Monday, April 25, 2011

A few questions for Bart Ehrman

Riffing off of my last post and Bart Ehrman's recent appearance on the Unbelievable? radio show, I'd like to transcribe here something that Ehrman said, at minute 44:12.

This isn't the biggest argument against Jesus having been raised from the dead, but one always has to look at what kind of witnesses you have, and when you look at the Gospels of the New Testament, it's striking just how many differences there are in their accounts of the resurrection.  I have my students do an exercise, my undergrads; I have them simply do a careful study of what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all say about what happened on the morning of the resurrection, the alleged resurrection, and compare their notes, and they're struck at just how different they are. Who actually goes to the tomb that morning? Is it Mary Magdalene by herself or with other women? If with other women, how many other women? What are they named? It depends on which Gospel you read.  Was the stone rolled away before they got there or after they got there? It depends on which Gospel you read. 
So, given that, I have a few questions for Dr Ehrman.

Where in your writings, scholarly or popular, or your lectures, have you interacted with harmonisations of these 4 accounts proposed by others who are a bit better educated in Bible exposition and exegesis than undergraduate students at a secular university, and demonstrated that they are insufficient?

Do you commend the practice of having undergraduate students at a university that is not set up to appeal to the best and brightest of a given course of study perform a "careful study" of a topic as a decisive test for truth?
(After all, one would expect to find a much higher percentage of gifted and focused Bible exposition students in the PhD program at Reformed Theological Seminary or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, not in New Testament 101 at UNC Chapel Hill.)

Since you apparently do, would you accept as a definitive conclusion that "Darwinian evolution as described by modern science did not happen, and the Earth is ~6-8000 years old" if I were to have 19 year old Bible college students perform a "careful study" of it? Would you nod in agreement or shake your head in bemused "What were they thinking?" dissent if I were to take that conclusion to a worldwide podcast, in conversation with a PhD-holding, leading proponent of Darwinian evolution like Richard Dawkins?  Should anyone expect that Dawkins would take such an assertion seriously?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I harmonised the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection

Some time ago, I shared two harmonisations of the four Gospels' resurrection accounts that I'd found elsewhere, but for one thing I find them a little bit hard to follow, especially the one from Answering Islam.
So as a bit of a personal devotional exercise, I decided to see if I could figure it out more or less on my own, and here's the result. If nothing else, it helps me make sense of the accounts since it's undeniable that these four different accounts with different foci can be sort of confusing.

Before we launch in, it's instructive to recall that "these four resurrection accounts are mutually contradictory" is still a popular objection to biblical Christianity. In last week's edition of the Unbelievable? radio show, Bart Ehrman mentioned that very thing a few times, specifically at minute 34 and again at minute 44. As I was listening to it yesterday, I found myself shaking my head and smiling - once again, Ehrman demonstrates he is very poorly versed in biblical exegesis, or is simply unwilling to put forth the effort or perhaps to allow for harmonisation at all, which is a sign of severe bias. 
For the charge of contradiction to stick, the skeptic would have to demonstrate there is no possible harmonisation of the texts, not merely that it's difficult or that you don't understand it. And as I show here, this charge has no teeth. Glory to Jesus Christ.

1)  Angel, earthquake, stone is rolled away, soldiers faint.
Matthew here provides a bit of background information before continuing with his story of the women, begun in verse 1.
Matthew 28:2And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

2)  Jesus exits tomb while soldiers are flattened.
Not specifically mentioned, but obvious deduction.

3)  Soldiers wake up, find tomb empty, scatter. 
Taken from later references, like:
Matthew 28:11Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 

4)  Still early in the morning, Mary M, other Mary, Joanna, Salome, and probably other women come to the tomb. 
Matthew 28:1Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
Mark 16:1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 
Luke 24:1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
John 20:1a Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark...

5)  They find the stone rolled away.
Mark 16:4Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
Luke 24:2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
John 20:1b ...and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 

6)  Mary M at least runs to tell Peter and John that the stone is rolled away.
John 20:2So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

7)  Peter and John run to the tomb.
John 20:3So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb.

8)  John gets there 1st and doesn't go in. Peter gets there 2nd and does go in, sees the cloths lying there.
Notice that they only see the stone rolled away and the gravecloths lying in a heap and do not see an angel or Jesus.
John 20:4The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

9)  John then goes in and believes but neither of them fully understand.
John 20:8So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 

10)  Peter and John return home.
John 20:10So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

11)  Mary M at least is at the tomb weeping, and the other women may or may not be around.
John 20:11But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb

12)  The other women come back at some point it would seem, though, and they all look into the tomb. They see two angels inside and they ask why they're crying and announce the resurrection.
A few notes here:
--Where there's two angels, there's always one. 
--In biblical angelophanies, they virtually always appear as men.
--There is no good reason to think that all of the conversations noted here did not occur.
Matthew 28:5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7“Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
Mark 16:5Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7“But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
Luke 24:3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6“He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8And they remembered His words.
John 20:12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

13)  Mary at least turns around, coming out of the tomb, conceivably drying her eyes, and encounters Jesus, Who talks to her.
A few notes:
--She doesn't understand right away that it's Jesus because she's been weeping hard this whole time and is still composing herself, and also she wasn't turned His direction when He first talked to her.
--There's also no indication of how far He was away, whether He was sort of calling to her from across a few dozen feet or behind a tree or bush or something.
--There's no indication of whether the other women are present. I think maybe they were, but John's account merely focuses on Mary M. Maybe He spoke to the other women too and it simply wasn't recorded.
John 20:14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 

14)  Looks like many or all of the women run off first of all and are so blown away by the experience that they don't say anything for some time.
Matthew 28:8a And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy...
Mark 16:8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

15)  They eventually recover and go to tell the disciples that Mary M at least (and maybe the others were there too, standing around or something) actually met and talked to Jesus. 
Matthew 28:8b ...and ran to report it to His disciples.
Luke 24:9and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
John 20:18Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. 

14b) or 15b) Jesus greets them on the way and they worship Him.
It's unclear whether they were on their way to tell the disciples and then Jesus met them and that really overwhelmed them, or whether they were overwhelmed first and went to tell the disciples and then were met (again) by Jesus, or whether they were already overwhelmed and on their way to recover and Jesus met them then.
Matthew 28:9And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

16)  The disciples don't believe the women's report (presumably, the report of actually seeing and talking to the risen Jesus).
Luke 24:11But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. 

17)  Peter runs to the tomb and goes inside, sees the cloths.
Looks like this is his 2nd time to run to the tomb, probably b/c the 1st time he went, recorded in John, he'd only heard that the stone was rolled away and gone and seen only that and the cloths, but not Jesus Himself. Maybe he wanted to see if Jesus was still hanging around there, and though He wasn't, Peter still took another look into the tomb.
Luke 24:12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

At least SOMEone will talk about CAIR

At the end of January, I heard that Senator Tom Coburn was going to meet with some CAIR representatives, which concerned me for reasons that should be obvious.

I wrote him and included a link to my semi-open letter to CAIR, written (fortuitously) not long before.  CAIR never got back to me on that letter, even though I emailed it to them and tweeted them about it at least twice. Not that their silence surprises me - they're liars and propaganda artists.

Anyway, in my email I asked Senator Coburn to reconsider meeting with CAIR.
I got his response today:

April 7, 2011
Dear Rhology,

Thank you for your message regarding the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns and thank you for sharing with me your blog article.

I have met with CAIR representatives from Oklahoma in the past; however I fully understand your desire for me to avoid contact with any group linked with terrorism.  Do know, I am certainly aware of their associations and situations.

CAIR was founded in 1994 by leaders of the Islamic Association of Palestine, an organization affiliated with the terrorist group, Hamas.  In 2007, federal prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice identified CAIR and its founder, Omar Ahmad, as "individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestinian Committee" and unindicted coconspirators in a terror fundraising case. The Department of Justice successfully prosecuted the case, and the defendants were found guilty of 108 counts.

CAIR has a history of advocating positions that many find troubling. For example, following the 9/11 attacks, while CAIR condemned the attacks, it was unwilling to reject Osama bin Laden. CAIR has also been known to accuse Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians, claim Jews have a destructive influence in the U.S., and praise the "epic heroism of the resistance fighters" of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization.

In response to CAIR's involvement with terror fundraisers, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) decided to severe all official ties between CAIR and the FBI. In fact, Senator Kyl, Senator Schumer and I have sent a joint letter to Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, stating we are in full support of this decision. It is not appropriate for U.S. agencies to conduct U.S. policy with any organization associated with terror fundraising, anti-Semitism, or the glorification of terrorists or acts of terror. You can be sure I will continue to hold this position.

Again, thank you for writing. God bless you.


Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator

My thanks to Senator Coburn (or, more probably, the member of his staff who wrote me) for collecting together that information in one place. My friend natxlaw likes to say that CAIR should be known and identified as a terrorist organisation and those who affiliate with them be treated and considered accordingly.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

No comment necessary

Bruce said...

Let me help you get unstuck. I help my friend Billy Pilgrim get unstuck and look how he turned out.

The 'absolutely true that absolute truth doesn't exist' is a cheap gimmick to force people into a desired answer. And using a question like 'Is it OK to molest children for fun' is picking an extreme example that no rational person would argue with.
Why didn't they ask "If you saw a madman about to blow up a bus full of children, and you could stop him by shooting and killing him, would that be OK?"
Or, "Is it OK to steal food to keep your family alive?"
And the step 8 answer is just a lazy example of circular logic.

Truth is a relative thing and it evolves over time.

The world is not black and white. Good or Evil. It's mostly grey.
I would argue that God's own rules have changed over time. Would Jesus order the slaughter of every man, woman and child in a city? Would society today condone such an action? No. but, it's the preferred modus operandi in the OT.

And I'll ask again Why is it OK for God to kill or order the killing of innocents just because it fits into his plan? Why is he exempt from his own rules?

The original sin answer/excuse you provided is pretty weak. Condemning millions for the innocent act of a two.

BTW, please try to keep your response a little more civil if possible. I tend to quickly dismiss people who resort to insults and name calling as they show they would rather think with their emotions rather then their brains.

Rhology said...

Hi Bruce,

is a cheap gimmick to force people into a desired answer

Is that true?

'Is it OK to molest children for fun' is picking an extreme example that no rational person would argue with.

What's wrong with that?
And is it OK to molest children for fun?
I guess I don't understand your reluctance to answer the question. I have zero doubt that you don't molest children, nor would you ever entertain such a notion, so I figure your reluctance stems from the notion that you know you're caught but don't want to admit it. If not, please explain why it's a bad question.

Truth is a relative thing and it evolves over time. 

Is the truth of the statement "Truth is a relative thing and it evolves over time" a relative thing? Relative to what?
Does the truth of the statement "Truth is a relative thing and it evolves over time" evolve over time? From what into what, and how do you know? And however you know, does THAT evolve over time and is it relative? If so, relative to what?

I would argue that God's own rules have changed over time.

And that is because you are ignorant of the Bible or are unwilling to treat it fairly according to its own terms.

Would Jesus order the slaughter of every man, woman and child in a city?

1) Yes, b/c Jesus is the God of the Old Testament.
2) Wait a sec, though. I thought you just told me that truth evolves over time, and is relative. Please explain how you can say that and then say this. What happened to the relativistic ethic you were espousing?
If you use an argument from modernity, how do you know that modern is better? Is the truth that

Why is it OK for God to kill or order the killing of innocents just because it fits into his plan? Why is he exempt from his own rules?

B/c the rule is "don't kill ppl w/o justification". That's the definition of murder. Anytime God puts someone to death, it's justifiable.

The original sin answer/excuse you provided is pretty weak.

Is the truth of the statement "The original sin answer/excuse you provided is pretty weak" a relative thing? Relative to what?
Does the truth of the statement "The original sin answer/excuse you provided is pretty weak" evolve over time? From what into what, and how do you know? And however you know, does THAT evolve over time and is it relative? If so, relative to what?

they would rather think with their emotions rather then their brains. 

I'm sorry to say that, coming from someone who refuses to think absolute truth exists, it's hard to take this kind of statement seriously.


Bruce said...

Are you just pulling my leg? April Fools joke?

Rhology said...

Nope! Today's the 4th anyway. :-)
I'll look fwd to your reply.

OK, Last post on this for the day. The real world is calling.
I apologize for being rude but I won't comment on your last posts right now other then to say that your logic and reasoning are extremely poor. I'll point it out later if I have the time and energy. Others may feel free to do so.