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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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This is in response to the last post by BK. BK defended the idea of the James 'ossuary as legitimate, but skeptics contended that no artifact has gone unexposed as a hoax. While this may be true of small personal items, such as Jesus' comb or face cloth or whatever, it's not true of major locations in archaeology such as the tomb of Christ. Long consider a forgery of pilgrims the archeological evidence supports the notion that we have the tomb and it was the actual tomb.


Professor Biddle (The Tomb of Christ) proves the site of the current Church of the Holy Sepulcher (CHS) is the very sight selected by Constantine for his chapel because he believed it to be site of the tomb of Jesus, the one that turned up empty, and the near the cross of Golgotha. It's only a few yards from the site of the crucifixion (so some believe). In the past atheists have become very angry over this point and gone to great lengths of deception and hostility to avoid the obvious conclusions. Nevertheless, their obfuscations is not impressive, even though their persistence is tiresome. The real question is what made Constantine choose this site? The atheists would do anything to divert belief form the historical claims that the site site was always known to local Christians, they marked it, keep up with it, and told it to the incoming gentile Christians. Some atheists who used to harass this blog will do anything to have you believe otherwise. While they are basically right there is no final proof that is beyond question, there is very good reason to assume that the legend is true.

Here I speak of former regular attackers on my blog:

In their fomentation two in particular, "anonymous" ( aka, "Goliath"--"go lie" as I call him) and "loyal opposition" (LP) tried to convince the reader that only they understood the sources that the only the only sources that mattered were Eusebius and Constantine through Eusebius. Even Eusebius himself they ignored completely because he offered evidence that contradicted their view. They only accepted one quote of Constantine that came through Eusebius that they asserted ruled out any of the other stories and reports no matter who handed them on (see comment section this blog May 21, 2007). There is no hard evidence. They right about that. That does not mean there is reason to accept that site as valid. The likelihood is good. Atheists can't understand likelihood unless it's in their favor. There are sources that need to be considered. Scripture tells us that Jesus' body was laid in a new tomb lent by Josephus of Aremathia. There are a few scant details mentioned all the Gospels. (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53).John 19:17 no details of tomb but mentions Calvary. John 19:41 says the place of the tomb was near the place of the crucifixion.



New Advent, Holy Sepulcher

No further mention of the place of the Holy Sepulchre is found until the beginning of the fourth century. But nearly all scholars maintain that the knowledge of the place was handed down by oral tradition, and that the correctness of this knowledge was proved by the investigations caused to be made in 326 by the Emperor Constantine, who then marked the site for future ages by erecting over the Tomb of Christ a basilica, in the place of which, according to an unbroken written tradition, now stands the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Christians fled the city with the fall of the temple in 70. Some came back and re-established their community. There are Jewish Christians there at the time of the expulsion of Jews after the barkaba revolt in 135.

The Christians who were in Jerusalem when Titus laid siege to the city in the year 70 fled, it is true, across the Jordan to Pella; but, as the city was not totally destroyed, and as there was no law prohibiting their return, it was possible for them to take up their abode there again in the year 73, about which time, according to Dr. Sanday (Sacred Sites of the Gospels, Oxford, 1903), they really did re-establish themselves. But, granting that the return was not fully made until 122, one of the latest dates proposed, there can be no doubt that in the restored community there were many who knew the location of the Tomb, and who led to it their children, who would point it out during the next fifty years .(Ibid)
We don't have many real mentions of the site by many writers of the era. Those are named usually are quoting Eusebius. Some of those not connected to Eusebius are mentioned but their works are not on the internet and very hard to get. Such are the works of Melito of Sardis.

It is recorded that Melito of Sardis visited the place where "these things [of the Old Testament] were formerly announced and carried out". As he died in 180, his visit was made at a time when he could receive the tradition from the children of those who had returned from Pella. After this it is related that Alexander of Jerusalem (d. 251) went to Jerusalem "for the sake of prayer and the investigation of the places", and that Origen (d. 253) "visited the places for the investigation of the footsteps of Jesus and of His disciples". By the beginning of the fourth century the custom of visiting Jerusalem for the sake of information and devotion had become so frequent that Eusebius wrote, that Christians "flocked together from all parts of the earth".(Ibid)
Alexander of Jerusalem (d. 251) made a trip to the holy lands to investigate the sacred places, and Origen (d. 253) "visited the places for the investigation of the footsteps of Jesus and of His disciples". "By the beginning of the fourth century the custom of visiting Jerusalem for the sake of information and devotion had become so frequent that Eusebius wrote, that Christians "flocked together from all parts of the earth" (Ibid, same New Advent article). Because I don't have a quote by Eusebius that wsay "I read Malito of Sardis and he talks about the tomb" those atheist asserted that he does not. Becasue I can't obtain the original easily this is was certain proof to them that it's a lie. There is of course, no reason to assume such a drastic bit of casuistry. The Scholarship speaks of it, this is documentation enough they provide a better documented source saying it's not true. Dcoumented debate is like dueling sources. You don't need best to support highly probable idea that is basically common knowledge. New Advent documents that "all scholars" (almost) agree with it. The great Biblical Archaeologist Corbo made clear in Archaeology of the Bible book by book (1976) that accepted the tradition as a valid and likely theory.

Helena and Macarius, having made fruitless inquiries as to the existence of the Cross, turned their attention to the place of the Passion and Resurrection, which was known to be occupied by a temple of Venus erected by the Romans in the time of Hadrian, or later. The temple was torn down, the ruins were removed to a distance, the earth beneath, as having been contaminated, was dug up and borne far away. Then, "beyond the hopes of all, the most holy monument of Our Lord's Resurrection shone forth" (Eusebius, "Life of Constantine", III, xxviii). Near it were found three crosses, a few nails, and an inscription such as Pilate ordered to be placed on the Cross of Christ. (Ibid)
There's a great book on the subject of early holy places in Christianity and especially concerned with the Holy Sepulcher: The Sepulcher of Christ and the Medieval West, by Colin Moris (Oxford U. Press). Moris Makes several arguments. Tombs were venerated and were important. The lack of mention of place names but the rapid grouping of many such names around Bethany and Bethphage and Gologthy in Mark indicated that the readers knew the places. Hegesippus tells us that they knew the tomb of James, even in his own day which a century latter. Would they continue to remember the tomb of James and play no attention and forget that of Christ! (G. Schille, ‘Das Leiden des Herrn: die evangelische Passionstraditionund ihr Sitz im Leben’, Zs. für Theologie und Kirche, 52 (1955), 161–162,
and E. Trocmé, The Passion as Liturgy: A Study in the Origin of the
Passion Narrative in the Four Gospels (London, )) (see also Morris,8).

He quotes certain early writers that who relate pretty clearly the tradition that the Temple of Venus was built on top of the site of Jesus' tomb. "Several writers comment that 'the place was hard to find, the persecutors of hold having placed a statue of Venus on it, so that, if any Christian should presume to worship Christ in that place he would seem to worship Venus. Thus the place had fallen into oblivion.'" this quotation he attributes to the Ecclesiastical History of Gelasius (Borgehammar, 54). He continues:

This suggests that there was still a tradition of where Golgotha was However difficult it was of access. The balance of probability is that the site of Golgotha like certain other Biblical sites remained known to the Palestinian Christians during the first three centuries.(14).
It is possible to get the book and investigate further. Just because we don't have Eusebius saying it doesn't mean there's no evidence for the tradition. Go-lie and OP were desperate to disprove anything they could and to divert attention of the the fact that historical probability indicates the tomb was venerated. One of the major arguments they made by quoting a long passage from Euebius that is suppossed to demonstae that Contantine did not have a prior traditon tht he followed for the site but just made it up, pretending it was "form the Lord:"

"He judged it incumbent on him to render the blessed locality of our Saviour's resurrection an object of attraction and veneration to all. He issued immediate injunctions, therefore, for the erection in that spot of a house of prayer: and this he did, not on the mere natural impulse of his own mind, but being moved in spirit by the Saviour himself.....but calling on the divine aid, gave orders that the place should be thoroughly purified, thinking that the parts which had been most polluted by the enemy ought to receive special tokens, through his means, of the greatness of the divine favor. As soon, then, as his commands were issued, these engines of deceit were cast down from their proud eminence to the very ground, and the dwelling-places of error, with the statues and the evil spirits which they represented, were overthrown and utterly destroyed.....Nor did the emperor's zeal stop here; but he gave further orders that the materials of what was thus destroyed, both stone and timber, should be removed and thrown as far from the spot as possible; and this command also was speedily executed. The emperor, however, was not satisfied with having proceeded thus far: once more, fired with holy ardor, he directed that the ground itself should be dug up to a considerable depth, and the soil which had been polluted by the foul impurities of demon worship transported to a far distant place".(III, XXV-XXVII)
I quoted that passage a number of times myself, but when he wanted to sweep aside my evidence also from Euesbius of a prior tradition he would say something to sound disgusted such as "Ok here it is again" then quote that very quote. The quote says NOT that there was no prior tradition, not that he chose the site because God showed him where it was but because but that his motivatin for doing finding it came from the Lord. Not the site itself, but the motive. see above highlighted. I had argued before my siting of the passage what Eusebius says that gives a context to Constantin's undertaking of the search:

The Franciscans (their websites) put this in as the context before the quote given above:

In 325, during the first ecumenical council of Nicea, the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, invited Emperor Constantine to destroy the pagan temples built atop the Christian holy sites in the Holy City. The Emperor, now Pontifex Maximus of the whole Roman Empire and strong in his position decreed the demolition of the pagan temples built atop the Christian Holy Site. This is how Eusebius describe s the event:
This is an indication that they knew the locations of these sites. Why ask for the pagan temples to be destroyed if they didn't know where the true sites were, or at least if they didn't have an idea where they thought they were.

Where does this leave us? It doesn't resolve the issue or prove that the CHS is the original site of Jesus resurrection. It does give us some interesting ammunition. The atheists at times are given to argue that if Jesus really existed and if he was really crucified and there was an empty tomb why didn't they mark. Don't let them argue this on the premise that we can't prove where the tomb is. We don't have to prove that. We can prove there was a tradition, that ancinet writers claim they marked the site. That's enough to negate their argument. When they say why didn't they mark it, well we have reason to believe they did.

13 comments:

Great post!

thanks :-)

So the whole supposed evidence is a hypothetical 3 centuries of oral traditions. That does not sound like very reliable or solid evidence.
Constantine obviously had an incentive to find the spot no matter what so he had another holy cite to increase the magnificence of his cities. These emperors were notorious propagandists. That is a known fact.
It seems this whole article contains no evidence at all as could be expected.

Nice try though. :)

"So the whole supposed evidence is a hypothetical 3 centuries of oral traditions. That does not sound like very reliable or solid evidence."

If it's not anything to worry about why do atheist become so outraged by it? It's a lot better than you thought before you read the article hu? It's not as weak as the evidence for a multivrse which is none at all.


"Constantine obviously had an incentive to find the spot no matter what so he had another holy cite to increase the magnificence of his cities. These emperors were notorious propagandists. That is a known fact."

that's a pretty weak argument. There wasn't actually any reason why he needed to do it. He already controlled the world's greatest empire. There were no serous threats that were negated by the addition of the site of the tomb. He already controlled Jerusalem.



"It seems this whole article contains no evidence at all as could be expected."

I suggest that you don't know the difference bewteen "No evidence at all" and decent evidence that' snot conclusive.

I think that's a crucial difference you need to learn to make good arguments.

how do atheist come up with the grand canyon leaps in logic. I actually admit "this is not absolute because it's not absolute it's "none at all!"

why is it a "nice try" if it's none at all?

If centuries of rumors with not even proof for the continuous existence of these rumors is evidence that is just not conclusive your standards are quite low. If would not call this evidence by any standard. It is a hypothesis.
Nearly all cosmological models except the cyclic universe models are not restricted to the creation of only one universe. Multiverse is just interpreting the logical consequences of these models. And no reasonable atheist or agnostic claims there is solid evidence for any hypothesis grounding this universe.
None of these empires was ever without any threats. There were only periods of relative calm. Revolts and invasions were always a dangers as the borders were stretched except in times when they were already overrun. Especially for Constantine there were political reasons to take the attention away from religious conflicts within the church and focus attention on something like the find of the site of the tomb. It fits perfectly with the politics of the day. Why did you think Constantine held the first council of Nicaea? Politics. He just wanted his citizens to stop dividing the empire with their religious quibbles.

PV: "If centuries of rumors with not even proof for the continuous existence of these rumors is evidence that is just not conclusive your standards are quite low. If would not call this evidence by any standard. It is a hypothesis."


Of course the idea that enduring over centuries somehow makes something wrong as opposed to unproved is totally illogical.In fact what centuries are we talking about?

The article makes two moves: (1) the site is the one chosen by Constantine: that is proved.

(2) There is good reason to think Constantine didn't just choose any old site but had several good reasons for choosing the one he chose. Again the atheist say "this is no proof and no proof = no reason.

a. malidus of Saridis recorded the tradition--even though we don't have the writing in which he did Eusebius did have it.

b. the early Christians left word with the in coming gentiles that it was marked by a temple of venus and a shirne to Jupiter. the odds of finding another site with both marks would be extremely remote. Corbo proved both signs are there in the location

c. the community around the area already called its self Golgotha before Constantine chose the site.

there are more evidences than these in the article.

I said it's not conclusive that is a far cry form "no proof at all"



"Nearly all cosmological models except the cyclic universe models are not restricted to the creation of only one universe. Multiverse is just interpreting the logical consequences of these models. And no reasonable atheist or agnostic claims there is solid evidence for any hypothesis grounding this universe."

Models are not empirical proof.the presence of the pagan shrines together on the iste is better proof than any model. Any God argument I make does as well in terms of proving as any model for the multiverse.


"None of these empires was ever without any threats. There were only periods of relative calm. Revolts and invasions were always a dangers as the borders were stretched except in times when they were already overrun."

you cannot assert that it had a threat so that finding another shrine would ward off the threatr. you cannot show that Constantine had a threat at that time the nature of which would be removed by finding another site.

"Especially for Constantine there were political reasons to take the attention away from religious conflicts within the church and focus attention on something like the find of the site of the tomb. It fits perfectly with the politics of the day. Why did you think Constantine held the first council of Nicaea? Politics. He just wanted his citizens to stop dividing the empire with their religious quibbles."

that is conjuncture not in evidence. Proving that Nicaea removed a threat therefore he had a threat that finding a shrine would remove is not a logical proposition. that does not follow. that may be argument analogy.

that doesn't explain the two pagan sites together on in community that happens to call itself galgatha that just happens in the right physical location in proximity to the old gate.

You do know that Eusebius is one of the biggest compulsive liars in all of history don't you? (at least in matters in which he had personal interest like religion and local politics)

Claiming sites of earlier religions as your own is common practice be most religions throughout history. Picking such a site does nothing for credibility as significant for the new religious purpose. Quite the opposite in fact.

"you cannot assert that it had a threat so that finding another shrine would ward off the threatr. you cannot show that Constantine had a threat at that time the nature of which would be removed by finding another site."
Constantine fought a major civil war only one year earlier in 324 with emperor Licinius which was one of the largest conflicts of the century. After victory he continued to lay seige on Byzantium and its navy.
Here some more context:

"For a short while the empire should enjoy peace. But soon the situation began to deteriorate again. If Constantine acted more and more in favour of the Christians, then Licinius began to disagree. From AD 320 onwards Licinius began to suppress the Christian church in his eastern provinces and also began ejecting any Christians from government posts.
Another problem arose regarding the consulships. These were by now widely understood as positions in which emperors would groom their sons as future rulers. Their treaty at Serdica had hence proposed that appointments should be made by mutual agreement. Licinius though believed Constantine favoured his own sons when granting these positions.
And so, in clear defiance of their agreements, Licinius appointed himself and his two sons consuls for the eastern provinces for the year AD 322.
With this declaration it was clear that hostilities between the two sides would soon begin afresh. Both sides began to prepare for the struggle ahead.

In AD 323 Constantine created yet another Caesar by elevating his third son Constantius II to this rank.

If the eastern and western halves of the empire were hostile towards one another, then in AD 323 a reason was soon found to start a new civil war. Constantine, while campaigning against Gothic invaders, strayed into Licinius' Thracian territory.
It is well possible he did so on purposely in order to provoke a war. Be that as it may, Licinius took this as the reason to declare war in spring AD 324.
But it was once again Constantine who moved to attack first in AD 324 with 120'000 infantry and 10'000 cavalry against Licinius' 150'000 infantry and 15'000 cavalry based at Hadrianopolis. On 3 July AD 324 he severely defeated Licinius' forces at Hadrianopolis and shortly after his fleet won victories at sea.

Licinius fled across the Bosporus to Asia Minor (Turkey), but Constantine having brought with him a fleet of two thousand transport vessels ferried his army across the water and forced the decisive battle of Chrysopolis where he utterly defeated Licinius (18 September AD 324).
Licinius was imprisoned and later executed.
Alas Constantine was sole emperor of the entire Roman world.

Soon after his victory in AD 324 he outlawed pagan sacrifices, now feeling far more at liberty to enforce his new religious policy. The treasures of pagan temples were confiscated and used to pay for the construction of new Christian churches. Gladiatorial contests were outruled and harsh new laws were issued prohibiting sexual immorality. Jews in particular were forbidden from owning Christian slaves."

Oh yeah, Constantine was a real family man:
"Constantine's reign was that of a hard, utterly determined and ruthless man. Nowhere did this show more than when in AD 326, on suspicion of adultery or treason, he had his own eldest son Crispus executed.
One account of the events tells of Constantine's wife Fausta falling in love with Crispus, who was her stepson, and made an accusation of him committing adultery only once she had been rejected by him, or because she simply wanted Crispus out of the way, in order to let her sons acceed to the throne unhindered. Then again, Constantine had only a month ago passed a strict law against adultery and might have felt obliged to act. And so Crispus was executed at Pola in Istria.
Though after this execution Constantine's mother Helena convinced the emperor of Crispus' innocence and that Fausta's accusation had been false. Escaping the vengeance of her husband, Fausta killed herself at Treviri."

Constantine had just finished a very big war and had just had the counsel of Nicaea of which one main goal was to stop the religious fractions from going for each others throats.
In that environment the founding of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a perfect distraction and creating such sites and having other prestigious building projects was clearly part of the policy. Constantine was one of the great builders of the empire.
And soon afterwards he went back to war campaigning against the Alemanni and the Goths and other threats. So yes, Constantine was constantly dealing with threats at that particular time in his career.

And let us not forget that the gospels state the tomb site was new while the site has been dated as pre Christian.

You do know that Eusebius is one of the biggest compulsive liars in all of history don't you? (at least in matters in which he had personal interest like religion and local politics)

Wrong! that is a lie started by the atheist Gibbon. It was actually Gibbon who made the comment about it's ok to lie for faith, Eusebius never said it. Here's a whole web disproves this nonsense.

Eusebius the Liar?

Claiming sites of earlier religions as your own is common practice be most religions throughout history. Picking such a site does nothing for credibility as significant for the new religious purpose. Quite the opposite in fact.

the exact combination of Jupiter and Venus when there were hundreds to choose from is not very probable. the odds are totally against it.

"you cannot assert that it had a threat so that finding another shrine would ward off the threatr. you cannot show that Constantine had a threat at that time the nature of which would be removed by finding another site."
Constantine fought a major civil war only one year earlier in 324 with emperor Licinius which was one of the largest conflicts of the century. After victory he continued to lay seige on Byzantium and its navy.

so the whole army would turn back "we can't attack now guy, he got a new shrine!"

nothing in your example proves that a new shrine would help.

show me any civil war in history that was put on hold because they got a new shrine?

Oh yeah, Constantine was a real family man:
"Constantine's reign was that of a hard, utterly determined and ruthless man. Nowhere did this show more than when in AD 326, on suspicion of adultery or treason, he had his own eldest son Crispus executed.

anti-Constantine arguments don't prove your case either. He was a bad guy so therefore he must have made up the sight. that doesn't' follow. As Caesars go he wasn't that bad.

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