Is the New Testament forged?Jerry Newcombe
March 28, 2011
The scholar is the iconoclastic Dr. Bart Ehrman, who teaches religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The book is called Forged: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman said on a radio broadcast that about 75 percent of the New Testament documents are supposedly forged. They’re frauds.
Dr. Sam Lamerson is a conservative New Testament scholar who teaches at Knox Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale. (By way of full disclosure, I earned a theology degree there). He heard Ehrman on a radio broadcast say words to this effect: “I want to be the scholar that uses the F-word about the Bible. I want people to know that these books were forged.”
“Forged” is a strong word. Several of the New Testament books claim no authorship at all. Church tradition has attributed them to various writers, but the biblical text itself does not claim authorship for these particular books. For instance, none of the four Gospels (of which tradition names the writers as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) actually have the names of the authors at the beginning of their documents.
But if a document is anonymous, how could it be a forgery?
Dr. Mike Licona, a rising star in New Testament scholarship, has been reading an advanced copy of Forged. He told me that the most prolific biographer of antiquity is widely held to be Plutarch (as in Plutarch’s Lives), yet of all the 50 or so existing manuscripts we have of Plutarch, none of them are signed.
Were they forgeries? By Ehrman’s definition, it would seem so. But no serious scholar holds that view.
Dr. Licona, who has debated Ehrman twice, told me, “What we’re seeing from Ehrman [in Forged] is not new information. It may be new to many readers who aren’t used to looking at the academic stuff, but it’s not at all new.”
Ehrman goes on to assert that many New Testament books that do claim authorship within the text, such as Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters of Peter and James, are not written by the claimed authors. It should be noted that this is not based on manuscript evidence. It’s based largely on the style of the text, and there are many conservative scholars who are not convinced by these arguments. Thus, Ehrman is stating liberal opinion as fact.
Ironically, Ehrman even states in his own book, “Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the compositions of the early Christian writings.” [p. 134]
But that’s exactly what happened.
Conservative scholars note that many of Paul’s writings begin with his name…and that of a co-author, such as Timothy, Silas, or Sosthenes.
Dr. Lamerson, who interestingly worked his way through seminary by doing magic tricks, knows sleight of hand when he sees it (or in this case, hears it). He said, “Of course, being forged is very different from having a secretary or having someone help you with the text or not knowing who wrote the text because their name simply isn’t included.”
Ehrman likes to tout that he’s a former evangelical, who went to Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. Ehrman then went on to Princeton Seminary where he began to have some doubts about his faith. That faith finally shattered when he was teaching at Rutgers University. Now, he’s an agnostic.
So why are Bart Ehrman and other liberal scholars even concerning themselves with this stuff if they don’t believe it?
Amazingly, Jesus made a warning that fits here (if the Gospel of Matthew is to be believed-and, no, it wasn’t forged; it just isn’t signed). He admonished those who “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” He said, “You yourselves won’t go in, but you prevent others from going in.”
I’m concerned that many people will hear Bart Ehrman and think that he speaks for all the scholars. He does not.
Many people might miss the Gospel because they take Ehrman’s word as Gospel. It is not.
It is liberal opinion repackaged well for a mass audience.
For anyone needing a scholarly rebuttal to Bart Ehrman’s 2011 book, feel free to read Terry L. Wilder's excellent article called "Pseudonymity and the New Testament," which appears in a 2001 book, Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues. (Indeed, his arguments aren’t new.)
Dr. Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a first rate scholar of the New Testament and its history, told me, “Both [Ehrman] and his publisher [HarperOne] are guilty of cheap sensationalism with little or no regard for the truth.”
Ehrman’s book went on sale on March 22, 2011. Just in time for Easter, he, his publisher, and the lackeys in the media who go for all the anti-faith iconoclasm get another chance to try and cash in. What a friend we have in Jesus.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Post #4 - March 31st: http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/
If you'd like to learn more about Fr. Alexis's book, you can read excerpts here:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Now, we come to the meat of it. As this will be the first time either of us has directly responded to the other person’s statements, if sparks are going to fly, this is where they will start. But, it is my intention to keep this discussion civil, as I am sure it is David’s as well. So, dear readers, if at any point I seem to be angry or otherwise upset by something David says, please do your best to give me the benefit of the doubt that this essay is not conveying my tone properly.
Also, I’m definitely behind schedule getting this written. In spite of having, in theory, plenty of time to get it done, it is difficult to justify working on it when work, schoolwork, and family life are demanding my time, as well. So, I haven’t had a chance to talk to David about this, and I will just go ahead and take this one liberty, under the assumption that he will feel free to take it, as well: Namely, I will be, from time to time, quoting his remarks directly, but I will not count his quoted remarks—or this preamble—toward my total word count.
David’s position statement (apart from his thanking me, to which I say that he is quite welcome,) begins with this paragraph:
Although I am defending the negative position in this debate, I want to begin, oddly enough, by answering a qualified “yes” to the question at hand; I think that an atheistic worldview can in fact support a consistent morality. The nature of that morality, however, must be of an entirely different content and style from anything that most of us would recognize as “morality.”Well, it would be unkind of me, at this point, to insist that he officially concede the debate before it has properly begun. However, it would be unkind to myself and to our readers to allow the goalposts to be so drastically moved without comment. So, I will say that I don’t perceive his opening remarks to have established the negative position he chose to defend, and I will invite David, if he feels it would be appropriate, to concede the point while continuing the discussion on a more narrowly defined topic. At any rate, he certainly did make a number of statements to which I take exception, and I am perfectly willing to rebut those statements.
This statement, in particular, is problematic. Used properly, the term “morality” has several coherent definitions to which either of us could appeal in making our case. If either of us felt the other was misusing the word, or defining it too narrowly or too broadly, we could appeal to the work of philosophers and scientists in redressing this grievance. But by switching from morality to “anything that most of us would recognize as ‘morality,’” he has veiled the term in ontological subjectivity. While he does go on to provide a few particulars, this reworking seeks to free him to say, in response to any cogent point I might make but which he does not like, “Well, yes, that’s well and good, but it’s not the ‘morality’ that ‘most of us’ recognize…”
Do I mean to say that he intends to do this? No, I don’t. In fact, I very much doubt that any such malfeasance even occurred to him. But such a thing can be done unintentionally, and at any rate it is undisciplined to undermine the definitions of words, especially ones so central to the topic under discussion.
We might summarize the bulk of pre-Christian morality by saying that the overarching ethic was “might makes right.” What we would call “cruelty” and “brutality” were, for most ancient peoples, accepted and even lauded aspects of life.I don’t think that’s the least bit true. The Greeks, who could not reasonably be included as part of “the Jews,” made a rich exploration of morality, from the Good Life, to Normative Ethics, to Virtue Ethics, from a mostly secular perspective. It is impressive, to both Christians and Atheists, the extent to which Greek moral philosophers (including pre-Socratics) were able to separate their syllogisms from the claims of the Paganism that surrounded them. Rather than a purely Judeo-Christian society, we Westerners live in a post-Enlightenment society, and the Enlightenment was a revival of these Greek ideas. Of course many Judeo-Christian ideas are preserved in synergy with the Classical, but they cannot claim solitary patronage to our modern ethics.
David’s assertion also ignores the Jains, who were much less secular than the Greeks, but who were equally non-Jewish and who preached an absolutely utter non-violence—extended even to animals such as insects—nine centuries before Christ. It ignores Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and countless others. Even had he listed these as exceptions, this sort of sweeping generalization of the “Barbarian” cultures offends the sensibilities of the serious anthropologist.
Let us confine ourselves, for simplicity’s sake, to the single example of infanticide. Infanticide, the discarding and/or killing of unwanted infants, was a common practice in nearly all ancient cultures. ... They regarded human life, all human life, as sacred.This is superficially true, although it is an argument ad populum. Either of us could find easily some aspect of modern morality which historically vindicates our argument. In my case, I might choose slavery. However, the statement has enough truth in it that we should examine it further. Particularly in the case of the Jews, they were somewhat conspicuous in their low rates of infanticide. It would be a cheap and dirty trick for me to point out the numerous points in scripture in which God commands the slaughter of foreign infants, particularly males, after the conquest of one or another “enemy” city-state, or in some cases commits the slaughter Himself. It would be a dirty trick, because any descendant of Jewish culture may take comfort in the fact that anthropologists do not consider any of those stories to be true. However, it seems strange that their text should be so at odds with its own teachings, particularly in a discussion like this, which connects morality directly to religion.
Furthermore, Christians have inherited this tradition only imperfectly. As recently as our own Colonial past, numerous Puritan communities established “Stubborn Child Laws,” which allowed parents to put their children to death. Farther back, early Church fathers wrote in opposition to the practice of “exposing” infants, largely on the grounds that such children often grew up to become prostitutes. It would not be fair to criticize them merely for having conservative sexual taboos, but as a rationale for protecting children, this is a far cry from the high-minded respect for human life to which we attribute such things today.
Lastly, as to our modern culture, I will defer to Dr. Larry Milner, writing for the Society for the Prevention of Infanticide:
The major difference between the nature of infanticide in the twentieth century, when compared to the rest of recorded history, however, is due to the impact of one modern medical advancement: the widespread availability of safe, and legal, means of abortion. The ability to easily terminate a pregnancy, and thereby eliminate an unwanted child before it is born, has had a profound effect on the prevalence of infanticide.It would seem, then, that we have the convenience of being appalled by infanticide today. As a father, especially, I am horrified by stories of tragedy befalling children, but as a man of my own time, it is impossible to say how my feelings would have been changed by life in primitive culture.
It's a credit to Russell that he turns away from Nietzsche in horror, but his statements here are possibly the most pathetic, un-philosophical statements I've ever heard a philosopher speak. “Not in an appeal to the facts,” he says, “but in an appeal to the emotions.” Would he or any atheist accept this argument from the lips of a Christian? Should this really be taken seriously as an argument? All of the atheistic jargon about rationality and scientific progress fall out of the window as soon as one is confronted with the bare naked reality of the moral implications of an atheistic worldview.There are two issues with David’s reasoning, here.
Apparently, appealing to emotions is okay for Christians, but not for Atheists, as if religious belief and emotional composition were a package deal. Human moral development, as I discussed in my introduction, is consistent precisely because of our emotional constitution. If no one had any emotions, there would be no such thing as morality, because nothing you do could possibly make anyone happy, or sad, or angry, or content, or anything else. In what universe would it make sense to say that I must ignore this reality, simply because I don’t believe in gods?
Secondly, it is hypocritical to accuse Russell, but not Nietzsche, of appealing to emotion. The latter’s misanthropic hate is in no way more reasonable or rational than the former’s humanistic love. In fact, all normative ethical systems involve a synergy of objective and subjective. The attempt is made to discover an objective system for disposition among things (and persons) of subjective value. In mathematical terms, an analogy might be that the objective is the formula; the subjective is the variable. Say that David comes to my home, hot-wires my car, and drives away with it. Normative ethical systems attempt to establish a more-or-less objective set of rules for establishing how ethical or unethical that action is, but nearly all such systems allow for variability, based on David’s reasons for taking the car on the one hand, and my feelings about his taking it on the other. I do not say (nor do I think) that Morality is subjective, but it depends upon value, and value is subjectively assigned.
Much of the rest of David’s position statement is predicated on his assumption that ideas like social justice and morality are conspicuously Judeo-Christian, which I feel I refuted earlier in pointing out the numerous ethical systems which arose independently of that tradition, particularly those such as the Greek, which are part of the “Western DNA,” so to speak. There are, though, a couple of points I want to quickly address before I run out of words.
What would an atheistic world look like? What a world without all of these achievements, all the product of the Judeo-Christian tradition, look like? Would it look even remotely the same? Absolutely not. As was already mentioned, a purely rational, purely scientific worldview couldn't possibly produce a morality that was even remotely similar to that which Christianity has produced. Scientifically, not all human beings are equal, not all are of inherent worth and value. Rationally, there's no reason not to kill or abandon an unwanted infant, especially one that would be a great burden on his or her parents. Just as in the ancient pagan world, the logical, scientific thing to do is to throw out the diseased, the disabled, and the sick. I think we can all agree that the logical, scientific, atheistic world is a terrifying place in which, to use Thomas Hobbes's famous words describing the state of nature, life is “nasty, brutish, and short.”Why do theists insist on conflating descriptive Darwinian Evolution with a proscriptive ethos? This vision of an Atheistic society is about as fair as my submitting Atwood’s Gilead as an example of a “Christian” society, while asserting that our own is the Atheistic one. Even Spock’s Hollywood strawman version of logic (to be knocked down by the humanist doctor, Bones) valued social justice. Apparently, David believes that Atheists are allowed no value but “logic.” When did I give up empathy? Why would I not feel the primal, visceral love for my children that you feel? Did the Bible give you your emotions?
I am a human. Love, empathy, compassion, reciprocity; these are all a part of what that means.
It is my opponent's burden to demonstrate how an atheist, or anyone who renounces the Judeo-Christian God and tradition, can continue espousing and practicing Judeo-Christian morality and still possess an internally self-consistentI cannot help but be a bit annoyed at this attempt to tell me my burden, especially considering that this whole line of reasoning started with the “qualified yes” David gives in his opening paragraph. David proposed this topic to me after all. I would not presume to accuse him of deliberately giving me a bait-and-switch, but after reading his concluding paragraph, I could do with a bit of reassurance on the fact.
Apart from this though, there is a reason that it is problematic to tell one’s opponent what his burden is, and that is because it presumes that you accurately understand your opponent’s perspective in the first place. In my case, let me assure you that David does not. For one thing, I have not “renounced” the Judeo-Christian tradition, or even its God, anymore than I have “renounced” Mickey Mouse or the Bene Gesserit witches of Dune. For another, everything from my Christian upbringing that I have counted as good, and kept, was also said before Christ, and also by non-Jews.
Do you believe, David, that with great power comes great responsibility? If so, then why have you renounced Spiderman?
Sunday, March 27, 2011
As Adam was a figure of Christ, Adam's sleep shadowed out the death of Christ, who was to sleep a mortal slumber, that from the wound inflicted on His side might, in like manner (as Eve was formed), be typified the Church, the true mother of the living.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Ancient Hebrew Poetry has a good post on why Ehrman is lying about lying.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The canon was not offîcially fixed for the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent (1546). The Eastern Orthodox Church does not recognize Trent or any synod beyond the Seventh Ecumenical Council as "ecumenical" in character, that is, possessing the highest degree of authority. For the Orthodox East, it can be said that the canon still has not achieved that level of established status which Trent created for the Catholic Church since the issue has never been resolved by an Ecumenical Council. However, for all practical purposes it is inconceivable that today any Orthodox Christian would seriously question or challenge the New Testament canon. Hence, the Orthodox canon has been settled in a de facto manner, nonetheless in classic Orthodox style: by consensus over time.
Presbytera Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, "Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation," pg. 39 (fn 129)
Thursday, March 24, 2011
A little late for St. Patrick's Day but still interesting!
LONDON (Reuters) – Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, probably ate fare similar to today's pricey health foods such as cereal, fish and seaweed, according to a researcher who has studied the country's 5th century diet.
Food historian Regina Sexton said records kept by monks showed that Patrick, who is credited with ridding Ireland of snakes and spreading the Christian message, most likely drew his sustenance from cereals and dairy produce such as sour milk, flavored curd mixtures and a variety of soft and hard cheeses.
"It is safe to say that obesity was not a problem in those days, and that the fare was seasonal, wholesome and modest by today's standards," said Sexton of University College Cork.
Having arrived in Ireland as a slave after what was probably a cold and hungry journey from Britain, the future saint most likely snacked on wet preparations like porridge, gruel and meal pastes.
Other culinary delights he could choose from included hen and goose eggs, honey, curds, seaweeds and apples, which he could garnish with a dash of wild garlic or watercress.
Fish like salmon, trout and eel or meats like hand-cured pork were also on 5th century Irish menus, while flat breads made from oats, barley, a little rye and some of the altogether more exclusive wheat, added some bulk.
"Ironically, much of the food available then is what we call 'health food' now, which comes of course, at a premium price," Sexton said.
St Patrick's Day is celebrated every 17 March, with revelers sporting green attire, drinking Dublin's famous black brew Guinness, listening to traditional music and attending parades in honor of the saint who played an important role in converting Ireland to Christianity.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
(Originally from Revelation Resources)
Eugénia Scarvelis Constantinou (Jeannie Constantinou): Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse In the Ancient Church of the East. Part 1: Studies on the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea. Part 2: Translation of the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea. Ph.D.-dissertation, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada, 2008. 271 + 242 pp. Available as an ebook in PDF-format.
Part 1, Studies on the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea, consists of an analysis of the commentary and an explanation of the Book of Révélation in the history of Eastern Christianity.
Chapter 1 is an introduction to the commentary and to the historical context, audience, purpose and motivation for its composition.
Chapter 2 discusses the Book of Révélation in the canon of Eastern Christianity through an historical overview of the place of Révélation in the canon of the East from the second century through the présent day. The chapter considers which factors accounted for the early and immédiate appeal of Révélation, examines the attitudes toward it as revealed in primary sources, and demonstrates that the Apocalypse was consistently recognized as an apostolic document from the second century through the early fourth century. Révélation eventually came under attack due to its association with controversies such as Montanism and chiliasm. Doubts about its authorship were raised to discrédit it in order to undermine the controversial movements which relied upon it. It remained in an uncertain canonical status until relatively recently and is now presumed to be part of the New Testament by most Eastern Christians but the question of its status in the canon has never been “officially” resolved.
Chapter 3 explains the importance of the commentary from a text-critical erspective and for the purpose of studying the history of the Apocalypse text itself. A large percentage of Apocalypse manuscripts contain the Andréas commentary, which has preserved a text type of its own, and the study of the Andréas text type facilitâtes the analysis and évaluation of other text types by comparison. This chapter also discusses the dual textual transmission of the Book of Révélation, unique among the books of the New Testament, since manuscripts of Révélation are found both in scriptural collections as well as bound with a variety of spiritual and profane writings.
Chapter 4 discusses Andrew’s commentary in the context of the trajectory of other ancient Apocalypse commentaries, East and West, and how the interprétative history proceeded along a dual stream of tradition. The first commentators greatly influenced those who followed them, but only those who wrote in the same language. The Latin tradition did not influence Greek interpreters, nor vice-versa, and commonalities between Greek and Latin writers can be traced back to the earliest Fathers and to the perspectives, Scriptures, exegetical techniques and traditions common to both East and West from the first centuries of Christianity.
Chapter 5 commences an évaluation of the commentary itself, including Andrew’s purpose, motivation and orientation, as well as a discussion of the structure, style and characteristics of the commentary. This chapter also explains Andrew’s methodology, techniques and use of sources.
Chapter 6 explores Andrew’s theology, including his doctrine, view of prophecy, history, eschatology, angelology and salvation.
Chapter 7 reviews Andrew’s influence on subséquent Eastern commentators, the translation of his commentary into other ancient languages, its impact on the réception of the Book of Révélation into the Eastern canon and the commentary’s lasting prééminence and importance.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
If there come to thee a poor man wanting bread, there is no end of revilings, and reproaches, and charges of idleness, and upbraidings, and insults, and jeers; and thou considerest not with thyself, that thou too art idle, and yet God giveth thee His gifts. For tell me not this, that thou too art doing somewhat, but point me out this rather, if it be anything really needful that thou doest, and art busy about. But if thou tellest one of money-getting, and of traffic, and of the care and increase of thy goods, I also would say unto thee, Not these, but alms, and prayers, and the protection of the injured, and all such things, are truly works, with respect to which we live in thorough idleness. Yet God never told us, “Because thou art idle, I light not up the sun for thee; because thou doest nothing of real consequence, I quench the moon, I paralyze the womb of the earth, I restrain the lakes, the fountains, the rivers, I blot out the atmosphere: I withhold the annual rains:” but He gives us all abundantly. And to some that are not merely idle, but even doing evil, He freely gives the benefit of these things.
When therefore thou seest a poor man, and sayest, “It stops my breath that this fellow, young as he is and healthy, having nothing, would fain be fed in idleness; he is surely some slave and runaway, and hath deserted his proper master:” I bid thee speak these same words to thyself; or rather, permit him freely to speak them unto thee, and he will say with more justice, “It stops my breath that thou, being healthy, art idle, and practisest none of the things which God hath commanded, but having run away from the commandments of thy Lord, goest about dwelling in wickedness, as in a strange land, in drunkenness, in surfeiting, in theft, in extortion, in subverting other men’s houses.” And thou indeed imputest idleness, but I evil works; in thy plotting, in thy swearing, in thy lying, in thy spoiling, in thy doing innumerable such things.
And this I say, not as making a law in favor of idleness, far from it; but rather very earnestly wishing all to be employed; for sloth is the teacher of all wickedness: but I beseech you not to be unmerciful, nor cruel. Since Paul also, having made infinite complaints, and said, “If any will not work, neither let him eat,” stopped not at this, but added, “But ye, be not weary in well doing.” “Nay, but these things are contradictory. For if thou hast commanded for them not to eat, how exhortest thou us to give?” I do so, saith He, for I have also commanded to avoid them, and “to have no company with them;” and again I said, “Count them not as enemies, but admonish them;" not making contradictory laws, but such as are quite in unison with each other. Because, if thou art prompt to mercy, both he, the poor man, will soon be rid of his idleness, and thou of thy cruelty.
“But he hath many lies and inventions,” you reply. Well, hence again is he pitiable, for that he hath fallen into such distress, as to be hardened even in such doings. But we, so far from pitying, add even those cruel words, “Hast thou not received once and again?” so we talk. What then? because he was once fed, hath he no need to be fed again? Why dost thou not make these laws for thine own belly also, and say to it likewise, Thou wert filled yesterday, and the day before, seek it not now? But while thou fillest that beyond measure, even to bursting, from him thou turnest away, when he asks but what is moderate; whereas thou oughtest therefore to pity him, because he is constrained to come to thee every day. Yea, if nought else incline thee to him, thou shouldest pity him because of this; for by the constraint of his poverty he is forced on these things, and doeth them. And thou dost not pity him, because, being so spoken to, he feels no shame: the reason being, that his want is too strong for him.
Nay, thou instead of pitying, dost even make a show of him; and whereas God hath commanded to give secretly, thou standest exposing publicly him that hath accosted thee, and upbraiding him, for what ought to move thy pity. Why, if thou art not minded to give, to what end add reproach, and bruise that weary and wretched soul? He came as into a harbor, seeking help at thine hands; why stir up waves, and make the storm more grievous? Why dost thou condemn him of meanness? What? had he thought to hear such things, would he have come to thee? Or if he actually came foreseeing this, good cause therefore both to pity him, and to shudder at thine own cruelty, that not even so, when thou seest an inexorable necessity laid upon him, dost thou become more gentle, nor judgest him to have a sufficient excuse for his importunity in the dread of hunger, but accusest him of impudence: and yet hast thou often thyself practised greater impudence, yea in respect of grievous matters. For while here the very impudence brings with it ground of pardon, we, often doing things punishable, brazen it out: and when we ought to bear all that in mind, and be humble, we even trample on those miserable men, and when they ask medicines, we add to their wounds. I say, if thou wilt not give, yet why dost thou strike? If thou wilt not be bounteous, yet why be insolent?
“But he submits not to be put off in any other way.” Well then, as that wise man commanded, so do. “Answer him peaceable words with meekness.” For not of his own accord, surely, is he so very importunate. For there is not, there cannot be, any man desiring to be put to shame for its own sake. How much soever any may contend, I cannot yield ever to be convinced that a man who was living in plenty would choose to beg.
Let no man then beguile us with arguments. But although Paul saith, “If any will not work, neither let him eat," to them he saith it; but to us he saith not this, but, on the contrary, “Be not weary in well doing." Even thus do we at home; when any two are striving with each other, we take each apart, and give them the opposite advice. This did God also, and Moses. For while to God he said, “If thou wilt forgive them their sin, forgive it; else blot me out also;" them on the contrary he commanded to slay one another, and all that pertained to them. Yet these things are contrary; nevertheless, both looked to one end.
Again, God said to Moses in the hearing of the Jews, “Let me alone, that I may consume the people,” (for though they were not present when God was saying this, yet they were to hear it afterwards): but privately He gives him directions of the opposite tenor. And this, Moses upon constraint revealed afterwards, thus saying, “What? did I conceive them, that thou sayest to me, Carry them, as a nurse would carry the sucking child in her bosom?”
These things are done also in houses, and often a father while he blames the tutor in private for having used his child reproachfully, saying, “Be not rough, nor hard,” to the youth speaks in the contrary way, “Though thou be reproached unjustly, bear it;” out of those opposites making up some one wholesome result. Thus also Paul said to such as are in health and beg, “If any man will not work, neither let him eat,” that he may urge them into employment: but to such as can show mercy, “Ye, for your part, be not weary in well doing:” that he may lead them to give alms.
So also, when he was admonishing those of the Gentiles, in his Epistle to the Romans, not to be highminded against the Jews, he brought forward also the wild olive, and he seems to be saying one thing to these, another to those.
Let us not therefore fall away into cruelty, but let us listen to Paul, saying, “Be not weary in well doing;” let us listen to the Lord, who saith, “Give to every man that asketh of thee,” and, “Be ye merciful as your Father.” And though He hath spoken of many things, He hath nowhere used this expression, but with regard to our deeds of mercy only. For nothing so equals us with God, as doing good.
“But nothing is more shameless,” saith one, “than a poor man.” Why, I pray thee? Because he runs up, and cries out after thee? Wilt thou then let me point out, how we are more importunate than they, and very shameless? Remember, I say, now at the season of the fast, how often, when thy table was spread at eventide, and thou hadst called thy ministering servant; on his moving rather leisurely, thou hast overset everything, kicking, insulting, reviling, merely about a little delay; although fully assured, that if not immediately, yet a little after thou shalt enjoy thy victuals. Upon which thou dost not call thyself impudent, changed as thou art into a wild beast for nothing; but the poor man, alarmed and trembling about his greater interests (for not about delay, but about famine, is all his fear), him dost thou call audacious, and shameless, and impudent, and all the most opprobrious names? Nay, how is this anything but extreme impudence.
But these things we do not consider: therefore we account such men troublesome: since if we at all searched into our own doings, and compared them with theirs, we should not have thought them intolerable.
Be not then a severe judge. Why, if thou wert clear of all sins, not even then would the law of God permit thee to be strict in searching out other men’s sins. And if the Pharisee perished on this account, what defense are we to find? If He suffer not such as have done well to be bitter in searching out other men’s doings, much less them that have offended.
Let us not then be savage, nor cruel, not without natural feeling, not implacable, not worse than wild beasts. For I know many to have gone even so far in brutishness, as for a little trouble to slight famishing persons, and to say these words: “I have no servant now with me; we are far from home; there is no money-changer that I know.” Oh cruelty! Didst thou promise the greater, and dost thou not fulfill the less? To save thy walking a little way, doth he perish with hunger? Oh insolence! Oh pride! Why, if it were ten furlongs to be walked, oughtest thou to be backward? Doth it not even come into thy mind that so thy reward is made greater? For whereas, when thou givest, thou receivest reward for the gift only: when thou thyself also goest, for this again is appointed thee a recompense.
Yea, the patriarch himself we admire for this, that in his own person he ran to the herd, and snatched up the calf, and that, when he had three hundred and eighteen servants born in his house. But now some are filled with so much pride, as to do these things by servants, and not to be ashamed. “But dost thou require me to do these things myself?” one may say. “How then shall I not seem to be vainglorious?” Nay, but as it is, thou art led by another kind of vainglory to do this, being ashamed to be seen talking with a poor man.
But I am in no respect strict about this; only give, whether by thyself or by another thou art minded to do so; and do not accuse, do not smite, do not revile. For medicines, not wounds, doth he need who comes unto thee; mercy, not a sword. For tell me, if any one who had been smitten with a stone, and had received a wound in his head, were to let go all others, and run unto thy knees, drenched in his blood; wouldest thou indeed smite him with another stone, and add unto him another wound? I, for my part, think not; but even as it was, thou wouldest endeavor to cure it. Why then doest thou the contrary with respect to the poor? Knowest thou not how much power a word hath, both to raise up, and to cast down? “For a word,” it is said, “is better than a gift.”
Dost thou not consider that thou art thrusting the sword into thyself, and art receiving a more grievous wound, when he, being reviled, silently withdraws, with groans and many tears? Since indeed of God he is sent unto thee. Consider then, in insulting him, upon whom thou art causing the insult to pass; when God indeed sends him unto thee, and commands thee to give, but thou, so far from giving, dost even insult him on his coming.
And if thou art not aware how exceedingly amiss this is, look at it as among men, and then thou wilt fully know the greatness of the sin. As thus: if a servant of thine had been commanded by thee to go to another servant, who had money of thine, to receive it, and were to come back not only with empty hands, but also with despiteful usage; what wouldest thou not do to him that had wrought the insult? What penalty wouldest thou not exact, as though, after this, it were thyself that had been ill used?
This reckoning do thou make in regard of God also; for truly it is He that sends the poor to us, and of His we give, if indeed we do give. But if, besides not giving, we also send them away insulted, consider how many bolts, how many thunders, that which we are doing deserves.
Duly considering then all these things, let us both bridle our tongue, and put away inhumanity, and let us stretch forth the hand to give alms, and not with money only, but with words also, let us relieve such as are in need; that we may both escape the punishment for reviling, and may inherit the kingdom which is for blessing and almsgiving, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom, Homily 35 on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 5-7
Monday, March 21, 2011
Consider now the portrait of humans, humankind, that emerges from the biblical creation story in contrast to Enuma Elish. In Genesis, humans are important; in Genesis 1 humans are important. And in fact the biblical view of humans really emerges from both of the creation stories, when they're read together--the story here in Genesis 1 and then the creation story that occupies much of 2 and 3. The two accounts are extremely different but they both signal the unique position and dignity of the human being. In the first account in Genesis 1, the creation of the human is clearly the climactic divine act: after this God can rest. And a sign of the humans' importance is the fact that humans are said to be created in the image of God, and this occurs in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." What might that mean? Looking at the continuation of the verse, of the passage, we have some idea because humans, we see, are going to be charged with specific duties towards, and rights over, the created world. And it seems, therefore, that the idea of being created in the image of God is connected with those special rights and duties. A creature is required who is distinguished in certain ways from other animals. How are humans distinguished from other animals? You could make a long list but it might include things like the capacity for language and higher thought or abstract thought, conscience, self-control, free-will. So, if those are the distinctive characteristics that earn the human being certain rights over creation but also give them duties towards creation, and the human is distinct from animals in being created in the image of God, there's perhaps a connection: to be godlike is to perhaps possess some of these characteristics.
Now being created in the image of God carries a further implication. It implies that human life is somehow sacred and deserving of special care and protection. And that's why in Genesis 9:6 we read, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, in exchange for that man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God was man created" [Hayes' translation]. [They] invoke that rationale from Genesis 1 in the absolute prohibition on murder. There is no way to compensate or punish someone for murder, it simply means forfeiture of one's own life. That's how sacred human life is. That's the biblical view.
So, the concept of the divine image in humans--that's a powerful idea, that there is a divine image in humans, and that breaks with other ancient conceptions of the human. In Genesis 1, humans are not the menials of God, and in fact Genesis expresses the antithesis of this. Where in Enuma Elish, service was imposed upon humans so the gods were free--they didn't have to worry about anything, the humans would take care of the gods--we have the reverse; it's almost like a polemical inversion in Genesis 1. The very first communication of God to the human that's created is concern for that creature's physical needs and welfare. He says in Genesis 1:28-29, he blesses them, "God blessed them and God said to them, 'Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and all the living things that creep on earth.'" In Genesis 2:16 after the creation story there, "And the Lord God commanded the man saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat.'" His first thought is what are you going to eat? I want you to be fruitful and multiply, and so on.
So, humans in Genesis are not presented as the helpless victims of blind forces of nature. They're not the menials and servants of capricious gods. They are creatures of majesty and dignity and they are of importance to, objects of concern for, the god who has created them. At the same time, and I think very much in line with the assertion that humans are created in the image of God, humans are not, in fact, gods. They are still creatures in the sense of created things and they are dependent on a higher power. So in the second creation story beginning in Genesis 2:4, we read that the first human is formed when God fashions it from the dust of the earth or clay. There are lots of Ancient Near Eastern stories of gods fashioning humans from clay; we have depictions of gods as potters at a potter's wheel just turning out lots of little humans. But the biblical account as much as it borrows from that motif again takes pains to distinguish and elevate the human. First, the fashioning of the human from clay is--again--in that story, it's the climactic or, well not quite climactic, it's the penultimate, I suppose, moment in the story. The final climactic act of creation is the creation of the female from the male. That is actually the peak of creation, what can I say [laughter]? Second and significantly, not an afterthought, it's the peak of creation! Second and significantly, God himself blows the breath of life into Adam's nostrils. So while he fashions this clay figure, this carcass actually--and then breathes life, his own life into it. So, in the second creation story just as in the first, there's a sacred imprint of some kind that distinguishes the human creation from the other creatures. So this idea that the human being is a mixture of clay, he's molded from clay, but enlivened by the breath of God, captures that paradoxical mix of sort of earthly and divine elements, dependence and freedom that marks the human as unique.
It should further be noted that in the first creation account, there's no implication that man and woman are in any kind of unequal relationship before God. The Hebrew word that designates the creature created by God is the word adam. It's actually not a proper name, small a; it is adam, it's a generic term. It simply means human or more precisely earthling because it comes from the word adamah, which means ground or earth. So this is adam, an earthling, a thing that has been taken from the earth. Genesis 1 states that God created the adam, with the definite article: this is not a proper name. God created the adam, the earthling, "male and female created he them." That's a line that has vexed commentators for centuries and has spawned many very fascinating interpretations. And you will be reading some of those in the readings that are assigned for section discussion next week and I think having a great deal of fun with them. Moreover, this earthling that seems to include both male and female, is then said to be in the image of God. So that suggests that the ancient Israelites didn't conceive of God as gendered or necessarily gendered. The adam, the earthling, male and female was made in the image of God. Even in the second creation account, it's not clear that the woman is subordinate to the man. Many medieval Jewish commentators enjoy pointing out that she was not made from his head so that she not rule over him, but she wasn't made from his foot so that she would be subservient to him; she was made from his side so that she would be a companion to him. And the creation of woman, as I said, is in fact the climactic creative act in the second Genesis account. With her formation, creation is now complete. So, the biblical creation stories individually and jointly present a portrait of the human as the pinnacle and purpose of creation: godlike in some way, in possession of distinctive faculties and characteristics, that equip them for stewardship over the world that God has created.
Finally, let's talk about the image of the world that emerges from the creation story in Genesis 1. In these stories, there's a very strong emphasis on the essential goodness of the world. Recall some of Kaufman's ideas or categories again. One of the things he claims is that in a polytheistic system, which is morally neutral, where you have some primordial realm that spawns demons, monsters, gods, evil is a permanent necessity. It's just built into the structure of the cosmos because of the fact that all kinds of divine beings, good and bad, are generated and locked in conflict. So the world isn't essentially good in its nature or essentially bad. Note the difference in Genesis. After each act of creation what does God say? "It is good," right? Genesis 1 verse 4, verse 10, verse 12, verse 18, verse 21, verse 25… and after the creation of living things, the text states that God found all that he made to be very good. So there are seven occurrences of the word "good" in Genesis. That's something you want to watch for. If you're reading a passage of the Bible and you're noticing a word coming up a lot, count them. There's probably going to be seven or ten, they love doing that. The sevenfold or the tenfold repetition of a word--such a word is called a leitwort, a recurring word that becomes thematic. That's a favorite literary technique of the biblical author. So we read Genesis 1 and we hear this recurring--"and it was good… and he looked and it was good… and he looked and it was good," and we have this tremendous rush of optimism. The world is good; humans are important; they have purpose and dignity.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
"Why then is it, " some one may say, "that thou fashionest a woman, and not a man?" There are men too worse than this woman. But forasmuch as the authority is intrusted to men, we accordingly are framing a woman, for the present, not as though vice more abounded in them. For there are many things to be found in men also, which are not amongst women; as for instance man-slaying, breaking open of tombs, fighting with wild beasts, and many such like things. Think not therefore that we do this as undervaluing the sex; it is not, it is not this, but thus it was convenient at present to sketch out the picture.
Friday, March 18, 2011
It was into the cultural context of the Roman Empire in the first century CE that Jesus Christ was born. And it was in this cultural context, which combined the best and, at times, the worst, of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome, that the Christian Church grew up.
Names to know
- Augustus Caesar - first Roman emperor
Places to know
- Rome - city in the Italian peninsula from which the Romans emerged
- Roman unity of the Mediterranean
- Roman legalism
* = highly recommended
*Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996.
Chodorow, Stanley. The Other Side of Western Civilization: Readings in Everyday Life, Volume 1: The Ancient World to the Reformation. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1979.
Cicero. The Nature of the Gods. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.
Coplestone, Frederick. History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1946.
Garnsey, Peter and Richard Saller. The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987.
Goldsworthy, Adrian. Roman Warfare. London: Phoenix Press, 2007.
Hillegass, C.K. Mythology. Lincoln: Cliffs Notes, Inc., 1990.
Le Glay, Marcel, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry, Donald G. Kyle, and Eleni Manolaraki. A History of Rome, 4th Edition. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Raeper, William and Linda Smith. A Brief Guide to Ideas: Turning Points in the History of Human Thought. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 1991.
*Russell, Bertrand. The History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.
*Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.
Ulansey, David. The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Zinsser, Hans. Rats, Lice, and History: A Chronicle of Pestilence and Plagues. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 1996.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
While salat is a central aspect of Islamic practice, the way the first Muslims developed the prayer ritual has not been widely researched. This study employs the theory of syncretism to show that religious rituals practiced in Jewish traditions, Zoroastrian traditions, Christian traditions and traditions indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula influenced how the Muslim daily prayer was developed.
Four aspects of salat are considered: washing before prayer, prostration, direction faced during prayer and number of times prayer is performed throughout the day. A set of criteria for potential syncretic influence is applied to historical evidence of religious practice in specific communities in the Northeast Africa, Southwest Asia region in the sixth and seventh centuries. The criteria are similarity in practice, contact between early Muslims and other religious individuals or groups, and the extent of that contact. When these criteria are met, possible syncretic influence is indicated.
Conclusions reached indicate that ritual washing was influenced by Jewish and Zoroastrian practice. Prostration was likely an influence from indigenous Arabian traditions and not from Jewish and Christian traditions, as previous studies have concluded. Direction faced during prayer was an influence stemming from the Jewish tradition. Number of times prayer is performed throughout the day was primarily a Zoroastrian influence, while other traditions also likely had some influence.
Read this thesis from the University of Missouri here.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
I want to begin by thanking Skierkowa for agreeing to participate in this debate and for his cordiality in our interaction beforehand.
Although I am defending the negative position in this debate, I want to begin, oddly enough, by answering a qualified “yes” to the question at hand; I think that an atheistic worldview can in fact support a consistent morality. The nature of that morality, however, must be of an entirely different content and style from anything that most of us would recognize as “morality.”
In determining what a consistent atheistic morality might look like, we must have a sense of the history of the development of moral ideas. We will find that, outside of a single group of people, the Jews, pre-Christian morality was a far different realm from that with which those of us who live in a “post-Christian” culture are familiar. We might summarize the bulk of pre-Christian morality by saying that the overarching ethic was “might makes right.” What we would call “cruelty” and “brutality” were, for most ancient peoples, accepted and even lauded aspects of life.
Let us confine ourselves, for simplicity’s sake, to the single example of infanticide. Infanticide, the discarding and/or killing of unwanted infants, was a common practice in nearly all ancient cultures. It is, after all, very useful as it serves the ends of both population control (within a household as well as within a nation) and of eugenics. Children who were born with disabilities, with defects, or, often, with the wrong (female) sex, were given a death sentence. The callousness with which this subject was treated in the ancient world is exemplified in an ancient papyrus, dated approximately 1 BCE, which contains the letter of a husband away on business to his pregnant wife at home:
Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. ... I urge you and beg you, be concerned about the child and if I receive my wages soon, I will send them up to you. If by chance you give birth, if it is a boy, let it be, if it is a girl, throw it out.Most of us today, however, feel a visceral revulsion at the thought of abandoning or murdering a poor, defenseless infant. We should, of course, feel this way. But the question we must ask is why do we feel this way? Why could our ancient ancestors do all of this, apparently with little emotion, while we today can’t stand the thought?
The answer is in our cultural development. The Jews were one of the very few ancient peoples who did not practice infanticide. Why not? Because they believed in the innate value and dignity of each and every human life. And why did they believe this? Because they believed, as is stated in the opening chapters of their scriptures, that mankind is created “in the image and likeness of God.” They regarded human life, all human life, as sacred. Christians later added a new layer of depth to this Jewish idea with their belief in the Incarnation, a doctrine which claims that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and thereby redeemed and sanctified humanity. For Jews and Christians, then, all human beings, “regardless of his or her mental states of mind, moral standing, or any other personal apsect” were of great and equal value. These ideas, especially once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, became ingrained into Western law, and, eventually, with the evangelization of Europe, into the Western consciousness. These ideas form the foundation of modern Western moral ideas and have, in more recent times through the vehicles of colonialism and missionary work, spread nearly everywhere in the world.
Now, let us fast forward to the 19th and 20th centuries. There we find two atheists, both philosophers, who find themselves in an important disagreement, and this disagreement will be particularly illuminating for our discussion.
The first of these atheists is Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher who famously declared that “God is dead.” What is often forgotten are the implications that Nietzsche drew from this idea. Since there is no God, he said, there is no longer an objective basis for morality, especially for that morality which is based on the commandments and other ideas tied to the Judeo-Christian God. Nietzsche knew his history and knew the basis of the moral ideas of his day; he ridiculed the socialists and utilitarians and others who had supposedly renounced the Christian God but continue to cling to his morality. Nietzsche found that, once all of these other elements are removed, as they must be for consistency's sake, there remain two active elements: Power and Will. And he who has the power exerts his will on the rest.
This is, of course, logical. Atheists disagree among each other greatly over issues of morality. Peter Singer, an atheist and professor of ethics at Princeton University, for instance, advocates the revival of infanticide on utilitarian grounds; most atheists disagree with him. So how do we decide the issue once we can no longer convince each other? Nature's best argument: brute force. The one with the power exerts his will and determines what morality and everything else will consist of. The Darwinian concept of “survival of the fittest” is applied within the human species; this is the only possible consistent atheistic, scientific, rational morality.
Enter Bertrand Russell. Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy, explains and then refutes, or at least offers insightful arguments against, nearly every philosophical position that Westerners have thought up since ancient Greece. But, when he comes to Nietzsche, he comes up short and offers a pitiful, irrational response:
I dislike Nietzsche because he likes the contemplation of pain, because he erects conceit into a duty, because the men whom he most admires are conquerors, whose glory is cleverness in causing men to die. But I think the ultimate argument against his philosophy, as against any unpleasant but internally self-consistent ethic, lies not in an appeal to facts, but in an appeal to the emotions. Nietzsche despises universal love; I feel it the motive power to all that I desire as regards the world.It's a credit to Russell that he turns away from Nietzsche in horror, but his statements here are possibly the most pathetic, un-philosophical statements I've ever heard a philosopher speak. “Not in an appeal to the facts,” he says, “but in an appeal to the emotions.” Would he or any atheist accept this argument from the lips of a Christian? Should this really be taken seriously as an argument? All of the atheistic jargon about rationality and scientific progress fall out of the window as soon as one is confronted with the bare naked reality of the moral implications of an atheistic worldview.
Immediately upon reading this passage in Russell's work, the words of the Russian novelist-philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky sprang to mind. In The Brothers Karamazov he says accurately of modern atheists that
even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it still follow the Christian ideal. And neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it has been attempted, the result has been only grotesque.And we have seen this grotesque in ever greater quantity and quality in the years since Dostoyevsky. We have seen the utopias of communism with their gulags and forced famines, which Bertrand Russell, in the same work already quoted, discusses as essentially atheistic mimicries of Christianity. We have seen the application of science to social and moral doctrine in the eugenics movement, which culminated in the Holocaust. Indeed, we have seen the avenues along which Will and Power lead us.
We have also, however, in the 20th century seen the application of Judeo-Christian principles within their proper context. Probably the most famous example of this is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Of her 87 years, 69 of them were spent as a nun, 68 years were spent in India, and 47 years were spent specifically dedicated to her work as founder and head of the Missionaries of Charity. Conveyed in ratios, this means that she spent 79% of her life as a nun and 54% dedicated specifically to her mission to the poor and sick. Why is all of this important? Thomas Cahill tells the story of Malcolm Muggeridge's famous conversion from atheism to Roman Catholicism, answering that question:
Malcolm Muggeridge, the supremely secular British curmudgeon, who cast a cold eye over so many contemporary efforts and enterprises, was brought up short while visiting an Indian leprosarium run by the Missionaries of Charity, the sisters founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He had always imagined secular humanism to be the ideal worldview but realized, while strolling through this facility, built with love for those whom no one wanted, that no merely humanist vision can take account of lepers, let alone take care of them. To offer humane treatment to humanity's outcasts, to overcome their lifetime experience of petty human cruelties, requires more than mere humanity. Humanists, he realized with the force of sudden insight, do not run leprosariums.The “universal love” which Bertrand Russell referred to as his ideal, of course because even as an atheist he was unable to overcome his Christian cultural conditioning, is only possible within the context in which the idea originated: that of Christianity. It has, over these past 2000 years, proven its viability and the possibilities inherent within it. One need only look to people like St. Basil the Great, a fourth century Christian Bishop who is responsible for the invention of the hospital, and even the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi, who liberated his people from oppression and was inspired to develop his method of non-violent resistance through reading the gospels. And then, of course, there are groups like the abolitionists, who put an end to slavery in the Western world, and the early feminists, who overcame millenia of oppression of women, both of these groups drawing upon the uniquely Judeo-Christian idea that all human beings are of inherent and equal worth and dignity.
What would an atheistic world look like? What a world without all of these achievements, all the product of the Judeo-Christian tradition, look like? Would it look even remotely the same? Absolutely not. As was already mentioned, a purely rational, purely scientific worldview couldn't possibly produce a morality that was even remotely similar to that which Christianity has produced. Scientifically, not all human beings are equal, not all are of inherent worth and value. Rationally, there's no reason not to kill or abandon an unwanted infant, especially one that would be a great burden on his or her parents. Just as in the ancient pagan world, the logical, scientific thing to do is to throw out the diseased, the disabled, and the sick. I think we can all agree that the logical, scientific, atheistic world is a terrifying place in which, to use Thomas Hobbes's famous words describing the state of nature, life is “nasty, brutish, and short.”
It is my opponent's burden to demonstrate how an atheist, or anyone who renounces the Judeo-Christian God and tradition, can continue espousing and practicing Judeo-Christian morality and still possess an internally self-consistent philosophy. He must essentially demonstrate how it is that two very different bases can produce the same results. Or, if he agrees that of course it cannot, he must be able to describe for us a consistent atheistic morality which does not rely upon Will and Power and brute force. In the end, he must address not just my position but those of his fellow atheist Friedrich Nietzsche along with the century and a half of brutalities and epic failures in the great rational, scientific experiment of modern atheism, a history which both Nietzsche and Dostoyesvky accurately predicted.
Cahill, Thomas. Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. New York: Random House, Inc., 1999.
Cahill, Thomas. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. New York: Random House, Inc., 1998.
Dostoyesvky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Constance Garnett. New York: Signet Classics, 1999.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books, 1966.
Patterson, Stephen J. "The Oxyrhynchus Papyri: The Remarkable Discovery You've Probably Never Heard Of." Biblical Archaeology Review 37, no. 2: 60-8.
Avery-Peck, Alan J. The Review of Rabbinic Judaism: Ancient Medieval, and Modern. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2005.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
Russell, Bertrand. The History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.
Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics, 2nd Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1991.
Friday, March 11, 2011
When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then when we are taken up as new-born children, we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honors. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Pentecost. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign [of the cross].
Tertullian, "The Chaplet," ch. 3
Thursday, March 10, 2011
A doctoral student at Durham University in England has discovered the existence of the oldest known copies of books of the Ethiopic Old Testament. The books date back to the early sixth century.
Ted Erho, a postgraduate student in the Department of Theology and Religion, made the find while examining microfilms of classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez) manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University in Minnesota.
Working with previously-uncataloged manuscripts from HMML’s Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, Erho has identified the second oldest Ethiopic manuscript in existence (the oldest is the famous Abba Garima Gospels), which also contains the oldest known copies of books from the Old Testament. This manuscript, EMML 6977, dates prior to the Solomonic Era in Ethiopia, which began in 1270 CE and contains the books of Job and Daniel, as well as two homilies.
He also identified the oldest known major Ge’ez codex of the Old Testament (EMML 9001), which contains the entire Book of Jubilees, considered to be a canonical book by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Its presence in this manuscript is now the oldest known copy of the Book of Jubilees.
By studying the typography and script of the documents, Mr Erho was able to date the Old Testament books. He commented, ”Apart from the obvious scholastic interest, the discovery of such an old manuscript is highly significant culturallyIt is truly a treasure for Ethiopia, which has lost so much knowledge of its pre-modern history due to the theft, destruction, and decay of its manuscripts throughout the last millennium.
“In view of this background, it is in no way an exaggeration to say that this manuscript has survived against rather considerable odds. At the same time, Ethiopia is one of the few nations to retain a manuscript culture, in that even today religious texts are commonly written out by scribes for use throughout the church. This manuscript is a reminder of the roots of this tradition, blending the past with the present.”
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Avery-Peck, Alan J. The Review of Rabbinic Judaism: Ancient Medieval, and Modern. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2005.
Cahill, Thomas.The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.
Cahill, Thomas. Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe. New York: Doubleday, 2008.
Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. New York: Dorset Press, 1967.
Coleman, Christopher Bush. Constantine the Great and Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 1914.
Cornelius Tacitus. The Annals & The Histories. Edited by Moses Hadas. New York: Random House, 2003.
D'Anvers, N. Lives and Legends of the Great Hermits and Fathers of the Church, With Other Contemporary Saints. London: George Bells & Sons, 1902.
Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church. Translated by G.A. Williamson. New York: Penguin Books, 1965.
Eusebius Pamphilus. “The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. 1. Peabody: Hedrickson Publishers, 1994.
Frend, W.H.C. Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2008.
Galli, Mark and Ted Olson, editors. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville: Christianity Today, Inc., 2000.
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