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Showing posts from March, 2006

Royal Society of Medicine weighs in on the crucifixion

The Royal Society of Medicine (RMS) has made a statement about the manner of Jesus' crucifixion. Now, before proceeding, let me hightlight the following quote from the article: "The authors do not express any doubt on the act of Jesus' crucifixion itself." That is so important to note in any article about Jesus crucifixion in the age of travesties like The Jesus Papers. Anyway . . . .

The bottom line of the news article entitled "Image of Jesus' crucifixion may be wrong, says study" is that we cannot be certain that Jesus was crucified in a head up, arms extended position as depicted on many crucifixes and paintings of the crucifixion. The Romans did not always crucify people in the same way, and the means of crucifixion may have varied depending upon the status of the person being crucified and the crime they are accused of having committed.

Their crucifixion methods probably evolved over time and depended on the social status of the victim and on the c…

Television shows on The Jesus Papers and The Gospel of Judas

Dateline Sunday, April 2:

It started with a provocative— and many say preposterous—claim that Jesus was married. Now get ready for a new theory: Michael Baigent, author of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” alleges that Jesus may not have died on the cross. And there’s more: he says, there are actual letters written by Jesus himself. Dateline’s Sara James tracks down the facts behind 'The Jesus Papers.' Dateline, Sunday, April 2, 7 p.m.

National Geographic Channel, Sunday April 9:

WASHINGTON, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Discovered by chance in the 1970s, a document that lay hidden for nearly 1,700 years emerges today as the "The Gospel of Judas," which will be first presented during a press conference at the National Geographic Society in early April.

On Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (encore at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT), the National Geographic Channel (NGC) premieres the first documentary look at the Gospel of Judas. "The Gospel of Judas" is an exclusive, two-h…

Interview with the author of The Jesus Papers

The March 28 edition of the Today show included an interview with Michael Baigent, author of a book entitled The Jesus Papers>. Mr. Baigent is also one of the authors of the age old discredited book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and one of the people suing Dan Brown over the Da Vinci Code.

In the interview, Mr. Baigent makes several rather interesting (I would say absurd) claims about Jesus. He claims:

1. Jesus and Pilate conspired to fake Jesus' crucifixion because Pilate couldn't have him crucified when Jesus was advocating paying taxes to the Romans.

2. A painting in a church demonstrates that the disciples removed the living body of Jesus from the tomb on the night he was supposedly crucified.

3. Papers exist which shows incontrovertibly that Jesus was alive in 45 A.D.

4. Jesus wrote a letter which he has seen saying that he wasn't the Son of God.

5. It was not until the Council of Nicea that Jesus was given divine status.

WOW! That sounds like a great book . . . for what i…

"The Female Imagery of the Triune God”

The doctrine of the Trinity is an example of where many non-Christians and Christians often dispute over the validity and soundness between the relationship of God the Father being equal with God the Son and God the Spirit. There is a tendency to revert from thinking because using the mind nowadays is resembles how the Gnostics did: evil because of it's reliability on humans, which is material. However, this Pelagean view of rationality is itself an intellectual argument against the limitation of our mind; ergo, the self-refuting nature behind this challenge.

In postmodern theology there is a common and deeply concerning strategy generally: using the finite limits of the human mind as an excuse for ignoring or supplementing what God has said in His Word. Shouldn't the fact of our finitude move us in exactly the opposite direction, so that our admitted inabilities make us more careful about only believing what the Bible says about God?
Update:

Kim Riddlebarger writes about a new c…

A review of Bart Ehrman's defense of his book

M.S. Bruce at Bruce4Truth.com has written a brief review of a lecture he heard by Bruce Ehrman in defense of his book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why". Our own Layman has already written his own Non-Flattering Review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus which I recommend everyone interested in this book read. What is interesting about M.S. Bruce's blog entry is that (I have it on good information) he is a theology student, and rather than review the book, he is describing what he heard at a lecture defending the book. His take -- very similar to Layman's take.

His concluding paragraph gives quite a bit of the flavor of his account of the lectures and the question and answer session:

In closing I would like to know, Mr. Ehrman, how do you draw these conclusions from the textual variants? How can we trust any ancient text by the standards that you judge the New Testament? On what grounds do you identify additions to the text? Why do you ma…

Self-evident truths, Part I

The ideal of political equality arose from the Enlightenment's insistence that since no one has access to absolute truth, no one has a moral right to impose his or her values and beliefs on others. In other words, "I don't know what the absolute truth is, but I also know for sure that you don't know what absolute truth is either." The recognition of this necessary equality of ignorance about absolute truths is one the insights that undergirds the Declaration's assertion that all men are created equal. This moral discovery by the Founders opened the space that has allowed human individuality and human particularity to flourish as never before in history.
The quote, above, is from "Created Equal?" by Ronald Bailey which is published on Reasononline. (Does anyone else find it funny that skeptics find it necessary to perpetually reaffirm for themselves that they are allegedly the rational ones by always having to name all of their publications and websit…

No, the Bible Does Not Endorse Being a Pothead

Sometimes apologetics can be mildly depressing. Not because of difficult arguments or challenges, but because you feel obligated at times to respond to very stupid ideas. For example, I have seen it argued and even received emails about how Moses and Jesus were pot users and endorsed pot use. This "idea" has reached the zenith of folk-lore status by being championed by ill-informed editors at Wikipedia (where zealousness often prevails over education).

Thankfully, blogger Edward Cook at his blog Ralph the Sacred River, provides a realistic assessment of the credibility of the pot-Jesus and pot-Moses claims -- they are without merit and cannabis does not appear in the Old Testament or New Testament. Like, duh man.

Luigi Cascioli's frivolous lawsuit continues

As most people interested in the historical Jesus are aware, a lawsuit was filed in Italy claiming that the Roman Catholic Church was misleading the public by claiming that Jesus actually existed. The lawsuit was filed by a rather (being charitable) not-particularly-smart individual named Luigi Cascioli whose writings can be found on his website. As I commented previously, his writings show that his work is fraught with errors, and the pleadings and memorandums he has filed in the lawsuit read like a person who is on the verge of inasanity. I am certain it didn't take much time for the judge in the case to decide on his course of action -- dismiss the lawsuit and ask the government to look into the question of whether Sr. Cascioli ought not be prosecuted for a form of malicious prosection.

Well, Sr. Cascioli has now shown an incredible lack of discernment concerning how badly he has been shot down. According to a banner flashing across his website, Sr. Cascioli has filed an appeal…

Secretary Rice Intervenes on Behalf of Afghan Christian Convert

Most Americans agree that our intervention in Afghanistan was justified and has been succesful. Most Americans agree that Afghans are better off now than they were under the Taliban. And most Americans were likely baffled to learn that despite our efforts and sacrifices an Afghan man faces execution because he converted from Islam to Christianity.

The trial of the Afghan Christian was news on talk shows and blogs for a few days before someone -- not a reporter but a citizen during a town-hall type meeting -- asked President Bush about it. President Bush's response was somewhat general -- it is an awkward situation for the U.S. -- but indicated that the Administration was paying attention (see this news article):

I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that coun…

The forgotten intro to 1 Peter 3:15

Many websites for Christian apologetics quote 1 Peter 3:15 as providing the trumpet charge to go forward and defend the Christian faith to skeptics, i.e., "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear..." 1 Peter 3:15. Here's the problem: 1 Peter 3:15 doesn't start with the words "be ready". 1 Peter 3:15 is part of a chain of thought that begins back in 1 Peter 3:13. The entire section of text as translated in the New American Standard Bible version (removing the verse numbers) reads:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a goo…

Whatever Happened to the James Ossuary?

As you may remember, in October 2002 there was great fanfare as a new archeological find was announced. With the support of top scholars, Biblical Archeological Review announced that an ossuary bearing the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," was found near Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, however, other scholars began to express doubts about the validity of the find. In June 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority examined the ossuary and determined it was a forgery. Because the IAA failed to issue a full report about their examination, however, the controversy over authenticity continued.

As more doubts were raised, the tide shifted against authenticity. Then, in December 2004, Israel issued an 18-count indictment against Oded Golan, the owner of the James Ossuary, and four other men, accusing them of forging antiquities, including the Ossuary. The indictment was reported on this blog, but what has happened since then?

News reports are scarce, but here…

New Material at the Christian Cadre

Recently we announced the addition of a new CADRE page dedicated to responding to issues raised by The Da Vinci Code book and forthcoming movie. We just added a new section to that page, "Online Audio Files About The Da Vinci Code."

The Philistines, the Minoans and the Patriarchs

"So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days." Genesis 21:32-34.
Some have suggested that the mention of the Philistines in Genesis 21:32-34 and Genesis 26:1-18 demonstrates that Genesis is not historical because, they reason, the Philistines were not in Canaan at the time of Abraham. In fact, it is contended, the Philistines were not even a people at the time. To some it may seem a little odd to be asking whether the Philistines existed when Abraham was alive for several reasons. For those who are Biblical inerrantists, the fact that the Philistines are mentioned in Genesis 21:32-34 and Genesis 26:1-18 resolves the question. But even for those who don't accept Biblical inerrancy, it seems pretty dif…

A Non-Flattering Review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus

One of my favorite New Testament scholars, Ben Witherington, has posted a review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus on his blog. The review is by Dr. Dan Wallace of www.bible.org. Wallace has excellent online introductions to all of the New Testament books as well as many other informative articles.

Ehrman's main point seems to be that the New Testament manuscripts were so corrupted in their transmission that we cannot be sure about many of the core teachings of Christianity. Although most scholars will concede that there are some uncertainties in the manuscripts, those same scholars will also state that the discrepancies between some verses in the different manuscripts are relatively few and do not call into question any of the theological doctrines of traditional Christianity. Witherington quotes the preeminent textual scholar of our time, Bruce Metzger, as saying, "over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaini…

Secular Suicide: Will Birth Rates Determine the Victor of the Culture Wars?

I ran across this article in USA Today, by liberal columnist Phillip Longman. We often hear about declining birth rates in secularized Europe. Most such articles and books note that birth rates in the United States have declined much less dramatically and remain above replacement levels. But to Longman the most notable feature of birth rates may be the disparity within the United States.

Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.
Longman concludes that the dispa…

The CADRE Launches a Da Vinci Code Page

The CADRE is launching a new page dedicated to the literary and soon-to-be cinematic phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code. It includes links to the best online resources responding to the book from a Christian or historical perspective, as well as references to books that do the same. Here is the page's self-description:

Wildly successful, The Da Vinci Code has created a stir despite its fictitious nature. Its negative portrayal of Christianity rests on erroneous statements of history that many have unfortunately taken to be true. Herein, the CADRE provides resources that critically examine the story so that Christians will be able to correct misconceptions spread by the story and, more importantly, use discussions about the story to share the truth of Jesus Christ.
Check it out and let us know what you think. If you have any suggested additions to the page, please email me.

Layman Discusses Recent Trends in Pro-Life Legislation on the Radio

I was again the guest of Just A Woman radio, where I discussed recent trends in Pro-Life legislation. Obviously, the interview was related to this recent post. You can obtain the audio for free here.

Finding the historical Jesus and Marcus Borg

Bill Tammeus, a columnist for The Kansas City Star, has written an interesting piece entitled "For all we know, Jesus may have been apocalyptic prophet", in which he opines on the work of historians seeking the historical Jesus starting with Albert Schweitzer. After noting that Schweitzer concluded (wrongly, in my opinion) that history can tell us nothing about the historical Jesus, Mr. Tammeus then makes a rather interesting observation.

The authors of [Jesus biographies based upon a search for the "historical" Jesus], it turned out, were using new scholarly tools called historical and textual criticism — ways to dig beneath the words to understand more about their historical context.

But there was something odd about the Jesus these writers found: He very much resembled them. This Jesus easily could have taught theology in a German seminary and fit right in.

In other words, historians looking for the historical Jesus inevitably found, instead, the historian’s Jesu…

The polygamists are demanding their rights; so, where are the gay rights advocates?

I have heard the mantra for years: "Don't talk about polygamy when you talk about gay marriage. They are not related." Well, yes and no. I continue to agree that they are not related in one sense, but in another sense the issues follow one from another because both involved a compromise of the definition of marriage.

For centuries, marriage has been defined as a covenant between a man and a woman. Now, gay activitists are slowly turning the tide in communities across the world and making the idea that marriage should not be limited to two people of opposite gender, but rather should be based upon a covenant of love and commitment regardless of gender. People immersed in the theology of personal rights believe that people should be able to love and commit themselves to whoever they desire and that we should not be so close-minded as to limit marriage to being between a man and a woman. The important thing, it is argued, is the commitment and love that the couple shares. Th…

Is the Tide Turning on Abortion Law?

More states are taking up the gauntlet and passing or considering greater abortion restrictions, including outright bans of the procedure. Herein, I go through the most prominent and near-term changes state-by-state and then discuss the likely result.

South Dakota

South Dakota is leading the way. Its legislature has passed and its governor has signed a law banning all abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger or she is faced with substantial bodily harm. The bill is intended to be a direct assault on Roe v. Wade and the legislature has appealed to the latest scientific findings to support their actions. "DNA testing now can establish the unborn child has a separate and distinct personality from the mother,” said a sponsor of the bill. “We know a lot more about post-abortion harm to the mother."

Mississippi

Mississippi seems next in line. One house of its legislature has already passed a law which bans abortions except in cases where the life of the mother is in…

The Gospel of Judas piggybacking on the Da Vinci Code

I recently blogged on a text known as the Gospel of Judas here. This apparently ancient document revisits the story of Judas Iscariot and treats Judas -- who the Gospels describe as a thief and a betrayer -- in a much more favorable light. In this newly discovered Gospel of Judas, Judas is said to be Jesus' most favored disciple who betrays Jesus as part of the will of God, meets with Jesus where he gets forgiveness, and ultimately doesn't kill himself as the true Gospels report.

Now, James M. Robinson, "emeritus professor at Claremont (California) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts", has reviewed the Gospel of Judas and given it a big thumbs down as having any type of impact on the veracity of the Gospels. Why? Because while it is old, it is not old enough. According to "Expert Doubts Gospel Of Judas" by Richard N. Ostling:

He says the …

Foolish questions by skeptics

"There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions." ~Charles Proteus Steinmetz quoted at Quote Garden

With all due respect to Charles Steinmetz (and the thousands of teachers who say there are no foolish questions), there are such things as foolish questions. Some are pretty obvious, like the salesman who sees the dog inside the house barking at him and asks, "Is that your dog?" Or when someone says "I'm going to Aunt Jennie's funeral," and the other person foolishly asks, "Oh, did she die?" My own kids regale me with foolish questions every day. They ask questions like, "What are we having for dinner?" when they are watching me grill hot dogs on the barbecue.

These questions are foolish because the person asking the question would, with a little bit of thought or awareness (or, perhaps, research), recognize that the answer to the question is extremely obvious. If a question isn…

Vox Weekly Edition I is here! -- How is Jesus' death a Sacrifice?

After a delay (caused largely by my work schedule), I am finally getting around to posting the first Vox Apologia Weekly (a mere 30 hours late). As with any start-up, the submissions were few, but the submissions were of good quality. So, without further adieu, here are the entries responding to the question: How is Jesus' death a Sacrifice?

The first to post on this topic was an excellent blogger (and CADRE member) Andrew of Theo Geek with his post entitled "Jesus' Death as a Sacrifice". In this post, Andrew reviews the stages of development of sacrifices in religious traditions, and examines Jesus' sacrifice as both a cultic sacrifice and a moral sacrifice -- a very interesting view.

The next post is by one of my favorite bloggers and a former contributor to CADRE Comments, Weekend Fisher. Her post entitled "VA Weekly: Why Jesus' Death is a Sacrifice" is very short and references readers back to a post she wrote in October 2005 entitled "On Ato…

Jesus' death as sacrifice

Sacrifice - Pronunciation: 'sa-kr&-"fIs, also -f&s or -"fIz
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sacrificium, from sacr-, sacer + facere to make -- more at DO
1 : an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar
2 : something offered in sacrifice
3 a : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else b : something given up or lost
4 : LOSS
5 : SACRIFICE HIT
Merriam Webster's On-line Dictionary

This week's Vox Symposium asks the question: How was Jesus' death a sacrifice? While I think that there is a certain vagueness to the question, I think that Jesus death can be seen as a sacrifice on several levels. The first level is the more obvious identification of Jesus' crucifixion as an act of offering to a deity something precious. The second is God's surrender of something valuable on earth. The third relates to the short duration of the "pain&quo…

Is Hollywood Out of Touch?

Last night's Academy Awards show included Jon Stewart and George Clooney talking about whether Hollywood was "out of touch" with the general public. My friend Lores over at Justawoman.org asked specifically whether this years Oscars presentation show indicated that Hollywood was out of touch. Lores points out that none of the films nominated for Best Picture have come close to making the box office that The Chronicles of Narnia made in 2005.

A commenter on Lores' blog, to whom I responded, made the point that none of the top-ten grossing films this year were Oscar-worthy (though I disagree re: Narnia – it should at least have gotten more nominations). I thought it a fair argument, but ultimately it may not rebut Lores’ point. A better sample would be to look at the adjusted all-time box office to see whether Hollywood was able to make artistically accomplished movies that appeal to the broader culture. Here are the Top Ten:

1. Gone with the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. …