspects, historian J.C. Walters gives this explanation as to the founding of the Roman Church:

"It is most probable that Christianity made its way to Rome spontaneously as the personal baggage of Jews, proselytes, and sympathizers, who brought faith in Jesus as Messiah with them from the East. They came to Rome for commercial reasons, as immigrants, or against their will as slaves. It is not surprising therefore that early Christians were concentrated within the same regions as non-Christian Jews, both residing primarily in areas where foreign peoples were concentrated. Jews--and Gentile sympathizers and proselytes--who believes Jesus was Messiah not only shared a religious outlook with non-Christian Jews, but also a common socialization. They were part of the Jewish ethos and of the foreign population of ancient Rome They assembled in synagogues with other Jews and may not have gathered outside Jewish contexts in the earliest period. However, the dissonance created by the activities and/or words of Christians provoked tension, particularly over issues related to the observance of the law and the inclusion of Gentiles. Eventually these tensions escalated into disturbances which gained the attention of the Romans, resulting tin the Caludien [expulsion] edict of 49 C.E."

Romans, Jews, and Christians: The Impact of the Romans on Jewish/Christian Relations in the First-Century Rome," in Judaism and Christianity in the First Century, page 176-77.

Dr. Walters explanation fits the evidence well. It also has the added benefit of explaining why -- by the time that Paul wrote to the Romans in 57 CE -- the Church had become so disproportionately Gentile in character. The Jewish Christians would have been forced to leave under the expulsions edict while any Gentile converts to Christians could have stayed and risen in numbers and prominence in the Roman Church.

A General Acknowledgment Of God and Modern, Liberal Sensibility.
Who is the “we” of “In God we trust”?

In God We Trust by John Patrick Michael Murphy contains in its opening paragraph an interesting mischaracterization of the state of the law when it comes to issues regarding the acknowledgement of religion in the public sphere. In this brief piece, Mr. Murphy creates the hypothetical classroom discussion between a teacher and his students regarding the appropriateness of chiseling the words “in God we trust” into the steps of a local government building. The teacher asks the class “Is such a slogan inclusive, pluralistic, non-elitist, and consistent with the American doctrine of separation of church and state? Are there citizens who have no god to trust, or citizens who have a god, but don't trust him? If so, then who is included in the pronoun 'We'?"

Looking at the issue legally, Mr. Murphy, like others who holds a similar view, place the cart before the horse when they asked a question like these. Questions like these arise primarily because we, as a people, as eloquently stated by Justice Antonin Scalia, “ignore[] the Constitution in favor of a modern, liberal sensibility.” Scalia Ridicules Court's Gay Sex Ruling, Associated Press, October 24, 2003.

You see, to ask whether the slogan is “inclusive, pluralistic, [and] non-elitist” assumes something. It assumes that in order for a thing to be constitutional it has to be “inclusive, pluralistic, [and] non-elitist.” But, in fact, that is not the test. Let’s look at each term individually.

Let’s start with the implied requirement that actions by government must be “inclusive” to be constitutional. It may be surprising to learn that the word “inclusive” is not a legal term, and therefore it cannot be found in law dictionaries. So, I will understand Mr. Murphy to be using the term “inclusive” as it is used in its general, ordinary sense, i.e., “broad in orientation or scope.” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.) Now, while there are many desirable reasons to have the actions of governments be inclusive, there is no requirement of broad inclusivity in the Constitution. In fact, the Federal constitution itself contains many provisions that are not “inclusive” For example, in order to be elected as Senator or a Representative or even the President of the United States, you must meet a minimum age requirement as set forth specifically in the first two sections of the Federal Constitution. Failure to meet these age requirement will disqualify you from serving in that office. (It is somewhat ironic that there is no such age qualification if you seek to be appointed a member of the Supreme Court.) Is that inclusive? No, at least not in the traditional understanding of the word “inclusive.” It excludes all people who do not meet the age requirement. Thus, a perfectly competent twenty year old cannot serve in any of those capacities regardless of how much the people of his state may desire he do so. Yet this exclusive provision is not unconstitutional. Instead, the inclusion of this restriction shows that being “inclusive” is not a constitutional requirement.

What about pluralism? Isn’t that a constitutional requirement? Well, now Mr. Murphy is getting closer to a potential objection that makes sense in light of the Constitution. Again, as with the term “inclusive,” we should start by looking to the definition of “pluralism” and also like the term “inclusive,” “pluralism” is not a legal term which can be found in a legal dictionary. Instead, pluralism is a term in political science and is preferable that we use the general political science definition in order to understand its meaning. The Thomson Nelson Glossary of Political Science defines pluralism simply as “The open competition of political interests.” The Encyclopedia Britannica says pluralism is “the view that in liberal democracies power is (or should be) dispersed among a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups and is not (or should not be) held by a single elite or group of elites.”

So where does Mr. Murphy come up with the idea that the Constitution protects pluralism? A couple of places come to mind. Certainly the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment contains the “Equal Protection Clause” which requires states to not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Does the equal protection clause require that all laws adopt pluralism as a constitutional requirement? No, the Equal Protection Clause has long been defined to mean that laws, when enacted, have to treat people equally unless there is some reason to do otherwise. In some cases, the reasons have to be compelling because the group that is being hurt or not given equal treatment under the law is a suspect or quasi suspect classification. Race, for example, is a suspect classification. There is very little (some would argue no) reason to differentiate people merely on the basis of the color of their skin. Gender, as another example, is a quasi-suspect classification. There are sometimes reasons to differentiate between men and women in some cases (this allows for different restroom facilities for men and women), but the government’s ability to differentiate between them is somewhat limited. However, there are many more groupings or classifications of people that are not in the least bit effected by the Equal Protection Clause. Thus, it is not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to differentiate between people making $10,000 per year and people making $100,000 per year when it comes to taxes.

But the Fourteenth Amendment is not a clause about pluralism. What the reader should note is that the Equal Protection Clause limits the ability of the government to enact laws that favor or damage various limited classes. Pluralism, on the other hand, is the structure of the government that calls for various “economic and ideological pressure groups” to compete for power so as to enact various laws. Except for the limited points in time where the competing interests enact laws which are unduly benefit of hurt suspect or quasi-suspect classifications, the Equal Protection Clause is not interested in pluralism. There is no requirement under the Equal Protection Clause for general pluralism.

Before going further, let me clarify what I am saying: not many people in the United States today (and certainly not me) would argue that the Equal Protection Clause is a bad thing. We all want to make certain that all people are adequately protected under the United States Constitution. Without the Equal Protection Clause, it is possible that people could without a compelling reason be treated differently based upon their race or ethnicity. In no way am I agreeing that such disparate treatment would be good or preferable. But the question isn’t whether the Equal Protection Clause provides that level of protection. Rather, the question is whether the equal protection clause requires as the constitutional standard that all actions taken by government must be “pluralistic” in order to be constitutional. I see nothing in the Equal Protection Clause that mandates that “pluralism” be protected.

A second place in the Constitution where pluralism may be protected can also be found in the Fourteenth Amendment, the Due Process Clause. That clause says that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The liberty interest of this clause has been widely interpreted to protect not only “incarceration” (which would appear to be the original understanding), but also such broad rights as the right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. While I suppose that it could be interpreted to include the right to be pluralistic, I know of no court case that has so interpreted the Due Process Clause in that fashion.

Certainly, there are also the First Amendment’s Freedom of Association, and the right of every person to vote, both of which would seem to bear on the issue of pluralism, but I don’t see either of these provisions of the Constitution as permitting the court to strike down laws that are properly enacted by a properly elected Congress on the basis that they aren’t pluralistic. It would seem that while pluralism is presumed to be part of the structure of our society, and that the United States Constitution does, in fact, protect people from being disenfranchised in the voting process, there is no clause that I can find in the Constitution that would suggest that a law would be unconstitutional merely because it doesn’t meet Mr. Murphy’s fictitious teacher’s idea of what constitutes “pluralistic”.

“Non-elitist”? The idea that the Constitution protects the public from “elitist” legislation appears almost indefensible. Outside of the Equal Protection Clause, which protects suspect and quasi-suspect classes from being singled out for detriment, there is no reason to understand the Constitution as requiring “non-elitist” laws.

When Mr. Murphy’s fictitious teacher asks the question whether the proposed law would be “consistent with the doctrine of separation of church and state,” at least he is beginning to ask the right question. The real question is whether the chiseling of the phrase “In God we trust” on the steps violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That clause reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Notice, that the clause does not say that there must be a separation of church and state. That phrase was read into the Constitution by the United States Supreme Court in Everson v. Board of Education based upon a misreading of a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. Thus, it is erroneous to view the Establishment Clause as being equivalent to saying that there must be a separation of church and state.

So would such a “chiseling” of the phrase “In God we trust” on the school building steps violate the Establishment Clause. That is not an easy question to answer. Books and books have been written about this subject, and the court has thrown the whole field into such a tizzy with their inconsistent opinions that there is difficult to predict whether the court would allow such “chiseling” of the phrase into the steps. In fact, the court is so confused on this issue that they could disallow such “chiseling” simply because it is new, while accepting the same phrase on money because it is part of our tradition to have the phrase written on our coins and dollar bills. While reviewing all of the applicable precedents and trying to determine what the court would decide in this specific instance is beyond the scope of this essay, I would expect the court to find this to be a violation even under the confusion of Supreme Court precedent because of the heightened scrutiny the court gives when mixing governmental acknowledgment our national heritage that believes in a god (even if it cannot be specified the nature or identity of that god) with our obligation to provide non-sectarian education in public schools. This is a different outcome from how I believe it ought to be decided, but that is another story for another essay.

While I think that Mr. Murphy’s teacher has struck on the correct question by inquiring into the meaning of the Establishment Clause (even though he incorrectly defines it as requiring a separation of church and state), the more important thing to note about Mr. Murphy’s essay is that it does make assumptions about what should be legal. I think it clear that Mr. Murphy’s fictitious teacher’s view that laws must be “inclusive, pluralistic, [and] non-elitist” reflects a view of what the teacher would like for this country, but does not reflect the reality of the protections of the Constitution. What Mr. Murphy’s teacher suggests is a liberal view of the separation of church and state, and the teacher does so suggesting that laws that are not inclusive, pluralistic and non-elitist are not appropriate laws. The teacher has read requirements into the Constitution that are simply not there. The teacher may like them to be there (and the teacher may, in fact, be correct that such requirements ought to be part of the Constitution), but that desire does not make it so.

The paragraph ends by asking “Are there citizens who have no god to trust, or citizens who have a god, but don't trust him? If so, then who is included in the pronoun 'We'?" The answer to the first question is certainly yes, but does that mean that it is illegal or unconstitutional for the public, the vast majority of which believe in God and trust in Him, to vote to acknowledge it by public declarations? If that were the case, I find it hard to think of any pronouncements that the public could make because there is very little that the government promotes as a good that there are not at least some people who would disapprove. Since we, as a people, have agreed that non-discrimination is good, should we rule unconstitutional public pronouncements that favor non-discrimination on the basis that some people (such as the KKK) disapprove? Permitting a minority of the population who disagrees with public professions of faith in a god to prevent such public professions on the basis that they disagree would be a disastrous precedent.

Who is the “we”? The public at large. And “we” can Constitutionally make such pronouncements even if some people disagree. It is the way it used to be, and it is the way it should stay.

Happy Thanksgiving to You

Blogging, for my part, will be light to nonexistent until next week. In the meantime, let's do as Paul says.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving."

Colossians 4:2. (Yes, Paul wrote Colossians. I hope to post on this at a later time).

Toledoth Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew and the Use of Parody
Parsing out the truth.

Alan Humm, a graduate student in Religious Studies at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, has a webpage on Ancient Jewish Accounts of Jesus which includes The Toledoth Yeshu, a derogatory version of the life of Jesus, growing out of the response of the Jewish community to Christianity. The Toledoth, according to F.F. Bruce, was an anti-Christian compilation popular in some Jewish circles in mediaeval time with an affinity to the Acts of Pilate, a writing published by Maximin II attempting to bring Christianity into disrepute by "representing the origins of Christianity in an unsavoury guise." Of course, few believe that the Toledoth account of the life of Jesus is accurate given that it even places the dates at the wrong time (Jesus is said to be born around 90 B.C.), but what is interesting is the concessions that are made in the process of parodying the Gospels. As stated by Dr. Paul Maier, the concessions found in works hostile to the Gospels are "positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favor, then that fact is genuine."

Looking at the account of Jesus in the Toledoth, it is interesting to note what is admitted. Among the events in Jesus life which the authors seem to acknowledge as true are the following:

  • Jesus was from Bethlehem.

  • Jesus' mother was betrothed to a man who was of the royal house of David.

  • Jesus proclaimed, "I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.'" He quoted other messianic texts, insisting, "David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: 'The Lord said to me, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.'"

  • Jesus healed at least one leper.

  • Jesus was worshipped as the Messiah, Son of the Highest, and Jesus himself claimed to be the Son of God.

  • Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah.

  • Jesus raised the dead.

  • Jesus taught in Galilee.

  • When the guards tried to take him, he instructed his disciples to not fight them.

  • Jesus wore a crown of thorns.

  • Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time on the Eve of Passover where he was betrayed by a disciple known as Judah Iskarioto who pointed him out by a bow (as opposed to a kiss).

  • Jesus was put to death on the sixth hour on the eve of the Passover and of the Sabbath.

  • On the first day of the week his bold followers came to Queen Helene (the Jewish ruler--part of the dating problem of the Toledoth) with the report that he who was slain was truly the Messiah and that he was not in his grave; he had ascended to heaven as he prophesied.

  • The disciples went out among the nations--three went to the mountains of Ararat, three to Armenia, three to Rome and three to the kingdoms buy the sea (note, there are 12 of them). They "deluded the people", i.e., they taught the Gospel, but ultimately they were slain.

What may be of more interest is that the Toledoth shows the willingness of the Jewish teachers of the mediaeval ages to write parodies of the life of Christ. If the mediaeval scholars were willing to write such parodies, it is certainly reasonable to conclude that the Jewish teachers or leaders who lived at about the same time as Jesus would be willing to do the same, wouldn't it?

According to an article released in June 2003 by the Kansas City Star entitled "Support for authenticity of book of Matthew comes from an unlikely place" by Neil Altman, that is exactly what some scholars are saying that the Jewish teachers and leaders did. According to the article:

In an essay written for the book Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times, Israel J. Yuval of Jerusalem's Hebrew University reported a find in the Talmud that appears to show Matthew could have been written earlier than some scholars contend.

Yuval wrote that a leading rabbinical scholar of the time was "considered to have authored a sophisticated parody of the Gospel according to Matthew."

The parody, written by a rabbi known as Gamaliel, is believed by some well-respected liberal Christian scholars to have been written about A.D. 73 or earlier.

The fact the parody exists and the date when it was believed to be written "would undercut badly (biblical critics') claims of a late date of A.D. 85-90 or later," said Bob Newman, professor of New Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

"That is very significant and very important," said Tim Skinner, associate professor of Bible and theology at Luther Rise Seminary in Georgia, because that validates the legitimacy of Matthew's confirms the truthfulness of the biblical account in Matthew and confirms the truth of what Jesus did."

Blomberg said a close study of the parody's wording indicates it was based on an existing text. If that text was Matthew, the Gospel existed much earlier than some scholars believe.

The conclusion that this section of the Talmud conclusively shows that Matthew was written earlier than some scholars believe does suffer a couple of problems. As noted by the author of PaleoJudaica:

. The Babylonian Talmud (the Bavli) was edited around 600 C.E. and the Palestinian Talmud (the Yerushalmi) around 400. Whichever Talmud they're talking about (probably the Bavli but they don't say - and they don't give the exact reference either) the story of the first-century saying of Gamaliel comes to us from a text edited many centuries later. How do we know that this isn't a much later legend which puts the saying in his mouth on the basis of knowing the Gospel of Matthew? Granted, the Talmud sometimes preserves early material, but earliness has to be proved, not assumed.

2. Even if Rabbi Gamaliel actually said this, the saying is not all that close to the Gospel of Matthew. How do we know that it isn't an oral tradition that Gamaliel picked up from Jesus' followers and which was later used independently by the author of Matthew?

Good points, both. As for now, these questions remain unanswered. The first point acknowledges that both versions of the Talmud preserve early material, and just as it cannot be assumed that the portion of the Talmud cited by Yuval is not early, it cannot be assumed that it isn't early either. Certainly, more study may ultimately resolve whether this portion of the Talmud (which I understand to be Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 116 a- b--don't ask me how they are parodies because I don't see it) is early or late, but for now it is not certain. On the second point, I am conservative in my dating and believe that there are several reasons to believe in an early dating of the Gospel of Matthew. Still, I recognize that this remains subject to dispute and that the parodying of some of the accounts of the Gospel does not mean that it was the Gospel itself and not some proto-Gospel or oral account that the author of the Gospel of Matthew copied. Regardless, the fact that there is evidence of parody of the Gospels in later writings by Jewish authors can be used to support the idea that these writings are also parodies.

Who was Theophilus? – Thoughts on the Preface of the Gospel of Luke

In the excellent work of historical fiction, The Lost Letters of Pergamum, Prof. Bruce Longenecker has Luke, a companion of Paul, engaging in correspondence with Antipas, a nobleman of the city of Pergamum. Sometime in the early 90s, Luke happens to make Antipas’ acquaintance as he is caring for the household of the traveling Calpurnius – a nobleman of Ephesus. Calpunius, as it turns out, is the son of Theophilus – the nobleman of Ephesus who commissioned and supported Luke’s literary efforts.

Though obviously fictional, that Theophilus was a man of standing and associate of Luke is quite plausible. Luke says as much in his preface:

Luke 1:3: It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus....

Because the name “Theophilus” roughly means “beloved of God,” some have argued that there really was no Theophilus – that the term is meant to symbolize all Christians. Origen concluded this. But Origen concluded a lot of strange things and is famous for his highly metaphoric approach to the scriptures. More importantly, however, “the address to [Theophilus] with the vocative 'most excellent' seems to indicate a specific person of high social standing." Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1-9.50, page 63. The phrase “most excellent” need not denote nobility, but it certainly indicates a person of high social standing (something most Christians were not).

Further, the literary characteristics of the preface indicate that Theophilus is a real person. “[I]n view of the formal character of the preface and the conventional practice of ascribing treatises to notable people, it is much more natural to regard Theophilus as a real person." Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, page 109. In other words, when writers wrote such prefaces they referred to real people. Josephus – perhaps Luke’s closest literary colleague – did so for Antiquities and Against Apion. Given the similar genres and prefaces, the most reasonable conclusion is that Luke – like Josephus and others – was referring to a real person in his preface.

Finally, we should not make too much of the name “Theophilus” meaning “beloved of God.” Most names have some sort of "deeper" meaning. To take a modern day example, my name is Christopher. It means follower of Christ. And I also happen to be a real-life follower of Christ. Of course this is not entirely coincidental. My parents – fine Christian people – picked the name at least in part because of its meaning. Similarly, if – as seems likely – Gentile associates of Luke were god-fearers, the name Theophilus makes perfect sense. And, in fact, “Theophilus occurs as a personal name from the third century B.C. onward." F.F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, page 98.

In conclusion, the evidence of history leaves little reason to doubt that the author of the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles dedicated his two works to a Gentile of high social standing.

We Need More Books Like This One -- Historical Fiction by a NT Scholar

I recently finished reading The Lost Letters of Pergamum, by Bruce W. Longenecker. The author is a lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog or my Virtual Office that I am a big fan of Luke -- author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. So when I saw a book about historical fiction -- a genre I particularly like -- with Luke as an important figure I immediatley ordered it. I didn't take much time to check it out, so I was kind of surprised to find it was not a narrative at all. Rather, it is a fictional collection of ancient letters between Luke -- the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles -- and a Roman nobleman named Antipas. Nevertheless, this format worked very well for me. Indeed, I found it compelling.

After a brief introduction by the supposed discoverer of these previously unknown letters. In a series of letters back and forth, we follow Antipas' and Luke's correspondence, which begins with a chance introduction. After learning of Antipas' interest in historical writings, Luke takes the opportunity to send him a copy of his gospel. As Antipas reads Luke's Gospel, he discusses it at first from a very Roman point of view. But as he reads more and begins to spend time with Christians of his city, Antipas gradually sees the faults in his Roman upbringing, his pagan worldview. He is drawn to Jesus both through the writings of Luke and through the witness and lives of the Christians with whom he fellowships. Ultimately, he joins them and dies the truly noble death of a martyr. (The reference to the death of Antipas in Rev. 2:13 is the inspiration of the story).

This book placed me in the early Christian world like nothing else I have ever read. Longenecker has taken all the books about New Testament History, Jewish history, and the larger Roman world of the time, and used them to create an authentic exchange of late first century correspondence between a pagan and a Christian. Beyond the obvious monotheism v. paganism, Longenecker does an excellent job of bringing out the differing attitudes of Roman and Christian charity. Of Christian brotherhood and its foreignness to the Roman world. Of the worship of the emperor. In short, Longenecker does an effective job of placing the reader back into the Roman world and communicating the challenges that Christians faced in it (especially Christians of any social standing).

This book is emotionally moving at times, especially in its depictions of Christian charity in a harsh world. It is also an easy read. It does not get bogged down and you find yourself looking forward to seeing how Luke responds to one of Antipas' questions or comments. Or how Antipas responds to certain passages he reads in Luke's Gospel.

Unlike some historical fiction, it does not have moments of preachiness or contrived depictions intended to prove a point. Indeed, although I am a fan of the historical fiction genre, I have found the Christian historical fiction I have read to be unimpressive. Perhaps it Longenecker's use of letters -- a format well known to students of the New Testament -- that makes it so compelling.

I found this book to be entertaining, moving, and spiritually profitable. Used copies are very affordable over at amazon. Buy yourself one for Christmas. Or a friend or family member.

Staying Hip to New Testament Academic Studies

Sorry for the slow blogging. Guess all of us are gearing up for Thanksgiving.

Just wanted to drop a note for those interested in the latest happenings in the academic world regarding the New Testament. I try and check Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway Blog a couple times a week. He updates it regularly and alerts the interested to the writings and efforts of scholars such as Wright, Burridge, Baukcham, Gibson, Carlson, etc., as well as various academic conferences related to the study of the Bible.

Prof. Goodacre is Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Birmingham. He's also well known for his assault on the Q theory (an assault that has yet to overtake me).

U.N. Wants Broader Abortion Rights
Poland under the eye of the world body.

I suppose that it is no surprise to anyone that the United Nations wants countries to adopt more permissive abortion laws. According to the Washington Times, the United Nations has "criticized Poland's strict abortion laws and called for greater efforts to protect women's rights. . . ." According to the Times, in an article entitled "U.N. criticizes Poland over abortion laws" Poland's laws presently permit a woman to have an abortion only when there is "serious fetal damage, the woman's life is in danger or she had been impregnated during a rape."

Jaime Ruiz de Santiago, a senior U.N. official in Poland, was quoted as saying the United Nations is concerned current legislation puts women's lives at risk by encouraging them to seek illegal abortions, sometimes from untrained practitioners.

The spectre of the "back alley abortion" has been the rallying cry for abortion rights advocates since the early days of the movement. Roe v. Wade, the ignominious U.S. Supreme Court case that pronounced abortion on demand to be a Constitutional right, focused on the right of women to recieve "safe" abortions.

"Roe alleged that she was unmarried and pregnant; that she wished to terminate her pregnancy by an abortion 'performed by a competent, licensed physician, under safe, clinical conditions'; that she was unable to get a 'legal' abortion in Texas because her life did not appear to be threatened by the continuation of her pregnancy; and that she could not afford to travel to another jurisdiction in order to secure a legal abortion under safe conditions." (Emphasis added.)

Certainly, it appears that part of the testimony that was given in the case concerned the "fact" that there were 10,000 to 20,000 deaths estimated to occur each year due to the "back alley abortion." Naturally, there is some evidence that this estimation is greatly overexagerated, and that the actual number was probably less than 50. (For information on this, see here. Regardless, today the fear of back alley abortions is one of the concerns that motivates some to criticize the present U.S. policy of refusing to fund abortions as part of oversea aide. See, for example, "US exports anti-abortion policy" from BBC News:

"I travelled to Ethiopia - a country where abortion is illegal but where a recent study at Addis Ababa hospital found half of all female deaths there were caused by botched back-street abortions. Here the cost of silence can be high.

"One of the most upsetting moments was standing outside a one-room tin hut where Asmara, a prostitute, had bled to death just hours earlier.

"Aged 22, she received condoms from the local Marie Stopes clinic. It closed when the US cut its cash after it failed to sign. She got pregnant and died.

"'She had no money to go to hospital, so became too weak to move, then she died,' her friend told me.

"On the other side of Addis Ababa is Molu, living with nine children in one room. She has been told one more baby will kill her.

"But the clinic that gives her the pill for free is shutting. There is no other clinic.

"Molu says if she gets pregnant again, she will carry out her own abortion with wire."

It is not my desire to belittle, in any way, the struggle of these women. I do not seek to minimize the dangers that they face from back-alley abortions. The concern is real, and while it may be exaggerated for political purposes, I do not doubt that some women are dying because they are so desperate for an abortion where none are legal, that they will risk their lives with illegal, coat-hanger abortions. The loss of these lives is incredible painful and we should seek to do what we can to avoid such deaths.

However, should our response to these deaths be the acceptance of abortion--a procedure that we also know inflicts death? Make no mistake about it, abortion results in a death--the death of the fetus/baby/embryo in the womb. I have discussed in my last blog the fact that the embryo is indisputably a living human being, and the term "fetus" is simply a term used for a more developed fetus. Thus, if the embryo is a living human being, then the fetus (which is actually a developing baby) is also indisputably a living human being, and the abortion does result in its death. Moreover, there is certainly no guarantee that an abortion will not result in the death of the mother even if it is done under proper medical conditions. I suspect, although I haven't seen much information on the topic, that the state of medical facilities available for abortion in third world countries are in the same tenuous state as the facilities available for other medical services. Consider the following from ENT Resources, Inc. (ENTRI), a for-profit subsidiary of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-- Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. (AAO-HNS):

"Medicine in developing countries certainly is a lot different than in the U.S. First of all, there is usually a shortage of physicians. Second, the resources spent on medical care may be only a few dollars per capita per year compared to the U.S. spending of thousands.

* * *

"2. Medical/hospital conditions will be much different. No ICU. Two patients to a bed. Beds that look like they are from the '20s. Large crowded wards. The smell of disinfectant.

3. Operating facilities - These facilities may be primitive or even makeshift on some trips. Anesthesia machines may be from the 1930s.

4. Schedules - Clinics and OR clinics may have overwhelming numbers, and you may have to decide who will and will not get surgery. It can be heartrending to turn down a pleading patient. The OR schedules may be unrealistic, or you may even consider them unfair."

You see, in developing countries, providing the opportunity for safe, medical care may not be available regardless. Thus, it seems as if the argument that providing abortion in developing countries would result in fewer deaths for women is, at minimum, problamatic. But even if medical facilities were sufficient to assure that no women pass on from the abortion procedure, there is simply no question that abortion results in the death of a living human being. Short of the very exceptions written into the Polish law, any abortion is, in and of itself, deeply immoral and ought to be prohibited.

Skeptics, Christians, and the Question of Bias -- Continuing a Skeptic Case Study

In an earlier post I discussed my recent return to Cygnus’ Study (one of the lesser skeptic sites) to find – to my slight surprise – that his list of unanswerable "Bible Errors" was unchanged, with no additions, modifications or deletions (despite my answering the first and third on his own boards two years ago). I dealt with the first of the objections in that earlier post. Here I address the third:

3. Jesus on Scriptures

Here we see the author of John pulling a common trick on his reader. That is the one of inventing scripture.

The erroneous verse is found in chapter 7 of the Gospel of John.

John 7:38- He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of flowing water.

Unfortunately, the words, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" are not found anywhere else in the Bible. This poses two immediate problems.

The first problem is this begs the question as to whether there was some scripture in Jesus' time that it not in our canonized Bible or not. If there was and it is no longer in scripture then it goes against Revelation 22:19 which says that any man who subtracts from scripture would be subtracted from the Book of Life

The second problem with this is the one of addition to scripture and the penalty for such an act. If Jesus added the verse which is not found then he is guilty. If it was John who ascribed the words to Jesus then it is John who is guilty. Revelations 22:18 states, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."

The biggest whopper here is Cygnus’ preposteros distortion of Revelation 22:18-19. 22:18-19 does not refer to subtracting or adding to the Bible in its totality. It quite obviously is talking about the book that the author was writing at that time -- Revelation:

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy in this book... and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part form the Book of life...."

Revelation 22:18-19.

“This book” and “this prophecy” cannot be more clear. The warning is against those who would alter the Book of Revelation, not alter a Canon that did not even exist at that time! The author of Revelation probably had no clue there would be a “New Testament,” much less what its contents would be.

Cygnus’ attempt to use this text in Revelation against Jesus is so simplistic that it’s hard to believe Cygnus is serious. Is he stupid? Not to my knowledge. The website is reasonably well put together. In my encounters with him on the discussion boards he has not impressed me with his intellect, but he has not come across as an idiot. Does he realize that his reading is absurd but uses it anyway to make petty points against Christianity? Perhaps. On his boards, Cygnus did give me reasons to doubt his honesty (or at least his candor). Yes I hesitate to accuse him of making such gross distortions. So I think it is the third option that is most likely: Cygnus’ bias against Christianity overpowered whatever good sense and intelligence he possesses.

When you stop and think about it this makes a lot of sense. After all, why would someone – who professes no religious belief himself – spend so much of his time and creativity on the subject? The site is not one born of mere historical curiosity. Cygnus does not offer both sides of the issue. His site is devoted to attacking Christianity. Obviously he has a lot invested in this and lined up on one side.

Well, you might argue. He really believes Christianity is wrong. Even if he does not necessarily think it is harmful in and of itself (I’m feeling generous today), he no doubt thinks it’s harmful for people to believe something that is not true. So harmful in fact, that he has devoted a lot of his personal time and energy to combating his harm.

In other words, Christianity is a threat and Cygnus sees himself as part of the solution. Whatever the motive, the bias is clear and undeniable. And it is so strong that it clouds his ability to see the clear meaning of a text – so long as his misunderstanding can be turned into a weapon against Christianity.

You might say it’s a secular jihad. So the next time someone tells you that you are biased because you are a Christian while they have “no stake” in the issue, do not be as deceived as they are about their motives. We are biased. So are they. That does not mean informed discussion is fruitless -- so long as we can acknowledge them.

Oh, one other point. It is correct that this phrase does not appear in our Old Testament. There is a similar phrase in the wisdom literature, Sirach, popular in Jesus' time. And I've seen other commentaries note that the term used for "scriptures" is not restricted to the present Old Testament. At most – even if we take Jesus’ use of “scriptures” as implying equal authority with the rest of the Old Testament – all this would tell us is that there was a writing/tradition that Jesus knew of and considered authoritative that is now lost to us. Unfortunate perhaps, but hardly a Biblical Error for which there “is no answer.”

Proposition 71, Economic Benefit and Morality
Post-election comments on Proposition 71

As most people know, Proposition 71, the "stem cell research" proposition, passed in California. But simply because the proposition has (or will shortly) become law, does not mean that the comments about the Proposition are finished. In the November 16, 2004, edition of the Wall Street Journal, two letters to the editor commented on the proposition, one praising the economic benefit that will flow to California from the proposition and the other questioning our ability to know what is truly moral.

Mickey Fleschner of Trinidad, California, wrote praising the passage of the proposition convinced that stem cell research is as--if not more--important to science as atomic theory and particle physics, and that California's bold move in passing Proposition 71 will lead to a trillions of dollars of income to the State.

Regarding effects on humanity (not to mention all life on Earth), the understanding and uses that will flow from this field of knowledge will eclipse those we have experienced from progress made since the industrial revolution. There is no aspect of human endeavor (industrial, agricultural, environmental, social, spiritual) that will not be profoundly affected. It will provide an entirely new slate of tools and technologies for maintaining a healthy, happy, contented population of ten-plus billion people on our beleaguered planet."

(I bet it will also help you lose weight and cure bunions.)
"[N]ow fully funded, California is off and running while the rest of the world dwaddles, introduces political and social restrictions, and limits funding.

"You think $6 billion over 10 years will be a bad investment, though it has bought California a virtual monopoly on the ground floor of human achievement fundamental to the success and perhaps even the survival of the human race and much if not all of life on our planet for the next century. The returns over the decades will be measured in the trillions."

I will acknowledge that this rather utopian view of the effects of Proposition 71 could be true. It is possible that the research from embryonic stem cells could result in amazing discoveries. (In fairness to the writer, I note that he nowhere uses the words "embryonic stem cell" in his letter. He could be discussing the potentially amazing scientific discoveries that could be coming from adult stem cell research, which appears from the scientific literature I have previously mentioned, to be more likely. However, if that is the focus of his comments, the writer does not understand that Proposition 71 was enacted primarily to assure that embryonic stem cell research will be undertaken in California.) However, since what I have read shows that few scientists seem to believe that embryonic stem cell research will result in any amazing breakthroughs, I am certainly reluctant to embrace his viewpoint.

If the evidence doesn't support the idea that embryonic stem cells will result in amazing scientific breakthroughs, then it is likely that his economic argument fails. One can make the same claim about a hypothetical proposition that will put $6 billion into research for a perpetual motion machine. After all, if such a machine were made it would certainly give to the state where such a machine is created "a virtual monopoly on the ground floor of human achievement fundamental to the success and perhaps even the survival of the human race" and the returns from such a machine over the decades would "be measured in the trillions." The problem, of course, is that no one believes that it is possible that such a machine can be created, and thus, it would be safe to say that there would be no "trillions" generated from the research which will almost certainly turn out to be fruitless. While there is some more hope for scientific breakthroughs using "embryonic stem cells," it certainly appears that greater hope lies in adult stem cells which have very few restrictions in any state. Thus, it appears that California has spent $6 billion dollars to research what may be a scientific dead end where the real advances are going to come from other states where the research will be into adult stem cells.

Again, I cannot be dogmatic about this. I certainly agree that scientists' opinions can be wrong and it remains possible that some major multi-trillion dollar scientific breakthroughs will come from the embryonic stem cell research being funded by Proposition 71. However, if I were asked to invest in a particular line of research, I would not put my money into embryonic stem cell research. The probabilities of success appear rather remote and the return on my investment too tentative.

A second letter to the editor from Bruce Dwiggins of Ann Arbor, Michigan, argues that we cannot be certain whether embryonic stem cell research is moral or not. Responding to a letter to the editor from Stuart Creque, Mr. Dwiggins writes:

"[Mr. Creque] seems to know with great certainty what the bounds of morality are. However, there may be some other interpretations that could shed a different light on the morality of this subject.

"When a young child is lost by disease or accident, is it moral for the parents to authorize use of the child's organs for transplant to potentially save lives? For parents who have conceived by in vitro fertilization, is it moral to authorize the unused frozen embryos be discarded? In this situation, is it moral for the parents to authorize embryonic stem cells (the organs of the embryo) from the embryo be used to further research that has the potential for helping untold millions of people? How can it not be moral to use these stem cells for this cause? In fact, it seems immoral not to use them."

This is a typical appeal. It is the same appeal that is made on all issues of morality, i.e., "on what basis do you claim to know what is moral?" Let me try to clear this up.

First, let's start with the proposition that it is morally wrong to kill a living human being in the name of scientific research. Any doubt about this proposition should be quelled by mentioning the name of Joseph Mengele. Perhaps there is an exception if the person who will be killed consents, but I doubt it. Even so, there is no issue that the embryo can consent.

Second, while some people may disagree, it is indisputable that the embryos being discussed in Proposition 71 are human beings. Here is the definition of an embryo from the IntegraMed Fertility Dictionary:

EMBRYO - The developing baby in the early stages of fetal growth, from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy. In infertility treatments this term is restricted to mean a fertilized egg, between 1 and 5 days old, used in IVF treatments.

As pointed out by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason in a commentary entitled "Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Means and Ends", "you have to have a human being before you can get human stem cells."

"Embryo is not a thing - it is a stage. It is like saying a ten-day-old, or an adolescent, or a youngster. It does not tell you anything about the thing except for its level of development. It could be a young dog, or it could be a young parakeet, or it could be a young human being. It could be a fish embryo, it could be a dog embryo, it could be a human embryo. You see, embryo, or blastula, or blastocyst are just terms to describe this earliest stages of development where stem cells are present; these are just words that identify a stage of the development of a thing. It does not give you any information as to what that thing is that is developing.

"To say that an embryo goes from an embryo after a certain level of development into a human being is to create a kind of category error, it is mixing terms. It is kind of like saying this thing went from a ten-day-old to a young rabbit. A ten-day-old what? Well, a ten-day-old baby rabbit into a young rabbit. These are terms that represent two different categories of things. To be clear about these things, we have to acknowledge that distinction. So when we say embryo, we are talking about a stage of development, we are not talking about the thing.

"The question is what kind of embryo is it? And in this case the embryos are human embryos, the blastula are human blastula. You have to have a human being before you can get human stem cells. So, this discussion about the legitimacy of cloning for the stem cells versus cloning to create a human being, is a rationally confused distinction. There is no difference. You cannot get human embryonic stem cells but from a human embryo. So, you must create a human being first in its embryo stage, which then is either allowed to grow into subsequent stages, fetus, newborn, adolescent, etc., or is destroyed before it can begin to develop into other stages and is then cut up an used for body parts. But it still is what it is when it is destroyed - a human being in a blastula stage."

I think that Mr. Koukl's comments are irrefutable. To get the human embryonic stem cells, you have to start with a human being. And if it is immoral to kill a human being for the purposes of scientific research, then embryonic stem cell research must be immoral.

But what about the other things? Doesn't the fact that the research using the embryonic stem cells could result in amazing medical treatments make it moral? As I have stated before, it appears unlikely that this treatment will result in such amazing scientific breakthroughs. But even if it were likely that such results could be achieved, it is hard to fathom how a person can find such research to be any more moral than arguing that Joseph Mengele's experiments on twins could be considered moral because they may have resulted in amazing scientific breakthroughs. What about the fact that the fetus' were going to disposed of anyway? Two things: first, I think it is clearly immoral to create more embryos for implantation into a woman than she desires. If she wants one child, then one embryo should be created. We shouldn't compound immorality by further immoral actions. Will that create more expense? Probably, but that is a cost we should bear. Second, and more importantly, as I understand it Proposition 71 permits the cloning of embryos. "Unused" embryos are not the subject of the proposition (or are a very small part of the issue).

No, these two arguments do not lead me to conclude that Proposition 71 is even arguably a positive thing. I would rather put $6 billion into adult stem cell research (if no cloning is permitted) or into cold fusion research. Both are at least as likely to result in scientific breakthroughs and result in fewer moral difficulties.

St. Augustine and Reinhold Neibhur, those scandalous liberals! Toward a Third way in the Culture Wars.

St. Augustine name always comes up when feminists attack church fathers who said sexist things. By all accounts Augustine seems to have been one of the worst offenders. I've tired to point out to many feminists, of both secular and Christian ilk, that Augies words defended by feminist philosopher Geneva Lloyd in The Man Of Reason. Apprenlty Augustine was using some bizarre metaphorical reasoning and only used Eve as a derivation from Adam symbolically. But no one cares. It's so much easier just to write Augie off as a dead white male church guy who said stupid sexist things, let it go at that. Oddly enough even Augustine's best friends are not that willing to support everything he said. At one point my favorite prop at Perkins, and good friend William S. Babcock (major Augustine scholar) remarked "you don't have to accept it just because Augustine said it, in fact if Augustine said it there's a good change its wrong." I think we were talking about free will at the time. But be that as it may, Augustine is loved by the right wing politicos of the Catholirc church because he is used (wrongly) by a scholar name O'Connell to bolster the double edge sword of civil and religious authority; these hacks somehow think that this gives them the green light on their own social agenda. The deep irony here on both sides is that if one understood what Augustine really says in his massive tome The City of God (which was really just a letter to afferent, but thinker than the NY phone book) one would have to conclude that Augstine should be a comfort as well as a caution to sides, the left and the right.

The City of God was written in reponse to the sacking of Rome by the Barbaric hordes in 410 AD. This situation left Christians in a dyer situation, since the Roman state under Constantine had worked up a connection between Christianity and God's blessing on the state that supported it. Constantine PR man Eusebuis had so inculcated the idea that God was blessing Rome because it was turing to Christ, that Roman Christians had come to understand that their well being and the success of the Empire was all linked in support of the Christian agenda. All of this can be seen in elaborate detail in one my favorite books of all time, Christianity in Classical Culture, by Charles Norris Corcoran. It's an old book, written in the late 40's, Corcoran was at university of Toronto. He has a tendency to make certain aspects of the Rome of St. Augustine analogue to the cold war of the 1940s, viewing Constantine as a mild social democ rat of somewhat liberal flavor--at least in terms of social programs. Another excellent and more up to date book which lays out a similar line of thinking is Christianity in the Roman World By S. Markus.

The Christians of early fith century Rome had come to be very selfish in their outlook. They saw themselves as God's chosen people, they alone had been given the right to extort obedience from other nations because they were doing God's will. Of course this was nothing more than the same old political philosophy of the Cesars who came before, the reason of state argument. Constantine merely revitalization it in order to give the Roman morale a new shot in the arm. In the old pagan configuration, the Cesars were adding other nations to the matrix of civilization, doing them great favor by conquest, in spite of their ungrateful refusal to be taken. Constantine merely expanded this role, not only were they icorporating other people's into the matrix of civilization, (Corcoran' term, nothing to do with the movie) but they where also making the way clear for people to hear the Gospel, thus saving souls and expanding the kingdom. The Christians of that era came to understand their material success to be a direct blessing from God in exchange for their support of the political agenda.

The sack of Rome came as terrible news to these Christians, because suddenly God had withdrawn his favor. The pagans capitalized on this mishap by arguing that the old gods of Olympus had punished Rome for turning away from them. The Christians really had no answer because they had come to think so clearly that material reaches meant divine favor. The destruction of material riches had to mean the removal of God's favor, or perhaps even the triumph or another god? Of course, the City of God is as thick as the New York Phone book, so pardon me if I give the short version: basically, Augustine argues that no temporal power arrangement can claim to be the city of God. Temporal power is an earthly thing it belongs to the city of man. The city of God and the City of Man are made for two different purposes and they have two different ends. The City of Man is Temporal and fleeting. It is not permanent and it is not holy. The City of God is permanent and Holy, and though the two exist one inside the other, the City of God inside the City of man, the City of God is everlasting and the City of man is not. Thus the temporal power can never claim to be the City of God. That means that Constantine did not set up a Christian state, and that Rome was never the commonwealth of God. No political agenda can ever be sacred and no temporal seat of power can ever claim to be the work of God on earth. Augustine totally bores the connection between temporal rewards and material success and eternal destiny.

Augustine was also a major influence upon modern political thinker and theologian Reinhold Neibuhr. Neibuhr is, oddly enough, another misunderstood figure who has been cast in the role of "neo-liberal." Far from being Neo-anything, Neibuhr was a define socialist until the day he died. I know this to be the case through my own association with his friend Frederic Carney. Neibuhr applied Augustine dictum to modern cold war politics. While he did write "why is commission so evil?" and he was too slow in denouncing the warin Vietnam (waiting until almost the day he died in 1971) he was a tireless advocate of whomever needed advocating. He not ony wrotet "why is communism So Evil?" But the also went to bat to help defend the defendants in the Dennis vs. United States case, because he felt hat those representatives of the Communist Party USA were being rail roaded. Neibhur did not allow himself to be standoffish about the people he helped, and he did not try to enshirne the American effort in the cold war on the grounds that "we have to be as bad as they are to fight communism." His work Moral Man and Immoral Society pointed out the danger in thinking pointed to the errors in human wisdom when we try to project our own personal morality onto the group. We always wind up supporting things as a group that we would never condone as individuals, because we internalize the group interest and that overshadows our ablility to think as free moral agents.

Neibuhr tried to cut a thred course through the mine field of the American cold war. In the 1950s he fought a journal war against Billy Graham over the issue of Grham's anti-commuist crusades. Grham argued that all one needed was a McCarthy like anti-commuism and the "simple answer of the Gospel" and one could beat commuism. Neibuhr argued that Graham's approach was simple minded; that we needed keen plitical analysis, and answer to social ills on our own side, and a more complex message than going down to the front at a Graham crusade. Graham won the war in the popular mind because it was easier for the common man to idneify with him and his answers seemed more "clear cut" (if not more simplistic). Neibuhr, of course, won the respect of his colleagues for standing up to the crwod, there was never any danger of Billy Graham besting Reinhold Neibuhr in an intellectual debate, but this was the MacCarthy era. Neibhur's attempt at steering a third course (Debisian socialism is socialism but divorced from Marxist Leninist philosophy) never panned out in the American mind. The cold war sucked all other forms of thining into a black hole in which it was possilbe only to be community, or anti-communist. There were other attempts at a third way, however, but they wound up in the same swamp of indifference. The Papal office tried through several Popes to run a third way political solution through Christian Democrat parties. This met with mixed results, sometimes good government in West Germany, sometimes support for the death Squads in El Salvador. Overall the Pope (JPII) had much more success helping to destablize communism than he did in founding a third way.

But what other avenue should we expect in the political arena? We should expect to fail to starting a concrete third alternative since that would mean setting up a new agenda for temporal power. The strength of the City of God (the Kingdom of God) does not arize from temporal political power. The chruch is a priori the third way. When we try to forge a concrete political alliance by uninting the Gospel to anyone political agenda we miss the point and merely re-create Constratine's mistake.The City of God is not about holding temporal power, the city of man is not the city of God and cannot claim to have the anointing of God. No political party can calim to be the part of God; and by contrast, the other party is not the "party of sin." Both or all political parties are just confused humans looking for historically bound power arrangements and hoping desperately that this will make their lives better. In some senses it will, it will also make something worse. These are unavoidable realities of the world. We cannot cast the aura of the sacred over the temporal and claim victory foe the Kingdom of God!

Now we are ensconced in a kind of cold war in the church. Another enemy has been thrust upon us, one we don't' understand very well, but it remains to be seen what bomes of that conflict. But in the church the new cold war is not about that, it is about the social changes inaugurated in the 1960s which still continue today; it is about the Reagan era and the moral majority and the new republican party which somehow never quite says it is the party of God, but somehow one gets that feeling. The cold war is the culture war, "liberal" vs. "conservative." But for "liberal" read, pro gay, pro feminist, pro abortion, for "conservative" read prayer in schools, teaching creationism in schools, keeping gays and feminists out of everything and supposedly ending abortion; the short answer; Democrat vs. Republican, blue country vs. Red country. The blue/red split in the church (it's so confusing being blue after being red so long) is mainly about the role of women and gays. These are the issues that seem galvanism both sides.

It's a great shame that the issues have to be derailed along these lines; because reducing the liberal position to support for Gays and aboriton is just a great way of dismissing all the valid issues such as hunger and poverty in America. While vesting the liberal cause in civil rights for gays and the right to abortion is an attempt to hitchhike sinful pride and arrogant terpitude upon the coat tails of the valid aspects of civil rights and feminism. In the shuffle all the good issues take back seat and the hungry children loose either way, no matter who wins.

Liberals are so despised and rejected by American society that there isn't a single liberal talk show on PBS. Charley Rose is what passes for a liberal and he is an avoid conservative Republican who openly camping for Reagan. Somehow, he is what passes for liberal, and he actually does a pretty good job of substituting for one. The media is reviled by the conservatives as the "dreaded liberal media" but if one were to read Noam Chomsky books one would see what a joke that is (Manufacturing Consent). There are two media watchdog groups, one left, (FAIR, Fairness and Acuracy in Reporting) one Right (AIM, Acruacy in Media). Having studied both and having been a local organizer for FAIR my own bias is that FAIR makes a much better case for a conservative media than does AIM for a liberal media. The media is solidly in the hands of the conservatives, especially the news media. About the only place "liberals" really rule in the media now are on cit cons, where the husband is always a bumbling fool and the wife is the only competent person and the husband is a bit afraid of her and she's always proven right. The liberal tinge to the cultural side of the meida is probalby wht leads many think of the media as liberal. But that is just what Marcuse called the "carnation on the lapell of capitalism."

The Evangelicall movement, since tasting real political power a couple of times, well almost, have become more despondent and feel more surrounded than ever before. Seeing the utter failure of the old patriarchal hierarchy in Western civilization they founder and desperately grab at deck chairs while the vast unsinkable titanic of guideline Age America goes under. Of course this means in reality that they are closer to political control than ever. The only way to get a conservative to move into political action is to convenes him that he's surrounded. So the more defeated and desporate the conservatives believe their cause to be, the more one can be sure they are winning. But the outcome either way will be bad for the Gospel. The Gospel is not the city of man. Taking temporal power can never be the fulfillment of God's will, not in the long run.

The Gospel should always be the third way. It was the third way when it came out in the time of Christ; neither Jew nor Greek. In other words, not Hebrew and not pagan. It was the third way in the cold war, as there was a vast Christian left history which is usually pretty much ignored and unknown in conservative churches, but it still exists. Figures like Dorothy Day and Mother Jones were real Christians and really did fight for workers and the poor. The Gospel must be the third way because it is not the City of Man, it cannot be a temporal political agenda, and the temporal political power cannot be confused with the gospel doctrine and moral view points are essential in following the Gospel, but the Gospel is much more than just sound doctrine. There is also the matter of living out our sound doctrine and how we treat people is a large part of that.

We cannot make a Christian Democrat party, as some have tried, because that's jut playing the world's game. To be effective in helping people in the world for the Gospel, we can at times enter the political arena. We can enter on either side, and we should never lose sight of the fact that real Christians who really love the Lord are on both sides. Neibuhr once said that we demonize the other because we see in him our own temporal minded pretensions. We must remember as we play the politics game that the other guy is playing the same game, he/she may have the same motives we have and we must recoginzie that fact. That realization could be to laud the other, or it could be to convict ourselves. We must take serioulsy Paul's talk about party spirit and realize that this is never more a danger than when one becomes involved in political parties.

A Case Study in Skeptic-Think

In the early dates of my online apologetics, I visited a site called Cygnus-Study. Bede gives the run down of the site here. Cygnus had a list of four "Biblical Errors" for which, he proclaimed, "there can be no answer." I responded to a couple of these that were actually quite easily answered. That was almost two years ago. I had the occasion to revisit the site (after a long absence) and decided to see if the "Biblical Errors" list had expanded, or had removed the two that I addressed, or had at least been modified. To my slight surprise, the list appears to be the same four "Biblical Errors" as two years ago.

While reviewing my criticism of his first "Biblical Error," I realized how common such antics are by skeptics. So I thought that a little discussion was in order about No. 1:

1. Paul on Jesus

Acts 20:35 - I have shown you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

The only problem with this is that Jesus did not say this anywhere in the New Testament. We can know that Paul never met Jesus while Jesus was alive as a human. We can also know that from Jesus and Paul's interchange on the road to Damascus that Jesus never spoke these words. (Acts 9:4 -16). The only other possibilities would be someone telling Paul that Jesus spoke them, which would be hearsay, or Paul making up words for Jesus. The latter is clearly the case as can be seen in how common of a practice this was from the varying accounts in the Gospels.

Error No. 1 in Biblical Error No. 1

Fallacy of Definition: Too Narrow. Cygnus is wrong that "Jesus did not say this anywhere in the New Testament." Acts is a part of the New Testament and it records the statement here. Even if we are generous and conclude that Cygnus is referring only to the Gospels, he is committing a non sequitur. Acts 20:35 does not say that the Gospels record this saying. It simply states that Jesus said it. It would be a further non sequitur to argue that the Gospels recorded everything that Jesus said.

Error No. 2 in Biblical Error No. 1

Fallacy of Exclusion. "We can know that Paul never met Jesus while Jesus was alive as a human. " Paul need not have "met" Jesus while Jesus was alive to have heard this from Jesus. Paul certainly could have heard Jesus speaking during his three year ministry without having "met" Jesus. According to all the Gospels, Jesus often spoke to large crowds. In any event, even if Paul had not heard it from Jesus, he could have heard it from other Jerusalemites. Or from the Christians he was persecuting before his conversion.

Error No. 3 in Biblical Error No. 1

Disingenuous Appeal. "We can also know that from Jesus and Paul's interchange on the road to Damascus that Jesus never spoke these words. (Acts 9:4 -16)." Notice that Cygnus takes the Acts 9:4-16 account as an exhaustive recording of all that occurred between Paul and Jesus at that time. Does Cygnus really take the book of Acts to be a fully-exhaustive accurate portrayal of Christian history? Not hardly. He's conveniently taking Acts as a valid witness -- perhaps in a skewed sense -- when he really thinks Acts is unreliable. Skeptics often interpret the Bible in a skewed way to enhance their supposed contradictions or errors.

Error No. 4 in Biblical Error No. 1

False Dilemma. "The only other possibilities would be someone telling Paul that Jesus spoke them, which would be hearsay, or Paul making up words for Jesus."

As we noted above, Paul could have heard this from Jesus apart from having met him, apart from someone telling him about it, and apart from Paul making up words for Jesus.

Error No. 5 in Biblical Error No. 1

Non sequitur/Proves too Much. "The only other possibilities would be someone telling Paul that Jesus spoke them, which would be hearsay....."

It does not follow that because the statement is hearsay that Jesus did not say it. Indeed, this argument proves too much in that every statement by Jesus in the New Testament is hearsay. Even if Matthew and John were written by eyewitnesses, their telling us what Jesus said remains hearsay. Indeed, all historical writings are hearsay. What about when Paul tells us what he saw and did in his own hand? Still hearsay because the majority of Paul's letters (like many ancient letters) were basically dictation -- taken down by a secretary or scribe. Further, we do not have the original documents, but copies of copies. This too is hearsay. The same is true for the writings of Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, and everyone else who wrote something down in history and has fortunately been preserved. Even though we have good reasons to believe the scribes accurately rewrote from the original manuscripts it remains hearsay. Thus, labeling something in ancient history "hearsay" is not all that illuminating. Finally, simply assuming that because it was hearsay Jesus could not have said it is a non sequitur.

And it is actually here that we have the most likely explanation for the source of Paul's knowledge -- that other early Christians told Paul what Jesus said. Indeed, Paul admits to going to Jerusalem, meeting James the brother of Jesus and living with Peter for over two weeks. Prior to that he had close contact with representatives of the Jerusalem Church and worked closely with members of that Church in Syria. There is nothing in the least unlikely about Paul having learned sayings of Jesus that were -- due to the happenstance of history -- not recorded in the Gospels.

Error No. 6 in Biblical Error No. 1

Vague and Ambiguous/Unproven Assumption/Non sequitur. "....or Paul making up words for Jesus. The latter is clearly the case as can be seen in how common of a practice this was from the varying accounts in the Gospels."

The term "varying accounts" is vague and ambiguous. Further, it is far from proven that the "varying accounts" in the Gospel means sheer invention. In fact, the Gospels show much more dependence on established teaching than they do creativity. Most of Mark is used by Matthew and Luke. So too is Q. There are good reasons for concluding that the rest of the material in those gospels was likewise derived from preexisting sources, "M" and "L". The Gospel of John, whether dependent on the others or not, shows much similarities and therefore also relies to a great extent on established tradition. So we might just as well argue that because the Gospels tend to use preexisting source material Paul too likely used preexisting source material.

An Early Second Century NonChristian Witness to the Testimonium Flavianum?

So argues Stephen Carlson. Although I have studied the Testimonium in depth, I had not really given this argument much attention. Carlson makes an interesting case that I will need more time to consider. I would be more open to it, though, if it could be shown that Tacitus had other, more firm, contacts with the writings of Josephus.

At least it would finally drive a stake through the heart of the far-fetched notion that Eusebius invented the Testimonium.

UPDATE: I do think that Carlson makes an interesting point about where Tacitus got his knowledge about Christians. The evidence that he got it from interrogated Christians seems unlikely. Perhaps Christians had been the talk of the town after Nero's persecution and some of the buzz was still circulating. It is also possible, though I do not yet think likely, that Tacitus learned of it from Josephus' writings -- even if just second hand.

Phenomenological Method and Apologetical Argument

Atheists are hung up on empirical knowledge. That's why so many of them (not all by many) insist that we have no info about God, you can't verify God and so forth.But God cannot be the subject of empirical data because is not given in sense data. That's because God is not just another object along side objects in creation. God is not just another thing, God is the basis of reality. That's like a fish scientist saying "they assigned me to study this thing called 'water' but I can't find any water," he says that because it never dawns on him that its' all around him, the medium in which he lives and he's always looking through it. he can't see the water because he's looking through it.

That's sort of the case with God because God is the basis of reality, the ground of Being. "in him we live and move and have our being." When we try to look at God and see him directly we look through him because in a sense he's the medium in which we live.The only answer to this is to search for something else. We don't look for empirical evidence of God, we look for a "co-detemrinate." That is, we look for the signature of God, or to use a Derridian term the "trace of God." Like the aura of a neutrino. We can't photograph neutrinos directly but we have photographed their auras that are the reaction of Neutrinos with other particles. When you see that aura you know you have one.But the trace of God has to be the result of a subjective or intersubjective understanding. So rather than subject it to empirical means, we need allow the sense data to determine the categories under which we organize our thinking about God.Schleiermacher was the originator of this kind of thinking (prior to Brintono who is attributed to be the inventor of Phenomenology).

Here is Schleiermacher's take on God consciousness. We don't search for God in objective terms we search for "God consciousness."

A. Religion not Reducible to Knowledge or ethics

Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith. Sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.In the earlier form of his argument he was saying that affections were indicative of a sense of God, but in the Christian Faith he argues that there is a greater sense of unity in the life world and a sense of the dependence of all things in the life world upon something higher.

What is this feeling of utter dependence? It is the sense of the unity in the life world and it's greater reliance upon a higher reality. It is not to be confused with the stray sky at night in the desert feeling, but is akin to it. I like to think about the feeling of being in my backyard late on a summer night, listening to the sounds of the freeway dying out andrealizing a certain harmony in the life world and the sense that all of this exists because it stems form a higher thing. There is more to it than that but I don't have time to go into it. That's just a short hand for those of us to whom this is a new concept to get some sort of handle on it. Nor does "feeling" here mean "emotion" but it is connected to the religious affections. In the early version S. thought it was a corollate between the religious affections and God; God must be there because I can feel love for him when I pray to him. But that's not what it's saying in the better version.

B. Platonic background.

The basic assumptions Schleiermacher is making are Platonic. He believes that the feeling of utter dependence is the backdrop, the pre-given, pre-cognative notion behind the ontological argument.

In other words, what Anselm tried to capture in his logical argument is felt by everyone, if they were honest, in a pre-cognative way. In other words, before one thinks about it, it is this "feeling" of utter dependence. After one thinks it out and makes it into a logical argument it is the ontological argument.

C. Unity in the Life world.

"Life world," or Labeinswelt is a term used in German philosophy. It implies the world of one's culturally contracted life, the "world" we 'live in.' Life as we experience it on a daily basis. The unity one senses in the life world is intuitive and unites the experiences and aspirations of the individual in a sense of integration and belonging in the world. As Headgear says "a being in the world." Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arguments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality

How God Arguments From Experience Work

Many Christian apologists are afraid to argue from experience because they find that atheists are very quick to jump on experience arguments. The reason is two fold:

(1) Atheist tend to be the sort of people who hide behind objectivity. Objectivity is, what C. Wright Mills called "a cloak." It's a veil, it hides one from having to the face the scary subjective nature of truth.

(2) Atheists tend to be scientifically minded, mechanically minded, and mathematically minded. These are all the types of people that are most drawn to the pretense of objectivity. It's my experience that atheists sometimes tend to hate and fear emotions, although not always the case.I get the idea from the arguments on the board now that atheists typically dismiss the experience arguments because they think the reason it is a proof is the intensity of the experience, which they take to be somehow a proof of the supernatural.They think I'm arguing that the experience itself must be a miracle because its' so amazing. I say this because I've seen, in their attempts to explain it through Brian chemistry statements to the effect that it's not supernatural so it can't be a proof of God.None of my God arguments are predicated upon the idea that experiences of God's presence are so amazing and intense that they must be supernatural. I don't think that religious experience is a miracle. I think it's ordinary and universal. In fact that's why it's a counter to the "we are all born atheists" idea. We are not born atheists, we are born experiencing God and with a structure in the brain that responds to the idea of God talk.

I basically have three experience arguments:

(1) Mystical argument.

This is NOT saying that experiences of God are so amazing they must be miracles! Rather it argues that

(a) The experience itself is real, something actually to the person to change his/her life. It's a very power life changing thing.

(b) The argument argues by process of elimination that other kinds of experiences cannot produce long term positive effecting this manner.

(c) but the turning point is, just when it seems like I am arguing for miracle, I don't argue that since the experience is ration and productive it is a good thing and one should embrace it, it can only help you; since the content is about God its' a rational warrant for accepting the notion that is from God; not because it's a miracle and there couldn't be any other reason for it, because it is rationally a possibility that it is from God. Since the experience works, why not accept the content as valid?

(2) Thomas Rid argument.

This argument does not turn on RE being amazingly amazing. It just says that the same criteria through which we judge other kinds of experiences to be valid can also be applied favorably to RE, thus we have just as much reason to trust RE as we do other kinds of experiences.

(3) Religious a priori.

This just says that religion is its own thing, it's not a jumped up ethics or a privative failed sincere. It's like art of music or philosophy, its own disincline with its own orientation toward the world. It's a phenomenological apprehension of certain aspects of realty which cannot be supplied by science. That means that if one chooses to Bel religious it is a rational thing t do and one is justified in doing so.None of these are about miracles, and it doesn't matter if the experiences are transmitted through brain chemistry. None of that beats these arguments. They do not prove the existence of God, but they do supply a rational basis for believing in God.

"Son of God" Original to the Text of Mark 1:1

In a comment to my previous article on the first line of the Gospel of Mark and how it indicates Mark's belief Jesus was divine, Mr. Carr argued that the phrase "Son of God" is not original to the text (at least I think that was his point.

Here was his comment:

Important early witnesses, including Origen, and Codex Sinaiticus, the only Great Codex to contain the entire New Testament, omit the phrase, Son of God.

As Origen was exceptionally interested in textual matters, it is hard to believe he would make such a blunder as to omit such a phrase, from such a position in the Gospel.

In his widely regarded commentary on the Greek Text, however, Bruce Metzger concludes it is authentic and that the omission is due to accident. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, page 73. The phrase is only missing from a few manuscript traditions, though one of them – Codex Sinaiticus – is an early one. Origen also does not quote the phrase. The omission by Origen does not really add any weight to the challenge against authenticity. Even if it was missing from his manuscript (and not simply omitted by him in his own comments), Iraneus wrote decades before him and knew the phrase was in Mark 1:1. Also, “since the text of Codex Sinaiticus may be based upon that of papyri which Origen took with him from Alexandria to Palestine, the two chief witnesses for the omission are, perhaps, reduced to one.” William L. Lane, NIC, The Gospel of Mark, page 41. Apart from Siniaiticus, is there any other manuscript in favor of the exclusion of this phrase? There are, but they come much later than Siniaticus. “Apart from this lone fourth century MS, the rest of the Greek testimony is quite late, coming approximately 500 and 700 years later.” Daniel B. Wallace, Does Mark 1:1 Call Jesus ‘God’s Son’? A Brief Text-Critical Note, at

The phrase is, however, in Codex Vaticanus, Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Codex Regius, Codex Freenarius, as well as many others. It is also attested by Iraneus in Against Heresies, Book III. Thus, the vast majority of the textual evidence (and arguably the earliest and most unadulterated manuscript tradition) favors authenticity.

Additional factors also favor authenticity. Perhaps most important is that the omission very plausibly “can be attributed to scribal oversight due to the similar endings of the sacred names.” Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark, page 70. The early Christian use of “sacred names” instead of using the actual “Jesus Christ” or “God” would render “Jesus Christ” and “Son of God” confusingly similar. Redundant even. According to Robert H. Gundry, “the longer reading IYXYYOY might easily have been shortened to IYXY by homoioteleuton.” Mark’s Apology for the Cross, page 33. Dr. Wallace adds:

Further, the reading in question is a compound nomen sacrum following immediately after another compound nomen sacrum. That the words could have been omitted by accident is quite likely, since the last four words of v 1, in uncial script, would have looked like this: iucruuuqu. With all the successive upsilons an accidental deletion is likely.

Dr. Wallace and Gundry add additional reasons that the hand of an omitting scribe is likely at issue here. Wallace is succinct (and can be cut and paste) so I will quote him:

But even more can be said: tou' eujaggelivou jIhsou' Cristou' uiJou' qeou' is one of only eighty-three places in the NT in which four or more words in a row end in –ou; of these, only twenty texts have five or more words in a row (besides Mark 1:1, cf. Matt 7:5; 9:20; 14:36; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:44; Acts 6:13; 12:12; Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 1:9; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:8; Col 2:2; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 3; Rev 9:13; 14:10; 15:7). There are only two texts in which as many words end in –ou as in Mark 1:1 (1 Cor 1:9 has seven in a row, while Rev 14:10 has nine in a row). To be sure, there are other places in which a string of genitives occur (e.g., Matt 1:1 [7]; Rom 1:29 [5]; Heb 11:32 [5]; 1 Pet 1:1 [5]), but these do not all end in –ou. An examination of the multiple –ou texts reveals the following textual variation statistics:1 ten of the twenty quintuple –ou texts—exactly half!—show omissions, substitutions, etc. that break up the multiple –ou construction. And of the 83 quadruple or more –ou texts, Sinaiticus breaks up the sequence ten times (cf., e.g., Acts 28:31; Col 2:2; Heb 12:2; Rev 12:14; 15:7; 22:1)—or twelve percent of the time! There is thus a significantly higher possibility of accidental scribal omission due to homoioteleuton (similar ending words) in such a MS.

Accordingly, there is very good reason to believe that a scribe or scribe in the Sinaiticus tradition accidently omitted the phrase “the Son of God.”

Finally, we must examine whether the phrase is intrusive to the text. Clearly it is not. Mark uses the phrase elsewhere (3:11; 5:7; 15:39) and often describes Jesus in terms of being God’s son (1:11; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:61). It is an important designation of Jesus Christ. Of particular interest is the use of the exact phrase “Son of God” in 15:39 – put on the lips of a Gentile --, very near the end of Mark’s gospel. As Witherington states, “‘Son of God’ is clearly a crucial title for Mark, perhaps even the crucial title that helps tie this Gospel together from start to finish for its largely Gentile audience (cf., e.g., Mark 15:39).” Witherington, op. cit., page 70 n. 8. This last point is particularly persuasive given my earlier post on how Gentiles would read Mark 1:1 given its similarities to imperial decrees.

So, “Son of God” appears in the vast majority of our early manuscripts. Its omission is easily explained as a scribal error. And it is not intrusive to the text. Indeed, it appears to be symmetrical and entirely consistent with Mark’s usage elsewhere. It appears, therefore, that the reasons for concluding that the “Son of God” is original to Mark 1:1 are very strong. The reasons for opposing it are not.

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