Posts

Showing posts from November, 2004
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…
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 debate…
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…
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 concess…
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 …
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 previous…
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 f…
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 probl…
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 under…
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 fac…
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…
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 l…
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 …
"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 …