Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gnosticism

Who were the Gnostics, where did they come from, and what did they think?

I happened to run across an small book published by the Theosophical press: "Jung and the Lost Gospels: Insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi library", by Stephan Hoeller. Unlikely as it sounds, it turned out to be excellent, providing extensive insight into pre-Christian and early Christian times as illuminated by those manuscripts. (See also a series of books by Freke and Gandy.) When first found, much of the Dead sea scroll material was taken under the wing of Catholic clergymen and suppressed for decades before publication. Why? The reasons become quite apparent when the connections between the two corpi, found only a year or two apart circa 1945 and 1946, are illuminated. Both are authentic expressions of heterodoxy, first vis-a-vis the Jewish power structure, then versus the nascent Christian powers, which the early church patriarchy had labored long and hard not only to refute, but to erase.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written at least in part by Essenes, a Jewish mystic and healing sect of 150 BCE to 70 CE. They were motivated to go into exile (near the Dead Sea) by the usurpation (as they viewed it) of the priesthood by the Hasmonean (Maccabeean) dynasty, whose successful revolt against threatened paganism (of the Seleucids) had brought them to the throne in Jerusalem. The Essenes favored the more traditional priesthood, which fell to the tribe of Zadok and was separated from the throne, and cursed the Hasmonean "wicked priests".

Far from being a minor twig on the tree of Judaism, Essenes were a major dissenting group from the worldly (and religiously literalist/fundamentalist) Pharisees and Saducees. The Essenes were influential around the Eastern Mediterranean as healers and mystics (also called Therapeutae, and regarded as proto-gnostics), somewhat akin in reputation to the Egyptians who also were widely regarded to possess and transmit occult knowledge. It is apparent from this book and other studies of this time that the earliest Christian communities were very likely to have been direct descendents, by teaching if not by membership, of a wide-spread Essene community that had already templated essentially all the teachings either adopted and transmitted by Jesus or put into his mouth later on. Incidentally, the Essenes also prefigured the non-temple and non-sacrificial Judaism that was to become mainstream in the diaspora.

Their doctrines included sacramental meals, baptism, asceticism, pacifism, collectivism, antipathy to slavery, renunciation of animal sacrifice, belief in life after death, conviction of the fallen-ness of the current world, expectation of its immanent demise, and expectation of a savior, a "teacher of righteousness". Though the data is extremely sketchy, the book indicates that a teacher of righteousness was recognized circa 100 BCE, and was killed by the Jewish powers that be, prompting an outpouring of bitterness and apocalypticism, some of which is recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This clarifies substantially the timeline of the period, both in terms of the origins of the teachings involved, and in growth of the early Christian community, whose organized and far-flung nature within years of the presumed mission and death of Jesus is otherwise difficult to understand. It also clarifies some of the so-called heresies of the early Christian period, most of which were continuations and developments of the Essene creeds that were related to or eventually became what we call Gnosticism, and which became, as all mystical creeds will, anathema to an organized, hierarchical, orthodox patriarchy.

Which brings us to the other set of writings, the Nag Hammadi library of books, apparently secreted by a sect of Christian mystics in response to a decree banning non-canonical manuscripts, describing their gnostic beliefs dating back to perhaps 80 CE and thereafter, with the books themselves dating to the 200's and 300's CE. Gnosticism was equally derived from the Essene tradition as was Christianity, and both off-shoots intertwined in their Jesus-based theology, though the Gnostics were not as hung up on the literalism of the Jesus story, focusing on and recasting the mythical aspects of a story that was, in all probability, mythical to start with.

As a classic Gnostic deity, Jesus came into the world (in Plato's terms symbolized by the cave) to give knowledge of humanity's true nature and origin (god within), and hope of a better life after death, as long as one shared in this knowledge (later reduced in orthodoxy to the dictum to believe in Jesus or go to hell). The knowlege of the man being in god and god being in man, in agreement with typical mystical experience, expresses a one-ness with the universe which is both salving for the individual and also benificent in spreading love of all and everything through the community and the world.

The key difference between Gnosticism and orthodoxy lay in the value of personal, interior experiences. The Gnostics didn't concern themselves so much with organization and hierarchy as with continuing revelation by personal experience, led by a succession of visionaries providing "gnosis", or direct spiritual knowledge. For an organized religion, revelation has to stop somewhere, or else nothing that went before (and no one) can be authoritative. (This is a problem that Protestantism has dealt with repeatedly as sect after sect cleaves off and redivides in the absence of final authority). Gnosticism, on the other hand, drew continuously from streams of mystical thought and personal experience, starting with the Essenes (and many prior esoteric traditions), then extensively from Egyptian esoteric traditions, through John the Baptist and the associated messianic movements, continuing right up to the recasting of gnostic ideas in the present day by Mormonism and Scientology.

A key developer of Gnosticism proper was Simon (Magus), who was a Jewish Samaritan whose tradition was closely allied to that of the Essenes, being heterodox with respect to the major Jewish sects. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, and appears in the book of acts. He was apparently the originator of the peculiar brew of mysticism that became what we recognize as classical Gnosticism, which had both an intense concern with interior mystical experience along with a florid mythical vision of what those experiences meant. These visions made humans unfortunate inheritors of a fallen world subject to the whims of evil gods. But also possessors of a spark of divinity unknown to those not initated in the Gnosis, which was carried from the highest godly levels by Sophia, the healing and promethian goddess (and the inspirer of philo-Sophia, or philosophy).

Simon was prone to take spiritual flights, much like Muhammed after him and Ezekiel before him. More importantly, he had a female partner, Helen, much as Jesus had Mary Magdalene, who embodied wisdom granted by the goddess Sophia to seekers who were sufficiently pure and ready to renounce earthy things (equivalent to Chokma, the late Essene goddess). Gnosticism was far more open to feminine spritual powers and participation than was orthodoxy. The Nag Hammadi library contains alternate versions of old testament scriptures, liturgies, Gnostic commentaries and myths, especially concerning the feminine principle, lives and sayings of both Jesus and some apostles, as well as other learned miscellany such as portions of Plato's Republic and Zoroastrian texts.

To summarize, the Jesus story is essentially a variant of pre-existing proto-gnostic myths and motifs shared by esoteric pagans and the Essenes, for which an actual person by the name of Jesus may or may not have given further impetus. Paul may have been a gnostic who had little to say about Jesus as an actual person. The later church, in the hands of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other propagators, writers and forgers, came to insist that their story, unlike all the other stories, was really, really, really true, as a badge of differentiation among the many honestly mythical cults of late Roman times. The story got altered, hardened, and repeated in a quadruplicate set of tales, while scores of competing stories were erased and their adherents hounded out of the church. After which the church contracted an alliance with the Roman empire and commenced to convert the remainder of its inhabitants by force, followed by a long dark age.

Aside from the sad loss of honest spirituality in the wake of Christian literalism, one small irony of this story is that Gnostics have ever been in quest of man's true nature, which, by way of active imagination and spiritual seeking was believed to be partly divine, trapped in a realm of semi-darkness and semi-light, oppressed by an evil set of fallen angels, while receiving occasional messages of hope from the upper realms of total light where reside our ultimate progenitors. But the answer of our true nature has in the fullness of time duly arrived, courtesy of Charles Darwin. It may not be the exhalted answer of the Gnostic imagination, but if one cares about either the word "true" or the word "nature", the answer is in hand, in magnificent scope and detail.

"If the flesh has come to be because of the spirit, it is a wonder, but if the spirit has come to be because of the body, that is a wonder of wonders."
- Jesus, in the Gospel of Thomas

  • Outstanding podcast on Gnosticism (second half) and the historicity of Jesus (first half).
  • Interview with Stephan Hoeller, for those interested, quite lengthy.

58 comments :

  1. I have never heard of Stephan Hoeller and I doubt he carries much weight in the world beyond the small conspiracy minded one of new-age-gnostic, true believers wherein Big Foot, UFO’s, and the Loch Ness Monster are all equally viable ideas. If one does an internet search of the “college” Mr. Hoeller is an “emeritus” professor, not a whole lot comes up. But who knows, maybe in the new-age Aquarius world it is their Harvard.

    For anyone interested in actual scholarly work in these areas and not sources Dan Brown would find useful, I would suggest these two books:

    http://www.amazon.com/Fabricating-Jesus-Scholars-Distort-Gospels/dp/0830833552/ref=pd_sim_b_7

    http://www.amazon.com/Missing-Gospels-Unearthing-Alternative-Christianities/dp/0785212949

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  2. Hi, Darrell-

    Thanks for the extra links. I think we all are intrigued by this era, and as you would agree, the solid evidence about Jesus is sparse to nonexistent. So to see theories developed that put this movement into the context of the times, considered especially in terms of the spiritual movements afoot, is deeply interesting. The scholarship here, in view of the lack of direct evidence, has to evaluate the wider currents of the times- something that orthodoxy has been at pains to suppress, which in itself has to be somewhat suspicious.

    I'm no Gnostic, any more than I am a Christian. Nor do I set special store by Hoeller's scholarship. But orthodoxy is quite evidently premised on sort of a Stalinist re-writing of history, which has created a hugely faulty record from under which we are only slowly digging ourselves out, with toothpicks, as it were. But the truth tends to come out eventually, even in the face of dictatorial (or infallible) regimes.

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  3. To the contrary, the two books demonstrate (and many others) that all the "re-writing" attempts have been upon the part of the modern/gnostic elements both at the popular level and academic. It has been the task of orthodoxy simply to keep correcting the record and the best textual, historical, and archeological evidence has always been on their side. Here is what’s interesting: That any atheist/materialist would find the take of someone like Hoeller as more credible than the great majority of scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, over the centuries and what that tells us about the power of ideology. So much for “evidence” and “facts.”

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  4. I'll have to come down on Burk's side in the comments. One doesn't need to look beyond the New Testament to see different early Christianities. From Paul and Peter's disagreements to Paul's accusations towards the so-called "super apostles" to the polemical writings concerning false teachers and prophets throughout the later books. One must consider that the "super apostles" would have considered themselves the true Christians in the argument.

    I enjoyed the original post - Gnosticism is a later development of Hellenized Judaism - material world bad, God of the OT an imposter, Jesus the representative of the true God, etc. It' roots can be traced to the time frame mentioned, but I tend to think of the origins of Christianity being rooted in the traditional Judaism of social justice. Then when Paul became involved, he had a foot in both worlds.

    Interesting stuff for sure.

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  5. I should point out in passing that the name Jesus isn't even correct, since the Hebrew is identical with Joshua, which = "Yahweh is Salvation" and similar meanings. So not only is "Christ" a mythic honorific, but "Jesus" is in all likelihood such an honorific / myth-name as well. The whole thing smells pretty strongly, to be frank.

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  6. Steven, while no expert, I am pretty familiar with Gnosticism, theology/biblical studies, (the area of my formal education) and history and philosophy. Frankly, your response makes no sense to me whatsoever given any actual scholarly work in those areas that I am aware of anyway. Burk, since you think the name "Jesus" is incorrect, please explain to us why no one in those 300 years before Constantine mentioned the real name of the guy those crazy Christians kept calling "Jesus" even though his name was Bob, Henry, or whatever the Semitic equivalent might be. Don’t you think one person might have noted regarding this persecuted minority that they kept calling the guy everyone knew to be “Joe” Jesus? See how silly it is when one just drifts off to conspiracy land, which is where your musings about the name belong. Again, notice how “facts” and “evidence” go out the window once a person’s ideology takes over. I think that is what we smell here.

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  7. "Again, notice how “facts” and “evidence” go out the window once a person’s ideology takes over."

    Ah! The human condition.

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  8. Hi, Darrell-

    I am reading a good book by a quite main-line Christian and academic (Marvin Meyer), which comes to basically the same conclusion I presented above- that the gnostic texts prompt a quite deep revision of what we had gotten from the orthodox tradition, not only in terms of who the gnostics were, but what Christianity is founded on. Specifically, he regards the Gospel of Thomas as quite likely the earliest authentic gospel we have, where there is no deification, but just sayings from a Buddha-like Jesus in the Greek wisdom traditions, which are what gnosticism was built on later, in combination with the Essene traditions.

    He says specifically with respect to orthodoxy, (referring to Athanasius, the archbishop who prompted the Nag Hammadi texts to be buried):

    "What is the source of the authority of the 'orthodox' texts in the canon of scripture? From an historical point of view, orthodoxy and heresy may be understood as rhetorical constructs, as Karen King states, fashioned in the arena of political debate. Understood in this light, orthodoxy and heresy have little to do with truth and falsehood and everything to do with power and position. ... And the winners define the Bible. ... Athanasius of all people should have been aware of the political and rhetorical aspects and implications of the discussions of orthodoxy, heresy, and canon. In the course of the fourth century, Athanasius was exiled as a heretic and recalled from exile as a champion of orthodoxy five times, depending on the latest vote of a council or the latest political move of a ruler. As a result, Athanasius spent much of the century packing and unpakcing his luggage, until finally he was declared the victor in the battle for orthodoxy. Such are the issues that determine what sacred texts are considered authoritative and canonical - and orthodox." The Gnostic discoveries, p 55.

    Your question of how the myth-i-fication (or de-mythification) process works is a good one. The hypothesis is that there was no person named Bob, or anything else. The story was built from one that people originally took allegorically, like "Sophia" in the Gnostic traditions generally. After the stories got retold a few times, (and possibly translated, and possibly re-interpreted by some ascetic literalists), people who didn't fully understand the allegory took it to be literal, after which it was further embroidered, as is obvious in the development of the new testament, to the point that a whole tradition grew up that mistook the myth for reality.

    Imagine if a cult of Harry Potter springs up in a century's time. Or if someone believed that Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Moses were real people!

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  9. I would consider following a cult of Harry Potter! maybe Dumbledore, actually....

    I still lean towards Jesus being a historical person, though the process of mythification reveals itself through the gospels, the NT and the extra-canonical books.

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  10. Burk,

    I love (and by "love", I mean I find them amazingly ridiculous) these three statements from you:

    the solid evidence about Jesus is sparse to nonexistent.

    The 4 Gospels are pretty long. Paul and Peter and John refer to quite a lot about Him in their epistles.
    The Early Church Fathers refer to Him quite a few times as well. The evidence is far more solid than for any other ancient figure, by a long shot.


    he had a female partner, Helen, much as Jesus had Mary Magdalene

    Haha, you DO realise that Dan Brown had the Gnostics exactly backwards, don't you?
    I can't believe someone would actually front Da Vinci Crap as serious history. That's amazing.


    Paul may have been a gnostic who had little to say about Jesus as an actual person.

    May have been a Gnostic who contradicted Gnostic teachings a LOT. Read Colossians recently? 1 Cor 15?

    Sorry, Burk, that was weak. But look on the bright side, Dan Barker's going to take up your cause against James White soon; maybe he can redeem the failures up to this point.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  11. Craig Evans, who wrote "Fabricating Jesus,” has worked with Marvin Meyer and shows why Meyer (to any extent he makes the same errors) and others such as Bart Ehrman are simply wrong and why they are in the minority when we consider the best scholarship comprehensively and over time. Case closed. Further, one can only think there was no historical Jesus if he is completely ignorant of how such claims are even justified. If there was no historical Jesus, then get ready to say that many ancient people we would all know by name also didn't exist. Regardless of the claims regarding his deity, it is ridiculous to assert there was no such historical person. Finally, there is no evidence at all that Athanasius "prompted" the burying of the Nag Hammadi texts. Such is pure speculation based upon timing and a letter he wrote. Again, that such thin speculative musings are held as believable over the wide, deep, and comprehensive scholarship in these areas is very telling. All this nonsense is akin to all the books, sources, and evidence out there for the “grassy knoll” theory and/or other “theories” as to the JFK assassination. That is what all this Dan Brown nonsense boils down to and to see an “objective” “scientific” “rational” philosophical naturalist buy into it is fascinating to say the least. There are always “true believers” regardless of “evidence” and “facts.”

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  12. Hi, Rhology-

    Thanks for your lively comments! I am not saying here that I am right and all others are wrong. But that in view of the extremely poor evidence, beset by hundreds of years of forgery, revision, and misinterpretation, it is quite possible to offer alternate interpretations of the Jesus story that make just as much sense in light of movements of the times and the evidence in hand as do the orthodox stories. The length of the gospels is more due to duplication and fantastical additions than to their original empirical (dare we say scientific!) content.

    For example, half the Pauline epistles are not by Paul, including Colossians. What is left could be taken as referring to the Jesus concept in a much more mythical than literal sense, especially if one back-projects the text through the meatgrinder of orthodox re-re-re-copying. I have no expertise to do such surmising, but take it from others who have done more work in the field that this is both possible and in some ways closer to the intellectual and spiritual currents of the times.

    At any rate, humility is the order of the day, in the face of a throughly mangled historical record.

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  13. The assertion that "half" the Pauline epistles were not authored by Paul is pure speculation on the part of a minority of scholars. Further, your belief in centuries of "forgery, revision, and misinterpretation" is complete nonsense and simply confirms your bias. By the way, how would one know what the "true" interpretation was? How would one know a forgery? Does this person have the original? How do you know all this and why is the best and most serious scholarship against you? Are you saying every ancient document we have that is a copy is a fake? Oh, and how funny: If you were truly concerned about "poor" evidence you would hardly be taken with people like Hoeller or Dan Brown conspiracy theories.

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  14. Ah, you've gotta love the unsupported (and wrongheaded) assertions, like Paul didn't write Colossians et al.

    But if humility is your flavor, I hope you'll be consistent and admit that since the historicity of orthodox Christianity is by a large margin the strongest-attested of ancient history, you and I actually know NOTHING about what happened in ancient Rome, Greece, Persia, Babylon, etc. Nothing, if you apply the same standards to other documentation that you're attempting to apply to the Bible.
    I haven't met a skeptic yet who's willing to be that consistent. Perhaps you'll be the first?

    The length of the gospels is more due to duplication and fantastical additions than to their original empirical (dare we say scientific!) content.

    What a load of imaginative crap. Prove it.

    And yeah, what Darrell said too.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  15. "The assertion that "half" the Pauline epistles were not authored by Paul is pure speculation on the part of a minority of scholars."

    replace "pure speculation" with "educated hypothesis" and "minority" with "majority".

    Colossians is up in the air though.


    It would be wise to remember where the burden of proof lies when there are assertions that the laws of physics were broken - as in a literal interpretation of the Jesus story. Also, we know that people recorded "history" differently back then. This is evidenced by the numerous versions of gospels, epistles and acts of the apostles. People cared about God, spirituality, theology, etc. They wrote stories to match. But truth and fact can be different.

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  16. Here is something for your entertainment! The more you learn about antiquity the more interesting it gets.

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  17. Steven,

    What is your argument for why the laws of physics being broken means that the supernaturalist necessarily has the burden of proof? ISTM, since materialism is so obviously a steaming pile of a position, there is little to prove.
    If you appeal to probability, on your position you do realise that the probability that the physical laws that have arisen in the universe would arise is astronomically low, right? All that to say that arguing against historical questions on the basis of probability has some serious obstacles.

    Lots of people care about God, spirituality, theology, etc, today too. What % of the world's population today is naturalist? It's low. So I don't know what your point would be.

    Further, people ALSO have been known to write CORRECT, ACCURATE historical accts. To say, "people write stupid stuff" is to argue for nothing. 9/11 Truthers are people and they write stupid stuff related to engineering. On your position, ID-ers are people and they write stupid stuff related to biology. So does that mean that there is no true or accurate acct of biology?

    All I mean to do here is move everyone toward advancing the conversation. Of course, if y'all would repent of your sins and trust Christ as Savior, that would be yet better.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  18. Hi, Rhology-

    Do I have this straight- you try to weasel out of the improbability of violating well-established laws of physics by throwing up the dust of the "improbability" of those laws arising in the first place? That is a little weak. Doubtless you were getting to the old saw of "If I am right about god creating everything, then miracles are no problem either". Or, if I could be a bit more pithy, "I don't need your stinkin' laws of physics!"

    Then you go on to appeal to popularity as a defense of supernaturalism, and wind up by implying that the Christian story is accurate because some historical records are accurate.

    I haven't been entirely four-square in my arguments either, but I think you can to better!

    The popularity of supernaturalism actually argues the other way, since it has prompted countless people to investigate it in countless ways. And as we see, neither psychic abilities, nor miracles, nor any other sign of supernatural phenomena has survived that scrutiny in a reliable way. The origin of the universe remains a great mystery of which we remain completely ignorant. But otherwise, popularity has turned out to reflect psychology, not physics.

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  19. Well, that was one of my arguments, but not the only or the strongest. And it IS improbable that these laws would arise in the 1st place! Argument. Give the argument why my point doesn't stand.

    you go on to appeal to popularity as a defense of supernaturalism

    ?? No, go back and read Steven's comment, to which I was responding on his own terms.


    implying that the Christian story is accurate because some historical records are accurate.

    Wrong again. I was responding to Steven on his own terms.


    miracles, nor any other sign of supernatural phenomena has survived that scrutiny in a reliable way

    Oh, so you have a good naturalistic acct of the Resurrection of Christ?
    And how exactly did something come out of nothing in the Big Bang? Have you ever observed something come out of nothing? How would that work? What would be the cause, since there was NOTHING? I'd be very interested to know these two things, to see if you can back up your claim.


    The origin of the universe remains a great mystery of which we remain completely ignorant.

    But you're just SURE it wasn't a miraculous action of God. How do you know?
    If you don't, then on what grounds do you make these sweeping claims?


    Peace,
    Rhology

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  20. the fine tuning argument gets causality backwards. It says "Matter requires that the strong nuclear force be set at x, and the odds are low of that". But matter did not exist before the strong nuclear force. Matter seems to have adapted to physical laws, not vice versa. The fine tuning argument tells us that to get what we have, we need to have things set like they are. If they weren't, of course, we would have something different.

    With only one universe to observe, the conditional probability of our existence is one, since we do exist.

    In other words, even if the odds of the lottery are 1 in 10 trillion, one person still has to win, and as much as it feels like it's supernatural......naturalism says that one person still had to win.

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  21. I wasn't really using the fine tuning argument, I was just responding to your statement. Which rebuttal still lies unrefuted.

    But this sentence assumes what you need to prove:
    With only one universe to observe, the conditional probability of our existence is one, since we do exist.

    Reading between the lines, what you mean is that the probability of our existence having arisen from a natural event is one, since we do exist.

    Tell you what, I'll do the same thing from my own position.
    With only one universe to observe, the conditional probability of our existence having arisen from God's miraculous and supernatural creative act is one, since we do exist.
    See how easy that was? My "argument" has the same force yours does - zero.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  22. This is where parsimony comes in. If the conditional probability of our existence is one, then there is no logical need to put a God at the beginning - putting a being at the beginning that is more complex than our universe creates bigger problems than what we already have.

    I have no problem with God through the personal, mystical experience. But to argue God's necessity from logic doesn't work.

    quite simply - there is only one reason to believe in God - because you want to. And therefore, if another does not want to, tolerance and understanding are the wisest options.

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  23. Parsimony is only relevant when one has more than one possible workable solutions.
    Something magically/spontaneously/uncaused-ly popping out of nothing is not among them.

    So, if it's between God creating and nothing making something, doesn't it seem smarter to go with the former? Unless you just WANT to not believe...

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  24. Hi, Rhology-

    "Oh, so you have a good naturalistic acct of the Resurrection of Christ?"

    Yes, as a matter of fact I do. The resurrection was generated by the stroke of a pen, which is entirely in keeping with naturalism. It is also in keeping with the string of virgin births, resurrections, trips to Hades, healings, and other miracles prevalent in the ancient world, usually applied retroactively to famous people, emperors, mythical figures, etc.

    "But you're just SURE it [the origin of the universe] wasn't a miraculous action of God. How do you know?"

    All hypotheses are open. I have no big problem with deism, though it itself is unsupported and hardly moves the ball ahead much (just how did god pop into existence?). Even if we were to take deism seriously, that would do nothing for the rest of your theistic edifice, since everything since the big bang has been going swimmingly without detectable divine assistance, despite all our fabulous and incredible stories (which, tellingly, get more fabulous the farther back in time one goes).

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  25. Oh, OK. The disciples of Jesus, then, just gave up everything and died horrible deaths for sthg they KNEW was a fake, a lie, and refused under pain of torture and death to recant. Makes perfect sense.

    And as for the origin of the universe, all hypotheses are open except, apparently, God creating it, right?
    Foolish question - God didn't ever *start* to exist. You seriously didn't know that?

    And to top it all off, a question-begging assertion!
    everything since the big bang has been going swimmingly without detectable divine assistance

    Your case isn't getting any stronger.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  26. "Something magically/spontaneously/uncaused-ly popping out of nothing "

    like God? God does not offer any further explanatory power to the problem. In fact, He creates a bigger problem, unless we give him attributes that could also be given to a naturalistic beginning.

    If you assert that God doesn't need causation, you can also assert that about a naturalistic beginning of the universe. If we throw causality out the window, why not?

    And none of this even gets to the multiverse, an elegant theory with explanatory power matching observed phenomena, that may or may not turn into something.

    Our source on "god" is ancient writings, not telescopes. Once again, no problem here with personal, mystical God. And no problem with the possibility of God (faith). Big problem with requirement of God (dogma).

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  27. No, God offers a source, a cause. Nothing offers...well, nothing.
    I was being facetious when I offered "magically" as an adverb, b/c magic is SOMEthing, and you posit NOTHING. It's a tough place you've put yourself.

    God is uncaused. But the universe is not uncaused, b/c it has not always been. Try again.

    Where's your evidence for this multiverse? What is it like? Did it emerge from nothing, just like your crappy origin of the universe hypothesis? If so, how does it escape the problem? If not, has it always been? How does it escape the problem of entropy? How many "members" are in the multiverse?


    Our source on "god" is ancient writings, not telescopes.

    Spoken from a materialist perspective, but materialism is crap. From the Christian perspective, God self-reveals *more* clearly in writings for obvious reasons, but also self-reveals in His creation.
    Part of the evidence for His existence is your low-quality "answers" to my questions here.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  29. the theory of cosmic inflation matches well with the flatness of the universe and the monopole "problem" as well as others. This theory implies a multiverse - Genesis happening over and over again in a sea of eternal nirvana.

    I do wish that you could see how putting "god" into the mix offers no more explanatory power to the problem, but to each his own. "materialism" has rules. It's easy to throw out the rules when we like, claiming they are BS, and then to use them when we want to. If there is a gap in natural knowledge, supernatural. If there is no gap, then the supernatural doesn't have to follow the rules.

    Once again, my motivation is not to change your mind but to promote tolerance and understanding of different views. Dogma is usually the enemy.

    Wishing you the best,

    Steven

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  31. Oh, you removed your first of two comments. OK, I've cut off my response to that comment, and I'll stick with this one:

    Anyway, in the muddle of "cosmic inflation" or whatever, you left essential questions on the table. I'd appreciate you answer those w.r.t. this assertion.

    How exactly does taking a situation in which something comes out of nothing, uncaused, and adding a cause to it (thereby erasing the "nothing" problem to begin with) NOT add explanatory power? Please educate me.


    my motivation is not to change your mind but to promote tolerance and understanding of different views. Dogma is usually the enemy.

    I hate to tell you this, but tolerance, understanding of different views, and "dogma is usually the enemy" are all dogmas in and of themselves.
    Rather, CORRECT dogma is your friend. INCORRECT dogma is your enemy. And I'm a messenger of the correct kind, a refugee from the incorrect (as I was once an atheist myself).
    I don't see a lot of tolerance in what you say, though, Steven, as you have consistently evaded questions, thrown out ridiculous suggestions like the multiverse, and said things like "Big problem with requirement of God (dogma)", which is, of course, itself a dogmatic statement. For your consideration...

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  32. Hi, Guys-

    I'd go with Rhology on many of these points- we all have perspectives to push and a social desire to have others share them. In the enlightened world we all all trying to promote, we try hard to argue from evidence and logic rather from, say, faith, authority, and power.

    Nor am I a big fan of the multiverse hypothesis, though I am not very familiar with the physics. The little I've read is not very compelling. But whatever the cause of the universe, ongoing or singular, it seems lame to conjure a name (god) and a property (was always there) and call that the answer. The various scriptures and holy texts are hopelessly impeached by critical methods, not to mention contradictory once you compare them all. So we really are left with divining the answer, if you will, from the evidence around us ... which has grown so spectacularly in recent decades, no thanks to theology.

    So biology, disease, electricity, chemistry, weather, ... all that is water under the supernatural bridge, all now deeply explained by materialism. What we are left with is the ultimate origin of the universe- a big question for sure, but so much smaller than the wide field that used to be open to supernatural explanations. The Gnostics, to get a plug in for the original post, had a florid vision of origins, involving many gods all having sex with each other. One could leave it there and have a rather satisfying answer- satisfying psychologically.

    But if you are interested in the real universe, and not the inner cosmos of the psyche, then you would be interested in things like galaxies, neutrinos, and black holes- all unimaginable in theological terms. You would be interested in ages in the billions of years, in the speed of light, and the energy of matter- all unimaginable theologically, not to mention untouched in quantitative terms. It is just fundamentally mistaken to conflate these two forms of explanation in hopes of validating an imaginative tradition that was already out of date in the ancient world. Intellectuals of the day knew the difference between myth and reality, and why we had to have a dark age to get back to where we are now ... well, it just seems very unfortunate.

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  33. I think that dogma is still a useful term - It's close-mindedness enforced by attitude. Saying that it's dogmatic to disapprove of dogma is fine - it's the same as saying I am intolerant of intolerance or I hate hate. That is fine - it's a rhetorical trick - in practice we see the difference. I believe in trying to convince others of your position, but usually I just want people to consider, for real, that they may be wrong. I do it constantly.

    I erased the first comment, but meant it. Rhology responded fairly.

    The multiverse is a fascinating possibility, and not as weird as it sounds. In cosmology it means that our visible universe started as a super tiny part of a larger universe which a sort of anti-gravity force blew up ridiculously quickly. It's a great idea that solves many problems - basically, why are there seemingly equal amounts of stars anywhere we look in the sky? There's not reason for that, but if a tiny, fairly unified part of a bigger universe, or system of universes, blew up, then we can understand why the universe is fairly uniform. anyway, lots more reasons.

    I have difficulty seeing how the multiverse is more ridiculous than positing the Judeo-Christian myth at the beginning of the universe. As an emotional argument, I too can feel that all we see has some sort of point to it, an intelligence behind it, but that is not the same as arguing it from reason.

    The multiverse in cosmology is slightly different than in quantum physics, where new realities are possibly sprung up in different directions constantly - kind of parallel universes.

    Rhology, I have called myself a Christian since I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 6 years old. My father was a southern Baptist minister and I cherish those traditions. As my thinking has changed over the years I have reevaluated what "god" means - but I still consider myself a Christian.

    Arguing for God through logic, arguing the supernatural through natural evidence, devalues God to me. It reduces God to a "trail of breadcrumbs" God leaving us just enough clues for some to believe and many others not to believe. In conservative Christian thinking, this trail of breadcrumbs God rewards those who solve the mystery correctly with salvation, and the ones who come to the wrong conclusion are left to something far worse.

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  34. Hi guys,

    About the multiverse, it may indeed answer many questions. But I'm above all a seeker of truth, and the multiverse doesn't answer *my* questions (or at least, I haven't seen how it might), so I conclude that it's not true.
    In contrast, positing the God of the Bible *does* answer those questions, and quite a lot of others, while challenges posed to the idea of His existence either misunderstand or do not lead to the conclusion that He doesn't exist.
    It's more ridiculous, by far, than the God of the Bible b/c it offers an explanation, rather than just pushing these huge and fundamental questions back one step, which is what the multiverse does.
    Further, if one posits an infinite # of universes within the multiverse, then there is at least one in which the God of the Bible DOES exist and history DID unfold exactly as the Bible says.
    All that to say, multiverse is a half-baked hypothesis; too many ppl don't do their HW, don't think it thru.

    And Steven, I have to wonder aloud how someone who has really repented of his sins and trusted in Christ alone to forgive him of them and to give him eternal life as a free gift, and whose heart has been transformed to love Christ above all things (which is the biblical definition of a Christian) could say some of the things you've said here, such as:

    I still lean towards Jesus being a historical person

    It would be wise to remember where the burden of proof lies when there are assertions that the laws of physics were broken - as in a literal interpretation of the Jesus story. Also, we know that people recorded "history" differently back then. This is evidenced by the numerous versions of gospels, epistles and acts of the apostles. People cared about God, spirituality, theology, etc. They wrote stories to match. But truth and fact can be different.

    But to argue God's necessity from logic doesn't work.

    quite simply - there is only one reason to believe in God - because you want to.

    God does not offer any further explanatory power to the problem.

    Etc. In short, what I'm saying is you talk like an atheist, not a Christian. I know from personal experience that there is a lot of bad preaching and teaching out there, and "accepting Jesus into one's heart" can sometimes accompany biblical teaching and sometimes not, leading to false conversions that, among other things, deceive someone into thinking they're a Christian when in fact their worldview is completely different from the biblical one. It sounds like that might be what has happened with you, so I would encourage you to take another look at Jesus, and take off the materialistic sunglasses. Not b/c you need to drink in the myth, but b/c materialism is junk philosophy, full of holes, and Jesus is actually true.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  35. Hi, Rhology-

    "Further, if one posits an infinite # of universes within the multiverse, then there is at least one in which the God of the Bible DOES exist and history DID unfold exactly as the Bible says."

    That gets top points for inventiveness and humor!

    But I don't think that alternate universes can violate causality and logic, though in some versions of the theory, they can have different physical laws. So, since the gospels, among other Bible texts, are mutually contradictory, you would have to settle on one universe per gospel at a time (at most), with perhaps John being impossible to represent in any universe no matter how lax the physical constraints.

    The range of multiverses extends to all physical possibilities, not to all conceptual fantasies.

    "But I'm above all a seeker of truth, and the multiverse doesn't answer *my* questions (or at least, I haven't seen how it might), so I conclude that it's not true."

    That is a funny definition of truth. Just because you ask your own peculiar questions doesn't mean some truth out there can't answer someone else's question.

    Indeed, it seems as though your questions are begging their answers. The first question to ask is- who exactly is this god of the Bible? Is the god of the old testament the same god as of the new testament? How could that possibly be, unless he was pretty ungodlike in the old testament- brutal, vindictive, petty, and unconscious? Ever read the book of Job? How can you possibly favor the theory that the Biblical god is anything other than an evolving literary creation flowing from the hands of scribes and politicians of the various incarnations of the Jewish experience?

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  36. since the gospels, among other Bible texts, are mutually contradictory

    That's quite a charge. Got an example?
    (On my blog, we have a rule - the skeptic gets 5 chances to prove a biblical contradiction. After that, I figure their claim is all hot air and hearsay from other bloviators. So I extend to you the same courtesy, but make sure they're your 5 BEST.)


    John being impossible to represent in any universe no matter how lax the physical constraints.

    Why?


    Just because you ask your own peculiar questions doesn't mean some truth out there can't answer someone else's question.

    True, but I've been asking a lot of people, a long time.
    And if you can never find a good answer, what does that tell you about the question?


    Is the god of the old testament the same god as of the new testament?

    Yes.


    How could that possibly be, unless he was pretty ungodlike in the old testament- brutal, vindictive, petty, and unconscious?

    The Golden Rule was instituted in the OT. So was the "love your neighbor as yourself".
    Jesus talked far, far more about Hell than He ever did about Heaven.
    The penalties for sin in the NT are described more like everlasting torment, whereas in the OT they're hinted at, and for some there are temporal, legal penalties.
    God in the NT isn't all fuzzies and rainbows.
    Basically what you're doing in this last paragraph is shooting a shotgun of poor understanding and hoping it'll intimidate the less knowledgeable. But saying "I don't understand this" is not a testament to the strength of an argument.


    Ever read the book of Job?

    Yep, a few times.
    Ever read Ephesians 1, where God is presented as the Sovereign micromanager of the universe?
    And as far as evolution, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. It can SEEM that way b/c God progressively reveals things throughout time, and those things are recorded in time, and so it is essential to keep in mind the chronological setting of each writing. But progressive revelation does not equal evolution of essence. Glad we could clear that up.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  37. Hi, Rhology-

    Thankfully, others have compiled chapter and verse of gospel contradictions. Sounds like shooting fish in a barrel, really. As for John, that was the one gospel I started to read in earnest, but had to quit due to its persistent nonsense, all sympathetically outlined here. (Quote: "some scholars have concluded that the Gospel of John has created a mythological view of Christ completely divorced from Jesus as a historical figure.")

    I am sure you could call the trickier parts allegorical, but then what does a literalist do? No universe would allow pre-existence or trinities, or all the other fantastical humbug involving the divinity of Jesus, assuming he existed at all. Remember that most serious scholars (not those in the tank for trinitarianism, etc.) regard the far simpler presentation of the gospel of Thomas as a more accurate portrayal of the Jesus cult at its earlier times.

    Blessings- Burk

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  38. Burk,

    infidels.org? Please. You think those haven't been responded to dozens of times?
    Which ones are your personal favorites? Just vomiting out hundreds of crappy "contradictions" is a sorry strategy. Let's get specific; I want to show you how bad and sloppy the methodology is.


    some scholars have concluded that the Gospel of John has created a mythological view of Christ completely divorced from Jesus as a historical figure

    Wow. Some scholars.
    *Why* did they conclude that? Could it be b/c, like you, they have an overriding presupposition of materialism?
    And given that materialism is such a ridiculous philosophy, what should that tell us about their judgments about John?


    I am sure you could call the trickier parts allegorical

    Doubtful. But you'd have to be specific.


    then what does a literalist do?

    Calls out materialistic presuppositions for what they are - junk philosophy - and goes from there.


    No universe would allow pre-existence or trinities, or all the other fantastical humbug involving the divinity of Jesus, assuming he existed at all.

    Haha, what is your argument for that?
    And as for "most serious scholars" - you're not doing legitimate work when you carry 21st-century materialist presupps into your analysis of a 1st-century book written by fierce monotheists. Seriously, Burk, you have to think a little bit more than what the Jesus Seminars of the world will lead you to do. You can get past this.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  39. Hi, Rhology-

    Alright, let's take one example:

    According to Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1). According to Luke, Jesus was born during the first census in Israel, while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:2). This is impossible because Herod died in March of 4 BC and the census took place in 6 and 7 AD, about 10 years after Herod's death.

    Some Christians try to manipulate the text to mean this was the first census while Quirinius was governor and that the first census of Israel recorded by historians took place later. However, the literal meaning is "this was the first census taken, while Quirinius was governor ..." In any event, Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until well after Herod's death.


    And "fierce monotheists"? I can see that would make them drink their own koolaid, but I do not see how that would make them factually correct.

    In the end, perhaps it would be more interesting to ask you why you think materialism is such "junk". Don't you eat material things and exist as a material being? What is so terrible about that? Are you one of those eager to die, to get on to the next "level"?

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  40. The early dating of Thomas is controversial. I think that it shows significant gnostic redaction, but probably draws on an early common saying tradition, like Q.

    The gospel of John itself pokes fun at an overly literalistic interpretation. In response to Jesus' assertion that one must be born again, Nicodemus asks how he can enter his mother's womb again. Other examples too. It's a great book taking saying and turning them into stories and parables. Beautiful stuff, I think.


    The birth narratives have contradictions.

    Matthew writes that the holy family settled in Nazareth only after Herod's death, because Archelaus took over in Judea and it wasn't safe. Luke writes that they lived in Nazareth before Jesus' birth and traveled to Bethlehem for the census. In Matthew they spend time in Egypt after Jesus' birth. In Luke they go to Jerusalem to complete the purification ceremony - would have been 40 days or so after Jesus was born according to Leviticus. Then..

    "When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth." - Luke 2:39

    no trip to Egypt.

    Great stories though - seriously, I think they are beautiful.

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  41. Hey guys,

    Burk, that wasn't a contradiction. That was a claimed historical inaccuracy. Big difference.
    And the answer for this has been around for a LONG time. Quirinius served two separate terms as governor.
    See, this is exactly what I mean. People who don't like to do critical thinking but like to talk like they do post a link to the Skeptic's Annotated Bible and feel like they've done their due diligence, but in fact, here we've seen that I asked Burk for one his best, strongest contradictions in the Bible, and what do we see?
    1) He gives me something that's not even a candidate for a contradiction, b/c he doesn't understand what a contradiction is, or was just sloppy b/c he doesn't think deeply about this topic.
    2) His charge has an easy answer, one that can seem to have come a little out of left field. It seems that way b/c you've never done any reading on the other side.


    And "fierce monotheists"? I can see that would make them drink their own koolaid, but I do not see how that would make them factually correct.

    So, keeping up with the theme of my comment, perhaps you'd be cool with it if some day you wrote a book about some historical event you witnessed, and then in 300 years Hindu scholars tore it to pieces and called it ridiculous b/c it did not reflect their polytheistic, pagan worldview.
    That's exactly what these scholars do with the Bible.
    Further, like I said, materialism is a totally failed philosophy, so there's less than no reason to judge things by it.


    Don't you eat material things and exist as a material being? What is so terrible about that? Are you one of those eager to die, to get on to the next "level"?

    Another sign that you're pretty new to this whole thing. No offense intended, but do you really think that to say "materialism is bunk" is equivalent to "matter doesn't exist, or is unimportant"?
    Materialism is the worldview that claims that nothing exists but matter and the natural. Christianity incorporates the material AND the supernatural and accounts for them both. Materialism is obviously false - the following things exist but are not material:
    -The laws of logic
    -The laws of mathematics
    -The concept of "Burk exists"
    -The mind
    -Personhood
    -Human rights
    -Red-ness
    -The number 1

    And on and on.
    So, if you want to understand the world better, give up on this idea of materialism and accept the obvious fact, that more exists than matter. It's a good first step.


    Steven,

    In response to Jesus' assertion that one must be born again, Nicodemus asks how he can enter his mother's womb again. Other examples too. It's a great book taking saying and turning them into stories and parables.

    Do you take the account of their conversation literally? That is, did the convo itself really happen, or is it some Gnostic allegory?
    You're doing it wrong. I, OTOH, am proposing the grammatico-historical method. The GHM employs the grammar, vocabulary, and context of the author, the historical context, the context of the passage in question, the context of the book, and the context of the rest of the Bible to determine authorial intent of the passage in question. That's the GHM in a nutshell. What the author intended is the correct interpretation.

    This is, by the way, the method that anyone uses virtually all of the time while reading virtually anything. And of course authorial intent is what we want to discover since we believe that the Scripture is God speaking. Thus, obviously, we want to know what God said and less what man said about what God said, even though that has its (far subordinate) place.

    (continued...)

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  42. (continued)


    Beautiful stuff, I think.

    I've never understood why someone who thinks that a book that contains inaccurate information could be so beautiful, especially when it's dealing with how sinful a human is and the only way sinful humans can be saved. Makes no sense to me. It seems to me to be more like a strategy for assuaging one's conscience - yeah, I know I called God's Word full of holes, but at least I make up some ground by telling people I think it's beautiful!


    birth stories

    No, they don't. The different authors record different details, fine. So they ALL happened.
    A contradiction is a totally irreconcilable, unharmonisable pair of accounts about the same thing in the same way at the same time, etc. That's a standard and fair def of "contradiction", and this doesn't come close.
    So, what Matthew said happened, yes. Ever noticed that Matthew doesn't always write in strict chronological order? He's a thematic writer.
    Luke was right - they lived in Naz before and traveled to Beth for the census.
    And you got it wrong - Matthew doesn't say they spend time in Egypt after Jesus' birth. Where?
    In Luke they go to Jerusalem to complete the purification ceremony - would have been 40 days or so after Jesus was born according to Leviticus - great, they did that ALSO. They took the trip to Egypt during a time that Luke doesn't mention. The trip to Egypt was a fulfillment of a Jewish prophecy, and Matthew, concerned with proving Christ's deity to Jews, mentions it. Luke, a Gentile writing for Gentiles, apparently saw no need to include it. Why does lack of inclusion = contradiction? It doesn't. You don't use that kind of thinking for any other writing, but the Bible apparently gets "special" treatment from you - specially harsh and unfair.
    We see again a very unChristian worldview from you. I pray you'll see it and repent, seriously.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  43. Read the text of Matthew closer, without considering Luke - probably an account written somewhat independently of Matthew.

    In Matthew the holy family leaves Bethlehem (in Judea) to escape to Egypt. Then they fully intend to return to Judea after Herod dies. Presumably because that is where they live in Matthew. But After hearing that Archelaus is ruling Judea, they "went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth...."

    It's pretty clear that these stories have different contradictory details, though theologically they matter very little - unless one's chosen worldview is reliant on an inerrant Bible.

    The prophecy you reference from the 11th chapter of Hosea "Out of Egypt I have called my son" is a reference to Israel, which Matthew used to refer to Jesus - quite a liberal use of the text.

    I would challenge the idea that my worldview is unChristian. Jesus is spirit here NOW before human-made names and details THEN.

    I am treating the Bible as I would any historical text. Displaying its errant status is not the same as devaluing it. In fact, to me it helps to rescue the Bible's spiritual message.

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  44. Steven,

    I'm sorry, I don't see where the contradiction is. Please be more specific.
    Can you tell me why I should accept your judgment about the applicability of the Hosea prophecy over Matthew's?
    And no, you're not treating it like any other text. Allow for harmonisation, like you do for any other writing, before being so quick to call "contradiction!"


    Jesus is spirit here NOW before human-made names and details THEN.

    If the text is errant, you don't know that for sure. It has no more confirmation than the Mormon burning in the bosom or if I were to read the Bhagavad Gita after a sumptuous chili supper and feel the...well, the burn.
    Help me out here - how do you know?

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  45. Hi, Rhology-

    Burk, that wasn't a contradiction. That was a claimed historical inaccuracy. Big difference.
    And the answer for this has been around for a LONG time. Quirinius served two separate terms as governor.
    See, this is exactly what I mean. ...


    Sorry, but saying that this is "claimed" hardly makes it better. If the bible is for you the inerrant word of God, but you are reduced to parsing its errors and contradictions, then your god is speaking out of two sides of her mouth, or four. What else could be an error? You don't know, and no one else does either. I'll rest my case that at least four universes would be required to represent the gospels as they stand. But feel free to re-write them as needed!

    the following things exist but are not material:
    -The laws of logic
    -The laws of mathematics ...


    That is a very good point. Yet also an incredibly simplistic point. Leaving the mind aside for the moment, since there is a debate on that over on Eric Reitan's site, things like logic and other ideas have two sorts of being- first, as ideas we have in our heads, and second as principles inherent in the universe. For the first, there is no difficulty or conflict with the materialist position, since by the materialist position (and by a lot of evidence) minds are material computational entities, whose ideas all have material instantiations.

    It has long been a project of philosophy to name principles of the second sense as deities. That may be worthwhile, I don't know. The laws of mathematics sort of straddle the divide between the two senses in an interesting way. People can come up with all sorts of mathematical systems (and laws) that can be internally consistent and even beautiful (see string theory, or the multiverse theory). But whether they reflect reality at all is another matter- not automatic at all and subject to empirical investigation.

    For principles that really are embodied in the universe, like logic itself, materialists (as empiricists) have no problem with their existence. They are part of the matter of the universe, which is automatically logical in the sense of not taking up the same space twice, conserving energy, etc. What is, is. The problem is to take our ideas about things (red) to have some kind of inflated reality beyond the reach of empiricism.

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  46. hi Burk,

    You offer no rebuttal to the actual point. In essence, you're conceding your first "contradiction" and then kicking up dust with a retroactive "Well, yeah, but you don't know whether maybe some OTHER 'contradiction' WILL stick! Boy, you'll be sorry then!"
    W/o specifics, I'm afraid there's no progress to be made there. But there are all sorts of other ways to know that you'll never find a real one, such as...One, Two, Three

    Sorry, principles are not material. So materialism still loses, even if I grant your modificatory comments.
    Thoughts are not material either. Even if I grant that they're nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain, they're still not material.
    Seriously, chuck materialism.


    materialists (as empiricists) have no problem with their existence.

    B/c they haven't thought it thru, apparently.


    They are part of the matter of the universe, which is automatically logical in the sense of not taking up the same space twice, conserving energy, etc. What is, is.

    Where are the laws of logic found? Of what elements are they composed? Where do they reside? How much do they weigh? What is their boiling point?


    beyond the reach of empiricism.

    An awful lot is beyond the reach of empiricism, not just redness, but once again you produce no answer.


    Peace,
    Rhology

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  47. I think the contradiction is that the holy family lives in Nazareth in Luke, goes to Bethlehem, returns to their home 40 days or so after Jesus' birth.

    In Matthew they escape to Egypt from Bethlehem, then try to return to Bethlehem. Only after this, do they make a new home in Nazareth.

    These are two different works. There is no compelling reason to harmonize them, unless one has an interest in doing so.

    Hosea 11:1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."


    If the text is errant, then it gets its authority from matching and providing new insight into a present experience of "god" or life or experience, however you define the ineffable quality of being in the middle of here. And to me it does not "downgrade" the Bible, but rather "upgrades" the rest of life and its resources as means to spiritual truth.

    Even for an inerrantist, I would suppose that if there was no pre-existing feeling that the Bible matches, then it would not be considered authoritative, or it it was, it would not be with any particular enthusiasm.

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  48. Lk 1:21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

    So they didn't go on the 40th, they went on the 8th.

    39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

    Back to Naz they go. Doesn't say how long. Doesn't say they never went back to Bethlehem. Doesn't say they never left Naz again their whole life long. Doesn't say whether they left on vacation or back to live there.

    Matt 2:1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the eastb and have come to worship him.”

    This is about 2 yrs after Jesus' birth.

    7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

    9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the easte went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

    Looks like they're in Bethlehem at this point, 2 years later.
    Did they go back to live there after they'd returned to Naz? Did they decide to move?
    The text doesn't say.
    Then they flee to Egypt, when Jesus is ~2 yrs old.

    Still in Matt 2 - 19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

    So then they go back to Nazareth.
    Where's the contradiction?


    There is no compelling reason to harmonize them, unless one has an interest in doing so.

    Spoken like a true skeptic, with the intention to be unfair to the text.
    You harmonise EVERYTHING ELSE, but you're not interesting in even trying to harmonise the Bible. Your bias is showing.


    If the text is errant, then it gets its authority from matching and providing new insight into a present experience of "god" or life or experience, however you define the ineffable quality of being in the middle of here.

    This is a load of fluff and lack of substance. So, it matches an experience I've had, but I've had all kinds of experiences. I think you'd learn alot from reading my recent interactions with Drs Eric Reitan and James McGrath, especially this post.


    Even for an inerrantist, I would suppose that if there was no pre-existing feeling that the Bible matches, then it would not be considered authoritative, or it it was, it would not be with any particular enthusiasm.

    Well, since I put little stock in my feelings, especially not as any authority, I don't see why this objection has any teeth.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  49. "So they didn't go on the 40th, they went on the 8th."

    They went to Nazareth after the purification in Jerusalem. This would be about 40 days after Jesus' birth.

    Your harmonization of Matthew and Luke, while not impossible, is quite a stretch. Anyone who read Matthew independently of Luke would interpret the holy family as living in Bethlehem and then moving to Nazareth later. It's clear that they are making a new home in Nazareth because of events in Judea. .

    I'm not sure what your point is about harmonizing. If we had two different accounts of any story or historical event, any scholar would read them separately and comparatively.

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  50. Alright, Rhology- Not much more I can say if you are not going to pay attention to details and reason. You might enjoy an interview with Bart Ehrman on the topic of biblical contradictions and historical analysis. I'll grant from his work that Jesus was a historical person with high probability.

    Best wishes!

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  51. Your harmonization of Matthew and Luke, while not impossible, is quite a stretch.

    So, it's not a contradiction. I'm using the standard definition of the word "contradiction". Lots of things are improbable, truth is stranger than fiction, weird stuff happens. This isn't all that weird. I once moved to Japan and planned to be there for years, but b/c of what I'd thought was a minor medical issue, came back to the States after only a year. That was a long way too. Will a future Steven Stark read my bio and think "he moved to Japan and back in just one year? I doubt it! *I* sure wouldn't do that!"? Why would anyone take the future Steven's word over my bio?


    Anyone who read Matthew independently of Luke would interpret the holy family as living in Bethlehem and then moving to Nazareth later.

    And yet, who reads ONLY Matthew?
    Further, since Matthew doesn't say anything about the in-between, that wrong interp wouldn't be justifiable, would it?


    Burk,

    Not much more I can say if you are not going to pay attention to details and reason.

    I'm ready; I keep waiting for reasonable arguments from you.


    Bart Ehrman

    So, I ask you to provide some strong ones, you give one that you think is strong and ends up flimsy, and finally punt to Bart Ehrman, another of these scholars who presupposes naturalism in studying the biblical text?
    Well, if the arguments you've provided in this thread have been satisfying to you in the face of the questions I've raised, I honestly have pity for you.
    I remain open to any other discussion, but you've left an awful lot on the table. The ball is pretty much in your court.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  52. Last comment from me.

    rhology's points center on presenting non-falsifiable claims. he will counter that saying that something is non-falsifiable is non-falsifiable or something, but really it means there is zero accountability. In other words, his biblical beliefs are as random as anything he criticizes.

    Best wishes to us all!

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  53. Words mean things, Steven. The Bible cannot be made to mean that God does not exist, that Hinduism is true, that marshmallow Peeps will someday rise up to rule Mars with an iron fist.

    I've challenged you to show contradictions in the Bible. You offered one, I refuted it, now you back off.
    The principle of falsifiability is itself unfalsifiable, just FYI.
    And of course my claims are certainly falsifiable - present a contradiction that is actually a contradiction. Shouldn't be that hard, should it?
    Unless the Bible really is what it claims to be. I pray you'll consider that as you obviously never have before.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  54. So mary and joseph live in Nazareth. They go to Bethlehem for a census, because Joseph is related to David who lived 1,000 years previously. This census actually doesn't happen until years after Herod the Great's death and it does not involve all the world, but rather Israel, Idumea and Syria. This actual census did take place under Quirinius, but he didn't begin his term until years after Herod died. But anyway, the holy family goes to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. Then, 8 days later they go to Jerusalem. A few weeks after that they return to Nazareth. But they like Bethlehem so much that they decide to move there. Then the Magi find them (because of a star that has been in the air since Jesus was born and leads them geographically to Bethlehem, despite his living in Nazareth), and Herod, who is still alive (he died in 4 BCE) does his deal. The holy family, now living in Bethlehem, flees to Egypt until Herod dies. Then they start to return to Bethlehem but decide instead to move (back) to Nazareth where they set up a new home.

    Is this right?

    Perhaps we can discuss the Noah story next. Two of every kind or seven pairs of every clean kind and two of every unclean kind? despite the fact that no animal has been declared clean or unclean because the law has not been given to Moses yet.....

    The Bible is great, but not literally so.

    I hope you all have a good weekend.

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  55. BTW, I went back on my word and posted more. I will try to actually "back off" now.

    Wishing you the best,

    Steven

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  56. I am satisfied leaving this where it is too.
    Let me finish by dropping a link to an interesting and relevant comment on another blog.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  57. Good luck arguing with Rhology. It's like talking to a wall.

    And I can't believe you guys accepted his claim that Quirinius had two terms as governor. When arguing with an apologist, fact-check.

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  58. I don't remember conceding that point, as its probably not true.

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