CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This week's Newsweek Magazine has an article called Reality Check for 'Roe' which discusses the recent acknowledgement by some pro-abortionists that many in the United States, including women who are procuring abortions, are experiencing moral qualms about the procedure. Moreover, they are coming to understand that as the argument has increasingly become one of morality, they have been losing ground politically. Quoting Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for a Free Choice:

"There is a deep-seated fear that if you address the moral issues (of abortion), you're going to lose," says Kissling. "But we're losing anyway. It's only by addressing the moral issues that we'll get some relief on the political questions."

The article does offer some "hope" for defenders of abortion in the fact there is probably still a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court to defend Roe v. Wade. But this political and legal math misses the underlying point that as morality enters into the debate, the battle over abortion will take a fundamental shift onto the ground of human rights, and once that happens, the war will be over.

This is why I am absolutely convinced that the argument MUST remain focused on the humanity of the pre-born baby. At the same time I am not surprised at the willingness of many (but certainly not all) to continue to live with the moral and cognitive dissonance of killing human beings through abortion. The Newsweek article acknowledges this dissonance by taking note of “baptisms” for the recently killed foetuses, on-site chaplains at abortion facilities, and even the foundation of a post-abortion counselling service by a pro-abortion group. Another testimony to the growing awareness of the fundamental immorality of abortion can be found in a recent editorial written by a pro-abortion student where she says:

"As a proponent of abortion, I want my opponents to remember this: I am not completely confident in my position as pro-choice. I suspect that many college age liberal women are not as steadfast in their pro-choice stance as political rallies and feminist classes would make our demographic out to be. I often consider the fact that many of my friends who were adopted might not be alive had their mothers chosen the route of abortion. I understand too that abortion can be an easy way to get over the mistake of not using birth control, and it scares me that some young women (and certainly men) don’t plan ahead because in the back of their minds they know, if worse comes to worst, abortion is a possibility. I believe that if a pregnant woman is attacked and her baby dies, that criminal should be prosecuted for murder, no matter the age of the fetus. I realize that this is in opposition to my belief that embryos of up to three months should not be considered people in terms of a mother’s right to abortion. I see this hypocrisy, and I shakily defend both of these contradictory beliefs in terms of the right of a woman to privacy. Shakily."

The dissonance of knowing that it is murder for a man to kill a pre-born baby in an attack, but supposedly "alright" if that killing is performed by a doctor at the request of the mother comes through loud and clear. More importantly, it cannot, in my opinion, be sustained over the long term.

Consider the following examples:

  • The humanity of women was never denied throughout the suffragette movement, just their right to have the vote.
  • Most did not deny that blacks were humans even as they were enslaved, and after emancipation denied fundamental rights in the United States.
  • Socially sanctioned racism (like that practiced against Chinese immigrants here in Canada in the early 20th century) did not deny that the Chinese were human.
  • Eugenics was very popular at in the late-19th and early 20th centuries in many countries, and resulted in forced sterilization (or worse) of "undesirables."
In fact, it is this last case that I think most closely resembles the fight we face in opposing abortion. At the turn of the 20th century it was the height of fashion for all the "right" people to support eugenics, or at least to defend the right of others to practice it. Only a few "extremists" and "those Catholics" seemed to oppose, on moral grounds, this form of "progress." And it took decades (plus the Holocaust) to open people’s eyes to the true horror of what they had previously advocated, or at least tolerated and defended as a "right" (namely, the right to murder or sterilize undesirable human beings).

In every case of human rights advancement experienced in the West we have had to pass through the stages of acknowledging the humanity of the oppressed, to a greater education as to what that humanity meant (in terms of granting fundamental and inviolable rights), to decisive social and political action that entrenched those rights permanently. My faith in the ability of this argument to win over the people is rooted in the knowledge that human rights, when properly articulated, eventually triumph in Western democracies. The process is long, and painful, and frustrating, for the advocates and defenders of the weak and helpless, but it has proven triumphant, and will again with the rights of the pre-born. The fears and moral uncertainties expressed by a growing number of abortion defenders shows us that these efforts are taking effect, and should inspire us with hope and optimism. They know that once society as a whole comes to see the pre-born as human beings, the game is up, and they will have lost the war.

Abortion will one day join eugenics, segregation and racism as an unthinkable and indefensible position. That said, I have no illusions about how long this will take. We are probably looking at a minimum of another generation before the political power of the anti-pre-born bigots is broken. Only then will the rights of the pre-born be fully defended by society, and that defence be seen as both natural and the only morally right one.

Nomad

Sales of The Da Vinci Code have hit an astonishing 36 million copies worldwide. Sony Pictures is set to release a Ron Howard film starring Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon this May.

Some Christians dismiss the book as a work of fiction and not worthy of a serious response. I think that is a mistake. Stories are influential and so are movies. A Barna study revealed that nearly one-third of adults (29%) contend that movies have had a substantial impact on the development of their personal morals, values and religious beliefs. Don't under estimate the power of narrative, fictional or not.

Here is a better idea.

Look for ways to take advantage of this publicity. The Christian faith is a faith rooted in historical truth. History is not something Christians need to shy away from. Quite the opposite. We should want to talk about it. The Da Vinci Code phenomenon, it seems to me, is a gift wrapped opportunity to do that.

In the words of George Barna,

"Perhaps a more thoughtful and strategic reaction by Christian people would be to use the movie as a springboard for conversation and exploration regarding the roots and foundations of the Christian faith. Igniting such conversations would not be difficult; already, 66% of adults say that in a typical week they dialogue with friends and work associates about the content of movies and TV shows they have recently seen. The reach and slant of The Da Vinci Code will raise countless opportunities for open discussion of such matters. Christians who recognize and engage those moments of opportunity can do much to advance the cause of truth."

If you are into Christian apologetics, look for an opportunity to speak to your church youth group about The Da Vinci Code, the reliability of scripture, the historicity of the Christian faith, and what really took place at the council of Nicea.

Finally, don't neglect to use this opportunity to talk to your kids about the reliability of the scriptures, and how we know that the life, death and resurrection of Christ really happened.

If you haven't read the book, check it out from the library and read it. You will find as I did that the theory Dan Brown trots out is an old one. It has been debunked before. Take advantage of the work of other apologists. No need to reinvent the wheel. BK provides some links to help you get started.

Start getting ready now. Don't wait till May. Be ready to respond when someone asks, so what did you think of The Da Vinci Code?

Sony Pictures is set to release its cinematic adaptation of The DaVinci Code. The book is complete fiction, but has managed to be taken as true, or true enough, by many whose opinions of Christianity have been adversely affected by it. Errors in the book have been discussed on this site here and here.

It is hard to imagine how the movie could be any less anti-Catholic and anti-Christian than the book. In what may be an attempt to insulate itself from a reaction to the anti-Christian elements of the movie, Sony Pictures has sponsored a website -- The DaVinci Dialogue -- where religious scholars can comment on the story and the history of Christianity and Catholicism. Some well-known scholars are participating, including Darrell L. Bock, Tony Campolo, Chuck Colson, Hugh Hewitt, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and Ben Witherington. So far the scholars seem unimpressed. For example, Catholic scholar Thomas P. Rausch states:

Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code is clearly anti-Catholic. It portrays the Catholic Church as the enemy of truth, hijacking Jesus’ message, hiding evidence, engaging in a deliberate campaign of disinformation, and supporting Opus Dei as a sinister international Catholic organization not above using violence and assassination to accomplish its goals. All of which is clearly false. But Brown’s real target is the historic Christian faith which the Catholic Church formulated in its councils and handed down to future generations of Christians. Thus he challenges the antiquity of the Christian canon of Scripture as well as the Church’s belief in the divinity of Jesus, its Trinitarian faith, and its doctrine of salvation.....

I am skeptical that this website will provide the kind of cover Sony apparently hopes it will. It is almost cliche to say it, but anti-Christian prejudice is one of the few acceptable bigotries in Hollywood. Nevertheless, the site seems worth checking out although so far only a few of the listed scholars have contributed.

(HT to Hugh Hewitt).

paul del signore at Sketches in Sacred Vapor had a very intriguing post entitled "Biology in the Information Age" published on February 26, 2006 (no direct link available). In the post, he sets forth an argument by Perry Marshall where he asserts that he can prove that God exists. The argument is as follows:

Perry Marshall has done some good work in this area discussing this important question. His central thesis is as follows:

1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism.

2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.

3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind.

Now, I am not a fan of saying that someone can prove anything because proof is a function of the willingness of the listener to accept the evidence. However, I am very happy to examine an argument to see if it is sound and persuasive to the hypothetical objective observer. What I find interesting is that the arguments seems pretty sound.

Premise 1 is pretty much a given. While I am not privy to the most recent publications in the world of microbiolgy, I don't think there are any molecular biologists who don't recognize that DNA is a code. Consider the following from My Name is LUCA -- The Last Universal Common Ancestor by Anthony M. Poole, Ph.D.:

[A]ll life stores its genetic information on DNA, using a common code which we call the genetic code. The information is stored as packets, called genes -- 'recipes' for making RNA, and proteins. The languages of DNA and RNA are so similar they may as well be called dialects, but both are markedly different from the language of protein. For RNA and DNA, the information-carrying part of both molecules is made up of four bases (analogous to letters in an alphabet) read in a linear fashion, as with written human languages. In RNA, the four bases are A, G, C and U. In DNA, A, G and C are also used, while T is used instead of U. Establishing the evolutionary basis for this change from U to T is not a trivial exercise, and is an interesting problem in itself [Poole et al. 2001]; but in terms of the actual 'language', the difference is as minor as the variant spelling of English words, e.g., 'civilisation' and 'civilization.'

The connection drawn by Dr. Poole from the "information" contained in the A, G, C, and T basis to language is unmistakable. He uses the word "language" to describe the code, and he calls the two languages "dialects". The four bases are analogous to an alphabet. The differences between DNA and RNA languages is as minor as "variant spellings."

Working from the base of Code as the language which transmits the information, the question turns to the complexity of the code. If the code is a few simple words, perhaps we could excuse it as being formed by chance over time. If, however, the code is complex, doesn't that argue for a creator?

Naturally, the code is not only complex -- it is very complex. Origin of Life – Theories and Genetics by T.C. Goldsmith, makes this observation:

The genetic work indicates that the complexity of genetic codes doesn’t track that well with the apparent complexity of the organism and that even very simple organisms have quite complex genomes. The simplest known living thing is the microbe mycoplasma genitalium which causes human non-gonococcal urethritus. This microbe has a genetic code of about 570,000 base pairs. Viruses are simpler but aren’t really "alive" in the sense that they cannot reproduce or grow without using the mechanisms in a living cell to do so. The bacteria e coli has a genetic code of about 5.7 million base pairs.

But e coli and mycoplasma can’t live in the absence of other more complex organisms (e coli lives in animal gut, mycoplasma lives in … well you get the idea). In fact the primordial organism must have been at the bottom of the food chain, capable of synthesizing its own food from non-living material, and living without assistance from any other living organism. It could have possibly been something on the order of blue-green algae which has 3.6 million base pairs in its genetic code and is thought to be about 3.5 billion years old. Mycoplasma, bacteria, and viruses all must have "devolved" from more complex organisms in response to the availability of more complex forms to act as hosts or links in the food chain.

The original organism had mechanisms (ability to grow, reproduce, and evolve) which led to the evolution of the diverse life forms which now exist on Earth and as indicated above this evolution is documented in the genetic codes of organisms now alive as well as in fossil evidence. But under this scenario the original organism would have had to appear by random happenstance aggregation of materials. This is somewhat like believing that because while digging you found a rock that looked like a brick, if you dug long and hard enough you would eventually find something that looked like the Sistine Chapel complete with Michelangelo’s Creation on the ceiling.

If the DNA code is information, how much data do we have? Well, Juan Enriquez in a quote from his book As the Future Catches You -- How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Your Work, Your Investments, Your World," answers the question this way:

To put the amount of genetic data YOU posses in perspective, consider that your genetic code consists of three billion letters. The code is repeated twice within each cell, and your body has about 50 trillion cells."

[Essentially, YOU walk around carrying 1.5 x 10^23 ("15" with 22 zeros after it, or '150 zettabits') of data. To really appreciate the magnitude of this number, remember that the sequence goes: Kilo, Mega, Giga, Tera, Peta, Exa, Zetta, Yotta.]

So, microbiology looks at the DNA as information and language, and there is an awful lot of it. Moreover, the amount of language in even the simplest cells consists of 570,000 base pairs. Did that come together by accident?

Which brings us to the second premise: "All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information." Admittedly, this is much more in dispute. But I guess the question is: if all of this information didn't come from a mind, how did it come together naturally? So far, no one seems to have a clear answer to that one.

In a series of posts, I have began questioning Mr. Carrier's argument that Paul believed in a two-body resurrection doctrine that left the original dead body rotting in the grave. This conveniently plays into Mr. Carrier's avowed hostility to Christianity, but it has had no scholarly support. Scholars recognize that resurrection means the raising of the dead body back to life (albiet transformed and improved).

So, Mr. Carrier himself has tried to make the case, though within the first four pages of his article he distorts the views of various Jewish sects (Herodians, Scribes, Qumran & Essenes, and Sadducees) and the The Assumption of Moses to make his case. As I turned my attention to Mr. Carrier's discussion of the views of Philo, who Mr. Carrier claims held "just such a view" as his proposed two-body resurrection doctrine, I was not surprised to see the flawed analysis continue.

I will turn to the core of his argument in another post, but for now I want to focus on Mr. Carrier's assertion that "Philo does on occasion refer to his theory of salvation as 'resurrection.'" The Empty Tomb, page 202 n. 34. I was surprised to find this in an endnote. Why would Mr. Carrier tuck away such a potentially helpful point in an endnote? Afterall, one of the hurdles Mr. Carrier has to clear is the fact that scholars view Philo as a Jew who has no place for "resurrection" at all, instead adopting the Greek view of the immortality of the soul. If Philo does talk about his view of immortailty as "resurrection," Mr. Carrier's argument might be strengthened.

The term in Philo's writings that Mr. Carrier translates "resurrection" is paliggenesia. Being a novice in matters Greek and Philo, I relied heavily on my scholarly resources (secondary sources, Lexicons, Bibleworks 6.0) to check this claim.

I started by checking the source Mr. Carrier cited in support of his claim that Philo refers to "resurrection" on occasion. That source is F. Burnett, "Philo on Immortality: A Thematic Study of Philo's Concept of paliggenesia," CBQ 46 (1984), pages 447-70. This reference surprised me because Burnett's article was playing an important part in my research for an article responding to Mr. Carrier's use of Philo. Mr. Carrier offers no pinpoint citation, so perhaps I am missing something, but taken as a whole Burnett's article contradicts, rather than supports, Mr. Carrier's translation.

Just after citing Burnett, Mr. Carrier argues that the "clearest example" of the reference to resurrection by Philo was De Cherubim 114-15, which Mr. Carrier translates: "we who are akin to those with bodies will not exist, but we who are akin to those without bodies will hasten to resurrection."

Mr. Carrier gives no citation for his translation so perhaps it is his own. It is not, however, the translation that Professor Burnett uses. According to Burnett, the same passage states that we "shall go forward to our rebirth." In several other places in his article Prof. Burnett translates paliggenesia to mean "rebirth." As he says in one place, "Philo seems to reserve the term paliggenesia for the soul's rebirth after literal death." Burnett, op. cit., page 456. Thus, the article cited by Mr. Carrier contradicts his translation.

The indispensible Peter Kirby provides online the translation of Charles Yonge, which translates the phrase thus, "we shall then be hastening to a regeneration." No help there.

So then I checked to see if paliggenesia appears in any New Testament writing as meaning "resurrection." Thayer's Lexicon says it means "new birth,
reproduction, renewal, re-creation," but never says it means resurrection. The preferred term for "resurrection" in the New Testament is anastasis. Egeiro and its morphs are also used to refer to being “raised” from the dead. Nowhere in the New Testament is paliggenesia used to mean resurrection. In fact, the term only appears twice. Matt. 19:28 uses it to refer to the renewal or regeneration of all things. Titus 3.5 uses it to say, "by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Paul uses anastasis and egeiro, but never paliggenesia to refer to resurrection. Thus, even if Mr. Carrier could find some support for translating paliggenesia to mean resurrection, it would be of questionable worth given that Paul never uses that term.

How about the Apostolic Fathers? I found one mention of paliggenesias in 1 Clement, but it does not refer to resurrection but to the "second birth" of the world after the great flood. I found no mention anywhere else in 1 Clement, Ignatius's letters, Barnabas, or Polycarp. If someone has information otherwise I would appreciate a reference. Anastasis, on the other hand, is commonly used by the Apostolic Fathers to refer to resurrection.

I also checked the LXX and found no references to paliggenesia, though I am new to Greek and the LXX. The LXX, it seems, prefers anastasis as well. If anyone has contrary references, please let me know.

Finally, I checked Josephus' works and found one reference to paliggenesia at Ant. 11:66, speaking of the "restoration of their country." I found no other references.

In sum, the secondary source relied on by Mr. Carrier contradicts his translation. Philo refers to rebirth or regeneration as the process of the soul escaping the dead body. I could find no support for Mr. Carrier's translation in the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, the LXX, or Josephus. Philo does not appear to refer to resurrection linguistically or conceptually.

The Best of the Web from the Wall Street Journal noted a very interesting bit of wording relating to how WebMD treats pre-natal infants. According to the Best of the Web from February 15, WebMD.com has . . .

A page called "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 9-12" [which] is chock full of antichoice propaganda. "By the end of the third month," it outrageously claims, "your baby is fully formed. Your baby has arms, hands, fingers, feet and toes and can open and close its fists and mouth."

They mean the third month of pregnancy, not the third month after the kid is born. That's right, what they're talking about isn't a baby at all but a fetus. In case the antichoice fanatics have you flummoxed, the following definitions are helpful:

fetus: a clump of tissue.

baby: one of those little--sorry, vertically challenged--persons that the village raises while his or her mother pursues a fulfilling career.

But the WebMD folks are either hopelessly confused or part of a sinister plot against reproductive rights. Look what it says under Week 10:

Congratulations! Your baby is now officially called a "fetus."

This is a contradiction in terms, a nonsensical statement. It's like saying, "Congratulations! Your accountant is now officially called a 'tumor.' " But of course the radical right wants to propagate the myth that a fetus is somehow "human" so as to further its agenda of heteronormative white male supremacy.

If the WebMD pages seem confused, it is because they are. The problem isn't that the WebMD website is inaccurate. The problem is that the use of terms relating to the pre-birth humans is hopelessly confused by politics. We cannot use terms that accurately reflect reality because that may be giving ground to the other side in the political debate.

Personally, I hope that we can, at minimum, stop equivocating on terms with this very important issue. If the pro-life and pro-abortion crowds could agree on terms, it may be a step in resolving this issue. But, of course, we cannot do that because the issue is too political. Even in this post, I call the people who want to be called "pro-choice" "pro-abortion" because I think pro-choice is misleading. But, of course, they think that my phrase "pro-life" is miseleading.

If we cannot even agree on terms, I think we are a long way from coming to any real agreement. But if we cannot agree on terms, ridiculous items like this WebMD pages on fetuses that are babies will continue to pop up.

I appeared again on Just A Woman Radio over the weekend to discuss upcoming Supreme Court cases and religious liberty. The audio is available at Justawoman.com.

This morning, one of my predictions was proven correct. I predicted that the Supreme Court would soon hear a case regarding the constitutionality of the federal ban on partial-birth abortions (honest, check the tape!). That prediction was proven correct this morning as the Supreme Court announced it would indeed hear a case in which a federal appellate court struck down the ban as unconstitutional. Okay, it was not that much of a stretch, but I am new to this.

Argument will likely occur in October.

In my recent blog about faith, I took a position that a person need not be able to answer every objection to Christianity in order to be rational in believing in God. I went so far as to say that a person is justified in believing in God without having answers to tough objections he himself had in mind that he felt were unanswerable prior to accepting God. In doing so, and in thinking about a long comment made by one reader, I came to a realization about how some people perceive the relationship between rationality and truth that I wanted to share.

It appears that some people equate rationality with truth. In other words, they hold the position that if their position is rational then it must be true. This conflates rationality to truth -- a equation that isn't appropriate.

Rationality has many meanings, but the one that is most often associated with rationality in the context of religious discussion is "logical". In other words, each side is vying for the high-ground of having their viewpoint be seen as logical and the other side as being illogical. But it is asking too much of logic to say that only one viewpoint is rational in this sense of the word.

It is quite possible for two people to hold opinions that are very different yet both hold their respective views rationally, i.e., consistent with logic. This is possible because logic can only tell us if arguments made are valid or invalid. Validity simply says that if the facts which form the premises are true, then the conclusion either is true or is likely to be true. In this sense, we can know whether the conclusions of a belief or philosophy are logically supported by the evidence asserted as justifying such belief or philosophy, but we can never establish with that the belief is true using logic alone.

For example, if I say: "Socrates is a mortal because Socrates is a man and all men are sleepy", a logical analysis of the argument shows that my conclusion is not supported by my premises. There is no reason to believe that my conclusion is true because even if both premises are true they do not rationally lead one to conclude that the conclusion is true. (Of course, even if the argument is invalid doesn't mean that the conclusion is false, but it does mean that it is not rationally arrived upon.)

But now, if my argument is the classical argument "Socrates is mortal because Socrates is a man and all men are mortal", I have stated a valid argument. But my valid argument does not prove that Socrates is mortal unless it is also true that the premises are true. Suppose that Socrates is my pet turtle. If Socrates is not a man, then the argument is still valid, but the conclusion is false. So, rationality if it is limited to pure logic does not establish the truth of any statement. Logic can only test the forms of the arguments and say whether the conclusions follow from the premises. Consequently, it is possible for both the atheist and the Christian to have valid logical arguments for their positions which lead them to opposite conclusions about the truth of Christianity and both still be rationally arrived upon.

Now my argument was that a person can come to faith based upon new evidence that they find compelling even over old objections to Christianity that they found irrefutable before their conversion. What changed? Did they suddenly become an irrational person? Hardly. What happened is that the information that went into their premises changed. For example, suppose that their objection was the old argument from the existence of evil. Suppose a skeptic believes that it is completely and utterly impossible to believe in God based on the following:

A. The Christian God is all good.
B. The Christian God is all powerful.
C. An all-good God would not permit a world in which anyone suffered.
D. Our world is one in which people suffer.
E. Therefore, the Christian God is either not all good, nor all powerful, or doesn't even exist at all.

That's a powerful argument. (Fortunately, it is an argument that has been answered by many people, with C.S. Lewis being among them, but the point of this blog is not to refute the problem from evil. If you are interested in reading about a quality refutation of this argument, see C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea.) If a skeptic holds this argument it seems as if it would be impossible for him to come to a belief in the Christian God and still be rational (since he would have to accept the Christian God's existence in opposition to this admittedly strong logical argument). However, suppose that he comes into some new knowledge in the form of direct experience that Jesus is God. The work of the Holy Spirit opens his eyes and he sees and understands that God exists just as clearly as he sees and understands that a circle is not a square.

What does this new knowledge do? It destroys any argument that he used to argue against Christianity, including the argument from evil. The now-former skeptic knows first hand that the conclusion is not true and cannot be true because he has encountered the living God. So, what does he do with the argument from evil? He dismisses it as wrong without knowing the exact reasons that it is wrong. Why is that? Because new information has made him recognize that the conclusion is wrong (in fact, must be wrong) even if he doesn't know which of the premises are wrong or why they are wrong.

This is not unusual. We all accept propositions as true that we know are problematic without knowing how to resolve every problem with it. In his book The Creator and the Cosmos, astronomer Hugh Ross, Ph.D., made this same point when he explained how he came to faith in the Bible knowing that he didn't have answers for every possible objection he may have had to Christianity. After undertaking a year and a half study of the Bible to see whether it agreed with scientific knowledge, Dr. Ross says:

At the end of the eighteen months, I had to admit to myself that I had been unsuccessful in finding a single provable error or contradiction. That is not to say that there were not any passages in the Bible I did not understand or problems that I could not resolve. The problems and passages I couldn't yet understand didn't discourage me, however, for I faced the same kind of things in the record of nature. But just as with the record of nature, I was impressed with how much could be understood and resolved.

In other words, Dr. Ross understood that we accept many things as true even though there may be problems with them. To become a Christian a skeptic need not be able to come to a full understanding of Christianity or how it is not frustrated by the problem of evil or any other arguments that try to prove that Christianity is false. All a person has to do is be "impressed with how much [can] be understood and resolved" to be acting rationally.

Does this happen? I think it does. And I think I would have an ally for my position in the person of the Apostle Paul who found what I am saying to be the case on the Road to Damascus.

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi

CADRE Comments has been honored to volunteer to host the very first Vox Weekly set up by Razorskiss at Vox Apologia. Here's what Razorskiss has to say about the event:

Vox Apologia, Edition I, will be posted March 6th, hosted by CADRE Comments. The topic is Why is Jesus' Death a Sacrifice? submitted by DarkSyde, who blogs on science and politics at Daily Kos and at the atheist and skeptic blog Unscrewing the Inscrutable.

As I understand it, this is a chance for apologists to answer questions submitted by skeptics and link them all to a single place. What you do is write your answer to the question and then submit a link to your site and the URL of your blog through voxapologia by March 5, 2006 at Midnight MST. I will do my best to get the material posted March 6 (don't expect much before 3:00 MST). Submissions should be made through the link for submissions on the left sidebar at Vox Apologia.

I encourage all of you Internet apologetics bloggers to take a crack at this question. I know that I have seen many people say that Jesus' death on the cross was no big deal because he knew that he was going to be resurrected and spend eternity in heaven. With that knowledge (lacking the uncertainty that us humans have) there was no way his approximately 12 hours of being beaten and crucified was any big deal. How do you respond? I have my answer, but I will love to read and link to all of yours.

Also, keep in mind that Vox Apologia is also putting out a call for blogs for Vox Symposium Edition XXI. The topic is The Fear of The Lord. I started blogging on the issue of the Fear of the Lord not too long ago, and I will dig up what I started to submit since the topic is one of great interest to me. I hope others will do the same.

The biggest downside of blogs is that there are so many good ones that I don't have the chance to visit my favorites as regularly as I would like. For example, it had been awhile since I visited Disert Paths, the very fine blog by CADRE friend Darrell Pursiful, adjunct professor of New Testament studies. When I finally stopped by, I found a post entitled The Nazoreans IV: The Desposynoi which contained information with which I was unacquainted.

This post is the fourth in a series about the Nazoreans (hence, the "IV" in the title) which examines "the contours of the early Jesus movement. In particular, . . . the faith and practice of Jesus' earliest Jewish followers and those who came after them." The first post, entitled "Terminology", Darrell examines the origin of the terms ebionite and nazorean for purposes of defining the people being discussed. In Part II, "Pre-Christian Origins", Darrell examines how the Jesus movement was "situated in relation to other Jewish sects of the first century." In Part III, entitled "Early Development", Darrell examines the "unexpected diversity" within just a decade or so of the movement's birth. All of these posts are excellent and informative, and I recommend them to anyone not familiar with the communities of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Part IV, however, was especially interesting to me. It contained information about the early church with which I was wholly unfamiliar. It concerns a group knowns as the Desposynoi, roughly translated, the "Lord's people", who were based in both Nazareth and Kokhaba. It appears that this group was made up of Jesus brothers and cousins. According to a quote contained in the post:

Just as it was normal practice in the ancient Near East for members of the royal family to hold high offices in government, so Palestinian Jewish Christians felt it appropriate that Jesus' brothers, cousins and other relatives should hold positions of authority in his church. Indeed, the term desposynoi … could well have the sense, more or less, of "members of the royal family."

I found the post fascinating, and I wanted everyone to have a chance to read it. It is worth the time.

We have added four new articles to the Cadre's The Resurrection of Jesus page: He is Risen Indeed, by Ben Witherington; A Synopsis of N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, from Opensourcetheology.org; Notes on Jesus' Resurrection: Paul's Understanding of of Jesus' Resurrection, by N.T. Wright; and Resurrection, Body, Judgment, by Randall Watters.



Witherington's article is a good general defense of the resurrection. The Synopsis is perfect for the person who is interested in N.T. Wright's indispensible The Resurrection of the Son of God but wanted to wait for the Cliff Notes version. The third article consists of Wright's outline notes for a lecture he gave about Paul's understanding of the resurrection. The last piece is a response to Jehovah Witnesses' understanding of Jesus' resurrection that effectively critiques the view that Paul believed that Jesus' resurrection was solely a "spiritual" one.

Ever run into the begging the question fallacy fallacy?

That is not a typo. The word fallacy is meant to be repeated. What do I mean?

Begging the question simply means that someone is using circular logic. They are using the conclusion of an argument to defend the premise of the argument.

Person A claims, pollution is causing the ice caps to melt.
Person B asks, how do you know?
Person A replies, because the ice caps are shrinking.

Person A used the conclusion to defend his claim. Perhaps some kind of planetary climate cycles are causing global warming rather than pollution. Person A begged the question. Circular reasoning is clearly a bad thing.

However, there are times when circular reasoning is unavoidable.

Example:

Person A claims: Logic makes rational sense.
Person B asks, how do you really know that?
Person A replies, because it is irrational not to think logic makes sense.

Person A's argument is circular. It begs the question, does it not? Does it invalidate person A's argument, however?

It turns out that circularity is unavoidable at some point for everyone but we have learned to make peace with it.

All knowledge requires a starting point (if you are sensing that I am begging the question in claiming that, you are right). Knowledge cannot accumulate without base assumptions. Those base assumptions, however, are assumed and used to defend themselves … circularity.

Why bring this up on an apologetics blog?

I have friends who are atheists who like to bring out the begging the question fallacy fallacy in worldview discussions. When I tell them, my starting point to knowledge is "God Is", for example, they throw a flag in hopes of assessing a 15 yard "question begging" penalty.

Should I be concerned?

Hardly. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. They are committing the exact same fallacy, they just are blind to their own infraction.

Implicit in their argument is that the assumed proper starting point for knowledge is "Reason Is", and that "God Is" must be proven using the bar of reason or it is a false claim. The problem is, of course, "Reason Is" begs the question. So does the claim "God does not exist until reason says so". Think about it.

Does this mean we should all go out and start ignoring this fallacy on a daily basis? No, of course not. Does it mean we should lose interest in demonstrating that Christianity is a reasonable faith? No, of course not. We should, and I applaud the work of my fellow apologists on this blog who do that on a daily basis. I am merely saying that this particular rejoinder loses it force when the discussion is centered on foundational questions.

For example, I was recently engaging with a nice fellow about the basis for morality being grounded in God's transcendence and holy character. He threw a penalty flag on me. He claimed that my argument only makes sense if one accepts my a priori assumptions. My response was (paraphrased), how is his rejoinder relevant? I asked him, how his naturalistic basis for morality escapes this same fallacy. His reply was an honest one … "I don't know." Exactly. He doesn't know because he is committing the same fallacy and it had never occurred to him.

A deeper question to ponder is, can "reason is" have a rational foundation in a universe where "God is" is not true? If your claim is yes, on what basis?

Occasionally, someone will claim that the Bible inaccurately quotes the Old Testament or quotes from verses that are nowhere found in the Old testament. For example, Romans 10:11 says: "For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed." (NASB version) Most skeptics will happily note that the phrase referenced by Paul (which is put in quotation marks in many Bibles) does not exist in Old Testament. So, where does this phrase come from?

My Study Bible references Isaiah 28:16 as the source of the phrase Paul is referencing. Isaiah 28:16 reads (NASB):

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed."

Now, looking at this as a skeptic might, I don't think it immediately obvious how "will not be disturbed" is the equivalent of "will not be disappointed." According to the Blue Letter Bible, the phrase "will not be disturbed" from Isaiah 28:16 is a single Hebrew word, "chuwsh" which seems literally translated as "to make haste." Romans 10:11, on the other hands, was written in Greek, and the Greek words translated as "will not be disappointed" is "ou kataischuno". "Ou kataischuno", according to the Blue Letter Bible, is most literally translated as "shall not be put to shame." So how do these come together? More importantly, why is it that Paul quotes it differently than the Old Testament Hebrew actually reads.

The problem is partially a result of our desire to put modern rules to ancient texts. Recently, an essay entitled "Principles the New testament Writers used when Quoting the Old" by Timothy Lin, Ph.D., has become available on the Internet. The short (5 page) essay reviews some of the principles for determining how the Old Testament was quoted in the New Testament. Several of the principles noted by Dr. Lin could be appropriate in this context.

For example, Dr. Lin notes that the New Testament writers didn't have quotation marks, and so when we see quotation marks in our Bibles, they are not part of the original text. Dr. Lin also notes that the New Testament writers had the freedom to both quote and allude to the Old Testament. He says:

Some passages in the New Testament are not quotations at all but allusions. When any author finds some literary content which is very familiar to his readers, he can allude to it rather than quote it directly. This was also true with the New Testament writers. There are quite a few allusions in the New Testament. The distinction between an allusion and a quotation is that the former appears always without a formula of introduction, or as indirect discourse after `oti, (translated as "that" in Mark 12:19 but when indicating indirect discourse is usually left untranslated as in Luke 2:33; Acts 3: 23; etc.), or after 'opos plarotha or 'ina plarotha (in order that) as in Matthew 2:23; 4:15-16; 8:17, 23; etc.

Certainly, we see quotation marks in Romans 10:11 because the editors put them there, but they were not in the original autograph or the earliest copies. Still, it does appear that Paul is quoting something since he says "scripture says . . . ." So, what is the explanation?

Dr. Lin explains:

The Holy Spirit did not limit the New Testament writers to quote just from the Old Testament. As aforementioned, God's revelation is for man. Any truth that was familiar to the reader and was also capable of expressing God's revelation, the Holy Spirit would use. For this reason the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to quote a Greek poem in the Acts 17:28, a saying from a now lost comedy in 1 Corinthians 15:33, and two names (Jannes and Jambres) from the Talmud or the Targum of Jonathan in 2 Timothy 3:8. At the time when the New Testament was being written, the Septuagint was the most widely spread translation among the Gentiles. It was natural for the Holy Spirit to use this translation to express God's truth since it was familiar to most readers. No matter how poor the quality of the Septuagint translation, it had at least more value than a Greek poem or Corinthian comedy. If Jude could quote the Apocryphal Book of Enoch to emphasize the certainty of God's judgment (Jude 14-15), other writers certainly could quote from the Septuagint.

The difference in the two versions of Isaiah appears to be the result of Paul using the Septuagint. The Septuagint, the first translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, made into popular Greek before the Christian era, translates ""ou kataischuno" from Isaiah 28:16 as "shall by no means be ashamed." Is this a bad translation? According to Jamison, Faucett and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), such a translation was appropriate because the Septuagint translation communicates "substantially the same idea; he who rests on Him shall not have the shame of disappointment, nor flee in sudden panic (see Isa 30:15; 32:17)." The verses cited by the commentary do support this proposition.

Does this help? The typical skeptic would say it doesn't help because the wording of Isaiah isn't exactly the same as the Romans verse. Paul, it would be argued, directly quotes a scripture that doesn't exist (or, at least, exist in the form quoted). The fact that Paul was apparently quoting from the Septuagint instead of the original Hebrew only proves, in the skeptics' mind, that Paul wasn't inspired because he is quoting from a version of the Old Testament which is often seen as less reliable than the original Hebrew.

I think Dr. Lin's argument is sufficient to respond to this objection. If the most familiar version of the Old Testament to the readers of the Epistle would have been the Septuagint, then there is no reason to suppose that Paul would not have used the Septuagint so that the quotation was familiar to them. Since other books of the New Testament clearly use the Septuagint, and others quote from other completely non-Biblical sources, then why cannot Paul use a different version of the Old Testament which, at heart, means the same thing?

I highly recommend reading "Principles the New testament Writers used when Quoting the Old" by Timothy Lin, Ph.D. It is a concise but excellent overview of the way in which the Old Testament was quoted in the New Testament.

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Mother T.


The Free Will Defense is offered by Christian apologists as an answer to any sort of atheist argument such as the problem of pain or the problem of evil. The argument runs something like: God values free will because "he" ("she"?) doesn't want robots. The problelm with this approach is that it often stops short in analysis as to why free will would be a higher value than anything else. This leaves the atheist in a position of arguing any number of pains and evil deeds and then charging that God had to know these things would happen, thus God must be cruel for creating anyting at all knowing the total absolute pain (which usually includes hell in most atheist arguments) would result from creation.


The apologetists answers usually fail to satisfy the atheist, because in their minds noting can outweight the actual inflicting of pain. Sometimes atheists evoke omnipotence and play it off against the value of free will, making the assumption that an "all powerful God" could do anything, thus God should be abel to cancel any sort of moral debt, make sin beyound our natures, create a pain free universe, and surely if God were all loving, God would have done so.


The better twist on the free will defense would be to start from a different position. We should start with the basis for creation, in so far as we can understand it, and then to show how the logical and non self contradictory requirements of the logic of creation require free will. What is usually missing or not pointed out is the necessity of free will in the making of mmoral choices. This is the step that atheists and Christian apologists alike sometimes overlook; that it is absolutley essential in a non-self contradictory way, that humanity have free will. Thus, free will must out weight any other value. At that point, since it is a matter of self contradiction, omnipotence cannot be played off against free will, because God's omnipotence does not allow God to dispense with Free will!


Before moving to the argument I want to make it clear that I deal with two seperate issues: the problem of pain (not a moral issue--tarnados and disesases and the like) becasue it doesn't invovle human choice. Pain, inflicted by accident and nature is not a moral issue, because it invovles no choices. Thus I will not deal with that here. I am only concerned in this argument with the the problem of evil that is, the problem of moral choice. The free will defense cannot apply to makes where the will does not apply.


Basic assumptions


There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complainance that would be the result of intimindation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truely beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultaimte meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internatlized.

The argument would look like this:


(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowence of free chioces requires the risk that the chooser will make evil chioces

(4)The possiblity of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpsoe of creation would be thwarted.



This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entials. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclinded to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it.
Argument on Soteriological Drama:


(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tention exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and puroses for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internatilized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amienable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.



In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we resond to the situation as characters in a drama.



Objection:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permiate human history. It may seem at frist glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am acvocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that acures from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internatlizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a caprecious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of chossing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dynig babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babbies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the detemrinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be detemrined by means of outcome, what is the fianl tally sheet in terms of pleausre over pain to the greatest agrigate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bancrupcy of conseuqnetialist ethics. If one uses a deontolgoical standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates becaue it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleolgoical premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleolgoical ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the indiviudal to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that utlaitme duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oreitned ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of coutnless lives and ultold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from eihter deontolgoical or teleogical persective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultiamtely leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrafice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoiting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrfices for the good fo the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes avaible the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultiamtely saving the babbies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.


Objection 2: questions
(from "UCOA" On CARM boards (atheism)



Quote:

In addition, there is no explanation of why god randomly decided to make a "moral universe".




Why do you describe the decision as random? Of course all of this is second guessing God, so the real answer is "I don't know, duh" But far be it form me to give-up without an opinion. My opine as to why God would create moral universe:

to understand this you must understand my view of God, and that will take some doing. I'll try to just put it in a nut shell. In my view love is the background of the moral universe. The essence of "the good" or of what is moral is that which conforms to "lug." But love in the apogee sense, the will to the good of the other. I do not believe that that this is just derived arbitrarily, but is the outpouring of the wellspring of God's character. God is love, thus love is the background of the moral universe because God is the background of the moral universe.

Now I also describe God as "being itself." Meaning God is the foundation of all that is. I see a connection between love and being. Both are positive and giving and turning on in the face of nothingness, which is negativity. To say that another way, if we think of nothingness as a big drain pipe, it is threatening to **** all that exits into it. Being is the power to resist nothingness, being the stopper in the great cosmic drain pipe of non existence.

The act of bestowing being upon the beings is the nature of God because God is being. Those the two things God does because that's what he is, he "BES" (um, exists) and he gives out being bestowing it upon other beings. This is connected to love which also gives out and bestows. So being and love are connected, thus the moral universe is an outgrowth of the nature of God as giving and bestowing and being and loving.


Quote:
Thus the question isnt really answered. Why does god allow/create evil? To create a "moral universe". Why? The only answer that is given is, because he wants to. Putting it together, Why does god allow/create evil? Because he wants to?


In a nut shell, God allows evil as an inherent risk in allowing moral agency. (the reason for which is given above).

There is a big difference in doing something and allowing it to be done. God does not create evil, he allows the risk of evil to be run by the beings, because that risk is required to have free moral agency. The answer is not "because he wants to" the answer is because he wants free moral agency so that free moral agents will internatize the values of love. To have free moral agency he must allow them to:

(1)run the risk of evil choices

(2) live in a real world where hurt is part of the dice throw.

In another of his attempts to expand the scope of Jewish diversity in the book The Empty Tomb, Mr. Carrier separates the Qumran community from the Essenes based on the justification of a brief footnote. In the text, Mr. Carrier states, “It also appears that the Qumran Sect was another variety of Judaism all its own, rejecting every other, and adopting a spiritual dualism much akin to the Persian belief in a war between forces of light and darkness.” Page 109. In the footnote, Mr. Carrier quotes N.T. Wright: “Wright (pp. 185-189), like many scholars, assumes without sufficient argument that the Qumran community represented a normative variety of Essenism. I am skeptical.” Page 201, n. 25.

It is unclear why Mr. Carrier picks out N.T. Wright to criticize for his reference to the Essenes. Wright does not purport to solve the issue, but explicitly states that he is making an assumption based on broad scholarly opinion (“I assume, with most scholars, that the scrolls found at Qumran broadly at least represent Essene teaching.” RSG, page 181 n. 221). Wright is absolutely correct in his assessment of the state of the issue among scholars. See The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., page 198 (“It is widely accepted that the Essenes referred to by these ancient authors were part of the same movement whose library and the ruins of whose buildings were discovered at Khirbet Qumran on the Dead Sea in the late 1940s and early 1950s.”). It is odd that Mr. Carrier would expect Dr. Wright to state in full the defense of such a well-established position which is incidental to his main argument. Especially since Mr. Carrier makes no attempt to engage the broad scholarly consensus nor does he refer us to a source that tackles the issue in any depth. The only reason given for Mr. Carrier’s skepticism is . . . . well, there is no reason given for his skepticism.

In fact, the evidence for identifying the Qumran community as an Essene one is quite strong. Most scholars have found compelling the fact that “[m]any of the procedural details in the Community Rule are strikingly similar to those described in the accounts of the community life of the Essenes in Philo and in the common source employed by Josephus and Hippolytus.” George W.E. Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, page 168. See also Nickhelsburg, page 171 (“[T]he accounts of Philo, Josephus, and Hippolytus overlap and agree with the contents of the Scrolls at many points. Josephus refers to their strong deterministic view (Ant. 13.171-73[Section 5.9] and to their belief in the immortality of the soul (J.W. 2.154-58 [Section 8.11]. All three authors emphasize the Essenes’ strong sense of community. Moreover, their detailed accounts of Essene communal practice, ritual, and discipline echo many of the specifics in the Community Rule.”); and Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, page 489 (“There are striking similarities between the accounts of the Essenes in these previously unknown sources and the information in the Dead Sea Scrolls about the community of Qumran: there was a one-year waiting period and two years of probation before full membership in the sect (War 2.8.7 [137-38]; 1QS vi. 14-22 requires two stages of probation, of one year each, before full membership); oaths were sworn at initiation; there was a strict discipline (both Wars 2.8.9 [147] and 1QS vii.13 mention that spitting into the assembly was forbidden); purification baths were practices regularly; a common meal was eaten together by the community; there was a community of goods; and the study of the Scriptures was a prominent activity.”).

According to Joseph Fitzmyer, a DSS specialist, the definitive word on the issue is Beall’s Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (Cambridge Univ. Pres 1988):

Beall admits that the identification is not 100 percent certain, but he shows that the vast majority (close to 90 percent) of the details mentioned by Josephus can be documented in the Qumran texts. The result is that there can be little doubt that the Qumran community was related to the Essenes about whom Josephus wrote, even if Josephus himself never hints that they had settled at a spot in the Judean desert on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, where their community center and cemetery have been. About that we know from the testimony of Pliny the Elder (Natural History 5.15.73).

Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins, page 359 n. 32.

In addition to the detailed similarities in ritual and community, there is – as Fitzmyer alludes to above – the striking geographic confirmation that the Essenes had established a community in the area where the Qumran community was found. The source is not Jewish, but pagan. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder “mentions the Essenes in the context of his description of the topography of Judea. He states that they are located on the west bank of the Dead Sea, with Engedi below them, and Masada even further south. Pliny’s account thus puts the Essenes in the same area as Qumran.” Dictionary of the New Testament Background, page 343. He also states that they lived among palm trees, fitting the region between Qumran and Ain Feshka, the spring immediately south of the community’s farmland. “There is no other known site that would match the description given by Pliny.” Id., page 345.

Finally, the chronology of the Essenes and the Qumran community fit together. The Qumran community existed from the mid-second century BC to 68 AD. This fits Josephus chronology because he places them first during the time of Jonathan Maccabeus (c. 145 BC) but also claims to have spent time with them in his youth (c. 53 AD). Thus, the time span of the Qumran community matches that of the Essenes.

Counting against the idea that the Qumran community was Essenic are some apparent discrepancies between some of the secondary reports about the Essenes and what has been discovered about the Qumran community. Few scholars have found these discrepancies sufficient to defeat the mutual identification of the Qumran community and Essenes because they may be due to our insufficient knowledge, the inaccuracy or bias of our sources, or the fact that the Qumran community itself changed over the years. Indeed, the discrepancies between the Qumran Scrolls and other sources “are no greater than those between Josephus and Philo” in their description of the Essenes. Ferguson, op. cit., page 489.

All told, Mr. Carrier is wrong to simply dismiss the identification of the Qumran community with the Essenes. The evidence is very strong that the Qumran community was within the Essene tradition. At the very least, Mr. Carrier has misrepresented the state of the issue and completely avoided any discussion of the evidence. Once again it appears that his zeal to portray Jewish diversity has colored his evaluation of the evidence and representation of the issue.

This week's God or Not Carnival is on the topic of faith. While I haven't seen the blog entries by our skeptical friends, I am relatively certain that at least a couple of their blogs will make the claim that Biblical faith is akin to "blind faith." In other words, looking at the definition of faith in the dictionary and seeing several viable options for defining Biblical faith in a way that it is consistent with reason, the typical skeptic will seize the following definition as the one that stands for Biblical faith: "Faith -- Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Of course, such a view of faith is not what Biblical faith is all about. At the same time, I cannot say that their confusion is that difficult to understand since Biblical faith is a bit amorphous. So, giving the benefit of the doubt that our skeptical friends are not intentionally misrpresenting Biblical faith to set up a straw man to knock down, for the benefit of our skeptical friends, I thought I would take a couple of minutes to give them some idea of what Biblical faith is really all about.

Biblical faith can actually be broken into several different faith steps each with its individual characteristics that distinguish it from other aspects of faith in the church. However, none of the faith steps can be seen as belief that is divorced from a rational look at the Christian message. In order to keep this blog brief, I will only discuss the first type of faith held by a believer -- saving faith.

Saving faith is the first type of faith reached by most Christians. It is the faith described in Romans 10, for example, where the repentent person who believes in her heart and confesses with her lips that Jesus Christ is Lord, is saved. In other words, this is the faith of the person who first acknowledges that (1) they are a sinner, (2) they need a savior, and (3) Jesus is that savior (the "three basic facts of salvation"). This faith does not call for the person exercising it to "check their brain at the door" (as the Josh McDowell book so artfully described it). The repentent person should do so with a full intellectual assent to the three basic facts of salvation.

Now, when I say that a person has to have "full intellectual assent", I am not saying that a person must be able to counter arguments against apostolic authorship of the Gospels or be able to reconcile the alleged contradictions of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection. There is not a pop quiz to coming to this type of faith. What the person coming to this type of faith needs to understand intellectually is whatever is intellectually satisfying to that person at the time of the coming of the faith. This means that as long as they are personally satisfied at that time of the truth of the three basic facts of salvation, they are acting rationally.

In some cases, the repentent person may find himself coming to this faith despite the fact that confessing the three basic facts of salvation is contrary to what he may have believed to that point. For example, suppose that the repentent person has always contended that the Problem of Evil proves that there is no God. Does that repentent person have to have a full grasp of how it is that God can overcome the objection presented by the Problem of Evil in order to be intellectually fulfilled? No. A person can reject prior intellectual positions without fully grasping the reasons that they have rejected them. Certainly, many of us regularly reject positions that we intellectually held when new information comes in that makes the old position no longer tenable.

Here is an analogy for how this works: Suppose a policeman strongly believes that Johnny committed a particular murder because all of the known evidence pointed to the fact that Johnny committed the murder. Suppose further that new evidence arises which in no way effects the old evidence, but which makes it intellectually untenable to continue to believe that Johnny committed the murder such as a DNA test that shows Johnny could not have committed the murder? Did the policeman have to be able to explain why each part of the old evidence no longer shows that Johnny committed the murder to conclude that Johnny did not commit the murder in the light of the new evidence? No, all that he needs to do to come to a rationally based intellectual assent that Johnny did not commit the murder is to accept the new evidence. It can wait until later for him to figure out why the old evidence was pointing him in the wrong direction.

The same is true in the case of faith. When the repentent sinner comes to a realization of the truth of the three basic facts of salvation, it is generally the case that it is based on a new understanding of the situation that she had previously rejected. If the repentent sinner finds that in light of the new understanding that the three basic facts of salvation are true despite objecting to the truth of Christianity for years, does she need to intellectually disprove every claim before becoming a Christian in order to be rational in accepting Christianity? Of course not. All the repentent sinner must do is be convinced on an intellectual level that the new understanding or evidence is true and that the contrary evidence must therefore be wrong in order to be intellectually grounded in faith.

Now, a person who never confronts the old evidence is like a baby in the cradle for their lives. As they grown in faith, they should examine these claims and learn why they are specious. But there is no reason to believe that a person must confront and counter every argument before faith is not just "blind faith." Faith goes beyond "blind faith" the moment the repentent sinner is convinced of the truth of the Gospel.

From Did Jesus exist? Case dismissed:

An Italian judge has dismissed an atheist's petition that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed, both sides said on Friday.

* * *

Luigi Cascioli, a 72-year-old retired agronomist, had accused the Rev. Enrico Righi of violating two laws with the assertion, which he called a deceptive fable propagated by the Roman Catholic Church.

"The Rev. Righi is very satisfied and moved," Righi's attorney, Severo Bruno, said. "He is an old, small-town parish priest who never would have thought he'd be in the spotlight for something like this."

Cascioli, a former schoolmate of Righi's, said he had not expected the case to succeed in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy.

"This is not surprising but it doesn't mean it all ends here," he said, adding that he's considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"This is an important case and it deserves to go ahead," he said.

Judge Gaetano Mautone said in his decision that prosecutors should investigate Cascioli for possible slander.

Unfortunately, none of the early stories have set forth the basis for the judge's decision. I look forward to reading more details on the judge's stated reasons for deciding as he did.

In the meantime, I know this doesn't end the controversy any more than the idea that a single Judge in Dover, PA can end the debate over the legitimacy of Intelligent Design. But I think it is okay to say that this is the correct result, and I hope this does serve as precedent for other judges to follow since it is a decision that is in accord with right reason and the historical evidence. (I especially like the idea of investigating Cascioli for slander. Given the level of his so-called scholarship as reflected on his website, such an investigation is entirely appropriate.)

BK has previously posted about the frivolous lawsuit in Italy brought by an atheist against a priest. The atheist claimed that the priest was deceiving the Italian people by claiming Jesus existed when in fact Jesus is a fictional character based on John of Gamala. As it turns out, it appears that John of Galama is a fictional character of relatively recent vintage. In any event, this sounds absurd but it is not unlike some of the rants I have heard from skeptics about the Jesus Myth and nefarious Christian deceptions. Thankfully, according to ABC News, the Italian Court has tossed out the atheist's lawsuit as frivilous and "recommended magistrates investigate him for slandering priest Enrico Righi."

The article ends on a snarky note with the atheist claiming that in order to convict him for slander they would have to prove Jesus existed. Unless Italian law is very different than our own, however, that is not necessarily true. If the atheist accused the priest of knowingly deceiving people about Jesus, then all that would have to be established is that the atheist knew the priest genuinely believed Jesus existed.

One blogger wonders if this was simply a publicity stunt to sell books. Good question. If true, then in the United States the priest would have a strong malicious prosecution claim he could bring.

Last time I blogged, I wrote about an incredibly stupid contest by a group antithetically named "the Rational Response Squad." In an effort to flesh out their thinking, I started pushing them (under the name "beowulf's") on the idea that the Gospels were not written by contemporaries of Christ. In the course of the comments, I pushed one of the members of the Irrational Response Squad on the dates for the Gospels, and here is what he said:

I personally believe evidence points to about the year 70. But that 10 years is pointless considering you think the lifespan of someone back then was at least 60 years, which would be like someone living to 145 today.

Lifespan back then was about 32 years old. The writers of the new testament were not contemporaries of Jesus.

This is an example of the logical fallacy of "hasty generalization." Consider this: the average-size family in the United States has 1.89 children. Does that mean that no families in the United States has eight (or even more) children? After all, eight children would be more than four times the statistical average. But we all know that families with eight children do exist. So what's the problem?

The problem is that it is fallacious to assume that because the statistical average is a particular number that people cannot exceed that number by a rather large sum. Today's average lifespan is 74.1 years, but people commonly exceed that number living into their 90s and 100s. Some people even live to be in their 110's -- more than 35 years longer than the average. The statistical average is a number that gives an average -- it does not give a ceiling or even a basis for calculating the ceiling.

In the case of the Gospels, let's assume for the sake of argument that Jesus died about 33 A.D. If the Gospels were all written around 70 A.D. (as the member of the Irrational Rescue Squad admits in his post), and assuming the fact that the apostles were all in their mid 20s at the time that Jesus lived (making them middle-aged by the author's reckoning), then they would have been around 65 at the time that the Gospels were written. This is certainly not impossible. Credible evidence exists that John the Apostle died in the early 2nd Century -- approximately 70 years after the crucifixion. There is no question that Peter, another apostle, lived until he was executed around 65 A.D. If you want the evidence see the New Advent Encylopedia's article on Saint Peter the Apostle. If John lived to 100 A.D. (making him no less than 85) and if the Apostle Peter lived to 65 A.D. (his life ending on that date only because he was executed), then in what way is it possibly unreasonable that the other apostles lived long enough after the crucifixion to write their Gospels? To say that it was somehow impossible for the authors of the Gospels to have lived to 65 years of age is ludicrous.

Of course, if (as I have often heard claimed) men were considered adult at the age of sixteen, then there is no reason to believe that they weren't even younger than my assumption and the Gospels were written by the Apostles when they were still in their 50s. And, according to "Health as a crucial factor in the changes from hunting to developed farming in the eastern Mediterranean" by Lawrence J. Angel, the average lifespan for a person living from 320 B.C. to 120 A.D. would have actually been 41.9 years of age for men (38 years of age for women), meaning that living into seventies would certainly not have been as far outside the realm of possibilities as this argument assumes.

Finally, there is an aspect of this argument that skeptics never believe (because it involved divine intevention in human affairs--exactly what the skeptics are contending against), but which is equally important. Isn't it possible that God could have, if he wanted, kept people alive beyond their ordinary lifespans in order to complete the Gospels that He wanted them to write? Certainly seems like a reasonable possibility to me.

The idea that the Apostles could not have written the Gospels because the average lifespan in First Century Palestine was too short is, as this post shows, simply wrong.

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi.

Here is a chance for an atheist to win a free house.

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Dramatic representation, not my actual house


This offer is true and valid. All you have to do is prove Jesus never existed and I will deed my house to you.

By "prove" I mean furnish a verifiable quotation from a First Century source that says Jesus didn't really exist as a man in history.

Free house, peer and beam foundation, real wood floors, no foundation problems at all. (You have one month to produce the results).

Moreover, here are more prizes in exchange for proving other things:

Prove the miracles at Lourdes are a fake, win my car.
Prove JFK was not assasinated, win my dog.
Prove bigfoot doesn't exist, win a free year of posting unmolested by Metacrock
Prove the earth is falt win $10,000 dollars, personally given by me (available only in "blue country" currency).

I have had experinces with the cheap ploy of offering money to prove things before. The alledged amazing Randy offers some large sum of money for proof of any miraculous or supernatural event. Oddly enough, we won't accept the idea that the host is infused with supererogatory merit as a supernatural event. That's dumb, my theology books form Perkins all say it is.

The somewhat amazing Randy has never included any analysis of the miracles at Lourdes. I e-mailed him and asked him why he had not. He did not respond. I told him he should give the Catholic church the money. His answer is not repeatable in this forum. This led to a rather raw and ridiculous exchange of very amazing e-mails. I thought, I am having a "p-ing contest with this famous guy--if I have to have contact with a famous person, why this person and why this way?" It was not at all as fulfilling as my email exchange with Judy Collins. After that I was in love with her. I thought, well, when she see I have all her albums its sure to mean something. That didn't work out either.

It is such a cheap ploy because the one offering the money always structures the argument in such a way that no one can fulfill the requirements. Thus the illusion is created that the test is accurate because no one ever wins. When I lived in New Mexico there was a minister of an extremist fundamentalist church who ran an ongoing advertisement in a little thrift sheet stating that he would give $5,000 to anyone who would prove that the Bible teaches that Jesus is our "personal savior." Well, I argued until I was blue in the face that what it says means that he's our personal savior, but because it doesn't use that exact term, of course he doesn't have to give the money.

Of course, this is all in response to the "Rational Response Squad" and their offer to give money to anyone who can prove jesus did exist. Of course they demand a First Century person saying that Jesus existed", and guess what? This person has to be "objective." So if we show Paul or Clement of Rome or any Christian saying Jesus existed, well they aren't objective. What about Josephus? They will never admit, regardless of what scholars say, that the TF isn't tweeked. Atheists will say anything (at least the "Jesus-myth" kind). To the other passage in Jospheus, the "brother" passage, which is rarely criticiqued as a forgery, they say "can you prove its the same James? the same Jesus?" So even when you produce some evidence they just refuse to see it as evidence.

After all, its not objective because their subjective view point says it's not!


It's easy to prove your viewpoint when nothing ever counts against it. It's easy to make your view immune to evidence, just refuse to recognize anything as evidence except that which supports your claims.


By the way, my house is up for forecosloure, but I will deed it to you for a month if you can prove that someone in the first century said Jesus of Nazereth didn't exist. After that, its up to you to make the mortgage company care.

This contest broght to you by The Hysterical Ninja Christian response squad (Hilarius the Aussie Pope founder).

(edited for spelling 7:41 a.m.)

Me and critical thinking will never meet again...
on the Bonnie, Bonnie Road to the sec web.


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True Christians at Prayer



There is a ploy practiced by many atheist of the type who inhabit places such as the Secular Web and Infidel guy. It's been so institutionalized it's almost a mortar. In fact I've seen this kind of things so many times now, when the Christian apologists get together they can stamp it out, but no soon will they rid the net of one institutionalized atheist fallacy, than another will rear its ugly head.

The fallacy to which I reefer here is the "No true Scotsman," fallacy (NSF). I dot' know the etymology exactly, but the general idea is that in the heat of argument one is likely to say something like "no true American would ever (do whatever)" The way it's used is this:

Atheist claims something like "Hitler was a Christian." The Christian makes the mistake of saying "O but he wasn't a true Christian because bah, so the atheist says 'that's the NTSF So without even thinking about it, they just dogmatically declare anyone was ever a Christian of any kind to have always been one. Once a Christian always a Christian (unless you become an atheist a post on the secular we) and then anything you do that's negative pertains to Christianity as the upshot of being a chrisiatn. So Mao was a Christian because he heard a Bible verse once, therefore, Christianity makes you become the Chairman of the Chinese communist party and write little red books.

This has become such a mantra that it cancels any kind of critical thought. Anytime any apologist comes near any sort of questioning as to one's Christian credentials the atheist says something like "I hear bag pipes playing." We need to make up a Nam for the fallacy of calling everything the no true Scotsman fallacy. What really amusing is that they are using the fallacy in the wrong way, as though they dot' really know what it means! The true fallacy is aimed at people who try to use patriotism to win arguments. No true American would call for pulling out of Irk (or Vietnam or whatever hopeless mess we've gotten ourselves into this decade). But that is not the same saying that any time one says "so and so Is not a Christian" it's the fallacy. That fallacy has nothing to do with the commitment level of a particular individual. It has to do with the way in which I construct another perinea's commitment level. If the commitment level of an individual can be demonstrated toward some affiliation then obviously that person can be said to be or not to be "a true so and so" (whatever it is). The only requisite criteria would be that there must be clear guidelines as to what a true so and so is about. That's why the no true Scotsman thing is a fallacy, because there is no way to know what a true Scotsman would say about any given issue, since being a Scotsman (or an American) is rarely a voluntary affiliation. Of course there are cases in which we CNA say no true Scotsman would do X and it not be fallacious. Fore example; no true Scotsman is born in China of Chinese patrons who no relation of any kind of with Scotland and who have never been to Scotland. Such a person hardly had any claim to being a Scotsman, but even in such a case the idea of being a Scotsman is still rather vel. Perhaps one coulee be a true Scotsman if one pinched pennies, played golf, kept sheep, ate fried Mars bars, and wore lad, even if one had never been to Scotland and was not Celtic origin.

The idea of being a Christian is a bit more voluntary than being a Scotsman, thus it is a big less difficult to pin down. This is true, moreover, because Jesus did says something about what is followers would do and would not do. We can say "no true Christian would be anti-Semitic" since Christ was Semitic. Since worshiping Jesus of Nazareth as the son of God is part of being a true Christian, and this is stated in the manifesto (the Bible) then we just might conclude that one who doesn't' do that is not a Christian. Moreover, the church itself laid down guidelines for being member of the Christian community (the church invented the word "Christian" not Jesus). Those guidelines are embodied in the creeds. So in fact yes we can exactly say with no fear of contradiction or of fallacy that no true Christian would ever say anything contrary to the creeds. Because to say that is to be an untrue Christian. Paul said no one by can say by the power of the Spirit "Jesus be cursed" (1 OCR). He was not committing the no true Scotsman fallacy. He was laying down a statement of spiritual fact. So we can say based upon this fact, "no true Christian prophet can say by the power of God that Jesus is cursed." This is a factual statement, given the assumptions of Christian belief. and not the NSF.

It would not be smart to concentrate too hard on stamping out this silly mortar of the atheists. They will only replace it with another. In the mean time, we know to deal with it, we can always use it to our advantage. If it is a fallacy to argue that so and so wasn't' a Christian, because Christianity is very diverse and we can't say who is and who is not and the attempt to try is always a fallacy, then it must also be the same fallacy to say "all Christians do x." The idea that Christianity causes all these social harms and leads people to be right winners is also the same fallacy.

My good friend Lores, of Justawoman.org, made her radio debut on a local radio station here in Los Angeles. She did a great job and I think she has a promising career ahead of her in talk radio.

I was honored to be her first guest. Lores has posted the entire segment in which I appeared, as well as some others, at her blog. The subject was Justice Alito and the Supreme Court. Download the file and listen for yourself by clicking here.

In his attempt to inflate his case for Jewish religious diversity in The Empty Tomb – which includes misstating the beliefs of the Saduccees and Herodians, as well as misconstruing Clement’s reference to the Assumption of Moses – Richard Carrier also misstates the nature of the Scribes. According to Mr. Carrier, “the Scribes often mentioned in the Gospels were also a distinct sect, closely allied with the Pharisees but diverging from them in certain ritual observances and practices.” The Empty Tomb, page 108. Is it true that the Scribes were a distinct religious sect and that they only differed from the Pharisees on some items?

Mr. Carrier’s support for this argument is an endnote referencing, among other cites, Mark 7:3-4:


For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.

It is difficult to see how Mr. Carrier gleans support for his assertions about the Scribes from this reference. The Scribes are not even mentioned in these two verses. While it is true that the Scribes and the Pharisees are often depicted together elsewhere in the Gospels, nothing specific is said about any sectarian beliefs they hold that would distinguish them as their own sect.

Mr. Carrier offers some other, much later references to the Scribes. First, he refers to two passages from the Clementine Recognitions:

The scribes also, and Pharisees, are led away into another schism; but these, being baptized by John, and holding the word of truth received from the tradition of Moses as the key of the kingdom of heaven, have hid it from the hearing of the people.

CR 1.54.

And, behold, one of the scribes, shouting silt from the midst of the people, says: ` The signs and miracles which your Jesus wrought, he wrought not as a prophet, but as a magician.' Him Philip eagerly encounters, showing that by this argument he accused Moses also. For when Moses wrought signs and miracles in Egypt, in like manner as Jesus also did in Judaea, it cannot be doubted that what was said of Jesus might as well be said of Moses. Having made these and such like protestations, Philip was silent.

CR 1.58.

The first of these passages does seem to consider the Scribes as a “schism,” but does not distinguish them from the Pharisees. The second passage portrays Scribes as hostile to Jesus and his followers, but offers little else. Thus, these depictions hardly support Mr. Carrier’s portrayal of the Scribes as a religious sect distinct from the Pharisees in rituals and observances. In any event, the value of these sources – especially given the brevity of their mentions of the Scribes – is questionable. The Clementine Recognitions were not written until the mid-third century and were basically of the genre of theological romance. All told, these two references fail to support Mr. Carrier’s characterization of the Scribes.

Finally, Mr. Carrier cites Epiphanius’ Panarion. Written near the end of the fourth century, it is of questionable worth for understanding the various Jewish sects extant during the early first century. In any event, the passage cited by Mr. Carrier is mainly about the Pharisees and, regarding the Scribes, simply states that the Scribes held many of the same beliefs as the Pharisees. Nevertheless, there is a hint of the true nature of the Scribes in a passage that Mr. Carrier failed to reference. Just prior to Panarion 15, in verse 14, is -- as we will see more fully discussed below -- a passage devoted to the Scribes, which describes them as, “lawyers and repeaters of the traditions of their elders. Because of their further, self-chosen religion they observed customs which they had not learned through the Law but had formulated.” (emphasis added).

Now that we have seen that the evidence does not support Mr. Carrier’s description of the Scribes, just who were they? Generally speaking, the Scribes were not a sect at all but a profession. “[T]he scribes in their capacity as scribes did not form or belong to any one religious group in Palestinian Judaism at the time of Jesus.” J.P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Companions and Competitors, page 550. Indeed, the Scribes were not even limited to Jewish society. “Scribes were distinguished professional people throughout the world.” Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., page 684. In Palestine, however, Scribes assumed a unique role in Jewish society. Though they could loosely be called lawyers, scribes performed a number of related functions. “‘Scribe’ thus combined the offices of Torah professor, teacher, and moralist, and civil lawyer, in that order.” James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, page 54. The Scribes were, therefore, not a religious sect but a profession which performed a number of duties related to religious matters. Although individual Scribes may have affiliated with one sect or another, they were not in and of themselves a unique religious sect.

In addition to being wrong about the Scribes being a sect in and of themselves, Mr. Carrier misstates their relationship with the Pharisees. “Scribes were often associated with Pharisees, but the two were not identical. The ‘scribes of the Pharisees’ (Mark 2:16, Luke 5:30; Acts 23:9) were probably legal counselors employed by the Pharisees.” Oxford Companion to the Bible, page 684. So, rather than simply being a closely related sect, most – though not all – of the Scribes mentioned in Gospels worked for the Pharisees or chose to affiliate with them in their role as professionals concerning the law. This is likely why Luke sometimes refers to them as “lawyers” (Luke 5:17; 7:30; 14:3), why they are often depicted as involved in debates with Jesus over legal issues (Matt. 9:3; Luke 5:21; Matt. 15:1; Mark 2:16; 3:22; Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2; Mark 7:1-2; Mark 17:10; Mark 9:11; Luke 20:39; John 8:2; and Luke 6:7), and why they participate in legal proceedings such as the trial of Jesus.

Some New Testament passages refer to Scribes who were clearly not a distint Jewish sect. Acts 19:25 refers to a Gentile Scribe. In 1 Corinthians, Paul refers to Scribes in a very broad sense. (1 Cor. 1:20). The Gospel of Matthew even refers to Scribes who were followers of Jesus. (Matthew 23:34: “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes”).

Perhaps more telling is that Mark and Acts make a point of contrasting the Scribes affiliated with the Pharisees from Scribes who must have affiliated with other sects. “The phrase ‘scribe of the Pharisees’ (Mk 2:16; Acts 23:9) indicates the probability that scribes were associated with various sects and associations within first-century Judaism.” G.H. Twelftree, “Scribes, in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, page 733. Acts 23:9 is the most explicit, stating “And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly….” Luke 5:30 also reinforces this understanding. (“The Pharisees and their scribes….”). These references indicate that the Pharisees had their Scribes and other sects had their Scribes.

Furthermore, there is additional New Testament evidence that associates some Scribes with the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin. As summed up by the Oxford Companion to the Bible, “Chief priests also employed scribes (Mark 15:31; Acts 4:6) as their legal counselors. Scribes were associated with the Sanhedrin, probably as clerks, legal counselors for participants in trials, and judges." Page 684. The scriptural support for these conclusions is abundant, though somewhat generalized (as are most references to the Scribes in the New Testament):

Matt. 2:4 (“Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people"), Matt. 16:21 (“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes”), Matt. 20:18-19 ("the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes"), Matt. 21:15-16 (“when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done"), Matt. 26:57 (“Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.”), Matt. 27:41 (“In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying…”), Mark 11:27 ("as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him”), Mark 14:43 (“Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”), Mark 14:52 (“They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together.”), Mark 15:1 (“Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council”), Mark 15:31 (“In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying,”), Mark 10:33 ("the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes”), Mark 11:18 (“The chief priests and the scribes heard this”), Luke 9:22 ("The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes"), Luke 19:47-48 (“but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him….”), Luke 20:1 (“the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him”), Luke 22:2 (“The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death”), Luke 22:66 (“When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes.”), and Acts 6:12 (“And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes”).

Although the Gospels sometimes generalize the role the Scribes played in their narratives, it is clear from the evidence at hand that they were not a distinct Jewish sect who were closely related to the Pharisees. Rather, they were members of a profession that gave them prominent roles in Jewish Society. Moreover, different Scribes affiliated with or worked for different Jewish sects or religious institutions, including the Pharisees, the Chief Priests, and the Sanhedrin. Mr. Carrier's attempt to offer them up as an example of yet another Jewish sect fails.

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