What sold author Simcha Jacobovichi of the Jesus Tomb on the idea that the tomb and ossuaries discovered at Talpiot 26 years ago were the tomb and ossuary of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were the odds behind that combination of names appearing in a single tomb. The Jesus Tomb website calls it the "Jesus Equation". In a short video, he makes reference to an analogy of engaging in an archaeological dig in Great Britain 2,000 years from now and finding the tombs of three people together identified on their tombstones only as John, Paul and George. Now, John, Paul and George, of course, are very common names in Great Britain, but taken together they have a strong significance -- they are three of the Fab Four.
Of course, if you were the archaeologist who did Mr. Jacobovichi's analogous dig 2,000 years from now, would you conclude based on the names of Paul, George and John alone that the three graves were the graves of the actual Beatles? I expect that you'd recognize that identifying those three graves as the graves of John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney based on such scant evidence would be unwarranted.
But Mr. Jacobovichi goes farther: he posits as part of his analogy finding a fourth grave nearby for Richard Starkey. Of course, Richard Starkey is Ringo Starr's real name. Now, to find the grave of Richard Starkey next to those of Paul, George and John would mean something, wouldn't it? By the same method he argues that since Mariamne has been identified as the real name of Mary Magdalene, this is what pushes the conclusion that the "Yeshua bar Yose" (Jesus, Son of Joseph) ossuary is the ossuary of Jesus Christ. He then proceeds, on another page, to post the numbers that he thinks demonstrate that the probability of these names being brought together is so significantly small that these ossuaries have to be the ossuaries of the Holy Family.
I have a few problems with the analogy and the numbers used to support them. First, as to the analogy, let's add in some more facts. Suppose that we know or have good reason to know where John Lennon is buried. Would we be so ready to assume that the four tombstones represent the Beatles? Probably not. Well, we have a good idea from other sources that Mary Magdalene wasn't buried in Jerusalem. There are competing stories, but the best attested appears to be that she was buried in Constantinople. Other stories place her tomb in France. But what is interesting is that there is no tradition that says she was buried in Jerusalem. Moreover, good authority tells us that Jesus wasn't buried at all since he ascended into heaven, so we have reason to doubt, at the outset, any claim that this is his body in the same way we have reason to believe that the four graves couldn't include John Lennon because he is elsewhere.
Moreover, as I pointed out in an earlier post on the name "Mariamne", it isn't at all certain that Mariamne is the true name of Mary Magdalene. Certainly, a fine professor at Harvard holds that belief, but I think there is strong reason to question that identification. And even if "Mariamne" was Mary Magdalene's real name (which remains questionable), there is no reason to believe that the ossuary of "Mariamene e Mara" is the tomb of the Mariamne described in the Acts of Philip and identified as Mary Magdalene by Professor Bovon. To use Mr. Jacobovichi's analogy, it would be similar to finding with the tombstones of Paul, George and John near a tombstone for a Ricard. The differences in the name may be significant. Also, it may be hard to tell how common the name of "Mariamne" is, even though it is clear from all of the Marys bumping around the New Testament that Mary and variations on that name must be very common. In Dr. Witherington's post on the subject, he states "21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary)". So, even if "Mariamne" is Mary Magdalene's true name, it is hard to say that fact proves taht this particular "Mariamne" is Mary Magdalene from the New Testament.
But here is where the numbers get confusing: Mr. Jacobovichi's figures estimate that the use of Mariamne in New Testament times would be 1 in 160. Dr. Witherington's numbers (obtained from Richard Bauckham, Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor, St Andrews) would say that it is 1 in 5. Mr. Jacobovichi places the odds of "Jesus, Son of Joseph" at 1 in 190. But it is hard to believe that Mr. Jacobovichi's numbers are accurate since, as Dr. Witherington points out, about 1 in 14 men had the name Joseph and about 1 in 26 of them had the name Jesus. Now, what that means is that for every 26 Josephs, statistically speaking, one would name their child Jesus. Assuming that Jerusalem had a population of 80,000 at the time of Jesus, and assuming that 40,000 of those people were male, then there would have been approximately 2,867 Josephs living in the city (1 out of every 14 assuming 40,000 men). If there were 2,867 Josephs having children, again speaking statistically, 110 of those would name their child Jesus. In other words, there would be at least 110 men named "Yeshua ben Yose" who lived in Jerusalem while Jesus was visiting the city during the Passion Week. Now, let's assume that this burial tomb is more than a snapshot in time, i.e., there is a period of about 70 years from the digging of the tomb until the destruction of Jerusalem that these people could have been placed in these tombs. Over that time, there were almost certainly at least two separate generations that lived in Jerusalem. That means that there were at least 220 men named "Yeshua ben Yose" -- again, speaking statistically.
How many of these were buried with Mariamenes who they were not maternally related to? Well, if one in five women in the city were Marys and assuming the same as above, i.e., that there were two separate generations of 80,000 people over the 70 years from the digging of the tombs until the destruction of Jerusalem, then there would be 16,000 Marys/Mariamenes over that time. Seems pretty likely that a lot of people would be buried with women named Mary/Mariamene with whom they are not maternally related. (Certainly, it appears that there were at least eight other ossuaries in this particular tomb and it's doubtful that they were all related to her maternally except Yeshua ben Yose.)
But wait, there's more. For whatever reason, an ossuary for Matia was also found in the Talpiot tomb. Now, there is no mention of a "Matia" as a relative of Jesus in the Bible. So, what should we do with that? Mr. Jacobovichi decided not to include him in the calculations. "Nevertheless, to allow for any possible criticism regarding the inclusion of Matia (or Matthew) – since this name is not explicitly referenced in the canonical Gospels – Feueverger decided to eliminate him from the equation." Personally, I think that the fact that there was a Matia in the tomb who is nowhere mentioned in the Gospels shouldn't be taken as a non-factor. It seems to me that the inclusion of Matia in the "family tomb" should discount the possibility that it is Jesus' tomb. To go back to Jacobovichi's Beatles analogy, suppose that we found five tomb markers in England 2,000 years from now which markers were labelled simply Paul, George, Richard, John and Bernard. Doesn't the inclusion of Bernard who is nowhere to be found in connection with the Beatles (at least, none I can think of at present) make a case that these tombstones don't belong to the Beatles -- especially if you're arguing that the tomb in which the grave markers were found is supposed to be the "Beatles only" tomb? I think it does.
I haven't even yet mentioned that the tomb includes an ossuary for the son of this Yeshua named Judah. Again, the New Testament says nothing about Jesus having a son. Thus, again, it seems to me that if there is the inclusion of an ossuary for the son of Jesus and we have no reason to beleive that Jesus had a son other than this ossuary, that argues that this isn't the same Jesus as described in the New Testament. Thus, again, I would argue that the appearance of this ossuary for Judah, son of Yeshua, in the tomb should significantly reduce the probability that the Yeshua found in the tomb is the New Testament Jesus Christ. (The Jesus Tomb page on this Judah ossuary is so forced and speculative as to be funny.)
Again, looking at the numbers, I don't see where anyone could conclude that this is necessarily (or even likely) to be the tomb of Jesus of the New Testament. It is what archaeologists have always contended -- an interesting coincidence of names without any strong reason to believe that it is Jesus of the New Testament.
(Edited 8:21 pm to correct some typos and for easier reading.)
- ► 2013 (56)
- ► 2012 (58)
- ► 2011 (124)
- ► 2010 (151)
- ► 2009 (142)
- ► 2008 (202)
- The Jesus Equation -- Looking at the Numbers
- At Last, Internet TV Featuring Apologetics
- The Acts of Philip, Mariamne and the Jesus Tomb
- More on the Jesus Tomb
- Playing Wack-a-Mole with the Jesus Tomb
- Ancient Greece Opposed Philosophy?
- The State of Intelligent Design by Phillip Johnson...
- Finding the Hidden Premise
- Intelligent Design as the Boogeyman
- Dealing with the Inductive Argument Against the Re...
- An Open Letter To Madonna
- Dozens of Critiques of Richard Dawkins
- Emo Philips Tackles the Problem of Suffering
- Opposing Intellectual Freedom in New Mexico
- Interpolation Inflation in Doherty's Jesus Myth Th...
- Christianity as a Global Religion
- The Foolishness of the Blasphemy Challenge
- In What Way Did Jesus Come in "the Likeness of Sin...
- A Great Dawkins Parody
- Revised Article on Whether Eusebius Invented the T...
- Who Are You To Say?
- New Blog: The Problem of Evil
- ▼ February (22)
- ► 2006 (331)
- ► 2005 (412)
CADRE Blogs of Interest
A visitor to the CADRE site recently sent a question about Paul's statement in Acts 20:35 which records Paul as saying, "And rememb...
Study: The Miracles: A Doctor says "Yes" by Richard H. Casdorph.(Logos International, 1976) Richard H. Casdroph collected medic...
Today is Good Friday, the day that we commemorate Jesus' death. Why, given the nature of that remembrance, is it called "Good Frida...
What are your favorites from any tradition, including classical, country, praise & worship, contemporary Christian, Christian rock, gosp...
pie charts from Pew study In the late 90s atheists began making the argument that less than a majority of scientists believe in God. In a...
The manger in which Jesus was laid has colored our imagery of Christmas. A manger, "[i]s a feeding-trough, crib, or open box in a stabl...
One of my co-bloggers, J.L. Hinman, author of the very fine Metacrock's Blog recently showed me some data which some atheists are using...
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the slaughter of the innocents. Therein, I argued that som...
A friend mentioned to me that he ran into an argument I had not heard for a while. Apparently, in A World Full of Gods , Keith Hopkins stat...
One of the most interesting passages in Mark’s Passion Narrative, from a historiographical perspective, is Mark 15:21: A certain man from C...
Translate This Blog
What sold author Simcha Jacobovichi of the Jesus Tomb on the idea that the tomb and ossuaries discovered at Talpiot 26 years ago were the tomb and ossuary of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were the odds behind that combination of names appearing in a single tomb. The Jesus Tomb website calls it the "Jesus Equation". In a short video, he makes reference to an analogy of engaging in an archaeological dig in Great Britain 2,000 years from now and finding the tombs of three people together identified on their tombstones only as John, Paul and George. Now, John, Paul and George, of course, are very common names in Great Britain, but taken together they have a strong significance -- they are three of the Fab Four.
I received this in my morning e-mail from Craig Hawkins:
For the last eight years or so, I have had the privilege of co-hosting a radio program called, "Living by the Word" on KKLA in Southern Calif. (and other stations at various times). (Previous to this, I have hosted programs, such as "CRI Perspective," co-hosted "The Bible Answer Man" with Walter Martin the last year of his life, and until just about one year after his death, hosted "AIM for the Truth," and so forth).
Starting on January 14 of this year, my colleagues and I have had the privilege of broadcasting "Living by the Word" on Internet TV. The program is live on Sunday nights from 10:00pm to 12:00am, Pacific Time, and rebroadcast a couple of times during the week, such as on Mondays from 5:00 to 7:00pm, Pacific Time. Our program is hosted on www.HisChannel.com. HisChannel.com has both a "radio" broadcast and now a TV broadcast. Simply click on one of the TV links for the program. (The founder of HisChannel.com has been involved in some of the cutting-edge technology to make Internet TV as good as the quality of the picture on the major TV networks here in America.)
My colleagues and I are very excited about being on Internet TV, that is, excited about the opportunity to broadcast the Gospel and apologetic teaching around the world via the Internet. We appreciate your prayers, and if you would be so kind as to let others know about the broadcast (and rebroadcasts), particularly in other parts of the world.
The program deals with various topics related to apologetics and theology, including: cults, the occult, world religions, Bible questions and difficulties, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and so forth. We also have series on topics, such as on the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the Trinity, Mormonism, JW's, and have had various guests (past guests include Rob Bowman, Jerry Buckner, Bill McKeever, and many, many, others).
Thank you in advance for your prayers and for helping us spread the Word.
I used to listen to Craig Hawkins back in the days when he tag-teamed with Greg Koukl taking the Tuesday through Saturday shift in an apologetics venture of KBRT radio (740 am) in Southern California. He is a knowledgeable and gifted apologist. I look forward to the opportunity to listen to him on a regular basis again.
One of the claims made on the website about the bone boxes found at Talpiot in 1980 is that one of the ossuaries is inscribed with the name of "“Mariamene e Mara”. From this, it is concluded that this particular ossuary was the ossuary of Mary Magdalene. Why? According to the Jesus Family Tomb website:
From the Acts of Philip, a fourth century work ostensibly written about Mary Magdalene’s brother, Phillip, and recently recovered from a monastery at Mt. Athos in Greece, Professor François Bovon (Harvard University) has determined that Magdalene’s name was "Mariamne."
So, the reason that this is supposed to be Mary Magdalene's ossuary is because of the use of the name "Mariamene" which is close to the name of "Mariamne" from the Acts of Philip. Is this a particularly strong claim?
First, I should point out that the claim on the website is overstated. Dr. Bovon hasn't "determined" that the woman named "Mariamne" is Mary Magdalene. The word "determined" connotes that it is the final word on the matter. In fact, the first definition for "determine" is "to settle or decide (a dispute, question, etc.) by an authoritative or conclusive decision." But, as other sources seem to show, Dr. Bovon isn't making a claim of final determination. Rather, he simply "believes" it to be Mary Magdalene (of course, it is an informed belief, but it remains his belief and I have found nowhere that other scholars are largely in agreement with that belief). Certainly, it is an overstatement to claim (as the Jesus Tomb website does here) that "Mary Magdalene is often identified by the name 'Mariamne.'" (emphasis added)
Second, the Acts of Philip is hardly a contemporaneous work with the Gospels or the Epistles. It is apparently the work of an heretical community that lived in the Fourth Century -- at least two hundred fifty years after the events of the New Testament. It includes tales of talking leopards (v. 96: ". . . lo, a great leopard came out of a wood on the hill, and ran and cast himself at their feet and spoke with human voice: I worship you, servants of the divine greatness and apostles of the only-begotten Son of God; command me to speak perfectly"), a talking baby goat (v. 97: ". . . after I had wounded it, it took a human voice and wept like a little child, saying to me: O leopard, put off thy fierce heart and the beast like part of thy nature, and put on mildness . . . "), and a fierce black dragon (v. 102: "They journeyed five days, and one morning after the midnight prayers a sudden wind arose, great and dark (misty), and out of it ran a great smoky (misty) dragon, with a black back, and a belly like coals of brass in sparkles of fire, and a body over 100 cubits long, and a multitude of snakes and their young followed it"). But this is the type of literature that comes from heretical groups, and the group that produced this document was of that type. According to Harvard Magazine:
Among the revelations turned up in this unexpurgated Acts of Philip, especially in the story of a visit to Hell, are glimpses of a heretical community whose members may have written or transmitted the text. Devoted to ascetic practices, the group flourished in Asia Minor during the fourth century A.D. Members were to eat no meat, drink no wine, shun wealth, and abstain from sexual intercourse. Both sexes wore men's clothing made only from plant fibers. Even the sacrament of the Eucharist was modified, with water replacing wine. Sect members believed that this level of purity not only guaranteed salvation after death, but allowed them to "talk with God" in this life.
Within the community, women as well as men served at all levels. One list mentions "presbytides" (female elders, or priestesses) alongside "presbyters" (male elders, or priests). Deaconesses are paired with deacons, as are virgins with eunuchs. (It is unknown whether the latter rank required surgery or merely celibacy.)
Such groups did not escape the notice of the official church. The council of Gangra (circa A.D. 343) declared such ascetic excesses to be anathema, and another fourth-century council, at Laodicea, "forbade the appointment of presbytides," says Bovon.
Now, certainly, Dr. Bovon is a well-respected researcher, and it certainly is possible that the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene of the New Testament. As the Harvard Magazine article notes, "the name 'Mariamne' is a variant of 'Mary,' and when the third-century Christian writer Origen mentions the Magdalene, he uses the quite similar name 'Mariamme.'" But notice that Origen, who lived and wrote one hundred years closer to the events, uses the name "Mariamme" when the name used on the ossuary is "Mariamene". Is that close enough to conclude they are talking about the same woman?
What can we learn about woman named "Mariamne" from the Acts of Philip? Well, to start with, this woman was the "sister of Philip." Now, it could be that that language is used in the same way that Christians (and the Bible sometimes) use the terms "brother" and "sister" when referencing any other Christian. But the context seems to suggest that the reason she is called sister of Philip is to single out who she is. Here is the text of verse 94 of the Acts of Philip where the "sister" term is referenced:
94 It came to pass when the Saviour divided the apostles and each went forth according to his lot, that it fell to Philip to go to the country of the Greeks: and he thought it hard, and wept. And Mariamne his sister (it was she that made ready the bread and salt at the breaking of bread, but Martha was she that ministered to the multitudes and laboured much) seeing it, went to Jesus and said: Lord, seest thou not how my brother is vexed?
Now, if the term is being used generally, why doesn't it say later, "but Martha his sister was she that ministered . . ."? It seems apparent to me that the use of the term here is to show that Mariamne is really the actual flesh and blood sister of Philip. Now, this would be new information from the New Testment that doesn't seem to reference Mary Magdalene as being the sister of the Apostle Philip.
What else does the Acts of Philip tell us about this Mariamne? The Encyclopedia Magdalena gives this nice little summary of the activities of Mariamne in the Acts of Philip,
- she prepared bread and salt for the "breaking of bread"
- Jesus called her "chosen among women"
- she should not wear her summer dress (also translated as "women's aspect")
- she assisted with healings
- she baptized converts
- she assisted in the slaying of a dragon
- when threatened, she turned into a glass box or a cloud of fire
- she is prophesied to die in the Jordan river
Okay, so she prepared bread and salt and Jesus called her "chosen among women". Those might be consistent with Mary Magdalene even though nothing in the Bible says either of those things about her. But, of course, if one is going to accept that "sister" could have the Christian meaning where every believing woman is a "sister" to every Christian, then the phrase "chosen among women" could simply be a reference to the fact that she is a believer (e.g., Mark 13:20) which would not single her out for any special status whatsoever. Moreover, I don't have a problem with her participating in healings or baptizing converts -- those also seem to be consistent with what any believer was capable of doing during the early years of teh church. But slaying a dragon and turning into glass boxes or clouds of fire? Doesn't that effect the credibility of this book?
What I am driving at is this: the Acts of Philip is a late, exaggerated account of the life of Philip, the Apostle, that were drawn up by a heretical community who wrote about a woman named Mariamne who may or may not be Mary Magdalene. This is a highly tenuous strand to base a claim that a box carved with a similar (not identical) name of "Mariamene" is Mary Magdalene of the New Testament.
Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength has done an excellent job of pulling together more information about the bone boxes that I discussed yesterday.
Also, it is interesting what the official website for the Lost Tomb of Jesus says is the relevance of this discovery:
“The Lost Tomb Of Jesus” does not challenge the fact of the Resurrection. It does, however, ask viewers to consider the possibility that it occurred from another tomb.
The writer of the Gospel of Matthew (28:12-15) addresses a rumor that was circulating in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion, a rumor that we suggest can be taken for the truth. The rumor was that the disciples came by night to remove Jesus’ body from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a temporary tomb close enough to bury Jesus before sundown on the Sabbath. They would have moved Jesus to safeguard his remains from desecrators.
His followers then would have taken Jesus to a permanent tomb, a family tomb.
Theologically speaking, even if Jesus were moved from one tomb to another, this does not negate the possibility that he was resurrected from this second tomb. Our documentary does not address the issue of whether or not the Resurrection took place, and how. Belief in the Resurrection is based not on which tomb Jesus was buried in, but on alleged sightings of Jesus that occurred after his burial as documented in the Gospels.
It is also a matter of Christian faith that Jesus, on the fortieth day after the Resurrection, ascended to Heaven. Christians accept the Ascension as a fact; however, they have long debated certain issues around the Ascension.
For example, if Jesus ascended into Heaven, does that mean Heaven is "up?" Did Jesus really sit in a throne at the right hand of God or is this actually a metaphor? And finally, was the Ascension spiritual or physical? Did Jesus leave his body behind or did he take it with him?
If Jesus’ mortal remains have indeed been found, this would contradict only the idea of a physical ascension. However, it says nothing against the possibility of a spiritual one nor does it dispute the idea of the Ascension.
Obviously, if there was a finding of the real tomb of Jesus, that would have incredilbe implications for the Christian faith because Christianity is built on the claim (backed by evidence found in historical records) that Jesus actually, physically rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven.
Counter-cult Apologetics has also gathered together a number of responses to this "discovery". One of the links is to Dr. Paul Maier who has written a piece entitled Who's Writing the Ficiton Here? in which he gives more reasons for rejecting this tomb as being the tomb of Jesus. He notes (among other things):
5) What in the world is the “Jesus Family” doing, having a burial plot in Jerusalem, of all places, the very city that crucified Jesus? Galilee was their home. In Galilee they could have had such a family plot, not Judea. Besides all of which, church tradition – and Eusebius – are unanimous in reporting that Mary died in Ephesus, where the apostle John, faithful to his commission from Jesus on the cross, had accompanied Mary.
* * *
8) Please note the extreme bias of the director and narrator, Simcha Jacobovici. The man is an Indiana-Jones-wannabe, who oversensationalizes anything he touches. You may have caught him on his TV special regarding The Exodus, in which the man “explained” just everything that still needed proving or explaining in the Exodus account in the Old Testament! It finally became ludicrous, and now he’s doing it again.
Right now, I can say that I find this find of the "Jesus Family Tomb" interesting, but for the reasons I stated yesterday plus the additional reasons posed by Weekend Fisher at Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, I find it far from convincing that this is the actual tomb of the Jesus Christ.
Addendum: Dr. Ben Witherington has posted about the problems with identifying these burial boxes as being those of the Jesus, Mary and Joseph described in the Bible. His post is entitled THE JESUS TOMB? ‘TITANIC’ TALPIOT TOMB THEORY SUNK FROM THE START and includes some information provided by Richard Bauckham about how common the names of Joseph, Mary and Jesus were at that time. One of his points is actually a number of points related to the problems from what we know from history:
The historical problems with all this are too numerous to list here: A) the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely. B) One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married; C) the Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary-- and that's about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names. D) we have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don't match up with the list of brothers' names. E) By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty-- even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this. Now it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate, and then you put the man's bones in an ossuary. But Jesus' body was long gone from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb well before then. Are we really to believe it was moved to another tomb, decayed, and then was put in an ossuary? Its not likely. F) Implicitly you must accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2-- in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup. Are we really to believe that they knew Jesus didn't rise bodily from the dead but perpetrated a fraudulent religion, for which they and others were prepared to die? Did they really hide the body of Jesus in another tomb? We need to remember that the James in question is Jesus' brother, who certainly would have known about a family tomb. This frankly is impossible for me to believe.
Have you ever played Wack-a-Mole? For those that haven't, the game is an electronic game in which various moles are hidden in holes just below the surface of the game board. When the game is running, the moles pop up out of their holes. The person playing the game is given a hammer to wack them on the heads before they fall back below the surface of the game board. Of course, wacking a mole on the head doesn't stop the moles from popping up -- each time you wack a mole a new mole pops up to take it's place.
In the area of Christianity, there is a different type of Wack-a-Mole game going on. Stories that have been debunked over and over again keep popping back up as if they are new and somehow unanswerable. Such a story is apparently popping up again in the form of the Jesus, Mary and Josephy ossuaries. According to Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary :
In a scene worthy of a Dan Brown novel, archaeologists a quarter of a century ago unearthed a burial chamber near Jerusalem.
Inside they found ossuaries, or boxes of bones, marked with the names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary.
Then one of the ossuaries went missing. The human remains inside were destroyed before any DNA testing could be carried out.
While Middle East academics doubt that the relics belong to the Holy Family, the issue is about to be exposed to a blaze of publicity with the publication next week of a book.
Entitled The Jesus Tomb and co-written by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, the book promises the inside story of "what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time".
Some of the ossuaries will be at the book launch in New York, released by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The story began in March 1980 when Yosef Gat, an archaeologist employed by the IAA, surveyed a burial chamber on the south-eastern approaches of Jerusalem.
The area was being developed into the latest suburb of the city, East Talpiot, and bulldozers had uncovered an archaeological site.
Mr Gat found a standard-looking Jewish tomb dating from the era of King Herod, the Jewish king known for his ambitious building works and for his murder of infants at the time of the birth of Jesus.
After crawling into the necropolis Mr Gat found the main chamber had been silted up with soil and debris, with six "kokhim", coffin shaped spaces leading off the main chamber where human remains were housed.
According to Jewish rites, bodies would be left for a year or so to decompose in the "kokhim" before relatives came back to gather the bones and store them in ossuaries.
Mr Gat found 10 ossuaries bearing inscriptions. Some were in ancient Greek and some were in Hebrew.
One inscription said "Jesus, son of Joseph", another said "Mara", a common form of Mary, and another said "Yose", a common form of Joseph.
The authors were unavailable for comment yesterday but it is understood they base their claim that the burial chamber contained the remains of the Holy Family on their own study carried out inside the structure.
The chamber has been closed for years because a building was constructed on top of it but the authors got permission to break through an apartment block floor.
They claim to have found human material on which they performed DNA testing in a New York laboratory.
"Tests prove the names are genetically of the same family and statistically, there is a one in 10 million chance this is a family other than the Holy Family," the pre-publication publicity for the book said.
The problem, of course, is that this is largely nothing new. I remember reading about the discovery of these boxes years ago. These same bone boxes came to light again in 1996 when they became the subject of a BBC documentary. Now, in 2007, they appear again as if this is somehow new news.
Could they be the burial boxes of Jesus Christ, Mary (either Magdalene or Mary, the mother of Jesus) and Joseph, Jesus' father? Well, yes, it's possible, but not particularly likely. You see, the names Jesus, Joseph and Mary were very common names in Jerusalem at that time. Finding bone boxes with that combination of names is like going to a cemetary, finding the undated grave stones of John, Mary and Steven, and concluding that they were some people you knew who had those names. Possible, but certainly not enough to be convincing.
Back when these items were the subject of a 1996 documentary on the BBC, The Herald published an article about the bone boxes that is obviously still informative today:
An eminent church scholar has dismissed the finding of tomb relics bearing the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as no more than "an interesting coincidence".
Dr. Tom Wright, the Dean of Lichfield, spoke out after experts said they might have uncovered the tomb in which Christ and his family were laid to rest.
Nine caskets for bones, known as ossuaries, have been discovered, six of them marked with significant biblical names.
However, Dr. Wright said it was "laughable" that anyone could have tended the body of Jesus without it becoming public knowledge.
He said early Christians had been adamant that Christ's body was resurrected - and this was the reason the religion survived the centuries.
Dr Wright, a former Oxford don and a member of the Church of England Doctrine Committee, added: "I have read pretty well everything that has been written and can see no other explanation other than the body was resurrected."
* * *
Dr Wright said: "These were very common names at the time and it would be like someone in 2000 years time claiming to have found the tomb of the royal family because it contained the names Charles, son of Philip, Andrew and Diana.
"This is no more than an interesting coincidence."
What about DNA testing? Isn't that new? Of course, DNA testing requires some base for reaching a determination. Do we have a sample of DNA from Jesus or any of the members of his family that would allow them to determine whether these bone boxes belonged to the Jesus Christ described in the New Testament? Of course not. The best DNA testing will do is establish that these bodies may have come from people who lived in the area around the same time. But the bone boxes can establish that without the need for DNA testing at all. Notice what the article claims: "Tests prove the names are genetically of the same family and statistically, there is a one in 10 million chance this is a family other than the Holy Family." Okay, they are of the same family -- we could deduce that from the inscriptions (so much for DNA providing superior insight). But it isn't DNA that shows that "this is a family other than the Holy Family"; rather, it is statistics. And I think that a better statistical analysis would show that it is only a 1 in 1000 chance that this is "the Holy Family."
Personally, I will try to follow the story to see if there is anything new, but for now, I feel like this is simply another mole popping up to replace one that has previously been given a really hard wack.
Addendum: Plenty of updates for further information can be found in my follow up post, More on the Jesus Tomb.
From our good friend and former blogging partner, Weekend Fisher, at Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength:
Would you say, in the death of Socrates, that Greece had shown its true colors as being against philosophy?
I'd expect not; Greece is the birthplace of many branches of philosophy. The death of Socrates can be understood various ways, but the record as a whole shows there is not a general Greek reaction against or opposition to philosophy; in fairness, few cultures have supported philosophy more.
But that is exactly the same variety of argument that anti-Christians make about Christianity's supposed opposition to science based on the imprisonment of Galileo. It does not matter to them that Christendom is the birthplace of many branches of science. The record as a whole shows there is not a general Christian reaction against or opposition to science, and in fairness few cultures have supported science more than Christian cultures. The modern sciences grew up in Christian cultures.
I'd contend that the Greeks made real but isolated mistakes, and taken as a whole few cultures have ever done more to develop philosophy. On the same ground I'd also contend that the Christians made real but isolated mistakes, and no culture has ever done more to develop the sciences.
Weekend Fisher is exactly right. Of course, no one would argue that Christianity hasn't occasionally done some rather dumb things that have either been anti-science or, at minimum, appears anti-science in retrospect. (Of course, there is a great deal of debate whether Galileo would have been punished at all if not for his outspoken diatribes against the Pope.) But it is a very different thing to say that because some (perhaps, a handful of) examples can be identified of the church, in a bit of zeal to demand an overly-literal interpretation of the Bible, acting in a manner that was not in the best interest of science that it represents some on-going hatred of science.
I am a Christian who regularly hangs out with Christians and have been a member of four separate churches over the last 10 years. In all of my interchanges with Christians, I have yet to find one single Christian who hates science or wants to surpress it. The extent to which they stand up against science is only in those very limited areas where science preaches a philosophy that is not a given from science itself. There are so many areas of science and so few where there is a potential clash between science and religion that to argue from the areas where difference occur that Christianity is somehow anti-science is ridiculous. This is especially true since Christianity is the philosophical cradle from which many of the world's sciences sprang.
So, if you want to argue that Galileo proves that Christianity is anti-science, I think its fair to ask you why Ancient Greece isn't anti-philosophy for the way it treated Socrates (or Aristotle, for that matter).
Evolution News and Views has posted an entry entitled Phillip Johnson Gives State of the Debate Report in Think Philosophy Journal. In it, Professor Johnson says something that corresponds to my own view:
Today authoritarian rules ban the hypothesis of intelligent design from scientific discussion and fiercely suppress it by lawsuits. A genuinely confident scientific culture that was making continual progress in confirming its theories and solving problems would not need or want to rely on intimidation to silence dissent. It may require many long years of struggle before the hypothesis of real design in biology will be able to receive a fair hearing, but the day of that fair hearing will arrive, and eventually people may wonder how a materialist theory as shaky as Darwinism was able to captivate so many minds for so long. * * * I am still convinced that the possible role of intelligent causes in the history or life will eventually become a subject that leading scientists will want to address in a fair-minded manner. For now, the influential scientific organizations are passionately committed to explanations that consider only material causes, so they reject out of hand any suggestion that intelligent cause may also have played some role. It seems that supporting materialism, rather than following the evidence to whatever conclusion it leads is their prime commitment.
Yesterday, I posted about logic, and I wanted to follow that post up with a tactic that I use when discussing the Bible with skeptics. I call it "Finding the Hidden Premise".
As most people are aware, arguments aren't simply stand alone statements that are expected to be accepted as true. An argument usually consists of one or more premises and a conclusion. The argument is only valid if the premises support the conclusion. Sometimes, however, arguments can have premises that support a conclusion but the premises can be so weak or even silly that simply pointing to the flawed premise is enough to win the argument (even though some skeptics won't concede it even if it is laughably obvious).
In some cases, the premises aren't even spoken; rather, only the conclusion is spoken. For example, if I were to say "Socrates is mortal because all men are mortal," I have stated one premise and the conclusion of the classic deductive argument. What I haven't stated is the missing premise that "Socrates is a man." Because it was unstated, the premise is simply assumed as part of the argument. Of course, if Socrates was a dog, then the argument falls apart because it would state:
P1: All men are mortal.
P2: Socrates is a dog.
C1: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
The conclusion of the argument is almost certainly true, and both premises are true, but the premises don't support the conclusion. Thus, while it may well be that Socrates the dog is mortal, that isn't shown by the argument.
In some cases, the hidden premise may support the argument but is so far fetched as to be silly. For example, suppose I were to say, ""Socrates is a dog and therefore knows how to fetch his master's slippers." The argument when supplied with the missing premise would read:
P1: All dogs know how to fetch their master's slippers.
P2: Socrates is a dog.
C1: Therefore, Socrates knows how to fetch his master's slippers.
P1, the missing premise, is simply untrue. There are probably more dogs that have no clue how to fetch their master's slippers than dogs that know how to fetch their master's slippers. Thus, the first premise, when revealed, discloses how weak the argument really is.
Often, arguments that are made against Christianity aren’t really arguments but conclusions that have one or more unstated premise. The trick then is to think about what the missing premise might be. For example,
"Jesus never spoke specifically against homosexuality so it is morally acceptable."
This statement is the conclusion of an argument, but the argument itself has two premises one of which is hidden. The hidden premise is revealed in P1, below:
P1. Whatever Jesus didn’t specifically speak against is morally acceptable.
P2. Jesus never specifically spoke against homosexuality.
C1: Homosexuality is morally acceptable.
So, what’s the problem with P1? Of course, it is simply not true that if Jesus didn't specifically speak against something it is now somehow morally acceptable. Jesus didn't speak against rape, slavery, eugenics, and any number of other things that the vast majority of people would find to be morally unacceptable and sometimes against teachings elsewhere in the Bible. It is simply erroneous to conclude that because Jesus didn't specifically address an issue that it is somehow to be construed as Jesus giving it a stamp of approval.
Try some more: “The Trinity can't be supported Biblically because the word Trinity isn’t expressly used in the Bible.”
P2. The word Trinity isn't expressly used in the Bible.
Conclusion: The Trinity can't be supported Biblically.
So, what is the missing premise, P1? It is, "If a particular word isn't expressly used in the Bible the teaching it describes can't be supported Biblically." Is that true? Of course not. There are lots of teachings that have come out of study of the scriptures, but not all of them use words used in the Bible. For example, the "hypostatic union" (the phrase used to describe Jesus being fully God and fully man) isn't used in the Bible, but it certainly is taught. The word "theocracy" isn't used in the Bible, but that is certainly the type of government that God set up over Israel in Old Testament times.
Here's the tactic: break down the argument to identify all of the premises and see if any are really foolish or self-defeating.
A recent post at Telic Thoughts really leaves me dumbfounded. I don't know how else to say this, but I think that even if Darwinists are so persuaded to the truth of their claims that they feel that Intelligent Design must be defeated at all costs it still isn't acceptable to lie about it. Here's what the Telic Thoughts article says:
One of the reasons I don't take grandiose statements about how "many scientists reject intelligent design" seriously is because the average scientist has no clue as to what intelligent design is about, having only read some anti-ID editorials in the journals they subscribe to. A perfect example is provided by James L. Powell, professor of geology and the former director and president of the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. In a video urging scientists to tell the public what's what regarding intelligent design, he makes this… ahem, incisive argument against intelligent design (HT: Paul Nelson):We have to say that if creationism is right and if there is an intelligent designer, then almost everything else we know about science is wrong. Then your flu vaccine wouldn't work, your car wouldn't start, there was no Hiroshima, and on and on and on.
Apparently saying this to the public is enough - you don't have to actually provide any evidence for it.
If ID is right your flu vaccine wouldn't work? If ID is right, your car wouldn't start? Is this serious? I mean, c'mon! What's next . . . if ID is right then triangles would no longer have three sides? If you're going to criticize a different view of the facts, you could at least make the criticisms legitimate. Some factual basis for the claims would be nice. After all, if ID is as barren of scientific fact as Darwinists claim, they should focus on its failings and pound on them until ID goes away. But, perhaps it isn't the case that ID is that weak. Perhaps Darwinists need to make up stuff about it in order to villify the theory so that people will be turned off to it.
But that's part of the problem with the entire ID/Darwinianism debate -- the Darwinists are trying to portray ID as something it's not. Merely another form of creationism. As I pointed out in my on-line article Which Numbers are Really Relevant? Intelligent Design, Evolution and Project Steve:
Moreover, of the scientists that have heard of intelligent design, many have been misinformed about its nature due to mischaracterizations about the movement in the pro-evolution camp. Supporters of intelligent design have been compared to those who believe in a flat earth. ("Survival of the fittest--or the best organized" Author: Weis, Judith S. Source: BioScience v. 51 no1 (Jan. 2001) p. 3 ISSN: 0006-3568 Number: BBAI01013826.) For example, the National Center for Science Education Research webpage hosts an article entitled “Creationism Evolves: Review of Robert Pennock's Tower of Babel” noting that Mr. Pennock, a writer who regularly equates Intelligent Design with creationism (see, e.g., "Lions, Tigers and APES, Oh My! Creationism vs. Evolution in Kansas"), advances the idea that because many of the advocates of intelligent design are also Christians the intelligent design movement must also be a mere form of the earlier creationist movement.The simple fact is that it is an unfair tactic to equate ID with creationism. It is an equally unfair tactic to claim that ID will result in the fall of science. Both claims are untrue, dishonest and not worthy of inclusion into the debate.In Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism, philosopher Robert T. Pennock neatly exposes the creationist roots of intelligent-design theory; from the beginning he refers to "intelligent-design creationism," and shows us how it has descended with modification from its creation science predecessor.
In "Meeting Darwin’s Wager" (Author: Woodward, Tom. Source: Christianity Today v. 41 (Apr. 28 1997) p. 14-21 ISSN: 0009-5753 Number: BRDG97027170), Tom Woodward notes:Inevitably, many scientists charge Behe with "thinly disguised creationism." This strategy is employed by University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne, whose review of Behe was published in September in the prestigious British journal Nature. While Coyne admits, "There is no doubt that the pathways described by Behe are dauntingly complex and their evolution will be hard to unravel," he claims that Behe has offered no solution: "Behe's 'scientific alternative to evolution (is) a confusing and untestable farrago of contradictory ideas." Twice in the review Coyne's rhetoric links Behe to the San Diego "scientific creationists" whom professional evolutionists tend to dismiss. Coyne describes Behe's work as a "new and more sophisticated" version of literal-Genesis creationism.
(HT: Evolution News and Views)
As every student of logic knows, every argument is composed of at least one premise and a conclusion. The two premises are used to support the argument, and if they fail to support the argument the argument may be invalid or unsound. Thus, in the classic deductive argument about Socrates' mortality, the argument reads like this:
Premise 1 (P1). All men are mortal
Premise 2 (P2). Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
In a valid deductive argument, the premises are such that if the two premises are true, the conclusion must be true. In the case of an inductive argument, it is often the case that the argument can have one premise and the conclusion is a reasonable inference from the premise. Thus, an example would be:
P1. Every frog that I have ever seen is green.
Conclusion. The next frog that I see will be green.
Of course, the confidence that comes from the inference varies depending upon the strength of the evidence found in the first premise. Thus, if I have only seen 10 frogs in my life, then the fact that they were all green makes my case much less strong that the next frog I see would be green then if I had spent the past 25 years of my life studying frogs and seen well in excess of one million frogs and they were all green.
Now, one skeptical argument against Christianity relies upon the strength of inference and inductive reasoning to claim that Christianity is false. It would go something like this:
P1. In my entire life, I have never seen a person resurrected from the dead after two days of being dead.
Conclusion. Therefore, Jesus did not resurrect from the dead after two days of being dead.
(Note, I say "after two days" to remove from the argument people artificially resussitated and to take into account the Biblical teaching that Jesus resurrected on the third day.)
Now, this statement is actually a very strong inductive argument. I certainly have little doubt that such a statement is true: they have not seen a person resurrected from the dead after being certifiably dead for two days. I know that I've never seen a person who has been dead two days resurrect from the dead. In fact, the argument is strengthened because I doubt that there's a single person alive today who has witnessed such a thing, and throughout history I suspect that there are so few claims of such events (and even fewer that have never been debunked in some sense) that it is so highly improbable that it seems legitimate to claim that it is highly unlikely to the extreme that such a thing could have happened. Ergo, it is argued, it is unreasonable to believe that Jesus was resurrected following two days of being dead.
So, how might a Christian deal with this inductive argument?
It seems to me that the answer is to admit that the resurrection of Jesus is so unlikely that, all things being equal, it would be silly to believe it occurred against the mountain of evidence that such resurrections don't happen. However, it isn't the case that all things are equal in this circumstance. After all, in the ordinary course, a rock lying on the ground will simply sit there unmoving, held in place by the force of gravity. If I were to lay 1000 rocks on level ground and watch them over 1000 years, I feel very confident that my observation would lead me to conclude that once rocks lie on level ground they will not rise into the air because gravity is holding them in place. Yet, if a person walks up and picks up one of the rocks and throws it into the air, the rock has done something that is contrary to the natural forces acting upon it and the inferences that I would have arrived at following my 1000 years of observation. Of course it's true that rocks don't rise in the air on their own, but a person -- an intelligent, sentinent being who has has abilities beyond those of a rock -- can lift the rock and throw it into the air.
In the same way, it is certainly true that in the ordinary course people who have been dead for two days don't suddenly rise from the dead and a very strong inference from 1000s of years of observation confirms that conclusion. However, if someone who has abilities beyond the ordinary human being's ability to give life chooses to raise that person from the dead, does the fact that we ordinarily wouldn't expect it (and, in fact, in the ordinary course without intervention by an outside power would find it to be impossible) mean that it can't happen?
When speaking of God -- who is outside of our physical universe, who created everything we see, and who gives and sustains life -- it is not unreasonable to note that His involvement can disrupt the strongest of inferences as to what should happen and would happen in 99.99999% of all cases. Now, you can get into arguments about whether there is a God or whether he acted here, but the point is that the inference from past experience in no way makes an invincible case that Jesus couldn't have resurrected from the dead. God's intervention would, in many cases, cause things to happen that are statistically improbable or impossible.
This morning's headlines scream that you want to be Jesus. According to Madonna wants to 'be Jesus' in an on-line magazine named Tonight, you are making a claim that is . . . well, pretty absurd. The magazine says:
The controversial singer - who infuriated Christian church leaders by performing while hung from a cross wearing a crown of thorns during her Confessions world tour - wants to be worshipped as a spiritual leader.
But EntertainmentWise, in an article entitled Madonna: I'm Like Gandhi, Lennon, Luther King AND Jesus, you didn't seek to be worshipped. Instead, you only want to be like Jesus in the way that you have an impact on the world.
The amazingly deluded pop star told American radio station Sirius she sees herself up there with the most inspirational figures of the Twentieth Century -- as well as Jesus.
She said, "For me, the best thing in the world is to see something or hear something and go, 'Damn, I wish I did that. That's inspiring.' I'd like to think I am taking people on a journey. I am not just entertaining people, but giving them something to think about when they leave."
When asked about her controversial appearance on a Crucifix as part of her Confessions World Tour last year she answered, "We all need to be Jesus."
(By the way, the reference to you as an "amazingly deluded pop star" is from the magazine -- not from me.)
It seems to me that what you are saying has been taken a number of different ways, and I assume (maybe wrongly) that the interpretation by Tonight is not what you intended (as evidenced by the fact that they don't quote you as saying that you want to be worshipped, but merely write that into the article). Certainly, since you were raised Christian (I have heard repeatedly that you were raised Roman Catholic) you must understand that if God exists (as I and many millions of others assert) then it is the height of megalomania to claim that you are the one to be worshipped instead of God. For that matter, it is equally bad to assert that you should be worshipped at all. After all, in Revelations 22, the Apostle John falls down at the feet of an angel to worship him, and the angel corrects him by saying that we should not worship our fellow created beings, but worship God. So, I am hopeful that Tonight has it wrong.
The quotes in EntertainmentWise seem more admirable. I think that all people should strive to be like Jesus. Certainly, as a Christian pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Jesus (albeit imperfectly). To that end, if you are stepping up and saying that you want to be a person who makes a positive impact for good in the world, then you and I are more alike than I would have thought.
But I think that is where the similarity ends. You see, one thing that you seem to reveal in your statements to EntertainmentWise is a measure of self aggrandizement. You say you want people to look at what you have done and say "Damn, I wish I did that," but that isn't what Jesus did. What made Jesus so great (on top of that whole being the Son of God thing) is that Jesus didn't do these things to bring honor upon Himself, but to bring glory to the Father. Martin Luther King, Jr., didn't do things to bring glory to himself, but to do the will of God. Gandhi didn't do things to bring glory to himself, but because it was part of his religious convictions. As near as I can tell, you aren't doing this for anything more than to bring glory on yourself.
Am I wrong? Are you really wanting to demonstrate love for your fellow human beings in what you do? I find that hard to believe when you choose to offend people by hanging yourself on a cross as part of your show. You can say that it's artistic to drive home the point that we should be like Jesus, but you in doing so you should recognize that what you are doing is seen as offensive and derisive by many people. To proceed to hang yourself on the cross knowing that it will "p**s people off" (as you say) is hardly "loving" of your neighbor, is it?
Still, I want to encourage you to be like Jesus, but not in the way that you seem to be suggesting. Being like Jesus isn't simply to make people think or to impress them so that they want to do what you do, but to change their lives in a way that brings them closer to the Father. To be like Jesus means trying to do the will of the Father in love, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Do these things and you will really make an impact and it will be a more positive impact than the one that you have made thus far.
The Blasphemy Challenge blog, which is a response to the Rational Response Squad's (RRS) Blasphemy Challenge authored by Frank Walton, has pulled together in a post entitled Book reviews of "God Delusion" which includes more than 30 posts on blogs and book reviews related to Richard Dawkins and his flawed arguments contained in the book, The God Delusion. For people wanting to read some excellent reasons to find Dawkins' book less than worthless, I suggest following some of the links. I'm sure they'll provide dozens of reasons.
One of my favorite comedians is Emo Phillips. He is a master of the misdirection joke where he gets you thinking one thing and then abruptly changes direction. For example, Emo jokes, "I ran three miles today, finally I said 'lady take your purse.'" He also jokes, "I was in a bar the other night, hopping from barstool to barstool, trying to get lucky---but there wasn't any gum under any of them."
Personally, I'm convinced that the guy has some Christian training in his background. I don't know if he is a Christian or a kid who was raised in a church who fell away, but his humor shows some occasional insight into things Christian.
On his website he has a page of Infrequently Given Answers, and one of them tackles the problem of suffering. Emo says:
The question is absurd: when you ask, "If God is both all good and all powerful, why then does He allow suffering?", what you are really asking is, "If God is both all good and all powerful, why then can He not make me (the questioner) -- who is just as much a part of a universe in which there is suffering as is any other part -- be at the same time the exact same questioner, but one who is now part and parcel of a universe in which there is no suffering?" Which, reduced down, is the same thing as asking, "Why can there not be, at the same time, X and the preclusion of X?"
Although I don't think that this answer effectively responds to the question of suffering, I do think it's an interesting take on the issue. After all, to a certain extent it's true that the questioner is asking that the universe be completely changed to a place that suffering is not allowed but in which the questioner is still the exact same person who is asking the question.
The Bible teaches that suffering comes because suffering is one of the ways that God teaches us. As noted by Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:
[I]t is quite possible that God uses the suffering to do good. In other words, He produces patience through tribulation (Rom. 5:3). Or He may desire to save someone through it. Take for example, the account of Joseph who was sold into slavery by His brothers. What they did was wrong and Joseph suffered greatly for it. But, later, God raised up Joseph in Egypt to make provisions for the people of that land during the coming drought of seven years. But not only was Egypt saved, but also so was his family and brothers who originally sold him into slavery. Joseph finally says to them, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:15-21). Of course, the greatest example of God using evil for good is the death of Christ. Evil people brought him to the cross, but God used that cross as the means to save the world.
So, while Emo's effort may be no more than an attempt to confuse, with a little effort his joke/argument could be turned into a rather interesting response. For example, what if a person were to respond thus: "If God were to create a universe in which there is no suffering, I wouldn't be the same person that I am today. God wanted me to be the person I am, and therefore suffering must exist or I wouldn't be the same 'me' that I am today."
Something to think about.
In the state of New Mexico, a bill was recently introduced into the legislature that was very simple in what it had to say: it encouraged intellectual freedom in the teachings of biological origins.
Leaving off all of the precatory language at the outset of the bill, here's what HJM 14 called for:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that the public education department be requested to ensure that when a theory of biological origins is taught, public school teachers in New Mexico have the right and freedom to objectively inform students of any scientific information that is relevant to both the strengths and weaknesses of that theory; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that teachers are not reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for objectively informing students of scientific information relevant to both the strengths and weaknesses of a theory of biological origins; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that students are encouraged to critically analyze scientific information and allowed the right and freedom to reach their own conclusions about biological origins; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that no student is penalized in any way for subscribing to a particular position on biological origins; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this memorial be transmitted to the public education department for further distribution to school districts.
Let's examine this for a moment. First, the bill calls for teachers to objectively inform students of the strengths and weaknesses of any theory of biological origins. Now, to me, this bill makes sense. After all, a good education requires that students not only be taught what is considered to be the prevailing viewpoint on an issue, but that they be taught to evaluate these views on their own to see if they hold water. As a former adjunct professor, I always wanted to challenge students to think through things on their own. For example, when my class studied the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, I was always challenging the students to consider the original intended scope of the clause and the extremely broad reading that it has today. I would challenge them to consider whether the present expansive reading was correct, whether there were any foreseeable limits to it scope, and to evaluate whether it was a good thing that the clause had been read so expansively since the 1930s.
Now, while I taught law related classes, I know that when I took courses in any number of subjects the teachers were always challenging me to think through the issue as the best way to learn. So, why is it any different when it comes to biological origins? Why shouldn't we encourage teachers to point out potential problems with theories of biological origins -- even widely accepted views of biological origins -- in the name of academic freedom and advancement? Isn't the very heart of science questioning the status quo and raising questions about its ability to explain the facts?
Moreover, I think it important to note that the teaching is not purely one-sided. It allows for the discussion of various views of biological origins to be criticized. Now, when I was in biology class, my biology teacher had no difficulty in roundly criticizing the view of young earth creationists that all life was created in seven 24-hour days. He had the academic freedom to do that, and I doubt that anyone would argue that such freedom should be taken away from him. Yet, some people think that while it is perfectly legitimate to be critical in classes of views that are contrary to Darwinistic evolution, it is not okay to teach problems with Darwinistic evolution. Why is that?
The legislature, true to form, decided to table the bill in committee so that it never has a chance to be considered from the floor of the house. According to the article in the Albuquerque Journal entitled 'Creationism' Measure Tabled :
The House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to table a resolution saying public school teachers would have "the right and freedom to objectively inform students of any scientific information that is relevant to both strengths and weaknesses" of the evolutionary theory.
Opponents of the resolution argued that language such as "teaching of biological origins" and the resolution's reference to "weaknesses" of evolutionary theory signaled an attempt to inject "creationism" into the classroom.
Of course, the title of the article tells you that the author of the article is accepting the side of those who argue that this is an effort to put creationism into the classroom. The article continues with the argument by a former physicist:
"This ... resolution attempts to shoehorn creationism, or intelligent design, which is creationism in a tux, under the guise of science, into science classrooms," said Harry Murphy, a retired physicist who worked at Kirtland Air Force Base. "Teaching religious dogma as science is clearly a violation of the United States Constitution."
In a word, nonsense. As a friend of mine pointed out, it takes a lot of imagination to get 'creationism, embarrassment, and the redefinition of science' out of 'academic freedom and objectivity'. While Darwinists are quite good at imaginative thinking, this isn't what's going on here. The bill is even-handed and straight-forward. It seeks to encourage teachers to challenge students to think through all of the arguments for and against the various theories of biological origins, to introduce and discuss problems with the the most widely accepted theory and any alternative theories that the teacher may choose to raise, and to encourage critical thinking all with the safety and security of knowing that such discussions will not lead to the teacher's being fired due to pressure either from over-zealous religionists or over-zealous Darwinists. Again, what's wrong with that? My answer: nothing. Not a thing.
What's truly interesting here is that it is the people who support the status quo -- the so-called scientifically rational people -- who are standing up against intellectual freedom. For some reason, they are so afraid of the specter that religion will somehow be snuck in the back door that they would prefer to limit the ability of people to think for themselves and allow teachers to help them think for themselves. Is this really fear of religion being snuck in the back door, or is it that open discussion will expose that what is really being taught isn't as scientifically solid as they pretend? As my friend noted, perhaps the real problem the critics have with this bill is not that religion will be smuggled into the science classroom but that introduction of true academic freedom will expose the fact that religion is already in the classroom -- a materialistic religion, taught under the guise of evolutionary science.
An interpolation is an insertion into a text of words, phrases, or passages that were not part of the original text. At times, Earl Doherty has seemed defensive about allegations that he relies on interpolations to eliminate evidence that does not support his theory. At first, Doherty was adamant that he entertained only two possible interpolations in the NT letters as part of his Jesus Myth theory. In response to a reader question, Doherty stated: "I appeal to only two interpolations in all the New Testament epistles, one supported by most liberal scholars; the second is not critical to the argument." He seems rather proud of that fact, repeating the claim in many places. In response to J.P. Holding, Doherty states: "When he goes on to examine my two claims for interpolation in the entire Pauline corpus, including the pseudonymous letters...."
Those two interpolations are 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 (describing the Jews as responsible Jesus' death) and Timothy 6:13 (noting that Jesus appeared before Pilate). It seems, however, that Doherty could not hold that line. As his novel translations of early Christian literature became the subject of more and more criticism (though not yet of peer review), the number of appeals to at least possible interpolations has increased. So, we have Doherty raising the number to three, here:
Only two of these passages, possibly a third, would I put down to later interpolation, the first with much support by liberal scholars: 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, with its reference to "the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus," and 1 Timothy 6:13, with its reference to Pilate.... The third, a possible marginal gloss, is Galatians 1:19's "the brother of the Lord" in reference to James....
But the count actually rises to four after recent debates about Doherty's spin on Galatians 4:4: "As an alternative explanation for Galatians 4:4, I will suggest that there is the possibility that the phrase 'born of woman, born under the law' is a later scribal insertion."
So the number of entertained interpolations has doubled. But there are more. In order to support his argument that 1 Timothy 6:13 is an interpolation, Doherty declares part of 1 Timothy 6:3 (referring to the "wholesome teachings of Jesus Christ") to be an interpolation.
Now the count is five. Yet we are still not done, because in order to support his novel interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Doherty entertains the possibility of two more interpolations.
Writing about Hebrews 13:7 (referring to the "leaders" who taught them the "word of God"), Doherty describes the verse as written by "an early epistle writer (or interpolator)." A few verses later, Doherty makes the following statement about Hebrews 13:20 (referring to the resurrection of Jesus): "in a passage which has in any case been questioned as authentic to the original epistle...." So add two more to the count.
At this point of the analysis, Doherty is up to at least seven interpolations in the New Testament letters in support of his theory. That is more than triple the number he bragged about in the early days. I say "at least" because it seems that Doherty also questions the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 6:9 (referring to the "brothers of Jesus"). He states that the passage is "disputed" and later states, "Which brings me back to the Galatians 1:19 phrase. As with its 'brother' in 1 Corinthians 9, this phrase does not appear in extant documents until at least the 3rd century, maybe the 4th." At the very least, Doherty envisions editing damaging to his theory. At present, therefore, I think it fair to count this among the interpolations entertained by Doherty in support of his theory.
One other possible interpolation entertained by Doherty is Romans 1:3 (noting that Jesus was "born of a descendant of David, according to the flesh"). Doherty does not argue the point himself but quotes Ehrman as noting that this phrase is especially helpful to later Christians combating docetism. However, since Doherty does not apply the argument specifically to Romans 1:3, I will leave this one out of our count for now.
Thus, the running total is eight interpolations in the NT letters entertained by Doherty in support of his theory. That is four times the initial amount he bragged about. Notably, none of the above alleged interpolations is supported by any manuscript evidence.
We should also not forget the non-New Testament interpolations Doherty entertains in support of his theory.
- Doherty rejects the two passages in Josephus' Antiquities which refer to Jesus: 18 (the Testimonium) and 20 (reference to "James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ").
- Doherty has argued that Tacitus' reference to Christians in Annals may be an interpolation.
- Doherty argues that 11:2-22 in the Ascension of Isaiah is an interpolation.
- Doherty appears to argue that all references in the Ascension of Isaiah to "Jesus" or "Christ" in Chapters 6-11 are later additions.
- Doherty has argued that the reference to John as the author of the Gospel of John by Theophilus of Antioch, Book II, ch. 22, is an interpolation.
- Doherty suggests in footnote 83 of his book that Pliny the Younger's reference to Christians could be an interpolation.
I have not followed Doherty's arguments closely lately, for a number of reasons. So it is possible that I have missed other interpolation arguments entertained by him. What is clear is that rather than only two interpolations in the NT epistles (as first claimed by Doherty), the present number of interpolations has quadrupled to eight. In addition, there are seven alleged interpolations from other ancient documents that Doherty has entertained as part of his Jesus Myth theory.
Do not be surprised if the list continues to grow.
From Historian Ahead of His Time in Christianity Today:
Most Americans and Europeans think of Christianity as a Western religion. Prominent leaders of the last 50 years, like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and Pope John Paul II, are known primarily for their influence in the West, though in fact each of them has played a significant role in wider, global Christianity. But the most important development for the church in the 20th and 21st centuries has not been in the West at all, but in the astonishing shift of Christianity's center of gravity from the Western industrialized nations to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In a short time, Christianity has been transformed from a European religion to a global one.
This is an extremely important thing to note. Christ called on us to evangelize all people, and it appears that while some in the west (most prominently Western Europe) errantly seem to think that they have grown beyond Christianity, the faith in Jesus Christ continues to thrive in other corners of the world. That's great news.
Since it was featured on one of those evening news shows awhile ago, I feel obliged to talk about the blasphemy challenge. As I understand it, the group known as the Rational Response Squad together with Brian Flemming, the maker of the completely irrational film The God Who Wasn't There, have put out a challenge to atheists everywhere to record a video to "publicly renounce any belief in the sky God of Christianity" by committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the unforgivable sin. (Of course, it is always the way with these people to be disrespectful and insulting in everything they do, so the reference to the "sky God" is not unexpected.) These really sad videos are then posted on YouTube and you can see a collection of them here.
Personally, I'm sure that these atheists think that what they are doing is cute. They view it like saying "I don't believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or Richard Dawkins" because they believe that there is no reprisal to come. Personally, I don't know if there will be a reprisal either from other people or from God, but since God is very patient (sometimes waiting hundreds of years before taking action) I expect that it will be a very long time before we know whether there are any repercussions to these poor souls who take the time to record these really stupid videos. (Someone should keep track.)
And, of course, if what they are doing really does represent blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the unforgivable sin (I don't think it does), then Flemming and his compatriots are really doing a great evil to many individuals who are simply too ignorant of the facts to make up their own minds. (Luke 17:1-2 was written for people like Flemming.) In my view, watching the videos is like going to the site of a catastrophe and looking at the people who have died that are lying in a line on the ground. I feel really bad for all these people who are setting their minds against God at the encouragement of a bunch of people who don't know or care about them. Very sad.
Sad, however, is not foolish, and the blasphemy challenge is an exercise in foolishness.
What is particularly fascinating about the blasphemy challenge is that these people have decided that the best way to make the point is to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (and have all of these poor lemmings follow them) assuring themselves that if they're wrong about the non-existence of God as taught in Christianity that they will certainly end up in hell and they cannot change their minds later (when wisdom shows them that they are incredibly wrong). It's like saying, "I'm so sure that I can fly, that I'm not going to simply jump out of a tree to prove it, I'm going to jump off the edge of the Grand Canyon." Well, that's all well and good if you're absolutely convinced you can fly, but if you maintain any semblance of doubt, then isn't it wiser to jump out of a tree where you might survive than off a 2000 foot cliff? Do you have to commit the unpardonable sin to establish your non-belief or is there a better, safer way to do it?
For their part, I'm sure they would respond that the use of the unpardonable sin proves how certain they are that Christianity is false. However, since they know that it is impossible to establish with absolute certainty that God exists or doesn't exist (I think that given an objective hearing a reasonable person would be convinced that He does), their decision to commit the unforgiveable sin shows a lack of wisdom that is absolutely astounding. I mean, seriously, given that they cannot know for certain that God doesn't exist or that Christianity isn't real (their supposedly rational thoughts may lead them to that conclusion but it is apparent that many rational people have come to completely different conclusions), this is like the cinema mad scientist who conducts experiments on himself without taking heed of the potential and serious downsides. Who would do that but a fool? Yet, those who take up the blasphemy challenge (and more importantly, those who lead others to it) are so convinced of what they cannot know that they ignore the warnings by people of equal (and possibly superior) intelligence of potentially dire consequences and dive into potential disaster head-first.
Foolishness -- that's what it is; simply foolishness.
In the middle of Romans, Paul describes Jesus' incarnation and atoning sacrifice:
8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The phrase "likeness of sinful flesh" has caused consternation for almost two thousand years; ever since the heretic Marcion seized on it to claim that Jesus had not come as a human, but as a divine being with a different physical nature. Jesus only appeared to be human according to Marcion, whose docetic tendencies found the idea of a flesh and blood human Christ-figure as repulsive. To docetists like Marcion, the material world was evil and therefore Christ would not have partaken in it and he therefore was made of some other kind of stuff.
Marcion's interpretation of this passage met with a forceful response from Tertullian, a Church Father writing in the early 200s:
Now in another sentence he says that Christ was "in the likeness of sinful flesh," not, however, as if He had taken on Him "the likeness of the flesh," in the sense of a semblance of body instead of its reality; but he means us to understand likeness to the flesh which sinned, because the flesh of Christ, which committed no sin itself, resembled that which had sinned,--resembled it in its nature, but not in the corruption it received from Adam; whence we also affirm that there was in Christ the same flesh as that whose nature in man is sinful. In the flesh, therefore, we say that sin has been abolished, because in Christ that same flesh is maintained without sin, which in than was not maintained without sin.
Is Tertullian's take on the verse superior to Marcion's?
Very much so.
Paul is elsewhere quite clear that Jesus was a human being, "according to the flesh." In my article on the phrase "according to the flesh," I explore several such verses. Most prominent are Romans 1:3-4 where Paul says Jesus was born a descendent of David "according to the flesh" and speaks of literal descent from Abraham "according to the flesh." Colossians states that Jesus reconciled us "in His fleshly body." 1:22. So if Paul affirms a Jesus in the flesh elsewhere, why does he backtrack here and limit himself Jesus to simply being in the "likeness"?
Tertullian puts us on the right path. Paul is not talking in 8:3 about Jesus being made of the same stuff ("flesh") as human beings. He does not say that Jesus came in the "likeness of flesh" but in the "likeness of sinful flesh." This is confirmed by Paul himself in the second part of the same verse where he states, "He condemned sin in the flesh." Jesus defeated sin by becoming a human being in the flesh. What he did not do is become sinful flesh. He never succumbed to the binding power of sin that controls sinful man. As F.F. Bruce states:
The humanity of Christ is shared by him with all mankind. But ours is “sinful flesh”, because sin has established a bridgehead in our life by means of which it dominates the human situation. Christ came in real flesh – he lived and died in a “body of flesh” (Colossians 1:22) – but he did not come in “sinful flesh”, because sin gained no foothold in his life; he is said therefore to have come “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” so that, when he presented his life as a sin-offering, God thus “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3) – passed the death-sentence on it by virtue of the sinless humanity of Christ.
F.F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, page 205.
Also see Ben Witherington's explanation:
The juxtaposition of Rom. 8:3 with 8:4 makes it very likely that Paul is implying that like Adam, Jesus was born with an unfallen nature, though one that had the capacity to sin, but unlike Adam, Jesus remained sinless and so could be an unblemished sacrifice for sin. Thus Paul uses the term “likeness of sinful flesh" not to deny Jesus’ sinlessness in regard to his behavior (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21), nor to deny his sinless human nature, but to affirm that he was in the flesh and was in this respect like all other human beings, “save without sin” (cf. Heb. 4:15, 2:17). The eschatological Adam starts humanity over again without blemish. A further confirmation of this interpretation can be found in Phil. 2:7-8, where we are told Christ is born in the likeness of human beings. This is intended to tell us that Jesus took on human flesh, being a man who was subject to human frailty and weakness, even death. Romans 8:3 is not suggesting anything significantly different from Phil. 2:7-8.
Ben Witherington, Paul’s Narrative Thought World, page 140.
Witherington's reference to Phil. 2:7-8 allows us to kill two birds with one stone. Verses 7-8 state that Jesus "emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man..." Here, the terms "likeness" and "appearance" are not intended to deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Jesus became flesh, but did not partake of sinful human existence. He did not cease being divine. As Gordon D. Fee notes, these terms are,
used primarily because of Paul's belief (in common with the rest of the early church) that in becoming human Christ did not thereby cease to be divine. This word allows for the ambiguity, emphasizing that he is similar to our humanity in some respects and dissimilar in others. The similarity lies with his full humanity; in his incarnation he was "like" in the sense of "the same as." The dissimilarity, which in Rom 8:3 had to do with his being sinless while in the "likeness" of sinful flesh, in this case has to do with his never ceasing to be "equal with God." Thus he came in the "likeness" of human beings, because on the one hand he has fully identified with us, and because on the other hand in becoming human he was not "human" only. He was God living out a truly human life, all of which is safeguarded by this expression.
Fee, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, pages 213-24.
I think Fee touches on some of the modern confusion over this passage. We should remember that Paul was not expressing refined theological treatises. He was trying to explain something that he himself may not have fully understood. Jesus become human, but was also divine. He became flesh, but not fleshly. He had to become a human to reconcile man to God, but had to be a perfect, sinless sacrifice to accomplish that end. In other words, it was important to Paul's theology that Jesus be human, but also important that Jesus not share in humanity's sinfulness (which, afterall, was a key part of the existence of humans). It was important that he recognize Jesus' preexistence and divinity, but not at the expense of his becoming a human being, which he had to be in order to accomplish His purpose. It is these considerations that lead Paul to choose his words carefully when saying that Jesus took on only the "likeness" of sinful flesh and that he took on the "appearance" of man.
When read in light of Paul's other affirmations of Jesus becoming flesh, his statement within the same verse that Jesus condemned sin "in the flesh", and recognizing the fine line between the theological concepts Paul was juggling, it is clear that Marcion was wrong and Tertullian correct. Paul believed in a Jesus who was made of flesh like the rest of humanity, but also in a Jesus who did not share or succumb to humanity's sinful nature.
Yet not as risible as Dawkins writing itself! Really, if you read his work without emotion, it’s (unintentionally) funny!
In fact, this is so funny because it’s his argument verbatim, just substituting “Dawkins” for God.
I found it very funny, myself. Take the five minutes it takes to watch it -- it will be worth your time.
(HT: CADRE member Jeff G)
I have substantially revised my article responding to Ken Olson's argument that not only was the Testimonium Flavianum a complete interpolation, but that it was one foisted on us by Eusebius of Caesarea. There is revised analysis of the linguistic evidence put forward by Olson, but most of the revision addresses the existence of manuscripts of Josephus' Antiquities which contain the Testimonium Flavianum that are independent of Eusebius. Such traditions are fatal to Olson's theory that the Testimonium Flavianum began with Eusebius.
One rejoinder that I sometimes come across is the old question, "Who are you to say . . . ?" For example, when I say that Jesus is the only Son of God, they may respond, "Who are you to say Jesus was really the Son of God?" If I say, "Jesus died for your sins," they may respond "who are you to say that Jesus died for my sins?"
What's interesting is that I readily admit that I am no one to say. I am just a Christian -- among millions of other Christians -- who trust in God for many reasons. Of course, they really know that. The challenge "who are you to say?" is truly and simply an effort to discredit my views on the basis that I have no authority from which to speak. It is much like a person turning and saying "Who died and left you God?" This really isn't a response, but an effort to dismiss what I am saying by questioning me.
Let me make a suggestion of a response. If you are trying to tell others something about Christianity, and especially Jesus, such as how Jesus is the only way to the Father, and someone confronts you with "wWo are you to say that Jesus is the only way?" you can respond, "Me? I'm no one. But Jesus, you must admit, is one of the most influential people in history and He's the one who said He's the only way."
Of course, such a statement will almost certainly lead to a question of the reliability of the Biblical texts, but if you are familiar with those evidence for the traditional attribution of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you can make a case for the accuracy of what Jesus said. But regardless, it will have moved the discussion off of whether you have the authority to speak about these things (which you aren't claiming) to the truth of the claim made by Jesus himself.