Showing posts from November, 2009

On the Significance of Simon of Cyrene, Father of Alexander and Rufus

One of the most interesting passages in Mark’s Passion Narrative, from a historiographical perspective, is Mark 15:21:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross.
First let us compare the passage to its parallels in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew (it does not appear at all in the Gospel of John).

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Luke 23:26.

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.
Matt 27:32.

Matthew and Luke retain the reference to Simon as well as describe him as being from Cyrene, but drop the reference to Cyrene being “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”

It is notable that Mark identifies Simon by name. This is rare for Mark unless the author is referring to the disciples and some famil…

Wolfenism And Its Aspirations! (probably not subject to change)

I had been going to springboard from my original post on the third edition of the Humanist Manifesto, into a broader discussion of its principles and the logical coherency thereof; but when I read a recent review of the 1980 film Wolfen (here on AICN) by someone who had never watched it before, I thought... hey! Halloween's coming up, we should do a Halloween post, right? And I'm a big fan of both the film and the book (by Whitley Strieber). And the reviewer makes explicit a point about the movie that always rather bothered me in the background. And, hey!--that happens to tie into my recent post on the Humanist Manifesto and the logical coherency of its principles thereof!

I love it when providence comes together. {gggg!}

And then I got sick with the pseudo-flu and missed posting it, not only for Halloween, but for several weeks. I did manage to get it posted in time for Thanksgiving weekend! Barely! I’ll try to make some relevant connection to that later.

So: first, some back…

On the need for apologetics

This quotation, from a response by William Sanday to the book Supernatural Religion, perfectly sums up my own thoughts on apologetics (my own emphases in bold), and I think it speaks for itself:

Ideally speaking, Apologetics ought to have no existence distinct
from the general and unanimous search for truth, and in so far as
they tend to put any other consideration, no matter how high or
pure in itself, in the place of truth, they must needs stand aside
from the path of science.

But, on the other hand, the question of true belief itself is
immensely wide. It is impossible to approach what is merely a
branch of a vast subject without some general conclusions already
formed as to the whole. The mind cannot, if it would, become a
sheet of blank paper on which the writing is inscribed by an
external process alone. It must needs have its "praejudicia"
i.e. judgments formed on grounds extrinsic to the special matter
of enquiry--of one sort or another. Accordingly we find that an
absolutely and …

AfIM: The Argument from !!!! IRON MAN !!!!

No, of course this isn't going to be a huge apologetic argument. But I used it last Wednesday night at a study group for purposes of illustrating one particular apologetic point, so I thought I would share. First, though, some background.

The topic for the study group that night was supposed to be the second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but the teacher quickly moved along off that to discuss Lewis' Trilemma: Liar, Lunatic, Lord. (The bridging topic was Christ's humanity and divinity, testified to in chp 2, although moreso on the humanity side in that chapter. Chapter 1 is hugely devoted to Christ somehow sharing ultimate original divinity with the Father while being personally distinct compared to the Father. I missed that night, unfortunately, due to pseudo-flu, but we didn't get into much discussion of the theological precepts here.)

I am of course entirely aware (as was Lewis, for that matter) that matters are a little (or even a lot) more complex than that;…

Dueling Shroud Claims: Fence!!

I had heard that a new Shroud book was on the way this autumn, but I hadn't heard any real details on it yet. The Associated Press has now released an article on at least one main new claim from historian Barbara Frale's book: the identification and translation of scribbled letters in Greek, Latin and Aramaic detected over (or near) the head of the Shroud.

The letters (or anyway the appearance of letters) have been known about for some time; the last I had heard, the prevailing theory was that they were due to coins on the eyes: specifically a Roman coin with a shepherd's staff and the Greek inscription TIBERIOU CAISEROS (known to have been minted between 29 and 32 CE) on the right eye, and a Julia lepton on the left eye. (Both coins would be 'leptons' of different sorts.)

The AP article, however, reports that high resolution photos of the Shroud taken in 2002 showed no evidence of coins; thus undermining what, until then, had been a long-running theory with a lot of…

It's Easy Not to Worry When You Ignore the Problems

Recently, on the Last Laugh, blogger Laughing Boy published a short article about the advertisement that some atheists have placed on buses around England. The article, entitled Dick says, "Enjoy your life" showed a photo of a nattily-dressed Mr. Richard Dawkins (obviously enjoying the money he has made from the sales of his books and probably enjoying standing next to Ariane Sherine, the beautiful young lady in the photo who was responsible for starting the bus ad campaign) in front of a London double-decker emblazoned with the slogan, "There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Quite a motto. It's probably the first time that a religious philosophy has been adapted from a satirical magazine. Alfred E. Neumann would be proud.

I begain to wonder where the photo came from, and found that the photo had come as part of a press event about the atheist ad. had a video taken of Richard Dawkins discussing the bus advertisment with…

Looking at the Alleged Myths of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is somewhat of a forgotten holiday. Nestled tightly between Halloween and Christmas, there is little consumer demand for the Thanksgiving items which usually occupy only a few small shelves in most stores. I guess its understandable. There isn't nearly as much call for wooden Pilgrims as there is for skeletons or nutcrackers. Yet, while Thanksgiving isn't as important on the Christian calendar as Christmas (and it goes without saying that Halloween isnt' exactly a favorite among Christians), Thanksgiving holds a great deal of meaning for Christians. It is one day set aside specifically to give thanks to God (so many people forget the highlighted part) for the blessings He has bestowed upon us and our country.

But it is that "to God" part of the equation that seems to cause people to want to debunk the holiday -- especially the first Thanksgiving in 1621. For example, the History News Network at George Mason University has published a short sheet of t…

"God Saves Change" ... ... wait, what?!

I saw that on the back of a shirt last night, where I was eating dinner. It seems kind-of brilliant; though on the other hand I'm still coming off the tail-end of having had the pseudo-flu, so it might only be the snot in my head pressing the wrong part of my brain-sack (or whatever it is that holds my brain in place and keeps it from leaking out my nose. Not that that has made much difference in recent weeks, or so it seems sometimes...)

Anyway, it seemed, y'know, soteriological. {g!} So, discuss!

(My immediate thought is about the widow and her two cents, and how she was ahead of the Pharisee in the kingdom. As a Phariseeish kinda guy, I love that little pericope a lot. :D But then, it has a lot of romantic connotations to me personally, too--I don't mean in its original context. So I admittedly have some bias there.)

Another look at the swoon theory, Part II: The drugging hypothesis

I originally planned to write just two posts analyzing the physiological swoon theory, one devoted to the a priori arguments (see here) and one to the a posteriori. But upon further reflection I realized that the a posteriori arguments raise issues regarding the interpretation of the Gospels that are too involved to be dealt with in just one post. So I will deal with each of those arguments in a separate post each, starting with one of the lynch-pins of most conspiracy theories about Jesus' death: that the drink he was given on the cross was 'spiked' with some kind of drug that caused him to lapse into unconsciousness, so that he would only appear to have died, allowing Joseph of Arimathea and his fellow conspirators to take him down early from the cross and help him recover.

First, a few words about the proper interpretation of the Gospels is in order. Obviously for this or any other conspiracy argument to work, we have to assume that the Gospels essentially give us thorou…

A Case Study of Historical Methodology in Classical Literature: The Historicity of Sicinnus Warning the Persians

I recently read The Battle of Salamis, by Barry Strauss. The Battle of Salamis was a naval battle in which the Greeks defeated a much larger Persian fleet, saving the Athenian people -- and perhaps Greek civilization -- in the process from domination by Xerxes' Persian Empire. The Athenians constituted the largest part of the Greek fleet, though many other Greek states contributed and the fleet's formal leader was a Spartan. The Persian fleet greatly outnumbered the Greek fleet and was made up of diverse sea-fearing nations and states who were part of the Persian Empire. Nevertheless, the Greek fleet was able to destroy the numerically superior Persian fleet. This resulted in the retreat of the bulk of the Persian army and the eventual defeat of the forces left behind at the Battle of Plataea.

The reason for the Greek victory is attributed to many factors, including greater Greek motivation and stouter ships. Another important factor was that the Persians fought after a lon…

Question for Our Readers

Of course, skeptics challenge the Biblical teaching of the resurrection of Jesus. In doing so, they challenge virtually every aspect of the teaching. They challenge the idea that Jesus actually died on the cross, that he was buried in the tomb, and that the tomb is empty. In addition, they challenge the idea of the post-resurrection appearances on several grounds. One ground (raised in the horrendous book, The Empty Tomb) is that those who saw the risen Christ suffered from a mass hallucination.

Of course, if a skeptic is going to rebut the post-resurrection appearance accounts on the basis that the disciples and witnesses of Jesus suffered a mass hallucination, it seems reasonable to expect that there would be some scientific study that concludes that there is such a thing as a mass hallucination. My problem (and, therefore, the problem for skeptics) is that I don't find any such studies. Instead, I see pages by bloggers and skeptics with either unsubstantiated accounts of suppos…

What dreams may come

Michael Sudduth is one of the sharpest, most erudite and innovative philosophers of religion writing today. He has just come out with a massive study of The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology which is required reading for anyone interested in arguments for the existence of God, and whether and what kind of natural theology is a proper Christian activity.

Given his 'empirical' orientation to natural theology it is no surprise that he would be interested in possible empirical traces of the supernatural. He recently updated his website with an absolutely marvelous resource:

Postmortem Survival

Here you will find a thoroughly comprehensive examination of afterlife ideas in history, philosophical examination of the concepts of disembodied survival, resurrection, reincarnation, etc. as well as a brisk overview of the best empirical evidence for psi, mediumship, NDEs, etc.

I think it's no exaggeration to say that this resource is one of a kind. Controversy over the scientific val…

Apologetics Audio Course Online

Jerram Barrs has put a 26 lesson course on Christian apologetics on-line. The course, entitled Apologetics and Outreach is described as:

An analysis of the philosophical, religious, and scientific beliefs and ideas that have shaped different cultures and are now reshaping our multicultural and pluralistic society. Differences in attitudes toward the value and purpose of life, sexual identity and roles, racial and cultural differences, God, good and evil, superstition, etc., are all discussed with the goal of learning how to better communicate the Gospel in our society.
The course has sessions on Postmodernism, Missions and Apologetics. The course comes courtesy of the Covenant Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian Church in America seminary. Each lesson has a PDF of the lecture and a study guide.

Other courses available include Ancient and Medieval Church History, Biblical Theology and Christian Ethics.

A Concise Summary of the Inconsistency in Atheistic Views about the Non-Existent Jesus

In doing a little research, I came across a long article on Answering Infidels which reviewed Richard Carrier's book, Sense and Goodness Without God. The article, Good ‘n’ Senseless Without God: A Critical Review of Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God by David Wood, covers several pages and points out numerous flaws in Carrier's thinking.

One chapter of the article deals with Carrier's views on Jesus' resurrection. I will leave Woods' article to speak for itself because it makes its point very nicely.

In his debate with Mike Licona, Richard laid out his case against the resurrection (in more detail than we find in Sense and Goodness). His case may be summed up as follows. Jesus died on the cross. His disciples, longing to make sense of the tragedy, searched the scriptures and concluded that his death had meaning. Several of Jesus’ followers experienced grief hallucinations, in which they saw visions of the risen Christ, telling them that everything was…