CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In his critical review of The Empty Tomb, Stephen Davis points – as I did – to the second-century literary evidence of the apostolic fathers as evidence against Dr. Price's argument that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation. "The Counterattack of the Resurrection Skeptics," Philosophia Christi, Vol. 8:1, page 41. Davis and I both find Ignatius’ reference to the allegedly interpolated passage in the early second century to be powerful evidence against Dr. Price’s theory. It simply leaves no time for an interpolation to arise and spread to all of the manuscript evidence.

Although I also found Marcion’s use of the same passages to be conclusive, Davis does not mention it. Davis does mention two second-century Christian writings that I did not: the Shepard of Hermas and Against Heresies.

According to Davis, the Shepard of Hermas (dated from 140-155 AD) “clearly alludes (in a different context) to 1 Corinthians 15:6.” 15:6 states, “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” Shepard of Hermas 13:1 refers to “apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons” about which the author says “some of these have fallen asleep, but others are still living.” Paul Barnett, in Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, describes the Hermas passage as a “possible literary reminiscence.” Page 201. Other sources discussing literary contacts between Paul’s letters and the apostolic fathers tend to ignore this connection. Standing alone, this allusion would not merit anything more than the “possible” label. But given that Hermas contains stronger allusions to 1 Corinthians, such as to 1 Cor. 7 (given a “high degree of probability” by the Oxford Society of Historical Theology), I would elevate the possibility of a literary contact here as somewhat likely. Given its mid-second century date, this adds some weight – though more is not needed – against Dr. Price’s interpolation argument.

On the other hand, the reference to 1 Cor. 15:8 by Irenaeus – though later in the second century – is on certain ground. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus explicitly refers to Paul being born out of time “as he declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians.” AG, 8:2. Though later than the references in Ignatius and Marcion, Ignatius’ reference to the challenged passage is not without significance. In addition to being another early witness to the passage's existence, Irenaeus's biblical references tend to be similar to the Western text-type, whereas the earliest manuscript evidence attesting to the challenged passage are Alexandrian. Thus, Irenaeus’ reference attests to earlier and additional diversity in the manuscript traditions affirming the existence of 1 Cor. 15:3-11. Accordingly, Davis is right to see it as important evidence against Dr. Price’s interpolation argument.

Stephen T. Davis, author of Risen Indeed (reviewed by me here) has written a lengthy review of the latest skeptical assault on Jesus' Resurrection, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave. You can read excerpts from Davis' review over at Triablogue.

Just a reminder that the CADRE has its own online response to The Empty Tomb, here.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed legislation which withdrew awards of attorney fees to plaintiffs who successfully bring suits against a governmental agency for Establishment Clause violations. If I recall correctly, present law allows persons who are successful in their lawsuits for civil rights violations to collect their costs of suit, including attorney fees, for having prosecuted the action. Violations of civil rights covered under the current law included violations of the Establishment Clause.

The reasoning for allowing attorney fees was simple: people who bring actions for violations of civil rights may be deterred from going to court if they have to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees without any corresponding right to have those attorney fees reimbursed at the close of the case. This was especially true in certain types of civil rights violations where the person bringing the action suffered no direct type of damages as the result of the violation.

This lack of damages can be seen most clearly in an Establishment Clause-type of case like the Mount Soledad Cross case in San Diego where the plaintiff, Mr. Paulsen (if memory serves), suffered no tangible damage or harm from the fact that the cross was erected on public land. Sure, he may not have liked it, but that isn't damage in any traditional sense of the word. By allowing people like Mr. Paulsen to recover their attorney fees and costs of suit, it encourages them (and their enterprising attorneys) to pursue such suits when it would otherwise be economically non-viable to do so.

In theory, this works out fine. The person brings the suit and if she fails, it will mean that she has to bear her own costs and attorney fees. It also serves to help level-out the playing field because the entity that the person was likely to sue would be a better-funded city or state that may be able to wage a war of attrition against the plaintiff forcing her to exhaust her money on endless motions and discovery. By allowing a plaintiff to be certain that, if successful, she can recover such fees and costs, the playing field is leveled (to a certain extent). Still, the fact that the plaintiff only recovers if she wins in the litigation suggests that in the ordinary case, a plaintiff would be less likely to bring a suit and pay the attorney fees and costs associated with such a suit unless the plaintiff was confident of victory. But in reality, the existence of the ACLU (and similar organizations) takes the system out of balance.

The ACLU is an organization that works to prevent violations of people's civil rights. The ACLU is well-funded and is capable of pursuing lawsuits in a way that is outside the financial ability of the ordinary citizen. The ACLU also has a track record of pursuing litigation that fits into its more liberal-minded view of the Establishment Clause -- a view that is not shared by many people in the population. When the ACLU enters into the scene, the situation changes. Instead of the city or state being the better funded of the two parties to the litigation, suddenly the plaintiff is the better funded -- especially against smaller towns and townships which don't have huge budgets set aside for fighting such lawsuits. The result is that many cities or towns have to settle with the ACLU rather than fight the litigation because the governing body of the city or town knows that if it loses (regardless of how remote the chances) it will be on the hook for thousands of dollars in attorney fees that the ACLU attorneys were able to bill for prosecuting the litigation.

This is the problem that the House of Representatives addressed in their legislation. According to "House OKs bill on religious expression" by Jim Abrams, AP:

Backers of the legislation cited cases contesting the use of religious symbols, such as crosses in veterans' cemeteries, the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings or using public land to host the Boy Scouts, who require participants to declare belief in God.

They said local and state governments, unable to match the financial resources of civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and unwilling to pay costly attorney's fees in losing cases, often accede to demands to remove religious symbols.

"This is an issue of allowing the cases to go to court and not to have the threat or intimidation by the ACLU and their minions to hang over all of these heads," said Rep. John Hostettler (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., sponsor of the bill.

This is a very difficult proposal. Certainly, the concerns voiced by Rep. Hostettler are real. Yet, it is also true that we want to make sure that "ordinary Americans" are able "to defend their religious freedom against intrusion by government," as Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, noted in his opposition to the change. By removing the right to recover attorney fees, many people who's political views don't agree with the ACLU or other similar civil rights organizations will find that it is much more difficult to bring a lawsuit to protect their religious civil rights if the government does overstep the bounds. It seems appropriate to award successful litigants their attorney fees, but reality shows that such an award actually grants a huge advantage in the litigation to the litigants over smaller communities (which are often the target of these suits).

Perhaps the better course would have been to even the field by requiring the losing party and its attorneys to pay the attorney fees and costs of the city or state if the latter is victorious. It's my recollection that under present law, the award of attorney fees is one-sided. In other words, the plaintiff can collect its attorney fees, but the government that is sued cannot do the same if it prevails in the litigation. Perhaps allowing the government to collect its attorney fees from the plaintiff if the plaintiff loses would cause fewer of these suits to be filed. Also, since the ACLU is the real money party behind the lawsuit and the one that recovers the money in the form of attorney fees if the suit is successful, perhaps it is appropriate to make the ACLU (or other civil rights organization) pay the attorney fees if the suit is unsuccessful.

But shifting the attorney fees awards still won't be enough to take care of the problem as long as courts continue to find that almost any acknowledgement of religion in a public place constitutes an "establishment" prohibited by the Constitution. The courts need to get a more realistic and historically-founded understanding of the Establishment Clause before any real progress can be made in this area.

Regardless, it appears obvious to me that something needs to be done in this area. While the action by the House (which won't become law until it passes the Senate and is signed into law by the President) may not be perfect, it certaintly is a step in the right direction of trying to deal with an area that is simply out of control.

Last night, I tuned into Bill O'Reilly's program in time to catch part of an interview with Bill Maher, former host of Politically Incorrect, and now hosting some other unwatchable program on some cable channel. Basically, Maher takes the position that "Christians and others who are religious suffer from a neurological disorder that 'stops people from thinking.'"

While I'm sure that Bill Maher is a very thoughtful person (he has to be, just look at the thoughtful pose he made in the picture to the right), I'm not sure he is being exceedingly thoughtful on this one. There are too many questions that need to be answered before I buy into the idea that I together with 90% of the American population that claims to be Christian are suffering from neurological disorders. Let me give you some questions that I would have asked Mr. Maher if I had been doing the interview.

First, Mr. Maher, you're a comedian are you not? Do you have a degree in medicine? Have you studied neurology? Have you been certified to practice medicine by any licencing board? On what basis do you claim to be qualified to pass this judgement?

Second, if you are speaking as a layman (which I am certain you are), I'm not sure exactly which neurological disorder you might be referencing. Can you tell me the name that neurologists use for this disorder? Can you tell me where you read about this disorder? If there is nothing you have read that suggests that such a disorder has been identied by actual neurologists, can you tell me how you have become the first non-neurologist to be able to identify a new syndrome?

Of course, Dr. Maher doesn't really know anything about neurology, has no background or qualifications to suggest that he knows what he's talking about, and has no journal reports or other information that suggests his thesis is true. Equally obviously, "Dr." Maher is making these statement more as a stunted attempt at a humorous political statement than as a medical diagnosis.

Maher is simply trying, in his semi-witted way, to claim that being religious stops a person from thinking. According to WorldNetDaily, Maher has been making this same claim since at least February when he made the following statement on Scarborough Country:

"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. If you look at it logically, it's something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child. It certainly was drilled into mine at that age. And you really can't be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head."

This is obviously nonsense. As the foregoing rambling statement demonstrates, Maher isn't even able to focus on his main thesis. Look at the rambling course he takes in just this short statement. He starts out (1) by claiming that the nation is unenlightened because of religion, proceeds to (2) lump all people who believe in God in with the terrorist bombers, claims that (3) this is the type of stuff that faith-based initiatives lead to, jumps to (4) the idea that religion is a neurological disorder, then claims that (5) a person can't be responsible for what they are taught as a child. Huh? Is Bill bi-polar or something?

Did it offend anyone that I should suggest that Bill is mentally unstable? If you support his statements and you thought that was out of line, you need to rethink your position. (For the record, I don't think he's bi-polar, I was using that claim as an illustration.)

Of course, the real question is why does Maher find it necessary to treat people with whom he disagrees as mentally incompetent in some respect? Why isn't it possible that the reason people believe in religious claims is because they make sense? After all, simply because Mr. Maher in his materialistic worldview bubble can't understand how Jesus could actually be the Son of God who came to the world to give His life for the sins of the world doesn't mean that other people are as limited in their worldview.

Further, isn't it obvious that such a claim is malicious and counter-productive? If I were to claim that atheists were suffering from a neurological disorder, wouldn't that be seen as crossing the line from appropriate debate to inappropriate?

Maher's asinine comments are plain and simply an ad hominem. He obviously doesn't understand religion or the teachings of Jesus (saying on the show that Jesus was a "great philosopher" when Jesus' main message was not what He said but who He was), and chooses to attack Christianity through a broad attack on the mental competency of those who believe in Him rather than confront the arguments made that the claims of Christianity is real. (For the record, Maher tried to limit his claims on the O'Reilly program to those "evangelicals" who are the real people he thinks suffer from a neurological disorder. This is typical of people who decry religious belief in this country. When push comes to shove, they always try to make it sound as if they are only attacking the "evangelicals" who have become the only class of people in America it is acceptable to bash, but their statements aren't so limited when you consider their reasoning.)

As an attempt at humor, Maher's statements demonstrate that he is the one who is unenlightened and they should be denounced by all thinking people, atheists and theists alike, because they are bigoted and counter-productive.

I have been so busy lately with a project at the office that I have had little time to visit many of my favorite blogs. Today, however, I took a break and visited the blog of Macht over at Prothesis. Always interesting and insightful, I found an entry from September 3, 2006 entitled "Just An Animal" which I wanted to set forth in its entiretly here. (I would directly link to the article, but I don't think Prothesis has direct links to any of its blog entries.)

I've seen an objection to the pro-life position going around lately and it relies mostly on a misunderstanding of what (I think) most pro-lifers believe (although I think the arguments that many pro-lifers use don't often make their positions clear). The objection goes something like this:

"Pro-lifers arguments rest on the fact that a human life begins at conception. This is a biological definition and, as such, pro-lifers are advocating that we get our rights based on the type of DNA we have. Humanity, then, becomes nothing more than having the correct number of chromosomes or the right genome."
Now, I do find it ironic that this objection often comes from physicalists and others who would be quick to point out that man is just an animal. It isn't clear to me why their preferred property - consciousness or viability or whatever - should be preferred, but that's a different topic.

I think this objection mainly comes about because pro-life people tend to talk a lot about when life begins. Given that it is highly uncontroversial that (biologically speaking) individual human lives being at conception, it isn't suprising that pro-life people go back to this point a lot. But the question then becomes "If pro-life people spend a lot of time pointing out that the biological begininning of human life begins at conception, does that mean that pro-lifers are saying that humans have moral worth based on biology alone?" The answer is clearly "no." Virtually all pro-life positions state that the reason a fetus has moral worth is because of the kind of thing it is (a human being) and not because of any property it has (including biological properties). I think pro-lifers should be read as saying that biology can tell us when a new human life begins. They shouldn't be read as saying that what is of moral worth is having the right kind of biology. What is of moral worth is a new human being. It is a human being who isn't conscious yet and who hasn't yet developed the the biological structures that making thinking possible, but it is a human being nevertheless.

In the abortion debates, there is very often a distinction made between a human and a person. A human is the biological organism and a person is the thing that has moral (or perhaps legal) worth. I think this is another reason why pro-choicers often misunderstand the pro-life position. They see the pro-life position as saying that all humans are persons and therefore the biological organism is the same thing as the thing that has moral worth. Now, I can't speak for every pro-lifer, but I don't hold to the idea all humans are persons. The reason is that I don't think the distinction is a good one. I don't like to use terms that assume there is a distinction between a biological human and a moral human and then declare that they are the same thing. All humans have a moral dimension to them and all humans have a biological dimension to them, but to talk about a moral person or a biological human is to reduce a human being to something it is not.

(After writing that last paragraph, I realized that I was using the term "human" in two different senses - in a biological sense and in a fuller, non-reductionist sense. For the most part, I think I qualified the former with the term "biological" but if not, I hope you can tell the difference from the context.)

Interesting.

Christianity Today has gathered together a number of interesting articles related to the Pope's speech in which he quoted from some medieval ruler about Muslim which has incited so much ironic hate from the Muslim community. The individual articles collected are excellent and cover a wide-range of opinions as to what the Pope said, its meaning, the world's (over)reaction, and other opinions of interest. The Christianity Today page can be found here, or the individual subtopics related to this matter can be accessed through the following links:

All apologies
Mideast Christians worry
Muslims attack
Other Muslim reactions
Defending the Pope's comments
Jewish reaction
Other papal critics
Pope's upcoming Turkey visit
Did he know what he was doing?
Earlier Benedict XVI comments on Islam
Explaining papal infallibility
Other pope comments news
Editorials
Blame the Pope
Blame the Muslims
Blame religion in general
Blame the media
Other op-eds

Interestingly, the Pope met yesterday with a number of Muslim leaders to discuss, once again, his comments. I thought the Pope was genius in the fact that he took the opportunity to press our Islamic friends for more freedom for Christians living in predominantly Islamic countries. According to "Pope Says 2 Faiths Must Overcome Enmity"

Seeking to end anger in the Islamic world over his remarks on holy war, Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim envoys Monday their two faiths must overcome historic enmities and together reject violence, saying the future of humanity is at stake.

The pope also urged "reciprocity" in religious freedom, calling for preserving the rights of Christians throughout the Islamic world.

Since the Muslim countries remain among the places in the world where Christian missionaries are least free to speak openly to the people about their faith without fear of state sponsored harm, it is appropriate to urge Muslim leaders to work to allow more freedom of religion to Christianity and other faiths in their countries if Islam really isn't a religion which has been spread by the sword.

So argues, quite persuasively, a leading New Testament scholar. Apollos.ws recently announced that it was given permission to host Richard Bauckham's ground breaking article, The Eyewitnesses and the Gospel Tradition. They also have details, and a table of contents, for Professor Bauckham's forthcoming book on the same subject, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.

Often, people argue that the Gospel of John was not written by the Apostle John. In the past, some even suggested John was written as late as 160 A.D. However, the discovery of the John Rylands papyrus (P52 = Papyrus Ryl. Gr. 457) that contained a few verses from the Gospel of John and which is dated to around 125 A.D. pretty much ended arguments about dating it any later than around 100 A.D. But, of course, the dating of the Gospel is secondary to the Christian contention that it was written by the Apostle John or one of his immediate followers.

Recently, something was pointed out to me in the Gospel of John that adds to the evidence that it is historic. In J.P. Moreland's Scaling the Secular City, Dr. Moreland lists five marks of historicity in the Gospel materials: (1) the form of Jesus' sayings, (2) Other distinctive features in Jesus sayings, (3) the presence of irrelevant material, (4) the lack of relevant material, and (5) counter-productive features. While Moreland's category three (irrelevant material) deals more with the fact that the Gospels contain much material that would have been irrelevant to the growing Christian church and place it firmly in its early First Century context, it has a broader meaning. Specifically, the Gospels contain some incidental details that do not seem to be particularly important to the narratives that suggest that the latter are historic. For example, John 8:8 describes how Jesus bent down to write in the dirt during the attempted stoning of the prostitute. This detail is unimportant to the account, and many have noted that its inclusion suggests that it is part of the narrative because that's exactly what Jesus did. This "writing in the dirt" is one of the more noted examples of incidental details in the Gospel accounts which argue for their historicity. What I was shown, and am about to relate, would fit in most nicely with category three (irrelevant material), but is really more of an incidental detail like the "writing in the dirt" of John 8:8 which simply inserts a bit of human element into the narrative.

In John 20: 2-8, John (who orthodox Christianity largely agrees is the "beloved disciple" mentioned repeatedly throughout the Gospel) visits the empty tomb with Peter. What is interesting is how the author describes the trip to the empty tomb. I set forth the account here from the NASB with the verses that I find important for purposes of this post highlighted.

So [Mary Magdalene] ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.

Note that John mentions on three occasions that he beat Peter to the tomb. It first notes that John ran faster than Peter and beat him to the tomb, then notes that Peter was following John, and finally that John had come to the tomb first. Now, what theological signficance is played out by highlighting on three occasions that John beat Peter to the tomb? None, that I can discern. Some commentators suggest that John had more youthful exhuberance than Peter or that his greater love for Jesus propelled him to the tomb faster than Peter, but to mention it three times?

It seems to me that this is an incidental detail surrounding the arrival of John and Peter at the tomb that has an air of authenticity about it. To put it mildly -- John is proud of the fact that he could outrun Peter and makes sure to mention it repeatedly. John outran Peter and wants everyone to know it. So, not only is the detail incidental, it is evidence that John himself authored the Gospel that bears his name because there is no other reason to include this bit of pride into the account.

Now, before anyone says, "That's it? You're arguing that the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John on that basis?" No, I am not saying that I am arguing that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John on that basis alone. What I am saying is that this is an additional small bit of evidence that adds to the other evidence (external and internal) that the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John. The question that I have for anyone who doubts that authorship by the Apostle John is this: why is the results of the race between Peter and John included? What theological purpose did it serve? How is this not an incidental detail that simply shows that the author was relating what really happened? I think this adds to the credibility of the orthodox view that the Apostle John did in fact author the Gospel that bears his name.

In a section of his Chapter in The Empty Tomb entitled, “Paul and the Pharisees,” Carrier reviews the Rabbinic writings in an attempt to separate Paul from the Pharisees so as to drive a wedge between their firm belief in bodily resurrection and Paul’s resurrection views. As with previous sections of his chapter (about the Sadducees , the Herodians, Qumran, Paliggenesia , the Assumption of Moses, the Scribes, Philo, and the Pharisees) there are several problems with his analysis.

The Rabbinic Writings as Questionable Sources of Pharisaic Belief

Carrier mistakenly assumes that the Rabbinic writings reflect the Pharisaic views of Paul’s time. This assumption is inexplicable because Carrier contradicts himself by his speculation that at least one sect of Pharisees taught a two body resurrection belief that left no trace in the Rabbinic writings. In any event, the Rabbinic writings were composed 200 to 400 years after Paul’s letters. Those hundreds of years were not without significance. Indeed, the very fabric of Jewish society was rent by the crushed rebellion and destruction of the Temple -- until then the focus of Jewish religious life -- in 70 AD. Following another failed rebellion – the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 AD – the Jewish people were driven from Judea and banned from Jerusalem, which was reestablished as a pagan city. Jewish messianic beliefs were crushed and the Jewish faith was forced to undergo radical transformation.

For these reasons and others, scholars are skeptical about how much the Rabbis really knew about the Pharisees. “The Rabbis, though they claim pedigree from their connection to the Pharisees, do not seem to know much about them. The earliest rabbinic literature is redacted at least 130 years after the Pharisees cease to exist as a visible group.” Claudia Setzer, Resurrection of the Body in Early Judaism and Early Christianity, page 22. As noted by leading Jewish scholar Neil Gillman, “it would be historically questionable to view the Judaism of the rabbis as flowing directly from Pharisaism.” The Death of Death, page 121. Thus, even if Carrier succeeded in showing complete incompatibility between Rabbinic and Pauline views on resurrection, he would have failed to distinguish Paul from the Pharisees.

The Rabbis and Paul Believed in Transformation of the Body and the Universe

Carrier’s reconstruction of Rabbinic views on resurrection is flawed. Carrier argues that the Rabbis were so committed to the continuity between the old body and the resurrected body that they believed that God accomplished eternal life for believers not by changing their bodies, but by changing the laws of nature. According to Carrier, the Rabbis believed that God changes the universe to accommodate our bodies but Paul believes that God gives us new bodies to accommodate the transformed universe. TET, page 118. This raises the question – unanswered by Carrier – as to just how God could change everything, even the laws of nature, without affecting the resurrected body? An entire universe and the natural order changes but our bodies do not? This is not an either/or situation. Paul too believed the universe would change, but he believed the body would change with it. A transformed universe and body makes much more sense of Rabbinic views than the notion that the entire universe would be transformed but the body no different than before.

Furthermore, a Rabbinic passage unmentioned by Carrier demonstrates that in fact the Rabbis did believe that the universe and the resurrected body were transformed into improved states of being:

Not like this world is the World to Come. In the World to Come there is neither eating nor drinking; nor procreation of children or business transactions; no envy or hatred or rivalry; but the righteous sit enthroned, their crowns on their heads, and enjoy the lustre of the Schechninah.

Ber 17a.

Obviously a body that needs neither food nor drink, and apparently experiences no sexual desire, is not the same old same old. As noted by a leading Jewish scholar, "Life will be conducted on an entirely different plane." Abraham Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, page 366. The resurrected body is different than the old one.

Furthermore, in the Talmud a Gentile asks whether the dead are raised naked. In response, the Rabbi answered, “If a kernel of wheat is buried naked and will sprout forth in many robes, how much more so the righteous." (b. Sanh. 90b). There is good reason to believe, as W.D. Davies suggests, that the Rabbi is referring to a transformed glorious body rather than simply a nice set of clothes. “When R. Meier used the analogy of the seed he was thinking most certainly of the glorious new body....” Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, page 310. The point is not just that the resurrected will avoid embarrassment, but that the question itself misses the point. For example, in Enoch 62:15-16 and 98:2, the resurrected are also said to wear “garments of glory” when they are resurrected. The reference to "garments of glory" is not to their clothes, but to their transformed, glorified state. So, there is good reason to view this as a direct reference to a glorified resurrected body rather than one that has all the human failings as the pre-resurrection body.

Different Audiences, Questions, and Agendas

Carrier contends that Paul does not use the same kinds of arguments or scriptures as the Rabbis do when discussing resurrection. I will discuss further below the erroneous nature of this contention, but there is a more fundamental flaw here. Carrier gives no consideration to the vast difference in time or the differing audiences and genre of Paul’s letters and the Rabbinic writings. Paul’s letters are highly occasional letters to largely non-Jewish audiences. The Rabbinical writings are extended discussions of Jewish law by Jewish scholars, edited over hundreds of years, sometimes presenting debates between the scholars.

Most of the Rabbinic discussions of resurrection involve responses to questions and challenges by Sadducees or Samaritans, not by Greeks. The primary focus of Rabbinic resurrection discussions was whether the resurrection was attested by scripture. This is not the challenge Paul faced. Another important focus of the Rabbis was the identity of the old with the new. This is why the Rabbis focus on the appearance of the resurrected body being the same, going so far as to explain a resurrection of the dead who bore their wounds and infirmities only to be thereafter healed by God. Nothing about this sequence, however, foreclosed a transformation of the old body into a more glorified one. In 2 Baruch 49:1-51:1 (written in the Second Temple Period), the dead are raised in the exact form in which they died so that “they may be recognized and recognize each other as the same people who died.” Richard Bauckham, “Life, Death, and the Afterlife in Second Temple Judaism,” in Life in the Face of Death, page 92. Once identity is established, their bodies are transformed into glorious new ones. Thus, Carrier is too quick to draw conclusions about the Rabbinic stress on the identity of the resurrected body with the previous one.

More to the point, Paul faced a different question posed by a different audience. He had to answer the question, “with what kind of body” do the dead rise? This is a question of mechanics. But “[i]n fact, relatively little material in Jewish texts deals with” the “mechanics of resurrection.” Gillman, op. cit., page 131. The Sadducees and Samaritans would not have had the same aversion to the physical as Paul’s Hellenized opponents did. So, for example, while it is true that Paul does not refer to Ezek. 37 in 1 Cor. 15 and the Rabbinic writings sometimes do, the implication is not that Paul could not have been a Pharisee, but that he was smart enough to realize to whom he was writing. It would have been counterproductive for Paul to refer to scriptures like Ezekiel's valley of the bones with its graphic relayering of skin and sinew as an example of resurrection. Paul was trying to defeat distaste for a resurrected body, not prove that the resurrection was gleaned from scripture or that it was possible with God's power. Paul had to walk a fine line, not abandoning the continuity between old and new while stressing that it is not a distasteful old body being resuscitated. He threads the needle well, emphasizing a transformative process that renders the old body less objectionable to even Greek tastes.

As a result, Carrier should be more wary than to assume that Paul and the Rabbis had the same reasons to write the same things, even if they shared some beliefs. Context, genre, audience, and socio-political realities matter.

Paul Uses Some of the Same Material as the Rabbis


Carrier is simply wrong that Paul does not use any of the metaphors or scriptures used by the Rabbis. In fact, as recognized by Jewish scholar Alan Segal in a book recommended to me by Carrier, “Paul uses two traditional Jewish metaphors at once in saying that the dead have only fallen asleep (Isa. 26:19; Dan 12:2).” Isa. 26:19 refers to those lying in the dust “awakening” and Daniel 12 states that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Paul three times in 1 Cor. 15 refers to the dead who will be raised as being “asleep.” He also uses the metaphor in the same way often in 1 Thess. 4 and 5. Furthermore, Paul’s references to glorious celestial bodies in verse 41 draws on imagery from Daniel 12, which refers to the resurrected who “will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Dan. 12:2-3. As noted by Richard B. Hays, “In Daniel, as in Paul’s teaching, there is no thought that the risen righteous ones actually become stars; rather, the metaphor is used to suggest something about the glorious state they will enjoy when they rise from the dead.” Interpretation, First Corinthians, page 271. See also Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body, pages 118-20. Thus, two of the three scriptures Carrier complains are absent are in fact used by Paul.

Furthermore, in addition to citing two of the three scriptures denied by Carrier, and using the analogy of sleeping in reference to the resurrection, Paul and the Rabbinic materials both use the seed analogy to describe resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:37, b. Sanh. 90b, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, Section 33). Carrier’s rejection of this fact is unconvincing (and will be addressed more fully at another time). For now it is enough to note that it is not just Paul and the Rabbis who used the seed analogy to describe the resurrection of the body, but other early Christian writings such as the Gospel of John (12:23-24), 1 Clement (Clement 24) and Tertullian (Apology 48).

What Did the Resurrection-Believing Jews of Paul's Time Believe?


Carrier admittedly but inexplicably ignores Jewish texts from the Second Temple Period that deal with the resurrected body. To the extent that the Pharisees were the party of resurrection belief, how can we ignore the most important texts of the Second Temple Period that discuss resurrection? Many of these believed, like Paul, in a resurrection that saw the old body transformed into a new glorious body. “Two common and closely related images show the righteous raised into heavenly glory. According to one, which has biblical precedent in Dan 12:3, they will shine like the stars (1 Enoch 104:2; 4 Ezra 7:78, 125; 2 Baruch 51;10; Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 33:5; 4 Maccabees 17:4-6)… [The second states that] they are said to be like the angels (1 Enoch 104:4; 2 Baruch 51:5, 10, 12).” Bauckham, op. cit., page 92. Thus, the majority view of Paul’s resurrection belief – that he believed in resurrection of the old and transformation into the new – fits neatly into Second Temple Jewish belief.

Carrier's analysis of Paul's relationship with the Pharisees by way of Rabbinic Judaism is fundamentaly flawed in its premises, fails to account for significant differences of genre, audience, and context, between the writings of Paul and the Rabbis, and makes substantive factual errors.

Over the weekend I finally saw United 93. It is an intense film that manages to convey the horror of that day without being sensationalistic when it comes to violence and language. After an opening scene in which the terrorists prepare themselves spiritually to carry out their plot, the film follows three tracks. First, United Flight 93, as passengers and crew load, take off, and began their transit. Second, the head of air traffic control and many local centers are shown going about their business and then dealing with the terrorist plot as it unfolds. Third, NORAD is shown preparing for an exercise but unexpectedly trying to defend the country from an unforseen threat with which they do not have the resources to deal.

The film is the ideal docudrama and avoids devolving into any sort of action flick or thriller. It comes across as a reenactment with as little artistic license exercised as possible. You do not get to know any of the characters as characters. Nothing of their personal lives is revealed, except the few snippets of phone conversation you overhear the Flight 93 passengers engaging in over air and cell phones.

One unexpected part that I thought quite well done depicted scenes of the passengers praying the Lord's Prayer interchanging with scenes of the terrorists praying to Allah in Arabic; the Lord's Prayer providing comfort to the Christian passangers while the Islamic prayers provided the fortitude for the Muslim terrorists to carry out their plot. I am not sure that such was the distinction intended by the movie makers, but it is striking.

The new Pope has caused a stir by giving a speech in which he quoted a medieval text which stated:


Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

You can read the full speech, here.

Although it has not (yet) reached the level of response caused by the Danish Muslim Cartoons, the Muslim world has reacted forcefully. In some cases, quite literally. Muslims in the Palestinian Territory attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza using guns and firebombs.

Update: Thanks to Carlson for the correction on the national origin of the cartoons.

Update2: Hospital-working Nun and her guard murdered by Muslim gunman in Somalia after arriving to help the sick and infirm.

From the Institute for Religion and Democracy article entitled "United Methodist "Missionary" is Planned Parenthood Staffer":

In its 2004-2005 Biennial Report, the missions board of the United Methodist Church reported a total of 904 missionaries affiliated with the board.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that all 904 individuals are engaged in traditional Christian missions work.

One example is Susan Burgess.  According to the website of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the “ministry” to which she is commissioned by the GBGM’s deaconess program is to be an administrative assistant at a Northern California affiliate of Planned Parenthood.

Few United Methodists would agree that secretarial work for America’s largest abortion provider qualifies as Christian missionary service.

Even aside from moral qualms about abortion, there is much about Planned Parenthood that most United Methodists would find quite objectionable.

Like its parent body, Planned Parenthood-Shasta Diablo (where Burgess works) is very involved in far-left political activism. Last year, it lobbied in favor of a bill to “legalize same-sex marriage,” in blatant opposition to historic United Methodist Church teachings on marriage that have been affirmed by growing margins at the last few General Conferences. It also seeks to defend the legality of “aborting” infants who are already partially born, a practice condemned by the United Methodist Social Principles. Other political activities of Burgess’s employer include maintaining an “Action Fund” to help elect politicians who oppose any restriction on abortion and generating opposition to a proposed ballot initiative that would require its clinics to notify the parents of minor girls before performing abortion surgery on her.

Obviously, Planned Parenthood can hold whatever views it wants -- regardless of how vile. Equally obviously, the Methodist Church can support Planned Parenthood if it finds its goals to be laudable. But isn't this a bit of a stretch to list the people it sends to help them as missionaries? Missionaries in what way? I'd like to know.

Recently, Richard Hooper, a former Lutheran pastor and the author of "The Crucifixion of Mary Magdalene" and "The Gospel of the Unknown Jesus," posted a piece on the Religion and Spirituality Forum entitled "Hide and seek with the historical Jesus" in which he makes an argument for the historicity of Jesus. In reviewing this argument, I am once again reminded why I left the Lutheran Church. Pastor Hooper says:

Virtually all early Christian literature, and the movement that stood behind it, was of Greek, not Hebraic origin. Jesus' actual followers, all of whom were Jews, did not write a single word of the New Testament.

The New Testament was written entirely by Hellenistic Christians who rejected the Judaizing tendencies of the early (Jewish) Jesus movement. Even so, these non-Jewish Messianists (who were uniformly hostile toward Jews) did not make some Greek or Roman hero figure their Messiah and Son of God. Instead, their faith was built around Yeshua (Jesus), a Palestinian Jew. So we might say that while the Gospels contain a great deal of mythology and outright fiction about Jesus, they are also "based on a true story."

Smith states, "From a historical perspective it is not very easy to defend the thesis that a first-century Hellenizing movement invented and deified a fictional Jewish hero, since totally fictional heroes tend to display traits admired by those who imagined him (or her)." Many stories about Jesus are quite scandalous, and the Hellenists would hardly have invented these. And the greatest scandal of all was the fact that the Christian Messiah was crucified as a common criminal.

This Palestinian Jew from an obscure village called Nazareth in Galilee was, in many ways, an embarrassment to early Christians. Yeshua (Jesus) challenged the accepted standards of social purity, questioned established authority, and overturned the traditions and mores of conventional family life. The Jesus of the Gospels was a serious troublemaker.

All of these factors made it necessary for Christians to reinterpret Jesus' life and teachings in order to make him conform to their Hellenistic mystery religion. They would not have had to do this if Jesus had been a fictional character.

Now, this is kind of an interesting argument. He is basically saying that given that the earliest Christians held to Hellenistic philosophy, it makes no sense that they would cling to Jesus as the one who rose from the dead to cleanse us from our unrighteousness if Jesus hadn't been a real person. After all, if the point was that any "deity" could have been the redeemer of the world, why not pick Zeus or Apollo or even Hermes? The fact that they felt constrained to argue that this Jewish man was God argues that there must be a real person behind the legends found in the Bible. While I appreciate Pastor Hooper putting in his arguments as to why Jesus had to be a historical figure (thus, countering the Jesus-Myth claims of such notables as Brian Flemming), I don't see how this type of help is particularly helpful. It seems to me that it is ultimately . . . well, self-defeating.

Let's look at the bathwater he is throwing out with this argument:

1. "Virtually all early Christian literature, and the movement that stood behind it, was of Greek, not Hebraic origin." In believing this rot, Pastor Hooper is essentially saying that the ideas behind Christianity originated in Greek thought -- not Jesus. Now, the idea that Christianity is entirely of Greek origin would surprise many like the Apostle Paul who called Christianity "foolishness to the Greeks," but then, I guess Paul didn't write those words either, in Pastor Hooper's eyes because . . .

2. "Jesus' actual followers, all of whom were Jews, did not write a single word of the New Testament." First, I think he means the people who walked with Jesus during his earthly life because everyone who writes something about Jesus who is a Christian is a follower of Jesus. Hence, Paul, even though he didn't follow him during his earthly life, was definitely a follower of Jesus and most scholars believe it to be beyond dispute that Paul actually wrote several of the books attributed to him.

But I think it's clear that the followers of Jesus did have, at minimum, a hand in the writing of the four Gospels. Personally, I think that the evidence is sufficient to reasonably conclude that the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John and 1 and 2 John, that John Mark wrote the Apostle Peter's preaching in the Gospel of Mark, that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke after talking to others about Jesus (including Mary, mother of Jesus), that the Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter, and that James wrote the Epistle of James. But even if they didn't directly write these books, it is extremely likely that the books were at least written by the "schools" that surrounded these Apostles. So, consequently, I think that his statement that the "followers of Jesus" didn't write a word of the New Testament is wrong, or, at minimum, grossly overstated.

However, the consequence of Pastor Hooper's views is immediately obvious to the skeptic -- if the "followers of Jesus" didn't write any of this material, then it is written by people who didn't really know him and can be entirely made up. Since the Christian claim is that Jesus really lived, died and was resurrected, the fact that they accounts of these events can be claimed to be fabricated because not written by eyewitnesses or their immediate followers doesn't help the Christian claim. But that doesn't bother Pastor Hooper, who says . . .

3. "The New Testament was written entirely by Hellenistic Christians who rejected the Judaizing tendencies of the early (Jewish) Jesus movement." I guess I'm just curious -- who were these Hellenistic Christians? What evidence does Pastor Hooper have as to the identities of these Hellenistic Christians? Where did they live? When did they live? What can he really tell us about them? The answer appears to be: not much. This claim is based upon an extrapolation from the style of writing and not based on any real historical evidence because (as far as I have seen) there are no claims in ancient histories that the identities of the authors of the New Testament were Hellenistic Christians. Certainly, there were debates as to whether the new Christians should keep the same customs as the Jews kept, and that debate was won in favor of the views held by those who thought many of the Jewish customs and laws and been done away with. But that is not the same as saying that the New Testament was written by Hellenistic Christians.

4. "Even so, these non-Jewish Messianists (who were uniformly hostile toward Jews) . . . ." Sorry, I don't agree that the New Testament is hostile toward Jews.

5. "So we might say that while the Gospels contain a great deal of mythology and outright fiction about Jesus, they are also 'based on a true story.'" Well, I disagree in the strongest possible terms, and while I know Pastor Hooper's point is not to make his case for every statement he makes, the only outright fiction I see is in his claims. Yes, I know there are "Christian scholars" who believe this, but I have never seen anything that makes such a viewpoint compelling or even more likely that the conservative thesis that I have already stated in response to number 2, above.

Still, from an apologetics point of view, he has once again thrown out the bathwater and the baby follows. After all, if the Gospels contain a great deal of mythology and outright fiction, on what basis are we to believe any of it? Okay, so there was actually a person named Jesus upon whom the Gospel accounts are based, but if we can't know much more than that about him, why believe he was the person the New Testament says he is or that he said or did any of the things attributed to him? To me, this approach gives carte blanche to reject any and everything that Jesus actually said or did simply to try to win the point that Jesus -- the man -- actually existed.

6. "All of these factors made it necessary for Christians to reinterpret Jesus' life and teachings in order to make him conform to their Hellenistic mystery religion." Of course, the biggest problem with this is, as the late-great Dr. Ronald Nash showed in his book Jesus and the Greeks, the mystery religions almost certainly didn't arise until after Christianity, and if there was any borrowing between the two (which is doubtful) it was almost certainly the fact that the mystery religions borrowed from Christianity.

Dr. Hooper, I want to thank you for your effort to counter the Jesus-Mythers. But with all due respect, I think that your underlying beliefs make your efforts fruitless because even if someone agrees with your argument, all that they would find is that Jesus the man existed and that there is nothing more we can know about him. It's like getting people to believe that people have seen something they think is Bigfoot -- just because they think that they've seen it doesn't mean that they really saw it or that Bigfoot actually exists. By your "apologetic," even if Jesus really existed, that doesn't mean anything more than there was a real man about whom a lot of fiction has been written. It has no impact on the lives of those who agree with your argument and certainly doesn't lead them any closer to the Living Water.

I admit it -- I love Veggie Tales. When I first saw some of their videos for sale in a Christian book store about 10 years ago, I thought, "here's a loser idea." I mean, come on, who wants to watch a bunch of armless, legless vegatables preaching sermons at me? Well, it didn't take too much longer before I actually saw one, and I became hooked. While directed to kids, there's enough literary and movie references for adults that anyone can sit back and enjoy these animated works (unless, of course, they are television snobs). As a result, the Veggie Tales chain has been very successful (even if Big Idea apparently was unprepared to handle success and filed bankruptcy at one point) selling more than 50 million DVD and videotapes.

50 million DVDs and videotapes? Adding those numbers to the Veggie-related promotional products such as plush toys and books, and television naturally took notice. Thus, beginning this Fall there will be Veggie time on Saturday mornings on NBC during the children's cartoon time. Details can be found on the official Big Idea web site here. All's right with the world, right? Well . . . there seems to be this minor . . . uh, God problem.

According to "Sliced and diced 'Veggie Tales'" by L. Brent Bozell, III,

The early word from producers is that NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of "Veggie Tales" -- those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible.

So NBC has taken the very essence of "Veggie Tales" -- and ripped it out. It's like "Gunsmoke" without the guns, or "Monday Night Football" without the football.

Think about this corporate mindset. NBC is the network that hired a squad of lawyers to argue that dropping the F-bomb on the Golden Globe Awards isn't indecent for children, but invoking God is wholly unacceptable. Or, as one e-mailing friend marveled: "So, saying [expletive] you' is protected First Amendment speech on NBC but not 'God bless you.'"

I suppose I should be surprised, but I'm not. After all, to think that it would be considered okay for our favorite vegetables to mention Jesus or the Bible on NBC is simply wishful thinking in today's society. Still, I have to agree with Mr. Bozell that Veggie Tales without its Biblical basis has been emasculated -- stripped of its very core. Big Idea is about bringing Sunday morning values to Saturday afternoon fun. NBC is, apparently, not interested in the values part.

Mr. Bozell continues:

This is one of those moments where you understand networks like NBC are only talking an empty talk and walking an empty walk when it comes to the First Amendment, and "creative integrity," and so on. They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like "Will and Grace" that if they're offended, they have a remote control as an option. The networks have spent millions insisting we have a V-chip in our TV sets. Change the channel. Block it out.

But when it comes to religious programming -- that doesn't even mention Jesus Christ -- just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don't like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion be shredded before broadcast.

It's truly sad this anti-religious hypocrisy would emerge. Today, no one in network TV fears what the children are watching -- unless it makes them think about God.

Perhaps the most apt comment comes from Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, in his blog entry entitled "It's Showtime for Veggie Tales" where he discusses the demand by NBC to strip Veggie Tales of its Christian content and his decision to proceed with airing the show anyway:

By the way, last week it was announced that NBC would allow Madonna to perform, on the air, the song in her current tour the she sings while suspended from a mirrored crucifix. I know the audience and time of day is completely different, but it is a bit ironic that telling kids God loves them is "not okay," but singing a song while mocking the crucifixion is fine and dandy. Let us Christians never forget that we are strangers here. We don't fit in.

An Anglican priest renewed his license with the Church of England even though he converted to Hinduism, "moved to India, changed his name to Ananda and daily blesses a congregation of Hindus with fire previously offered up to Nagar, the snake god." You can see Reverend Hart offering prayers to an Indian elephant God, here.

Rvd Hart sees no tension between his conversion to Hinduism and status as an Anglican clerif.

I have asked that question many times. I have read blogs, Wikipedia, articles, and Emergent Church websites, in an attempt to understand this contemporary movement. Beyond a commitment to meeting society on its terms, I admit to still being perplexed by this phenomenon. Hopefully, help is on the way. New Testament scholar and blogger Darrell Bock is launching a multi-post series on the Emergent Church and looks to give it a fair overview.

The Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family are spending millions to buy ultrasound machines for Crisis Pregnancy Centers so they can provide sonograms to expectant mothers, many of whom are deciding whether to abort their unborn child. This tactic in the abortion wars has garnered some rather favorable press coverage, a year ago in the NY Times and last week in the Washington Post.

The idea is to put meaning in the term "choice" by letting expectant mothers see what it is that they may decide to kill. Reports and surveys show that such information goes a long way in discouraging women from choosing abortion:

By many accounts, the ultrasound exams have proven effective in convincing women to stay pregnant. A 2005 survey by Care Net, a Sterling-based network of about 1,000 antiabortion pregnancy centers in the United States and Canada, found that 72 percent of women who were initially "strongly leaning" toward abortion decided to carry their pregnancies to term after seeing a sonogram. Fifty percent made the same choice after counseling alone.

This success has lead Focus on the Family to buy ultrasound machines for 200 Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The Southern Baptist Convention also has a program, called Psalm 139 Project, to provide ultrasound machines to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. You can learn about it and donate it, here.

Here is one young woman's story (from the WP):

On June 6, Cheryl Smith took her last $600 and drove her teenage daughter from Baltimore to Severna Park to get an abortion. When they got there, a receptionist told them the clinic had changed hands. The abortion provider had moved a few miles away, she said, but the new clinic would offer a pregnancy test and sonogram for free.

The Smiths stayed. After they saw a picture of the fetus at 21 weeks with arms and legs and a face, their thoughts of termination were gone.

"As soon as I seen that, I was ready. It wasn't no joke. It was real," Makiba Smith, 16, said. "It was like, he's not born to the world yet, but he is inside of me growing."

And another young woman (from the NYT):

Sixteen months ago, Andrea Brown, 24 years old and unmarried, was desperate for an abortion, fearing the disappointment of her parents and the humiliation she might face.

While frantically searching the telephone book one day, she came across the Bowie Crofton Pregnancy Center and Medical Clinic, a church-financed organization that provides counseling and education about sexual abstinence. The receptionist told Ms. Brown that the clinic did not perform abortions or make referrals but that she could come in for an ultrasound to make sure her six-and-a-half-week pregnancy was viable. When she did, everything changed.

"When I had the sonogram and heard the heartbeat - and for me a heartbeat symbolizes life - after that there was no way I could do it," Ms. Brown said recently as she revisited the clinic and watched her daughter, Elora, now 9 months old, play at her feet.

Abortionists complain that such tactics are deceptive and coercive. The complaints in the articles cited above are devoid of any such examples (although there is a dispute about the link between abortion and cancer). Although the center in the Washington Post took over a place previously used by abortionists the receptionist clearly informed the visitors that "the clinic had changed hands. The abortion provider had moved a few miles away, she said, but the new clinic would offer a pregnancy test and sonogram for free." Moreover, the walls of the center are adorned with Bible verses. In the NYT article, the receptionistist explained over the telephone to the young woman that the center did not provide abortion services.

To the extent there have been abuses, they should be corrected and discouraged. But they do not indict the purpose of Crisis Pregnancy Centers or the many centers who serve that purpose well. That purpose is to inform and save lives.

UPDATE: World Magazine's Blog also noticed the story and issued a corrective and has an informative comment on whether Crisis Pregnancy Center's are intentionally trying to place themselves near abortion mills. Seems they may just both be trying to service the same demographics, placing themselves next to high schools and colleges. Another actually had an abortion mill move in next to an existing center.

Often times, such as in the recent movie Kingdom of Heaven, the Crusaders are presented as imperialists more motiviated by money and greed than by devout conviction. In a recent post I mentioned a book about the Crusades I had recently completed, which did a good job of preseneting the genuine if misguided religious zeal of the Crusaders. It also emphasized that a significant part of the Crusader's perspective was that Islam was invading and conquering Christiain lands.

A couple of days ago, Loren Rosson wrote a post entitled, Understanding the Crusades, which also focused on Crusader motivations. Therein, he concludes that "what motivated them wasn't money or material gain: on the contrary, they dreaded the dangers of travel and expensive costs involved over the trek to Palestine, and there were few rewards to be won in the Holy Lands. Crusaders were motivated by anything but economic interests. They were motivated by sincere religious zeal."

Quoting a Crusader scholar, Rosson also notes that the Crusaders adopted the same policies of tolerance (relatively speaking) that the Muslims had before them:

[W]ithin a decade or two of their occupation of Palestine the crusaders had adopted a policy of toleration, based on the Muslim treatment of subject Christians and Jews. Muslim and Jewish shrines, mosques and synagogues were open. Muslims worshipped even in Christian shrines and churches and there was at least one mosque-church.

It is a fascinating period of time about which there are many misconceptions and few dispassionate commentators.

Update:
Rosson has posted a new blog on the issue.

A weird controversy has apparently arisen in La Crosse, Wisconsin, over the decision of an artist to try to hang paintings of Jesus in the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center. According to the story entitled "Another view of Jesus: Artist argues ‘Rabbi Jesus’ paintings appropriate", the paintings of Jesus seek to depict Jesus in light of His Jewish heritage. According to Clara Maria Goldstein, president of the Eastbank Artists,

"It's a series of paintings I wanted to display because they have meaning and a message," Goldstein said. "I don’t know why my paintings are not appropriate. Why are paintings of Jesus as a Jew not appropriate when paintings of a non-Jewish Jesus is acceptable?

"While some may say the paintings are controversial, they are actually more authentic," she said. "The problem is Jesus has never been portrayed in this way."

Her paintings include Jesus celebrating Hanukkah and his bar mitzvah, Mary preparing Jesus for circumcision, the 10 Commandments, the Shroud of Yom Kippur, the 12 apostles as Jews, Jesus affirming his Bible at the cross and Rabbi Jesus saying to love one another.

The paintings can be viewed here.

When I first read this story and read the authors comments that "the problem is Jesus has never been portrayed in this way," I expected the problem was going to be that the paintings depicted Jesus in a way that pictured him as merely a Jewish preacher. In other words, I expected that these paintings would show Jesus in some light other than as the "Son of God." But, in fact, I think that the paintings are actually quite good and not the least bit controversial in the sense of depicting Jesus as a Jew. After all, Jesus was a Jew. He cam from a Jewish background, and was certainly raised with all of the Jewish traditions of His day. So, why would I get upset about pictures of Jesus celebrating Hanukkah or at His bar mitzvah. Assuming such practices occurred in the First Century (and I don't know for certain if they did), Jesus would have certainly done those things. So what's the deal?

Then I re-read the story and I realized that there were two potential problems with the paintings which is why they were asked to be removed. The first problem I saw came from the fact that the hospital was open to Jewish patients (as it should be). Thus, the problem wasn't that Jesus was depicted as a Jew from a Christian perspective; the problem may have been that Jesus was depicted as a Jew from the Jewish perspective. While I think that most Christians have no problem understanding that Jesus was a Jew, most Jews don't see Jesus as a Jew -- or, at least, they don't see Him as a true Jew. Thus, the hospital was concerned about the fact that Jesus being depicted as a Jew might be offensive to the Jewish patients.

Here's the problem with that -- this is a Lutheran hospital. I expect that it was originally founded by the ELCA or some other denomination of the Lutheran faith as part of an outreach to the community. It is part of a calling that Lutherans take very seriously of providing social ministry through such things as hospitals and other charitable institutions. As a former Lutheran, I know that these social ministries are a major focus of the church bodies. Yet, when many of these hospitals and other social welfare institutions were originally founded in the Lutheran Church, it was in furtherance of the cause of the Gospel. When a patient was brought to the hospital, it was never intended that the Lutheran faith would be hidden under a bushel. Rather, the love and care that the hospital was intended to give was to be given as the earthly representative of the care and love of the Jesus.

With that in mind, read the hospital's explanation for the removal:

A release by Gundersen Lutheran stated the hospital respects people of all faiths and acknowledges "an artist's right to express their personal beliefs through their work."

But the hospital also has "an obligation to determine what is appropriate for our diverse patient population, and our healing environment," according to the statement.

So, the hospital is concerned that it's Jewish patients may be upset that Jesus is being depicted as a Jew even though it is the belief of the Lutheran church (and the Christian church as a whole) that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish and almost certainly went through all of the ordinary customs that Jews of His day would have undergone? What does that do to the mission of the hospital? If it won't allow painting to be hung because it is worried that people may be offended by what is likely an accurate depiction of Jesus, doesn't that make it simply another secular hospital?

Then I thought of what may be the more pressing problem with the painting from the viewpoint of the hospital -- it isn't that the painting depicted a Jewish Jesus, it's that the painting depicted Jesus at all! After all, if the hospital doesn't want anyone to be offended by a depiction of Jesus in His Jewish roots, shouldn't the hospital object to any depiction of Jesus because of the fact that they might be offended by His claim to be the only true Son of God and the only means of salvation?

If that's the real problem, I suggest that the Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center simply stop identifying itself with the Christian church because it's mission is clearly no different than any secular-based hospitals.

In my article on Acts and in an earlier blog, I discussed some of the passages in Luke-Acts which suggest that its author was a doctor (such as prefaces showing familiarity with technical treatises, like those of a doctor, as well as greater interest in the details of medical conditions, and an interest in defending the honor of doctors). This is not a revisitation of W.K. Hobart's argument from precise medical language, but does demonstrate a unique interest in medical issues and healings. Said interest, however, is stronger than I had realized:

Luke's interest in healing is evident from the fact that he recorded all the Markan healing accounts, shared with Matthew the healing of the centurion's slave in Luke 7:1-10, and had five healings unique to his Gospel (7:11-17; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; 17:11-19; 22:51).

Robert H. Stein, Luke (TNAC), page 20.

For a point of comparison, I will turn to a my article The Miracles of Jesus: A Historical Inquiry, in which I note that "Not only does [Matthew] tend to shorten Mark's miracle stories, the author of Matthew excludes some of them altogether." Thus, whereas Matthew shows less interest in Mark's miracle accounts and provides only one of his own. Luke, on the other hand, shows much greater interest in miracles and narrates them more extensively than Matthew.

Obviously, this is not determinative. But it is suggestive, especially when viewed in light of the rest of the evidence suggesting authorship by someone familiar with and interested in the medical sciences of his day.

I have been reading an excellent book by Richard Overy entitled Why the Allies Won. Rather than a history of World War II, it provides overviews of key theaters and battles, and much discussion and analysis of the reasons for the Allies' victory. It is a very good book, though the propensity of otherwise intelligent British historians to heap praise on General Montgomery still mystifies me. In any event, in a chapter on the competing philosophies and moral positions in the war, I ran across some information of which I was previously unaware.

I knew that the Soviet Union had played into the nationalist sentiment of its Russian population. But I had not known the extent to which the Orthodox Church -- which had been oppressed by the atheist regime of Stalin and its predecessors -- was not only tolerated after the German invasion of the USSR but promoted.


Even in the Soviet Union, where God had been officially proscribed, religion was revived by the war. On the day of the German invasion Metropolitan Sergei, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, persecuted for years by the authorities, hounded by Emelian Yaroslavsky's League of the Godless, appealed to the Soviet faithful to do everything to help the regime: "The Lord will grant us Victory!" In the Soviet Union an estimated half of the population were still Orthodox Christians, forced to live a religious half-life under a thorougly secular regime. The number of priests was reduced by the 1930s to a few thousand. The churches were destroyed or in disrepair. No Patriarch, supreme father of the Church, had been permitted since 1926.

With the coming of war everything changed. Stalin wanted national unity. Propoganda emphasised patriotism and tradition. In this the Church had a part to play. Stalin stamped out the crude anti-Christian activities of the Party zealots. Money was made available to restore churches; religious observance was openly encouraged. A commissarait was set up for Church affairs, popularly nicknamed 'Narkombog', People's Commissar for God. In 1943 Stalin finally approved the restoration of Church authority.... Stalin, the ex-seminarian, permitted the reopening of seminaries, and the Church was legally allowed to own property....

The faithful responded to the revival. By 1943 the churches of Moscow were so crowded at Eastertime that the congregations spilled out into the surrounding streets. Though Stalin did not go so far as to allow chaplains to accompany the troops, it was noticed that soldiers on leave began to use the churches in large numbers too.

Overy, Why the Allines Won, pages 282-83.

Stalin's insincerity is obvious, but the fact that he was forced to tap the still strong religious sentiment of his people -- though actively suppressed for decades -- is telling. Sects other than the Orthodox did not fare so well. And after the war, the oppression resumed. Atheism was the law of the land and believers, especially non-Orthodox ones, suffered greatly.

An interesting juxtaposition is the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to Overy:

Few American Christians took Soviet policy at face value. Roosevelt did believe in God, devoutly so. His faith carried him through the terrible years of illness. A lifelong Episcopalian, his religous conviction was strengthened by his struggle with his disability, the succcessful outcome of which he attributed to Divine Providence. The first official statement following the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, approved by Roosevelt and broadcast on 23 June, made no distinction between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russian on the question of "freedom to worship God". Both states denied this "fundamental right". The atheist principles of communism were "as intolerable and alien" as the doctrines of Nazism".

Overy, op. cit., page 283.

What about Nazi Germany? The Cadre has a page devoted to the spurious and usually insincere claim that Hitler was a Christian. Overy, who is a secular historian, notes that Nazism was incompatible, and seen as such by Hitler, with Christianity. Paganism, though not something Hitler actively engaged in, was popular among important Nazi leaders:

Italy was the home of Roman Catholicism; Germany's population was one-third Catholic. Religion in both states lived in uneasy proximity with regimes that were strongly anti-clerical in outlook peddling new secular religions of their own. The same month that the Papacy condemned communism, a second encyclical was published, "Mit Brennender Sorge" ("With Burning Anxiety"), which condemned the Nazi persecution of the churches, Nazi racism and Mussolini's deification of the state. Though Hitler often invoked God or Providence when he spoke, he was a thoroughly lapsed Catholic. Hitler considered Christianity incompatible with with the new National-Socialist age--it was "merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics". He deplored the survivalof religious observance among German ministers and generals, "little children who have learnt nothing else". He regarded Christianity and communism as two sides of the same coin, sharing in St. Paul a common Jewish ancesteor. Hitler took the German nation as his religion. This did not make him a pagan as was widely believed, although paganism was practised under the Third Reich. The German Faith Movement, under the banner of the golden sun-wheel, with the "Song of the Goths" as their anthem, indulged in pagan festivals and invoked the gods of pre-Christian Germany. Heinrich Himmler's SS generated a pagan theology, a pagan litury, even a pagan credo.

Overy, op. cit., page 284.

In reading through my morning e-mail alerts, I came across the following written by Emily Oliver, a theology graduate student at Xavier University, entitled "So many things Jesus DIDN'T say".

I had a startling thought the other night, and I think I need to explore it further: Jesus never said anything against women in leadership positions. I can't think of one time in scripture that Jesus is quoted as saying that women should be submissive or learn in silence. I can't think of a situation where Jesus told a woman that she was not to be in authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

Here's a further thought: the Pauline epistles are generally thought to have been written before the gospels, with perhaps the exception of Mark, which was written concurrently. Why, if it was so theologically important to keep women out of leadership positions, did the gospel writers not make sure to include such points from Jesus' own mouth? I think it's a little funny that exclusion of women from leadership comes from Paul and not Jesus. Who's the Son of God?

Let me get this straight -- the only reliable Biblical teachings are the words of Jesus? Isn't that what she's saying? It's Jesus versus Paul, and of course, Paul isn't as trustworthy as Jesus.

From the standpoint of traditional Christianity, there are some problems with this approach to the issue. First and foremost it undercuts the idea of inspiration of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. The traditional church teaching is that Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore his writings are divinely inspired and hold within them the sound Word of God. Thus, it isn't the words of Jesus, the Son of God, versus the words of Paul, the apostle; the real battle being set up by Ms. Oliver is the words of Jesus, the Son of God, against the words of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinitarian God, as recorded through Paul. Yes, it's God versus God.

Of course, the underlying problem is that there is an assumption that Paul and Jesus are at odds on this issue. The assumption is that because Paul made some statements about the role of women in the church while Jesus didn't make those statements (and apparently wouldn't have, in Ms. Oliver's point of view), we must take Jesus' non-words over Paul's words. I think that this battle is illusory.

Ms. Oliver, like other people who selectively accept the teachings of the Gospel, is actually reading her own viewpoint into Jesus' silence. She wants it to be the case that Jesus wouldn't have taught what she understands Paul to be teaching, and so she simply reads her desires into the silence and takes that silence as proof that Paul is wrong. It is a bad hermeneutic to read one's own desires into silence. Jesus didn't specifically speak about abortion, homosexuality, slavery, counterfeiting, embezzlement, Internet pornography or a hundred other issues facing the world either, but that doesn't mean that we are free to substitute our own desires into the Bible over the teachings that can be gleaned from other Biblical texts on these important issues. As Biblical scholar D.A. Carson is reported as saying in Lee Strobels' The Case for Christ when discussing the fact that Jesus never directly addressed slavery:

But you have to keep your eye on Jesus' mission. Essentially he did not come to overturn the Roman economic system, which included slavery. He came to free men and women from their sins. And here's my point: what his message does is transform people so they begin to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. Naturally, that has an impact on the idea of slavery.

In other words, simply because Jesus didn't address something is not a reason to believe that he preferred the side of the argument that someone would like him to prefer. Rather, Jesus didn't address every societal ill or potential societal ill because He came to preach that He was the fulfillment of the kingdom and to bring salvation. Paul, who was an apostle appointed by God and acknowledged by the other apostles, was setting up churches throughout the Mediterranean and his mission was to answer questions about church leadership, the conduct of worship, and other questions that came with the church age. When Paul speaks about the church and its structure, he speaks as an apostle which means that he speaks with the authority of God.

It seems to me that the better course is to accept Paul's teaching, but not to accept it necessarily at face value. There is a great deal of debate within the church about the focus of Paul's statements. There is much material available over the Internet that argues for a more egalitarian view of Scriptures then has traditionally been accepted, and many of these articles do not downplay the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with respect to the teaching of the Bible. In other words, they continue in the belief that the Word of God as recorded in all of the books in the Gospels are inerrant, and so it doesn't set up a false dichotomy between Paul's words and Jesus' words. Rather, they try to look at the Bible as a whole and determine exactly what Paul meant when he made some comments that have been recently seen as misogynistic.

For example, F.F. Bruce has an article available on-line entitled "Women In The Church: A Biblical Survey" in which he does exactly that.

From the standpoint of Paul's upbringing he voices a revolutionary sentiment when he declares that in Christ Jesus...there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is neither male nor female' (Gal. 3:28). Already in his time the Jewish morning prayer probably included the passage where the pious man thanks God that he was made a Jew not a Gentile, a free man not a slave, a man and not a woman. All three of these privileges are hereby wiped out: real how they were in the Judaism of Paul's day, they are abolished in Christ, in Judaism it was the males only who received in their bodies the viable seal of the covenant with Abraham; it is a corollary of Paul's circumcision-free gospel that any such religious privilege enjoyed by males over females is abolished. To the present day among orthodox Jews the quorum for a synagogue congregation is ten free men; unless ten such males are present the service cannot begin. (We may, incidentally, be happy that for Christian meetings we have the less stringent quorum of 'two or three', with nothing said as to whether they are men or women.) Paul, on the other hand, expects Christian women to play a responsible part in church meetings, and if, out of concern for public order, he asks them to veil their heads when they pray or prophesy, the veil is the sign of their authority to exercise their Christian liberty in this way, not the sign of someone else's authority over them.

Nothing that Paul says elsewhere on women's contribution to church services can be understood in a sense which conflicts with these statements of principle. This applies to the limitations apparently placed on their public liberty in 1 Cor. 14:34 ('the women should keep silence in the churches') and 1 Tim. 2:11 ('let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness'). Critical questions have indeed been raised about the text of 1 Cor. 14:34f.(which the 'western' recension places after verse 40) or the direct authorship of the pastoral epistles. The evidence is not sufficient to extrude 1 Cor. 14:34f. from the authentic text; the prohibition expressed in these verses refers to the asking of questions which imply a judgment on prophetic utterances (so, at least, their context suggests). As for the pastoral epistles, we have received them as canonical scripture, and that goes for 1 Tim. 2:9-15. I am disposed to agree with Chrysostom, who read the Greek New Testament in his native language, that in 1 Tim.2:9f. we have a direction (developing the teaching of 1 Cor.11:2-16) that woman's dress and demeanour should be seemly when they engage in public prayer. In verses 11 and 12 of this chapter, however, women are quite explicitly not given permission to teach or rule. The relevance of the two arguments-(a) that Adam was formed before Eve and (b) that Eve was genuinely deceived whereas Adam knew what he was doing when he broke the divine commandment-is not immediately obvious; I am not too happy with the suggestions that the former is an early instance of the principle of primogeniture, in which the special rights of the firstborn are recognised.

Exegesis seeks to determine the meaning of the text in its primary setting. But when exegesis has done its work, our application of the text should avoid treating the New Testament as a book of rules. In applying the New Testament text to our situation, we need not treat it as the scribes of our Lord's day treated the Old Testament. We should not turn what were meant as guiding lines for worshippers in one situation into laws binding for all time. (It is commonly recognised that the regulations regarding widows, later in 1 Tim., need not be carried out literally today, although their essential principles should continue to be observed.) It is an ironical paradox when Paul, who was so concerned to free his converts from bondage of law, is treated as a law-giver for later generations. The freedom of the Spirit, which can be safeguarded by one set of guiding lines in a particular situation, may call for a different procedure in a new situation.

It is very naturally asked what criteria can be safely used to distinguish between those elements in the apostolic letters which are of local and temporary application and those which are of universal and permanent validity. The question is too big for a detailed discussion here. Where the writings of Paul are concerned, however, a reliable rule of thumb is suggested by his passionate emphasis on freedom-true freedom by contrast with spiritual bondage on the one hand and moral licence on the other. Here it is: whatever in Paul's teaching promotes true freedom is of universal and permanent validity; whatever seems to impose restrictions on true freedom has regard to local and temporary conditions. (For example, to go to another area, restrictions on Christian's freedom in the matter of food are conditioned by the company in which he or she is at the time; and even those restrictions are manifestations of the overriding principle of always considering the well-being of others.)

In posting this lengthy quote from Bruce, I am not adopting it as necessarily being the correct answer to this question. But I do post it to point out that there is a reasonable way to understand these scriptures without setting up a battle between Paul and Jesus on the issue of women in the church -- especially where Jesus didn't directly address the issue.

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