CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Just when all of the false information presented about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in The Da Vinci Code is finally beginning to fade, someone has decided to look at The Last Supper painting from a different angle: backwards.

According to Good knight! New images found in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper'?, a computer analyst has discovered that if you reverse the image of Da Vinci's The Last Supper and superimpose the image over the original painting you find some, shall we say, interesting changes to the painting.

Slavisa Pesci claims to have discovered new images in the 15th mural in the dining hall of Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie church by superimposing a reverse image on the original image.

When doing so, Pesci said he observed, for example, that the two figures on either end of the long table appear to become knights, and that another figure appears to be holding an infant.

"It came to mind to scan ’The Last Supper’ and print it on transparent paper, then superimpose it in reverse on the original image. The result is a new painting, with other figures," Pesci said today at a news conference.

Exactly which other "figure appears to be holding an infant"? Naturally, in keeping with the conspiracy beliefs that fueled the entire DaVinci Code nonsense, the effeminate character that has been historically identified as the Apostle John, but which The DaVinci Code identified as really being Mary Magdalene, is the other "figure" carrying a baby! As noted in A new flipping da Vinci code?:

Just as predictably, it has triggered a new conspiracy theory. According to Mr Pesci, a woman on Christ's left appears to be cradling a baby – and although he made no suggestion this could be Jesus's child, his theory has sent the Net into a frenzy.

(Another article on the "discovery" can be found here.)

Actually, since we're going to be talking conspiracy theories, I think that focusing on the other "figure" holding an infant and it's possible connection with the old "Jesus secretly married and had a love child by Mary Magdalene" theory misses a much more important point. Take a look more closely at the super-imposed painting which was published as part of the article, immediately below.

Notice the figures to the left of the the Apostle John/Mary Magdalene. Are they kissing? Does this confirm the "Secret Mark" theory that Jesus was really gay? And what about Jesus himself? Notice that he looks very much like one of the multi-armed Hindu gods complete with aura? Kali (pictured at right), perhaps? Or perhaps Vishnu? What about the fact that, with the exception of Jesus, there are two of every person at the Last Supper? Is this showing knowledge on behalf of Leonardo DaVinci that Jesus and his followers were really Manich├Žistic in their beliefs? Was DaVinci really telling us that Jesus and his followers were actually dualists? Think of the possibilities!

This is simply absurd. Even supposing that DaVinci -- genius though he was -- was somehow smart enough to be able to calculate in his mind what the painting would look like backwards and superimposed over the other, this is an absolute stretch. I think that the thoughts of Alessandro Vezzosi, a Leonardo expert, are very apropos:

While he had not yet seen the presentation, he noted that computers lend themselves to any conceivable alterations and that some have inaccurately held that the artist’s famed "Mona Lisa" is actually a self-portrait.

When will the madness stop?

One of the odder things about the Jesus Myth movement, such as it is, is how permeated it is by flakiness. I do not mean the obvious flakiness in denying the well-attested existence of Jesus. Rather, I mean a weird, over-the-top, desperation, do-even-heavily-biased-people-believe-this stuff kind of flakiness.

Thought those skeptical of Christianity were driven by cold, dispassionate logic and reason? Think again. In this post, I highlight some of the most flaky of the Jesus Myth movement. Jesus was a myth but one that properly understood can raise your cosmic consciousness or reveal you celestial nature or lead to ancestral unity. No, followers of Jesus will lead to the destruction of all mankind! Or perhaps he was a secret code representing the life of Julius Ceasar. No, he was a metaphor for the Emperor Trajan!

The descriptions of these books are not mine but come from Amazon. The emphasis, of course, is added.

The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Acharya S

The Christ Conspiracy marshals an enormous amount of startling evidence that the religion of Christianity and Jesus Christ were created by members of various secret societies, mystery schools and religions in order to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion! This powerful book maintains that these groups drew upon a multitude of myths and rituals that already existed long before the Christian era and reworked them into the story the Christian religion presents today-known to most Westerners as the Bible. Author Acharya makes the case that there was no actual person named Jesus, but that several characters were rolled into one mythic being inspired by the deities Mithras, Heracles/Hercules, Dionysus and many others of the Roman Empire. She demonstrates that the story of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, is nearly identical in detail to those of the earlier savior-gods Krishna and Horus, and concludes that Jesus was certainly neither original nor unique, nor was he the divine revelation. Rather, he represents the very ancient body of knowledge derived from celestial observation and natural forces. A book that will initiate heated debate and inner struggle, it is intelligently written and referenced. The only book of its kind, it is destined for controversy.

Jesus : Myth or Reality? by Ian Curtis

In this book you will be given truths and directed to paths of reality. All religions are created for control and wealth. Jesus never existed and there is no evidence that a benevolent God watches over his children. There is also the same lack of proof that an Allah, a Buddha, or a Krishna ever existed or exists today. What we have developed is a path to the total destruction of mankind. Our planet earth is being torn apart by foolish beliefs which are promoted and supported by the weaknesses of a mass of human beings who have to have a security blanket. Collectively the nations of the world are on an inevitable collision course and the cause is religion. This is the ultimate results of a child’s game of, “my God is bigger than your God!”

Jesus is a Myth : A Handbook To Reclaim Your Celestial Inheritance by Zain Winter

Jesus is a Myth introduces the sciences of Archaeoastronomy and Mythology to the layperson and explains how these sciences are keys to open the door of ancestral unity among all nations. The first chapter shows our early ancestors developing into Ice Age Astronomers and how the traditions of celestial illumination they founded were carried onto humankind's earliest civilizations. Next, The Genesis of Myth shows our ancestors creating more complex communities created more elaborate systems of deity worship and the early foundations of organized religion. In The Bond Between Heaven and Earth, we are transported to the most well known archaeoastronomical locations around the world. There we learn that monumental structures, like the Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge, were constructed to make a tangible connection to the heavens in order to grant rulers access to the divine. Next Religions True Origin, we are shown how most world religions have early celestial origins and astronomical themes. The final chapter, The Sky is Falling, reveals how doomsayers of the new millennium have nothing to fear and New Agers have everything to gain from an understanding the true celestial nature of a long standing astronomical cycle.

Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

Drawing on modern scholarship, the authors of the international bestseller The Jesus Mysteries decode the secret teachings of the original Christians for the first time in almost two millennia and theorize about who the original Christians really were and what they actually taught. In addition, the book explores the many myths of Jesus and the Goddess and unlocks the lost secret teachings of Christian mysticism, which promise happiness and immortality to those who attain the state of Gnosis, or enlightenment. This daring and controversial book recovers the ancient wisdom of the original Christians and demonstrates its relevance to us today.

Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus by Joseph Atwill

Caesar's Messiah, a real life Da Vinci Code, presents the dramatic and controversial discovery that the conventional views of Christian origins may be wrong. Author Joseph Atwill makes the case that the Christian Gospels were actually written under the direction of first-century Roman emperors. The purpose of these texts was to establish a peaceful Jewish sect to counterbalance the militaristic Jewish forces that had just been defeated by the Roman Emperor Titus in 70 A.D.

Atwill uncovered the secret key to this story in the writings of Josephus, the famed first-century Roman historian. Reading Josephus's chronicle, The War of the Jews, the author found detail after detail that closely paralleled events recounted in the Gospels.

Atwill skillfully demonstrates that the emperors used the Gospels to spark a new religious movement that would aid them in maintaining power and order. What's more, by including hidden literary clues, they took the story of the Emperor Titus's glorious military victory, as recounted by Josephus, and embedded that story in the Gospels - a sly and satirical way of glorifying the emperors through the ages.

Et tu, Judas? Then Fall Jesus! by Gary Courtney

About two thousand years ago, a great man who was renowned for forgiveness and magnanimity was betrayed and slain by his compatriots who feared he would become their King. To the chagrin of his murderers, he was soon hailed as a God and the momentous events that ensued paved the way for the birth of Christianity.

The venue for this drama, however, was not Jerusalem as might be supposed, but rather the eternal city of Rome. It is a description of the founder of the Roman Empire. In a work stranger than fiction, Gary Courtney propounds that the Jesus of Nazareth that graces the pages of the New Testament is an entirely mythological personage, and presents a step by step explanation of how the beloved Saviour of the Christian religion entered the world from the wings of a stage.

This is the second in an occasional series of posts about various bits of news or commentary that I come across that are simply so astoundingly absurd that it is beyond comprehension how someone can believe them. I base the title on radio and television talk show host Glenn Beck's comments that such things are so mind-boggling that they make your head want to explode. Hence, your head goes *pop*.


Theories about Jesus abound. Most of them are based on a belief (which could be considered a prejudice) against the supernatural events described in the New Testament. After all, according to those who doubt the accuracy of the Biblical accounts, it isn't possible that Jesus actually performed miracles, healed the sick, self-volitionally resurrected and claimed to be (in both words and deeds) the one true, unique Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, rather than accept the story of Jesus as taught in the New Testament, skeptics and some Christians who want a non-supernatural Jesus (like the Jesus Seminar) have come up with their own theories as to what really happened in Jesus' life.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across an opinion piece at by Professor Emeritus Peter Bagnolo. Professor Bagnolo, according to his description at the bottom of the article, is a "Renaissance man: Cultural Anthropologist, Architectural designer, painter, writer, novelist, theologian. As a child prodigy, abed with polio for almost two years, with an off the charts IQ, reading at the graduate level by 5th grade, offered an opportunity to skip three grades at age 8."

Now, I am certainly not a Renaissance man, but I do have some questions about Professor's Bagnolo's theories about Jesus which he voices in an article entitled Jesus Death, Bushites, Neo-Cons, And Early Fascism, And How Everything Was/is Always About The Money.

Professor Bagnolo begins his Opinion piece with the following:

Since 2003 in excess of 725,000, more people died violent deaths, than in the previous five-year period.

Now, I sometimes have typos and sometimes have incomplete sentences, but the first sentence makes no sense to me. I think he's trying to say that since 2003, 725,000 people died violent deaths which is more than in the previous five year period. I certainly can agree that more people probably have died violent deaths, but I don't know (and cannot tell from the article) if that number is significantly higher or who has been doing the killing or why.

Then he continues:

In that time the two greatest Documents ever written by humans, died with them.

Unfortunately, he fails to identify these two documents. Based on the article, I suppose that one of them is the United States Constitution, but it certainly doesn't seem dead to me. Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Assemble, and all of the other freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights remain intact. Congress is meeting, the President is in the White House and the Supreme Court (while on summer break) has not been disbanded. Hence, it appears that the Constitutional system remains intact, too.

Then he gets funky. He says:

Also in that five year span, two of the most hideously anti-human documents ever written, were born, in a union of the great Grandsons of FDR and the Great Grandsons of Satan; children of the Father of modern American Freedom and prosperity for the greatest number of people possible, in one era, and the Diabolical Dungeoneers, of overwhelming freedom and feckless, glaringly, gratuitous, prosperity, for the smallest number of elitists possible, of another, combined to short Americans of their potential.

*pop* Say what? I feel like I've come into the middle of a dialogue where language has a different meaning understood by only a few. I have no clue what he's talking about here, and his next paragraph where he seems to say that it is the combination of the followers of FDR with the "Bushites" (whatever they are) that is the problem. But it goes on . . . .

Over a faded dank and dreary gray, clouded, low oppressive skies, we have, here, at once, crowds of Bentley-driving, high-handed, shrill shrieking, halleluiah, hackers, hands grasping bloodied axes and scythes, maggot-squirmy corpses, beneath whited, hooded robes, covering, blood spattered hems above goose-stepping, boots, spiked with DU-238, crushing over human cadavers, of once free children, free men and women, led by a banner of a Muscled, Goose-stepping, bearded, dreadnaught, grey-skinned man, wearers of the crooked cross of black, wrought iron, over a whited disk, with hands all bloody, wild-eyed, and pale grayed damp flesh-stretched face, over tight, low, thick-browed skulls.

I feel like I'm reading an impressionist painting. I suspect that he is calling Bushites (which I assumed, but don't know, means people supporting Bush's policies) Nazis and KKKers. But his imagery, while quite fun to read, is so over-the-top as to be ridiculous.

I haven't yet talked about his Jesus angle. Then again, I find it hard to see the connection between the Bushites and Jesus. He suddenly, and for no apparent reason, shifts gears from this type of very illustrative language to a more straightforward account (if wrong) about Jesus. He begins by giving some fairly standard dates among mainline denominations for the Gospels and then mentions that the only versions of the New Testament writings we have are copies of copies. While I disagree with his dating of the Gospels and I don't see the fact that we have copies of copies to be an insurmountable problem for establishing the text with confidence, I will simply let this pass for purposes of this post.

He continues by noting how the Jewish people structured their lives with the system of debt forgiveness that is akin to a form of bankruptcy. Again, not particularly problematic, but he continues talking about the Herodian Priests:

Eventually, the practice was abused, ill kept and forgotten. Priests began confiscating or buying up properties, and with some help from minor Roman officials, were commercializing the land. Both Romans and some Herodian officials were Practicing Fascism, before the term was defined and coined in modern times, after the then present Roman Battle Ax-the Fasces-the many composited, slender straight-cut rods of wood. They were breaking the bankruptcy laws initiated by Moses and the land laws. The Jewish Religious Leaders, with help from brokers and minor Roman officials, covering up their skimming, commercializing the land, in violation of Moses ancient concept, and selling it to rich Greeks and Roman's at prices out of the reach of peasant Jews. Moreover, they were outsourcing labor to scabs and outsiders. (Sound all too painfully, familiar?)

Enter Wonder-Working Messiah Candidate
When Jesus arrived at Jerusalem for the high holidays (Passover) he announced The Year of The Lord, (Translation-The Jubilee Year). Whether or not he stumbled upon the Herodian Priests indiscretion, named above, is debatable, but I believe that he did. It doesn't matter now, all that mattered then or now, is that the priests believed, from his mention of the old forsaken, misplaced law, that he did. They could not afford for him to walk around speaking about this again, for several reasons: For one, if the Romans found out that they were skimming, the punishment would not be palatable. To make their enterprise profitable and covert, the skimmers had to have the cooperation of some Roman officials. The lower placed key positions of information flow, were less suspect, were cheaper thus protecting profit versus cost of skimming. If the Roman culprits were found out, they would be flayed, fed to the lions, or burnt at the stake, or worse. That put all of them and the Priests in a very tight spot, if Jesus were onto them. They could not afford to let Jesus speak again. They had to move on him that very night and keep the spotlight off Jesus to prevent him from spilling information to the Romans, hence the terrible beating he took, to shut him-up, which hastened his death. Jesus was no longer working miracles in the desert and one-mule towns; he was in the Major Leagues, and the economic powers, even back then, were not as laid back as the small village functionaries. Jesus, the back trails Messiah was no longer in his element. His end was assured the moment he entered the gates of the City and even before with his display of political/spiritual hold on small timers from small towns. His charisma, healing and soothing powers, held no magic in the Big City.

Say what? Where does this come from? I have searched every source in my possession and conducted searches through several different search engines on the Internet for evidence that the Herodian priests were buying up property or skimming. What have I found? Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. The best I find is repeated unsubstantiated statements about it in reviews of Doherty's awful book, The Jesus Puzzle. (For all I know, the reviewer in question making these same assertions is, in fact, Bagnolo himself. According to the review, the reviewer who raises these same claims -- Arnold Wexllywacker "Bigguy" -- is located in "Downtown Illinois", and Bagnolo apparently "had a talk radio show in Chicago". Could be a coincidence, but maybe not.)

He then continues by denigrating the Gospel writings because the apostles couldn't have known what they report, such as what was said before the Sanhedrin. Of course, the idea that the apostles could have recorded what was told to them by people who were present completely escapes Bagnolo. The idea that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who was secretly a follower of Christ, could have told them is simply ignored. Certainly, in Bagnolo's eyes, we're better off believing his musings almost 2,000 years after the fact than the reports of those who were witnesses to the events -- as the Gospel writers were or upon whom the Gospel writers relied. Even if Bagnolo is correct that the Gospels were written much later (he places John's Gospel 75 years after the event), why is his musings 2,000 years later more likely to be accurate than the reports much closer in time to the event? Bagnolo doesn't say.

But then, Bagnolo is a bit inconsistent. He says, "Jesus did not go through anything like a trial, he was rushed to judgment and I doubt that even he knew exactly why." But this doesn't add up with what came before. For one thing, his articles says he can "possibly subscribe" to the trial before the Sanhedrin, so why does he now say resolutely that Jesus did not go through "anything like a trial"? He also previously said: "Whether or not [Jesus] stumbled upon the Herodian Priests indiscretion, named above, is debatable, but I believe that he did." How, exactly, does this square with Bagnolo's statement that "I doubt [Jesus] knew exactly why" he was rushed to judgment. If Jesus knew of the indiscretion (as Bagnolo believes) which revealed that the High Priests were skimming from the Romans and subject to execution themselves, why would Jesus not know why He was being rushed to judgment? It seems pretty apparent to me.

But what is the point of all of this? Why, it's to blame George Bush for the war in Iraq. Bagnolo, after furthering in his telling of his bedtime story about what really happened during the days of Jesus without evidence of any kind (and without much reason), he then proceeds with the following rant:

The Judeo/Christian views of property, bankruptcy and the Jubilee Year, were being trampled upon by conservative businessmen of the era. Everything is always about the money. The execution of Jesus by Rome and the Chief Herodian Priests, was no exception, it was not about theology, blasphemy or treason. Religious Arguments far exceeding those of Jesus were always brewing in Israel among the argumentive rabbi's. Jesus' execution was as much about the money as was Bush's attack on Iraq. Trillions for war, for mass-murder, nothing for healthcare or for mass-Life.

Funny how Americans accept socialization of government, of schools, police, fire departments, city services, the military, but of not necessary products like fuel, water, housing, medical care and other personal necessities? It is about the money, avarice, and contempt for the masses and for the God these fascists claim to serve-hypocrisy.

I don't think you have to be pro-war or anti-war to see the complete disconnect here. Basically, he has made up a story about Jesus (or followed the rantings of some reviewers of books on that make similar unsupported claims about the Herodian priests) to try to connect up the execution of Jesus with the war proceeding in Iraq. But the facts about Jesus' teaching and crucifixion upon which he bases his entire argument are, being as charitable as possible, extraordinarily doubtful.

But then, part of Bagnolo's solution to the evils of the "fascist" Bushites is to be less materialistic. Personally, I have no problem with the idea that the western world has become way too materialistic. But his solution is not to buy anything at all. Nothing? Not a thing? He's advocating a return to our being hunter-gatherers? He wants each of us to make our own clothes, shoot our own food, build our own shelters, etc. etc.? Wow! I would never have thought that'd be a realistic solution to the war in Iraq. But then, when I read what he has to say in full, it begins to . . . well, it begins to show how confused this thinking really is.

Don't Buy Anything, at all! Try living the simple life; whether or not you are a true Christian, whether or not you even believe in God, it won't hurt you to do without. Self-sacrifice in a good way. Stop buying stuff for cosmetic purposes. Instead spending thoiusands to look cute at a health club, pull weeds by hand instead of using herbicides/pesticides-stop giving yourself and your neighbors cancer-and for goodness sake stop spreading that noxious, toxic, black top on your driveways. That is not a Spring ritual, it is veritable cancer fest, and it is unnecessary and counterproductive. It does NOT preserve your driveway, it worsens it. It seals in heat, or cold and moisture, and promotes cracks and pot holes. I have not coated my driveway in 20 years, and I NO cracks or potholes. All my neighbors do it every year and all of their driveways are cracked and full of pot holes by fall.

Oh and everything I have seen, smelled or experienced which was made in countries like China, Mexico, middle-eastern nations, oriental nations, smells, tastes, or looks, toxic and carcinogenic. Learn to read the ingredients of everything you buy. Don't buy anything that smells dead. Don't buy anything to eat, which contains ingredients which sound like something you dissolve metal with, or like it can be used instead of kerosene, or like you should pour it into the carburetor, or rub a sore back, or clean out a bad cut with, okay?

Spreading black top and eating food with preservatives is what led to the war in Iraq? Uh . . . okay. *pop*

In addition to being one of the leading apologists for the resurrection of Jesus, William L. Craig is one of the leading proponents of the Kalam Cosmological Argument and other philosophical arguments for God's existence. Dr. Craig is also one of the academic defendants of Christianity most available online, with many of his articles available on the internet.

Recently, Dr. Craig launched his Reasonable Faith website. It includes links and descriptions for all of his online articles, audio files of his debates, lectures, and interviews, an open forum on a range of philosophical and apologetic issues, and a weekly Q & A section where Dr. Craig responds to a question submitted to his website.

This week, Dr. Craig responds to one attempted refutation of the Cosmological and Teleological (Design) Arguments for God's existence: the supposed multiverse. Previous Q & A sessions are just as interesting. Check them, and the rest of the website, out.

The idea that strapping a bomb to someone so that he may enter a marketplace crowded with unarmed civilians and blow himself up is so disgusting to me that I have never understood how any person of any faith could possibly support it. Innocents are harmed, maimed and killed -- many of whom may have no part in the underlying conflict other than living on the wrong side of town. There seems to be few acts of cruelty that can compare when considering the random nature of the people killed and the extent of the harm inflicted. Yet, I have been surprised that many in the Muslim world have either supported or, at minimum, said nothing against this horrendous tactic.

Now, however, good news seems to be developing in the Muslim world: public opinion amongst people of the Islamic faith is turning against suicide bombings as an acceptable tactic. According to A Rising Tide Lifts Mood in the Developing World there has been a sharp decline in support for suicide bombing in most Muslim countries. The most major exception? The Palestinian territories.

Among the most striking trends in predominantly Muslim nations is the continuing decline in the number saying that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are justifiable in the defense of Islam. In Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, the proportion of Muslims who view suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians as being often or sometimes justified has declined by half or more over the past five years.

Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. However, this is decidedly not the case in the Palestinian territories. Fully 70% of Palestinians believe that suicide bombings against civilians can be often or sometimes justified, a position starkly at odds with Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations.

The decreasing acceptance of extremism among Muslims also is reflected in declining support for Osama bin Laden. Since 2003, Muslim confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs has fallen; in Jordan, just 20% express a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down from 56% four years ago. Yet confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains relatively high (57%).

This is a mixed bag of news. The fact that support for these heinous attacks is down significantly (40% in Lebanon!) is great news. But the data also shows that in most Muslim countries between 18 and 26% of the population remains supportive of suicide bombings as justifiable in defense of Islam. That's between 1 in every 6 and 1 in every 4 people finding this action to be somehow justifiable. In Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Mali and Nigeria, the percentage supporting random violence through suicide bombing remains between 34% and 70% of the population. That's really sad.

Christianity, as taught by Jesus, does not call for anyone to bomb their neighbors. It does not call for anyone to kill innocent people in random acts of violence. Certainly, Christians (even well-meaning Christians) have, at times in history, perverted the teachings of Jesus which has led to vicious acts being performed in the name of Christ. As Christians, we have to stand up and point out that we find those actions orchestrated by men were wrong. But Christians have, for the most part, now recognized that Jesus didn't teach that we should convert the world by force. Jesus didn't teach anywhere that we should randomly kill human beings. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is brought to earth by love and the spreading of the Gospel through peaceful means. This is very, very different than the approach being advocated or approved in these polls of Muslims.

To the Muslim people who found it somehow acceptable to kill and maim innocent people in the name of Allah, I ask that you reconsider your support for this tactic in any form. If your beliefs can win the hearts and minds of the people by no other means than acts of random violence designed to instill fear then there is something seriously wrong with your beliefs. Certainly, it appears that the majority of Muslims feel that this type of act is not consistent with Muslim beliefs and practices or the acceptance of these tactics would not be shrinking.

Suicide bombing is wrong. It needs to be rejected and denounced loudly by all Muslims.

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine, originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The current topic is ethical grounding, and an analysis of problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation. The previous entry, which critiqued an extremely common theistic variant of the third general ethical theory, can be found here.

Also, incidentally, I have gone back and updated links in my previous entries, to make it easier for navigation between them. Any entry with a subsequent entry, now features a hyperlink at the bottom leading to the next entry. I plan to include a 'prequel' link to "The Heart of Freedom" at the bottom of each entry, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet. Hopefully next time!

Technically I would here be starting chapter 32, "the solution to the question of ethics"; but as it happens, I'm including an expansion here (and in the next entry), not written in my original text. I had given a variant of the first theory too short a shrift in my first text seven years ago; a problem I intend to rectify this (and next) time.

One of my own footnote comments in the text is too long to include in the text itself, and will be directed down to the first forum comment instead.

.......[excerpt begins here]

To put things bluntly: so far, no good.

Each of the three general theories of ethics have been examined, and found wanting. Invented rational ethics; discovered irrational ethics; discovered rational ethics--none of these turned out to be objectively ethical in the end.

Objective realities were certainly connected to each of the theories--although in the case of God the objective reality was posited rather than commonly agreed upon. [Footnote: Notice that in my recent discussion of theistic ethics, I didn’t try to connect the proposition of God to my previously developed synthetic argument. There is a reason for that; but I will discuss it later.] To a sceptic, this could hardly be considered an advantage!--especially since the result was demonstrably no better than what a sceptic could do with the first two theories. Which of course is precisely why many sceptics don’t even bother with the proposition, but stick with the ethical husks they can derive from evident realities: the choices of people; the reactions induced by environment (internal, external).

There is, however, a secular theory of ethics still left over!--one being turned to by secular theorists in increasing numbers, because it seems to offer a way out of the vicious dilemma of having an ethical base that is, itself, non-ethical in quality. To understand and appreciate the strength of this contention, we must first go back and re-consider: why did the other theories fail?

At the beginning of my discussion on ethics, I offered what I believe and find to be a commonly accepted notion of what ethics are, in the abstract. There may be polysyllabic variations, but for any practical purpose, I think this definition has to be accepted eventually.

That definition was this: ‘ethics’ is the logic of coherent interpersonal relationships.

The problem with the first two general theories, as I previously found, was that each of them in different ways denied or ignored interpersonal relationships as a fundamental base of ethics. Discovered irrational ethics, aren’t based on persons at all, much less on coherent interpersonal relationships. Invented rational ethics may be (or appear to be) grounded irreducibly on the actions of persons, but the type I discussed begins with self-centered pragmatism; it only becomes interpersonal at a later stage (if at all!), and need not involve anything other than forms of competition and domination, suborning all matters, including interpersonal relationships (as far as they go) to our own selves. Yet again, positing (or even discovering) that the Independent Fact, the ground of all reality, is Itself a Person, does not of itself remove this problem: it only means you and I, the little tyrants, are ultimately trumped (even if we are all put together) by a Great Tyrant.

But, the secularist may fairly ask: may we not rationally invent a different kind of ethics? Indeed, may we not discover a different kind of ethics?

Given that persons exist, and given that persons as persons will be in personal relationships with each other, may we not observe that there are more and less coherent interrelationships of persons as persons? Observing these, we may then choose, of ourselves, whether we will facilitate these coherent interrelationships or deny or traduce them for our own selfish advantage. Those who choose to do the first thing, may then be accurately termed ‘moral’ people, behaving ‘ethically’. Those who choose to do the other things, may then be accurately termed ‘amoral’ or ‘immoral’ people, behaving ‘unethically’. Lines of demarcation, rationally discovered, can thereby be drawn and profitably debated with some hope of reaching agreed-upon resolutions (or cogently fought for if negotiations failed); and the basis behaviors for doing so would themselves be rational actions, engaged in by rational entities. And the icing on the cake, for many sceptics anyway, would be that we don’t need God for any of this! [Footenote: see first comment in the forum thread below.]

The proponents of this view would doubtless need to continue further and provide a practical outworking of this view; but my interest is in the principle first. How feasible, or even coherent, is this notion in principle?

It should be noted first that this proposition picks up special strengths from each of the first and second general theories, though strictly I think it could be categorized best as being a special variant of the first theory (thus explaining why I foreshadowed a special variant back in my first discussion of it.) It emphasizes personal responsibilities and choices, while at least ideally minimizing (or even avoiding?) the problems involved with self-centered pragmatism. It also emphasizes rational discovery by rational entities, just like the second theory, while avoiding (completely?) the problem of irrationality of the source of ethics under the second theory. And it coheres with our intuitions regarding interpersonal relationships being the basis of ethics, in a way that monotheistic ethical grounding simply fails to do.

Secular humanists (to give an example of one group) who have gotten this far in ethical grounding, are quite pleased and happy with the notion--and I think any accounting that doesn’t recognize and appreciate the serious strengths of this notion, will be fundamentally crippled when it comes time to consider whether the notion should be opposed.

[Next up: so, should this notion be opposed? And if so, why?]

[A very abbreviated and incomplete summary of the several hundred pages of argument preceding these chapters, can be found in my July 4th essay The Heart of Freedom.]

Dr. Keith Parsons, an old sparring partner of mine from pre-journal days, and mutual friend of Victor Reppert (who has known and debated him a heck of a lot longer than I have), has decided to join several of his Secular Web fellows in contributing to their online journal (hosted by Blogger), The Secular Outpost. For his opening post, and in honor of a nephew of his (evangelical Christian "of the progressive Jim Wallis type") who asked him to explain briefly why he is an atheist, Keith has submitted an Atheist Manifesto, and has called for some comments on it. Victor has provide his own brief opening reply here, where it overlaps Victor's current-semester discussions and reposts about the Cosmological Argument. (The recently reposted debate in the comments of this post here between Steve Lovell and Exapologist is quite good, too.)

I like KP a lot, as well as several other SecWeb correspondents of my experience (Jim Lippard comes immediately to mind, among others.) I'm quite utterly swamped this week, and I still need to draft the next Eth&t3rdPers entry; so consider this a mental note to myself to come back and address his post later. Meanwhile, anyone tired of, let us say, "neanderthal" atheistic jibber-jabber, of the sort that has become increasingly popular in the past year or so, can check in on a far more worthy opponent.

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a poster named Hinch leaves this message as a comment to my last article, the one below, "The Historical Validity of the Gospels."

However, i do challenge your comment that "we do know who wrote the gospels". Although mainstream scholarly opinion may point to community authorship, this does not tell us anything concrete about the authors; we may be able to label a community as Johannine, yet that does not tell us if the community were eyewitnesses to the events they describe, or whether they sought to accurately record those events; indeed, it tells us almost nothing about the methods or motivations of the community for writing the gospels.

I disagree. Certainly we can tell some things about the author of a document by reading the document. IF we cannot assume that this can be done we might as well disband all history departments, fire all English teachers and stop trying to teach liberal arts. If this is the case human communication and understanding between people is not possible and we can knowing about the past. The whole basis of modern history as an academic discipline is riding on this assumptions. This is what historians do, they learn about the past by approaching documents as artifacts. The Archaeologist has his artifact (the clay pot) we have ours, (documents).

It is true that we cannot know all things. We still have many questions, we will always have many questions. The spouses and children of academics thank God that we will always have questions, for it is their bread and butter. But that does not mean we can't answer some of them. No, we cannot know what specific individuals were in what community, but we can make some educated guesses. I say that's better than a shot in the dark, and it is better than writing off the Gospels as non existent or as lies which is what most atheists have tended to do. We can make better guesses about what the communities wanted than we can about what specific individuals were in them. There has always been a tendency on the part of skeptics to almost assume that if we don't know the particular people involved we cannot know anything, this does not follow.

Can we know who was in the communities?

It's more important to know what the communities wanted than it is to know the particular people in them. Unknown people can witness things. Now it is true that it helps more to know who they were exactly, but it is not the case that without this knowledge the documents tell us nothing about the events. We do not know, for example, who were the specific individuals who inhabited Troy 7A. Just because we can't say "this was Paris, this was Helen, this was Priam," doesn't mean we can't say, "they had a war, it was about trade, it lasted a long time," and things of that nature.

We can also make some good guesses about who was in which community. For example, it makes sense to me that the reason John centers on Mary as the only woman but still has her say "we don't know where they laid him," Because Mary Magdeline was the one woman of that group at the tomb who stayed with the John community. That fits the evidence of church tradition, that Mary stayed with John. The other women probably went into the other communities, and if we notice those accounts are less focussed on Mary Magdeline and more on the other women. OF course this is by no means certain. I am not sure it's even important. It explains some things about the writing of the account but does not being sure about it really mess up our understanding of the Gospels? It's an interesting little theory but it doesn't prove anything. Not being sure about it doesn't disprove anything.

Was Matthew in the Matthew community? We can't know that either but we have a clue that he had something to do with the writing of the Gospel even though he may or may not have lived in the community. Papias says he wrote a document called "the Logia."

Papias "Matthew composed the sayings (Logica) in Hebrew and each translated them as best he could." (Eusebius, Eccl. Histories 3.39.16).

Irenaeus: "Now Matthew Published among the Hebrews in their own tounge a witten Gospel, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome...." (Eccl hist).

Does that mean the Gospel of Matthew? All Christian apologists assume it does. Of course there is no way to guarantee that. Even if we believe that Papias is 100% accurate (a "big if" as we used to say) that doesn't prove that the Logia was G.Mat. On the other hand, there's a good probability that the two are connected. We have no other fragments or even mentions of other Gospel's or epistles or documents connected with Matthew.Of course he might not have written anything. Papias might have been a total liar and an idiot to boot. why should we assume so? Because he's a Christian? I think most atheists see through that kind of shallow knee jerk skepticism. I hope they can. I would like to think that most people are not raging bigots who don't think.

Papias tells us that Matthew's document was translated by many as best they could translate it, although composed in Hebrew. while there is much debate as to the fabled "Hebrew original behind G.Mat" (and no actual proof) there are a few Heberwisms. My theory is that Matthew wrote a saying source. We know the saying source was the genre prior to the narrate gospel. This saying source was probably translated into Greek and then used to flesh out a latter narrative by someone in the community. A redactor combined the saying source with the many stories that were told and ordered to make a chronological account.

Ancient Christian Gosples

Unless one wants to assume that Papias is totally wrong on all counts,...Papias statement is better understood as a reference to an altogether different writing. The writing he describes would have been a collection of sayings composed in Hebrew and translated into Greek Several times. This characterization fits the Synoptic Saying Source quite well: it was probably composed originally in Greek but some of its part may have been translated from Aramaic into Greek more than once..." (Ancient Christian Gospels.317)

Here Koester is saying that the ur Mat is "Q." But we need not understand it as Q to understand it as the basis for the saying source in Matt. Of we can sort out this Q problem latter. The same process might be said about Mark. Koester and others have observed the Galilean nature of Mark.I will do more on Mark and the names sakes latter in another essay.

Can we Know that the communities were eye witnesses?

First, the concept of "the eye witness" is problematic. That phrase enters the vocabulary of Christian apologetics in the Nineteenth century when major jurists set themselves the task of proving the resurrection. The concept of providing scientific documentation was foreign to the authors of the Gospels, as was the idea of the "eye witness." They did not have the concept of the court room "eye witness" in first century AD. They did have the notion of "witnessing against your neighbor" but they didn't have it developed along the lines of a modern court room model.
so its problematic to even use the phrase. I think it's fair to say the real question is does the knowledge of the events and teachings we are given stack up as authentic representations of what the actual historical Jesus said and did? While we cannot be 100% certain we can be more certain about that than we can about what specific individuals were in the group.

Historians do no assume that without explicit definite proof we can make no assumptions. They do not assume that the Gospel communities were not eye witness just because they don't have a statement by a contemporary Roman historian saying that they were. We can get a glimpse into the assumptions that scholars do make by looking at what they say:

Koester says (above)

Ancient Christian Gosples

Unless one wants to assume that Papias information is totally wrong on all counts,...

This is a good example of the principle that the artifact does tell us something about the author. Another statement by a major scholars revealing his assumptions on this score:


seminar on x talk

My very general arguments are: (1) that existence is given in Christian, pagan, and Jewish sources; (2) it is never negated by even the most hostile critics of early Christianity (Jesus is a bastard and a fool but never a myth or a fiction!); (3) there are no historical parallels that I know of from that time and period that help me understand such a total creation. There is, however, a fourth point that I touched on in BofC 403-406. It is crucially important for me that Jesus sent out companions and told them to do exactly what he was doing (not in his name, but as part of the Kingdom of God). The most basic continuity that I see between Jesus and those companions was, as I put it, not in mnemonics, but in mimetics. In other words, they were imitating his lifestyle and not just remembering his words. I find that emphasized in the Q Gospel’s indictment of those who talk, but do not do, and in the Didache’s emphasis on the ways (tropoi) of the Lord (not just words/logoi). When, therefore, I look at a phrase such as "blessed are the destitute," and am quite willing to argue that it comes from the historical Jesus, I am always at least as sure that it represents the accurate summary of an attitude as the accurate recall of a saying.

What he's saying is that he's less certain of the exact wording of a teaching, but he assumes in general that the Gospels are artifacts revealing Jesus general lifestyle and indicative of that lifestyle. It is the lifestyle being emulated, not the letter of the letter of the law in his wording. He could not draw this conclusion if he was not willing to assume that there is a witness involved. He is not willing to just doubt Jesus existence and everything else merely because he doesn't have total absolute proof of it. He is not willing to assume that every single thing the Gospel authors say has to be lie because we don't know who they were. In other words we can assume this stuff is an artifact and it does tell us something.One thing it tells us is that the people who produced it must have had some contact with Jesus because they understood and emulated his way of life.

When we plug in Luke's testimony in Acts we have good reason to understand that this is the early formation of the community. While Luke was not thinking in terms of modern historical documentation, he clearly is making a claim to the teaching authority of the Pauline circle, and that authority is based upon the connection to the early community and it includes the witness of that community. The network we see tied together through Peter and the other Apostles we see these guys all knew each other. Half them were Jesus' cousins (Cleopus and his brood) or knew them.* I've seen internet skeptics try to deny that the Peter Paul Met was the Peter Clement of Rome spoke of or the one in the Gospels. That is based upon absolutely nothing more than the assumption that if something isn't totally proven without question we have to doubt it. Real scholars do not make this kind of assumption. We are going to do this stuff, and do it in a way that pretends to be educated, we should follow the lead of the professional, those who do it for a living and those who teach the classes we wish we could take. In some quarters atheists have forged their own er zots academy but there is no substitute for the real academy. You do not go to a a guy who reads a lot to remove your appendix. You go to a real doctor. NASA doesn't consult technically minded nerds to make launch decisions about the state of the O-rings. They get real engineers. Engineers do O-rings, historians do history.

Can we know what the community wanted?

While this might tend to color our understanding of what the story forms produced by the communities were about, it might also give us an insight into their motivations. What I mean is they were not trying to document things to prove to future generations that "Jesus existed because I saw him." That was the furtherest things from their minds. But it does give us a clue as to their motivations to understand that their use of these stories was to answer theological problems faced by the community. The pericopes had a sermonic function. They were little sermons.

We can assume that their purpose was not multilevel marketing or to hold a better flea markets. We can assume that they had a religious purpose. While they were hyped up on some form of eschatologcial expectation in the beginning, the absence of militaristic rhetoric and the attention to spiritual matters would indicate that thes e people had given up the conventional Messianic expectations of other Jews of the era. They clearly had some special understanding of the Messianic mission of Jesus that set him apart from the run of the mill Messianic claimant ("I should know a false messiah when I see one, I've followed enough of them in my time--" Life of Brian). Clearly at least the John community, if not all four communities were looking for an answer in the next life and that answer was connected to Jesus in some fundamental way.

I think these are pretty rock solid assumptions. Given that much we are armed with what we need to study the Gospels and to approach them as artifacts that give us insight in to Jesus, his teachings and his way of life. Of of this of course is a matter of probability. But history is probability. No historian claims that history is an exact science. the concept of Historical probability guides all historical study.

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus, San Francisco: Harper, 1996,p.121

"...Non narrative New Testament wittings datable with some degree of probability before the year 70 year 70 testify to traditions circulating within the Christian movement concerning Jesus that correspond to important points within the Gospel narratives. Such traditions do not, by themselves, demonstrate historicity. But they demonstrate that memories about Jesus were in fairly wide circulation. This makes it less likely that the corresponding points within the Gospels were the invention of a single author. If that were the case than such invention would have to be early enough and authoritative enough to have been distributed and unchallenged across the diverse communities with which Paul delt. Such an hypothesis of course would work against the premise that Paul's form of Christianity had little to do with those shaping the memory of Jesus." "As I have tried to show, the character of the Gospel narratives does not allow a fully satisfying reconstruction of Jesus ministry. Nevertheless certain fundamental points when taken together with confirming lines of convergence from outside testimony and non-narrative New Testament evidence, can be regarded as historical with a high degree of probability.Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucification under the prefect Pontius Pilate, and continued to have followers after his death. These assertions are not mathematically or metaphysically certain, for certainty is not within the reach of history. But they enjoy a very high level of probability."

*PBS special "From Jesus To Christ," Jesus family tree from gospels on PBS website visited today. I've seen other accounts, not as authoritative which include a couple of Apostles as cousins and Salome who accompanied Mary tomb as his sister.

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In response to the comments on the huge post by Brain2 that was removed, "anonymous" makes the comment:

Because Jesus didn’t write the bible. From his alleged words (of which no one could’ve possibly scribed in wax, ink, or stone as quickly as he would’ve spoken) to the Bible you have in your hands is at LEAST 5 generations of hearsay, interpretation, and the good old game of “telephone”. I was being generous. It’s probably more like 10th- or 12th- hand accounts, what you are reading. That is, unless you’ve read the original tablets, scribes, and scrolls… which would themselves be at least 3rd- or 4th- hand themselves."

This is a pretty standard spin for most atheists on the boards. It's not that we have failed to refute it many times. Although, we have allowed atheists to remove the bible from the debate. We have allowed them to speak of it as garbage so many times that they just think of it as almost non existent. For the practical purposes of documenting Jesus life and teachings we might as well be using Lady's Home Journal.

In the interest of rectifying this situation I propose the following approach by way of answering this comment. I suggest we re-double our efforts and begin refuting again the outrageous viewpoint immediately. Let's look again at what was said.

Because Jesus didn’t write the bible. From his alleged words (of which no one could’ve possibly scribed in wax, ink, or stone as quickly as he would’ve spoken) to the Bible you have in your hands is at LEAST 5 generations of hearsay

This is a ludicrous comment. First because it assumes that if Jesus didn't write the gospels then they can't be first hand or eye-witness material. Of course that is absurd, but the reasoning is "well, they couldn't recorded his words as fast as he spoke them." Of course that assumes that we have to have a verbatim account or it's totally worthless. If that is the case then no account in history is of any value. Eye-witnesses to Ceasar's life could not produce a verbatim account and thus their views are worthless. So we know nothing about anyone in the ancient world. From this humble premise the author comes to the sweeping conclusion that it was five generations. Of course that assumes a late date for the authorship and so forth.

There are three general points I would like to make in defending the historical validity of the Gospels.

(1) We do know who wrote the Gospels

(2) Oral traditions is not wild rumor.

(3) The gap between event and writing is not that great.

Authorship of the Gospels.

The argument often made by atheists that "we don't know who wrote them" is totally misguided and wrong-headed. They are still thinking in terms of an individual author. Scholars no longer see the Gospels as the product of one individual author. They view them as the products of communities. The redaction process involved a whole community of people, the community is now seen as the author. The Gospels are understood as having been produced by communities to which we give the names of the gospels; the Matthew community, the John (Johannine) community, the Mark community. These were communal schools. Much has been written of documentary interest on this point. Unlike many of my friends in the CADRE, I am content to accept the idea that the namesakes did not write the Gospels. That does not mean they were not produced by eye-witnesses, they were produced by whole communities full of eye-witnesses. The community was the author.

We can see the early aspects of the communal structure in Acts:

Acts 2:42-47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added those being saved to them.

Oral Culture

In response to this argument atheists usually counter that the oral tradition is just a process of wild rumors. Even if there were eye-witnesses to something, we have no idea what they saw because it's all been exaggerated. They assume no attempt would have been made to control the flow information. This is a totally false assumption.

Jewish culture was an oral culture. Several other oral cultures can be seen around the world. We can still observe a few aspects of the bardic tradition in Ireland and in Turkey. In both cases bards memorize works of thousands of words, huge volumes such as Homer's Iliad, and they can recite them perfectly from start to finish at the drop of a hat. Now, of course, no one is suggesting that the Apostles memorized Jesus words verbatim as he spoke them. But the in the communal process the re-telling of the events of Jesus ministry over and over again would surely have been a topic of conversation. They lived in a culture where people did memorize the words of their teachers, and this is a proven fact. They moved in to communal living to study the Bible and develop their understanding of what happened and what it all meant. It's just absurd to think the dinner conversation would have been about sports or fishing or string beans.

The early community was filled witnesses who had seen Jesus and heard him speak. It was led by those whom Jesus trained extensively and they were with him every minute for three years. Why would they not make some attempt to organize the story and tell and it and retell it until everyone knew it by heart? Of course the witnesses would have ironed out any exaggerated rumors or falsehoods.

In the Handbook of Biblical Social Values (2000), Jerome Neyrey says,

The people in the bilbical world are dyadic. This means that individuals basically depend on others for thier sense of identity, for their understanding of their role and status in society, for clues to the duties and rights they have, and for indications of what is honorable and shameful behavior. Such people live in a world which is clearly and extensively ordered, a system which is well known to members of the group. Individuals quickly internalize this system and depend on it for needed clues to the way their world works. . . The tradition handed down by former members of the group is presumed valid and normative. . . Group orientation is clearly expressed in the importance given to authority. (p.94-7)

see also
- Bruce Malina & Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptics, and Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel on John.
- See also John Pilch, Jerome Neyrey, and David deSilva. The Context Group publications are listed here.

"And the stories about Jesus were nothing if not important. Even the Jesus Seminar admits that Jesus was an itinerant wonder-worker. Very well. Supposing a woman in a village is suddenly healed after a lengthy illness. Even today, even in a non-oral culture, the story of such an event would quickly spread among friends, neighbors and relatives, acquiring a fixed form within the first two or three retellings and retaining it, other things being equal, thereafter. In a culture where storytelling was and is an art-form, a memorable event such as this, especially if it were also seen as a sign that Israel's God was now at last at work to do what he had always promised, would be told at once in specific ways, told so as to be not just a celebration of a healing but also a celebration of the Kingdom of God. Events and stories of this order are community-forming, and the stories which form communities do not get freely or loosely adapted. One does not disturb the foundations of the house in which one is living."[B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 113-115.]

The Gap

This brings us to the final point: the gap between event and writing is not that great. Now atheists are especially bad at this. In the nineteenth century a lot of skeptics assumed that the Gospels were written in the second century. Some skeptics still make this argument even though it has been totally disproved by textual and manuscript evidence. What is even more important to note is that the Manuscripts as we know them today were written between AD 70 and AD 95 or so. But this does not mean that this is when the material originated. Even though conventional wisdom says that Mark wrote first, that in no way means that Mark was the original author of the material.

The Material of the Gospels, all canonical Gospels and the Gospel of Peter draw upon a single narrative that existed at mid century. This proven by textual critics and scholars such as Helmutt Koester and John Dominic Crosson. Atheist poo poo the science of textual criticism but they are quick enough to embrace its validity when the Jesus Seminar uses it to disprove and slander the New Testament. Textual criticism is a science and the findings are well proven. The argument is based upon the readings found in latter texts. When the readings in texts such as the Diatesseron (AD 172) prove to be earlier than the canonical Gospels then we know that there were earlier versions that had once circulated.

The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniels in his Clairmont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources. (John B. Daniels, The Egerton Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont: CA 1990). Daniels states "Egerton's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract). The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice versa. which, "permits the conjecture that the author knew all and everyone of the canonical Gospels." (Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings, "An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha 1.96). The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Egerton 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.

Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.

Egerton 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"?

Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)

(In Koester p.218) Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century!


"A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Koester, p. 220)

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based."(Ibid)

This means the events were circulating in writing about eighteen years or so after the events. The written testimony begins at a time when many eye witnesses would still be alive. It was the copying down of the oral tradition that killed that tradition. The original manuscript ceased to circulate when the material was incorporated into the standard Gospel format. This Explains why we do find fragments of Q or of the pre Markan passion narrative, or the Pre Markan redaction.

Of course we are not getting a word for word transcript of Jesus' words. But I don't know why we need one. We have the assurance of the early community and the chain of Apostolic succession that these teachings reflect the recollections of Jesus teachings and his deeds to the best of the witnesses abilities. They are not merely testified by two people (Mark and Luke were never said to be eye witnesses), but by whole communities.

For my complete essay on the authorship of the community see Community as Author on Doxa.

For my complete essay on written sources of the Pre Markan redaction see my essay The Gospel Behind the Gospels

[Note from Jason Pratt, 7/19/07: Professor Victor Reppert over at Dangerous Idea, has been redating his discussions on human rights in the context of the founding of the United States (which he does every semester or so, for discussion among his students, as well as his readers). At about the same time BK mentioned in a pretty good Cadre post on Uber-Turtles {g} that he didn't know a theist who rolled a particular way in regard to a certain ontological claim. On the ground of this curious, or perhaps providential, conflation of topics, I've decided to redate my "Heart of Freedom" post from Independence Day this year, back up to the top of the main page (with a couple of composition repairs). The first Eth&t3rdPers entry can be found here; but the entry briefly referenced below, can be found here. Sceptics may appreciate that entry a lot, btw.]

This week, the United States will celebrate our annual Independence Day (July 4th--the day in 1776 we declared, a bit preemptorily, our independence from Great Britain).

Freedom and independence are words with great political and cultural meaning for us; and not only for us, but for the numerous nations who (more-or-less following our lead) also declared their independence from sovereign rulers whom they believed were oppressing them, both socially and (not-infrequently) religiously.

Sad to say, Christianity was just-as-not-infrequently the religious oppression the people were revolting against. To some extent this is even true of the United States; even though our own national revolution was grounded on a mixture of orthodox Christianity and nominal deism (such as Franklin’s and Jefferson’s), the history of our country’s settlement in the centuries before the revolution was typically based on fleeing religious (as well as financial) oppression in Europe. And it can hardly be argued that Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims or witches, or atheists or agnostics for that matter, were the perceived (and even the actual) oppressors; not in this case. (Resistance by flight or arms to Muslim religious oppression is an earlier story, of the Middle Ages.)

Consequently, I fully expect that our agnostic and atheistic and otherwise sceptical colleagues have a special fondness in their hearts for Independence Day--because those particular first American Christians-and-nominal-deists made a provision of the principle that a person should be free to responsibly follow his or her conscience and best judgments concerning such issues, the most important issues of all; even if that means rejecting the religious beliefs of the founding fathers themselves--whether or not such a rejection involved substituting something better, including truer, as a set of metaphysical beliefs in their place.

Nor am I writing today’s essay in order to condemn such rejections, in principle. I have always consistently (even religiously!) insisted of ally and opponent alike, that insofar as the person is walking according to what light she can see and is looking for more light thereby, then I consider her my sister, whom I should support with my life (if it comes to that), even if she does not recognize me for her brother.

(The people I have problems with are the ones who, on any side of any aisle, would mire us in fog. That attitude is worse than an attack against me, which I care little for; that is an attack on my sister-in-heart, condemning her to hopelessness. And I am not remotely tolerant of that.)

Having said all this, however: as a metaphysician, I am aware that many people are not aware, that notions such as ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are rawly metaphysical claims about reality. They are also claims which, in regard to our relationship to the evident system of Nature in which we live, can only be affirmations not only of supernaturalism (of one or another kind), but of supernaturalistic theism (of one or another kind).

Ontologically speaking, only a self-existant fact can truly be independent. We ourselves, however, are clearly not Independent Facts of that sort: we obviously depend upon the system of Nature for our existence and abilities, to at least some large extent. What can be coherently meant, then, by freedom and independence?

The first answer must be, that since we are not Independent Facts, we are not and can never really be ‘independent’. Whatever worldview we accept, we aren’t going to be escaping from this fact, any more than we are going to be escaping from whatever Independent Fact ultimately grounds all existence. (I am setting aside, for purposes of brevity, the notion that two or some other limited number of IFs exist, independently of each other, upon all of which Facts we are dependent. If readers want to discuss this option in the comments, I will have no complaints, although I will point out first that if the proposition is that we ourselves depend on only one of those IFs, then for all practical purposes we might as well be talking about a single IF anyway. If you wish to propose cosmological dualism, you’ll have to go the distance.)

Very well; then what if Nature is the IF? We will recognize, realistically, that we humans will not be independent of Nature in any ontological fashion. But is there some kind of meaningful freedom, a derivative independence so to speak, which we can still coherently propose of ourselves in relation to Nature?

To this I answer that such a derivative freedom depends, and must depend for its possibility, on the intrinsic characteristics of the IF. We are fond of using the phrase ‘to make free’. But if by ‘make’ we think in terms of force instigating reaction, then clearly there can be no freedom at all, even derivatively, in such a reality. I somewhat doubt we could even have the illusion of freedom, for the recognition of an illusion as such depends on being able to distinguish between reality and only the appearance of a reality. Such an ability to distinguish, however, depends itself upon the very freedom to act, instead of merely to react, which is now being questioned; or else the consideration has been put back one stage for no gain.

There is a crucial tension which must be resolved in metaphysical accounts of freedom, when discussing derivative creatures such as ourselves: we, our selves, are dependent for our existence and capabilities, on something other than our selves, thus any freedom we have must itself, paradoxically, be dependent on something other than our selves. But how can this be a legitimate paradox, and not an outright contradiction, to be rejected?

It should be clear in any case, that if the IF’s intrinsic existence only involves mere power-effect, then only mere power-effect is responsible for our existence and capabilities. We cannot be even derivatively free, if such a reality is true.

Moreover, it should be clear that if the IF is atheistic (aside from questions of naturalism vs. supernaturalism for the moment), then there can be no doubt as to whether the IF’s intrinsic behaviors, upon which we depend, are anything other or more than mere power-effects. By excluding, per hypothesis, the notion that the IF itself has free will, we exclude the notion that the IF may in some way choose both to grant this gift to a derivative entity and also to somehow reduce its own merely direct control over the behaviors of this entity. (The two grantings might be the same grace, looked at from different perspectives.) Nature is not going to make personal sacrifices for our sake, if Nature is not a personal entity. Nor is the problem removed by proposing an atheistic supernature with either an equally non-personal natural system derived from it (in which we live) or else a personally sentient and active natural system derived from it (for that only puts our problem back one stage for no gain.)

If I take my freedom seriously, then--and I do, especially as a necessary presumption I find I must hold in order to be engaging in any argument--then I should conclude from the presumption of my freedom, that the IF must be theistic.

But does this much mend matters? The previous deadly question can be asked just as pertinently: if God is ‘making’ me free, then is my ostensible freedom meaningful in any way? If I answer, as before, that it depends on whether I consider the intrinsic self-existence of God, the final reality, to be about mere power-effect... well, we are talking about the ‘omnipotent’, aren’t we? And if we aren’t, then we’re verging into acknowledging that while we may be talking about some conscious intentional active entity, we aren’t really talking about the IF anymore, but about some subordinate entity instead. (Shades of Mormonism here! Which, incidentally, is why I have insisted that one way or another Mormons are not talking about the final IF of reality; but the IF is what I am interested in, especially as a metaphysician.)

To sceptical criticisms such as these, I am entirely sympathetic, and even ready to agree. (Which, not-quite-incidentally, I will be discussing in my next Eth&t3rdPers installment, eventually!) If God, in His own self-existence, is only an active sentience causing power-effects in whatever creations He creates, then my apparent freedom is just as illusory as it must be under atheism. It isn’t even a real-though-derivative freedom. And I am only a puppet; at best a fictional character like the characters in one of my novels.

But then, so much for the relevance of any argument I may be making, including the ones I have been making up to this point! Such a proposal violates the Golden Presumption: that I (and you, my reader) can act--that even if derivative, we still are somehow free.

Yet, didn’t I say near the beginning that the claim of our freedom and independence--a claim we celebrate in the United States every July 4th--is itself a claim not only of supernaturalism but of supernaturalistic theism?!

If I am real and am more than just a knee-jerk automatic reaction in a system of non-rational reactions and counterreactions, then I must be supernatural in some constituent way to that system of non-rational reactions (even if I am also largely constituted by that system and its behaviors). Furthermore, if I am real and more than these things, yet am not myself an Independent Fact (which is obvious), then God must also be real and must be the IF, with Nature (where I agree this exists) being a subordinately created system, along with myself. The argument only breaks down where God’s existence is regarded as being most basically the forcing of effect.

Therefore, I conclude that God’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But how can this be?

Here I find I need to appeal to what I think is a dichomatic option regarding the IF’s self-existence (whether the IF is God or not-God, supernaturalistic or naturalistic, in any combination of those claim-sets.) Either the IF is dependent upon itself for its own self-existence, or else the IF is not even dependent upon itself for its own self-existence. Each of these options, in its own way, resolves the problem of mere force-effect being intrinsic to God’s self-existence; but each option does so in very different ways.

The latter position, which goes by the technical name ‘privative aseity’, essentially denies that even God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence. If this sounds rather more like a static atheism--I agree! Nevertheless, it is also, ironically, the position that has been usually taken by theistic philosophers, since the days of Aristotle. (Whether they were misunderstanding what he meant is beside the point; though the debate over whether Aristotle was a theist after all might not be entirely beside the point! But neither is it a debate I intend to engage in here.)

If the IF does not act at all for His (or its) own self-existence, then of course the IF’s existence must not be most basically the forcing of effect. But then again, a host of other problems begins to emerge which, while not necessarily inescapable, will eventually resolve into effectively proposing atheism, I believe. Since I already conclude on other grounds (ones logically more prior) that I should believe not-atheism to be true, then I am inclined to reject privative aseity and consider the other option instead.

The other option, is that God’s own action is intrinsic to God’s own self-existence. (That the IF is going to be paradoxically self-existent in any case, is something we will be required to logically accept whatever else we believe to be true, once the logical math has been done; so I am passing over this potential difficulty, not without some sympathy, but for sake of relative brevity.) On the face of it, this proposal should look more immediately theistic; even if I decided (which I would, for a technical reason I will not go into here) that I should accept positive aseity to be true and yet still tended to believe atheism, I think I would find it more and more difficult to maintain that belief, the longer I consistently held to positive aseity.

But what positive aseity entails, is nothing other than that God is (borrowing biological language for a semi-anology) both self-begetting and self-begotten. We are talking at least, then, about God the Father, and God the Son, as nevertheless being _the_ singular Independent Fact.

Normally I would discuss the option of modalism here; instead, I will abbreviate to the result I already know (from experience) I will reach if I do: the Persons must be distinctively real as persons, even though they constitute one substance. They cannot be like two of the three or five ‘aspects of the Goddess’ in some popular mythologies; or rather, they are aspects of the singular God but also more than only aspects, too. The persons are to be regarded as distinctively real.

What we arrive at, then, is a discovery: even though the Independent Fact does act (and so in that regard exercises power) in order to be eternally self-existent, this intrinsic action of the IF is itself an interpersonal relationship. The Father actively begets the Son, the Son actively concedes to the Father, so that the circuit of self-existence will be complete and completely active in one substantial unity.

If power-effectment then (to coin a term), is an interpersonal relationship at the most foundational level of reality, restricted only in the sense that self-existence chooses to not cease existing and cannot choose to simply exist and also not exist simultaneously (on pain of contradiction of ultimate reality, which is itself), then the first hurdle has been exceeded: my existence as a person does not depend on mere reaction to stimuli, whether atheistically or under mere monotheism. Consequently, neither would any derivative freedom I am given by God: to exist as a real boy, not as only a puppet. (Which is the hidden point to the fable of Pinnochio.)

I do not say that this is the end of the difficulties. I would (and do) need to work out other implications and corollaries from this, as a beginning of understanding the process of creation distinct from self-existence--a creation which I find includes myself (as a not-God entity).

But I can say from here, that insofar as I presuppose my freedom in some meaningful fashion--the same freedom any atheist, agnostic or other sceptic presupposes and indeed insists upon, in standing for what they believe to be correct--then I find I am robustly asserting a reality’s truth that is not only supernaturalistic, and not only theistic, but at least bi-nitarian. (I haven’t discussed a Third Person yet, because as far as the argument has gone here I do not discover such a person. This does not mean I would never reach such a conclusion from inference, however; as the title of my series on Ethics and the Third Person may hint at!) It is, in fact, only in Christianity that I find these precise claims also being made by people who, in turn, are drawing inferences from data ostensibly revealed in a historical story: which in fairness should dramatically increase my respect and regard for that general claim of special inspiration!

On the other hand, if (as some Christians prefer to do, though this is not my own preference) I began with the orthodox Christian metaphysical system as a presumption, then personal derivative freedom of the only sort that can be coherently available, even to a proponent of atheism, is provided for as a logical corollary of the worldview. (Actually, such freedom is necessarily presupposed even to presuppose the worldview, which leads to what I regard as major problems of circularity; so I personally do not recommend proceeding by this route. But to the extent that some Christian philosophers insist on doing so, I affirm, somewhat tautologically, that such freedom is in fact specially included in the package!)

Which leads back to the grief of my initial remarks: that Christians, who of all people ought to have known (and know) better, have still insisted on religious oppression throughout our history. Such oppression is not only immoral, it directly contravenes the very doctrines we profess to hold and cherish as truths. Sceptics are entirely correct to account us as hypocrites when we advocate, and have advocated, such things; and I cannot personally find it in my heart to blame them if they turn with loathing from the fruit we have spoiled (a fruit spoiled, I would say, by the persistant technical heresy of gnosticism, insisted upon by us as a safeguard we ourselves ought to have rejected), and reject our attempts at linking freedom--including the freedom cherished and died for by our ancestors, in order to secure the blessings of liberty today in these United States and other nations--with a system they find through simple (if occasionally oversimple) historical polling to have been an enemy and oppressor of freedom.

It is in honor of such sceptics that I am writing today’s entry. And it is in honor of such sceptics that I am, in fact, an orthodox Christian apologist. Against the abuses of our history, I urge now and always: please, do not give up hope.

Christianity is not the heart of freedom, whatever some uncautious apologists may have said to you. And you are correct to complain when Christians try to promote it as such (for this is the heresy of gnosticism, among other things.)

But God, the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit, too) is Himself the very heart of freedom. And He gives His very life for your freedom, too: cherishing you, yourself, whoever you are--forever.

God’s hope, then, to all our readers, around the world, on this day, and every day.

Jason Pratt

In Book 20 of Josephus' Antiquities there is what could be called a passing reference to Jesus in a paragraph describing the murder of Jesus' brother, James, at the hands of Ananus, the High Priest.

But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.

Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 (emphasis added).

According to the leading Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman, the authenticity of the reference to Jesus and James "has been almost universally acknowledged" by scholars. Feldman, "Josephus," Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pages 990-91. Indeed, of the few commentators who challenge the authenticity of this reference to Jesus, most are proponents of the Jesus Myth. Obviously, it will not due to let this one reference in Josephus sink their entire theory (and in some cases, apparent mission in life). I will not here recount all of the arguments concerning authenticity, but want to address the issue of Origen's knowledge of the passage.

Origen, a Christian writer of the early third century, refers to the martyrdom of James in Josephus' Antiquities:

And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the 'Antiquities of the Jews' in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10.17 (emphasis added).

In Against Celsus 1.47, Origen wrote:

[A]lthough not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus called Christ.

These passages reveal obvious familiarity with the Josephan reference to James. But what of his reference to the wrath of God falling on the Jewish people because of the treatment of James the brother of Jesus? No such explicit statement is found in Josephus' reference to James or Jesus. Other Christian writers, most notably Eusebius, repeat it without giving any specific indication of where in Josephus it was written (most likely under Origen's direct or indirect influence).

G.A. Wells has suggested that this is evidence of tampering—that Origen knew of a version of Josephus' writings that had already been corrupted with an interpolation by Christian scribes. Wells, The Legend Legend, at 54. His intent is to cast doubt on the passage by conjuring up supposed evidence of further tampering by eager Christian scribes desperate to rewrite Josephus. Earl Doherty too argues, for his own reasons, that there was a Christian interpolation claiming the murder of James was the cause of the destruction of the Temple that disappeared from the manuscript traditions. Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, at 219.

A more likely explanation is that Origen simply read into Josephus’ statements about James an earlier, independent Christian tradition--as attested by Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandra--linking James’ death with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. After all, writing to explain the war was one of Josephus' purposes. And such an approach to Josephus would be consistent with Origen’s exegetical and writing styles. He is notorious as an imaginative reader of texts. Josephus’ writings were not an exception as Origen tended to read Christian traditions into Josephus’ writings. Alice Whealey, Josephus on Jesus, at 17-18.

Furthermore, the placement of the martyrdom of James in Antiquities would have given Origen all the reason he needed to read the account of James' martyrdom in light of the destruction of Jerusalem. The martyrdom is described just before Josephus begins to discuss the problems that lead to the war with Rome, whose legions destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Just a few lines after describing James' death, Josephus writes, "this was the beginning of greater calamities...." Ant. 20.3. A few lines after that, Josephus writes, "And from that time it principally came to pass that our city was greatly disordered, and that all things grew worse and worse among us." Ant. 20.4. While Josephus was referring to other events, the proximity to the killing of James must have proved irresistible to Origen. It is also possible that Origen conveniently confused Josephus' explicit statement that Herod's execution of John the Baptist lead to God's judgment with the High Priest' execution of James leading to God's judgment.

Origen elsewhere shows that he is willing to read Josephus loosely but recount it as something stated by Josephus. In Fragment 115 of Origen’s Commentary on Lamentations, Origen comments on verse 4:19 (“Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the sky; they chased us on the mountains, they waited in ambush for us in the wilderness."), stating that “Josephus reports that even the mountains did not save those who were trying to escape.” There is no such explicit statement in Josephus’ writings, though it may be an inference from both of Josephus’ descriptions of the fall of Jerusalem. As Wataru Mizugaki notes, “by citing and using Josephus to his own purposes, Origen interprets [Josephus’] historical account from his theological viewpoint and adapts it to his interpretation of the Bible.” Mizugaki, “Origen and Josephus,” in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, at 333.

That Origen took Josephus' broader purpose of explaining the causes of the Jewish War, read nearby statements about the beginning of troubles and calamities a little loosely, and read into the account of James' martyrdom the existing Christian tradition about James' death being a cause of God's judgment, is the most likely explanation as to the origins of Origen's comments about James and judgment in his Commentary on Matthew and Against Celsus.

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