This note, which, of course, gives me far too much personal credit, arrived by email late on Friday night. It represents the kind of reaction to the Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses theatrical film that makes all the time and effort that went into it entirely worthwhile:
Hello Mr Peterson. I have no idea if you will get this email or not I had to look it up online because I wanted to reach out to you. My name is NN, and by the way I’m Norwegian as well �
I just want to let you know that you played a huge part in my testimony if that’s what you would call it? I was really going through it lately questioning the whole Joseph Smith thing and listening to you on the all-in podcast completely changed my life which made me in turn go see your movie today and it was awesome. I would love to sit down and talk to you for hours about it but I know that will never happen but I just want to let you know what an impact you made on my life today. I wish you well and thank you for what you do.
Stay safe and God bless !
By the way, the “all-in podcast” to which NN refers is “Daniel Peterson: The Power of a Witness.”
A short new piece went up earlier today on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:
As of Friday, 9 July, there were only twenty (20) tickets remaining for in-person attendance at this year’s annual FAIR Conference. I don’t know whether any are still left but, if you’re at all interested in attending — receiving the conference online via computer is, of course, an entirely different matter — you’ll want to get right on it, now:
I occasionally run into the claim that, if Jesus had really existed, there would be more mention of him, by more authors and by more varied authors and outside of the Bible. I have two immediate but general responses to this claim: First of all, I don’t know why anyone would expect that the biography of a man who spent most of his life (and much of his active ministry) in a remote backwater area of a remote, linguistically and religiouly foreign backwater province of the Roman Empire would have attracted the attention of the great historians of that Empire in a time of sparse and slow communication. Second, I think that those making the claim quite frequently fail to grasp the nature of the study of ancient history (e.g., how few and far between our sources are, and how, often, those sources come from many years after the person or the event that they describe.
Here’s a relevant passage from, by the Evangelical Protestant philosopher and historian Gary R. Habermas:
We can start with approximately nine traditional authors of the New Testament. If we consider the critical thesis that other authors wrote the pastoral letters and such letters as Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, we’d have an even larger number. Another twenty early Christian authors and four heretical writings mention Jesus within 150 years of his death on the cross. Moreover, nine secular, non-Christian sources mention Jesus within the 150 years: Josephus, the Jewish historian; Tacitus, the Roman historian; Pliny the Younger, a politician of Rome; Phlegon, a freed slave who wrote histories; Lucian, the Greek satirist; Celsus, a Roman philosopher; and probably the historians Suetonius and Thallus, as well as the prisoner Mara Bar-Serapion. In all, at least forty-two authors, nine of them secular, mention Jesus within 150 years of his death.
In comparison, let’s take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome’s most prominent figures. Caesar is well known for his military conquests. After his Gallic Wars, he made the famous statement, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Only five sources report his military conquests: writings by Caesar himself, Cicero, Livy, the Salona Decree, and Appian. If Julius Caesar really made a profound impact on Roman society, why didn’t more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire. It is evident that he did. Yet in those 150 years after his death, more non-Christian authors alone comment on Jesus than all of the sources who mentioned Julius Caesar’s great military conquests within 150 years of his death.
Let’s look at an even better example, a contemporary of Jesus. Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ ministry and execution. Tiberius is mentioned by ten sources within 150 years of his death: Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke.24. Compare that to Jesus’ forty-two total sources in the same length of time. That’s more than four times the number of total sources who mention the Roman emperor during roughly the same period. If we only considered the number of secular non-Christian sources who mention Jesus and Tiberius within 150 years of their lives, we arrive at a tie of nine each.
It’s a pity that this needs to be said. But I’m really glad that the Orthodox Jewish writer Bethany Mandel did say it, and I’m pleased that she did so for the Deseret News:
A very upbeat article appeared on Saturday in the Salt Lake Tribune:
“After 150 years, Utah’s second oldest church stands as a symbol of progressive Protestant influence in LDS Zion: St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral to celebrate its sesquicentennial in the heart of Salt Lake City.”
We’ve attended (and enjoyed) midnight Christian services in St. Mark’s.
Here, though, is some quite contrasting material about the current state of the Episcopal Church more generally:
And, finally, a pair of items from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©:
Las Vegas Review-Journal: ““Interfaith effort has helped fill food pantries in Las Vegas Valley”
Sidney (Australia) Herald: “Area LDS members make most of Sunday “service””